It’s been 18 months since our Portland visit and I’m still trying to find a moment to share some photos. Recently I got around to writing the Portland Botanical Gardens post that had sat in my drafts for months with just photos waiting to be fleshed out. It’s the fleshing out that is my downfall as you will see soon see.
While in Portland, I stole myself away and took the Portland Historic Buildings walking tour. Incredibly for a town of its size, there are more than 200 buildings in the Portland CBD that date back to the 1800s. It was on that self-guided tour that I found “Claremont” at 65 Julia Street, just along from the St Stephen’s Church.
I had only intended to share the photos of “Claremont” and give a small amount of information about the former residents, but as usual, once I got searching at Trove I couldn’t leave it at that. There was very little information about “Claremont” elsewhere online, save for an entry on the Victorian Heritage Database that only gave the person who had the house built and an early resident, information I had from the walking tour guide. But it was Trove that took the story of “Claremont” an extra step. Or two.
Stephen George Henty had “Claremont” built in 1852. He rented the property to his brother Francis, but Francis only used “Claremont” as his seaside residence while his country residence was “Merino Downs Station” and his city residence was “Field Place” at Kew in Melbourne.
As “Claremont” was not a permanent home there was not much to be found about it in the papers until 1889 when Francis Henty passed away at “Field Place“. He left “Claremont” and the furniture to his daughter Caroline Henty (1849-1914). As he was able to bequeath “Claremont“, formally owned by his brother , it is likely that Stephen Henty left the house to Francis at the time of his own death in 1872. I have not been able to find information about Stephen Henty’s estate at either PROV or Trove.
The three daughters of Francis Henty also inherited “Merino Downs”.
In 1900, the sisters registered a Deed of Partition and “Merino Downs” was split into three separate properties, “Merino Downs”, “Talisker” and “Wurt Wurt Koort” with each sisters retaining a property each. Caroline took charge of “Talisker Estate“ .
Caroline was quite a catch and a year after her father’s passing she married Alexander Magnus McLeod (1846-1910), not a bad catch himself. With Caroline and Alexander living at the “Talisker Estate”, Alexander’s spinster sisters Catherine (1845-1919) and Constance (1859-1934) and, at times, his bachelor brother Wallace (1855-1919) took up residence at “Claremont“.
The McLeods were the children of John Norman Mcleod and Agnes Patterson. John owned “Castlemaddie” at Tyrendarra and “Maretimo” at Portland. Incidentally, John purchased “Castlemaddie” and while he was waiting for the sale to go through, he had “Maretimo” built. Constance was born at “Maretimo” in 1859.
While I can’t find when Alexander McLeod’s siblings went to live at “Claremont“, at least one Miss McLeod was in residence in 1902, although she was heading off for a summer holiday.Another possible guide was the death of the McLeod sister’s mother Agnes Patterson in 1901. Her obituary stated she had moved into town from “Castlemaddie” and passed away in Julia Street.
There was also a death of a baby at “Claremont” in 1904. I did try to find a link between Phyllis Mary Crawford and the McLeods or the Hentys, but after a quick look without success, I gave up. The story was getting deep enough.
“Claremont” hosted the St. Stephen’s girls confirmation class in April 1909 as they gave thanks to Catherine and Constance for making their confirmation veils.
The Portland branch of the Australian Women’s National League was established during a meeting at “”Claremont” in January 1911.
Through the years, the McLeod sisters occasionally ran advertisements looking for staff. In 1912, a general servant was required.
In 1914, Caroline McLeod (Henty) passed away. Her probate documents listed “Claremont” and the two acres of land it stood on to the value of £160,000. Her estate was placed in trust for her two daughters Caroline Agnes Henty McLeod ( 1892-1943) and Alexandra Frances Henty McLeod (1894-1943) aged 22 and 20 respectively at the time of their mother’s death. In the meantime the girls’ aunts and uncle continued to live at “Claremont“.
In July 1919, Wallace McLeod passed away aged 64 at “Claremont“.
Two months later his older sister, Catherine was dead.
The death of her brother and sister in such close succession, led Constance to reconsider her future at “Claremont“. On June 9, 1920 she held a auction of furniture.
A week later, her friends gave her a send off in the St Stephen’s Parish Hall.
Constance was going on an extended holiday. She was most likely heading to New Zealand to stay with her sister Jessie, married to Frederick Loisel. Jessie was present at the send off and lived in New Zealand by that time.
In 1934, Constance passed away in New Zealand. She and her sister Jessie had just departed Hamilton, New Zealand bound for Portland for the Portland Century Celebrations, when Constance fell ill and died.
After the deaths of Wallace and Catherine and the departure of Constance, “Claremont” was vacant. In June 1920, the Estate of Caroline Henty, advertised “Claremont” for lease by tender with a term of three years.
There is something about the staircase in the foyer of “Claremont”. I think it is because I can imagine the likes of Mrs Mary-Ann Henty, wife of Francis, or her daughter Caroline, sweeping done the stairs in their crinolines while in summer residence. The State Library of Victoria holds a photograph of Caroline Henty in her crinoline, if you care to imagine further.
Taking up the lease of “Claremont” in 1920 was Caroline Florence McLean , daughter of Hector McLean and Mary Ann Humphries of Casterton. Only a year after her arrival another death occurred at “Claremont“, that of returned WW1 soldier Benjamin Byard. Reading Benjamin’s War Service Record I found that he only made it as far as England when he fell ill with tuberculous. He spent time in hospital in England before returning to Melbourne and was again confined. Once released he travelled to his hometown of Casterton to meet up with friends. It was suggested to him that he visit Portland and he ended up at the home of Caroline McLean.
When I initially found this story, I couldn’t understand how Ben just seem to pitch his tent in “Claremont’s” front yard. It was after finding out more about Caroline that I found her Casterton link and that went a long way to explaining how Ben chose her front yard to pitch his tent.
It was a happier time at “Claremont” in June 1922, when Maud McLean of Casterton, Caroline’s sister, married James Anderson of East Malvern, at St Stephens Church. The wedding breakfast was held at “Claremont“
After seven years at “Claremont” it was time for Caroline to move on. An afternoon tea was held as a send off. One of the attendees was Sarah Wadmore, author of Portland’s Pioneer Women’s Book of Remembrance.
After the departure of Caroline McLean, “Claremont” was put up for sale as a guest house.
By November 1927, “Claremont‘ was a guest house accommodating professionals such as Nurse Frances the Chiropodist.
There were vacancies at “Claremont in June 1929.
While I can’t find who owned “Claremont” at this point, I do know that Janet Kosch took over the registration of the boarding house in 1930. Prior to that there was a Mrs McIntosh and then Norman McIntyre holding the registration.
In 1934, the two acres of land that made up the “Claremont” property were subdivided. Again it is not clear who the vendor was, the Henty estate or a new owner from a possible sale back in 1927.
Mrs Kosch was still running the “Claremont” guest house in 1943 when her son visited her and her husband while on leave from service.
In 1948, after 18 years running the “Claremont” guest house, Mrs Kosch retired. She held a furniture sale on April 22, 1948. In 1952 she passed away at Heywood.
“Claremont” continued on as a guest house to at least 1954. In recent years it has been a bed and breakfast and an art gallery, as it was when I visited. It has also been for sale. The listing is seen on this link: http://www.homehound.com.au/65+julia+street+portland+vic+3305/ The verandah has changed and a photo of the original verandah can be seen on this link http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/72863
In at least the first 100 years of existence “Claremont” was many things but never a family home. There were never children raised under its roof or playing in the yard, memories were never kept of a treasured family home. It was always a temporary house, even when the Misses McLeods and Miss McLean where in residence, they were more out than in. Now. at the end of my search, I think the reason I kept digging for information is that I wanted to find “Claremont’ as a home, not a just summer residence or a guest house, but I never did.