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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

The Story of My Life - By A House Named “Sandown”

There are not many houses of my vintage still standing in Moruya, or many looking much like they did when they were first built. In the mid 1900s it was fashionable to pull down older houses and replace them with fibro boxes or to “modernise” them by putting in aluminium framed windows, or fibro surrounds to the verandahs, getting rid of all the features which made the houses special. Fortunately people are buying up many of these houses and restoring them. By incredible luck I have been owned by wonderful people who cared for me and my appearance deeply all through my life. Today I sit happily nestled on my block in Evans Street where I have been for around 150 years. My name is “Sandown” and I quite like it although that was not my original name. I was called “The Pines” and there were several large pine trees nearby in those days. In the early days there were no house numbers and it was popular to give your house a name, particularly helpful if the postman was not a local and did not know the people. When the Finches bought me house names had gone out of fashion and the old names forgotten. They liked the idea of their house having a name so decided on “Sandown” as Bryan Finch had grown up in Sandown on the Isle of Wight where he had had a happy childhood.

“Sandown” in 2000 -photo MDHS Michael Carew built me for his family. Michael was born in Mantle Hill, County Tipperary, Ireland in 1835, son of John Carew and Mary Horigan. He arrived in Australia in June 1850 on board “Lloyds” along with sisters Margaret, Julia and Mary and settled in this area which he named “Mantle Hill” after the place of his birth.

Above: a new sign erected on Mantle Hill, Moruya to pay respect to its original name. Michael Carew had a cattle run and slaughter house in this region. When he married Mary Byrne in 1869 in Campbelltown he needed a comfortable family home so he built me on a block nearby. Mary was born in Campbelltown NSW in 1848, the daughter of Sylvester Byrne and Mary Vardy. Michael and Mary had six children born in Moruya: Geraldine Catherine Carew b. 1870, Ophelia Mary Carew b. 1871, Margaret Elizabeth Carew b. 1873, Timothy John Carew b. 1874, Sylvester Charles Carew b. 1878, Albert Alexander Carew b. 1880. The family then moved to Cadgee where Mary’s Byrne family had settled. Here they had another two children: Michael Loco Byrne Carew b. 1883 and William Carew b. 1884. Unfortunately William lived only 24 hours. His mother Mary appeared to be doing well but took a sudden turn for the worse. Michael raced to Bodalla for the doctors but nothing could be done and she died. Michael was left with a large family of small children. Ophelia had died in 1876 at the age of five. Michael junior died in 1887 but the rest of the children became orphans in 1889 when Michael senior also died. It is so sad to hear of these tragedies to people I knew so well.

Meanwhile I had been sold and had new owners. Thomas Charles Batt and his wife Martha nee Hibberd had bought me. Thomas was born in 1839 in Wiltshire, England and arrived in Australia in 1854 on board “Plantagenet”. He spent the first few years in the goldfields, first at Ballarat and Geelong before going to Lambing Flat (now called Young) with Peter Webber and Michael Vaughan and was there at the time of the riots (1860-61). He spent a short time in New Zealand before returning and settling with Martha Hibberd first at Nelligen and then Moruya where they were very happy. He was manager of the Silver Mine at Dwyer’s Creek for over thirty years and bought me around 1880. He was a great reader with a wonderful memory and loved to relate stories of the pioneering days. Martha was a well-known Moruya personality in her own right. She was born in 1844 in Lancashire, England, arriving in Australia in C1856. She was jolly robust woman with an attractive appearance and fascinating mannerisms. She provided comfort and assistance to anyone in need. Quite often someone would appear at my front door in the middle of the night to ask for Martha’s help as some woman was about to give birth. Martha would grab her bag, always kept ready in the hallway and head off. If the mother had no one else to help her and there were often several other small children in the household, Martha would stay to help, doing all the cooking, cleaning and washing until the mother was back on her feet and able to cope. On most occasions there was a happy result but occasionally the mother, or baby or both would not survive. Actually I could be called Moruya’s first maternity home. Some women lived in the more outlying areas, too far for Martha to reach when a birth was about to occur so Martha would take the expectant mother into our house a couple of weeks before the due date so she could be on hand. It was always a great thrill for me to hear the cry of a new born baby which heralded the safe arrival of a little one. I wonder how many babies were born in my rooms?

Tom and Martha Batt -photo MDHS Martha and Tom had seven children: Naomi Batt b. 1868 Nelligen, died soon after birth, May Hibberd Batt b. 1870 Nelligen, Charles Frederick Batt b. 1872 Nelligen, Cecilia Batt b. 1875 Moruya, Martha Pugsley Batt b. 1875 Bateman’s Bay, died soon after birth, Thomas Pugsley Batt b. 1878 Bateman’s Bay, Ethel Maud Batt b. 1881 Bateman’s Bay. Daughter Ethel Maud, known as Maud loved to sing and her beautiful voice could often be heard throughout my rooms. She was known as a “lady bass” and became a wellknown opera singer. In 1891 news filtered down to Moruya that George Pugsley had died in Sydney at the age of 85. Why would that news be of interest to anyone in Moruya? Well it seems Martha had been married to George in 1859. They had a baby son in 1861 named Frederick (after Martha’s father) Pugsley but sadly the baby died the same year. George was considerably older than Martha and the marriage was not happy. The death of the baby probably spelt the end. However Martha was a Catholic so divorce was out of the question. She formed a relationship with Tom Batt and they lived together as man and wife and had seven children some registered as Batt and some as Pugsley as that was still Martha’s legal name. When they came to Moruya they were accepted as Mr and Mrs Tom Batt. Even I did not know they did not have the piece of paper to prove it. With George’s death they were now free to marry. They went to Sydney and were married quietly. They returned to Moruya with no one any the wiser that they had not been married before. My dear Mr and Mrs Batt were now well and truly Mr and Mrs Batt. All was well with my world. Martha and Tom lived with their son Tom and daughter-in-law until they died Martha in 1916 and Tom in 1921 in one of my bedrooms.

An early photo of “The Pines”/“Sandown” -photo Filmer family I now had a new owner but still a member of the Batt family. Tom junior and his wife lived here with their two children Mary and Lance. When Tom left school he went to work at the Silver Mine where his father was the manager. Here he learnt engine driving and mining engineering. After a time he sought more adventure and headed for the gold mines in W.A. then New Zealand and the eastern states. By 1909 he was back in Moruya. He married Mary Constance Eva Yardley (known as Eva) in 1912.

Tom and Eva Batt in 1930s -photo Judy Filmer Smith Eva and Tom had two children: Lance born in 1912 and Dorothy Mary (known as Mary). Tom was known as Moruya’s handyman. He could turn his hand to almost anything and could fix almost anything. Eva was a talented dressmaker and tailoress. She was happy to pass on her skills and taught several young Moruya girls to be great dressmakers, including Morva Roach and Jennie Louttit. It was nice to have such attractive young girls coming to visit, so keen to learn. Lance went to Sydney where he had a panel beating business and Mary married Moruya baker “Bunny” Filmer and operated a convenience store in Page Street. Tom died in 1956 and Eva in 1968.

“The Pines”/“Sandown” probably 1930 . Eva on the verandah with the family dog. Note the pines which gave the house its early name. Still no bay window -photo Judy Filmer-Smith I was about to get new owners after fifty years in the one family. What would they be like? Would they start pulling me apart, “modernising” me? Or worse still, would they pull me down and start again? After all this time I was a bit tired looking and in need of some sympathetic renovation. I need not have worried – the most delightful couple with a young family by the name of Turnbull bought me in 1975. When they first looked at me they saw that I was a bit run down but that I had potential.

How I looked when the Turnbulls bought me -photo Gay Turnbull They loved that I had history and were keen to return me to my original state. Under Brian’s direction Bruce Cameron and Terry Maher began to do me up. I was enlarged only by changing the use of the rooms. My little lounge room became bigger by doing away with a little room at one end. This needed doing badly as white ants had moved in and had a party. How I loved that time and enjoyed every little bit they did to me. They bought the kind of furniture I remembered having in my earlier days but also during the renovations they found hidden away under my verandah. Some old furniture from an earlier time I had forgotten was there. They had it restored and used it in their home. This family consisted of Brian Turnbull, his wife Gabrielle (known as Gay) and their four children, Greg, Veronica, Vincent and Roseanne. Brian was a local from way back. His grandfather Jim Turnbull had the Criterion hotel in the early 1900s. His father Ossie had served in World War I, met and married an English girl Louise, bringing her to Moruya to live. Brian had worked in Emmotts Department Store since leaving school and then becoming manager of the furniture department in the old Amusu Hall. He then went on to manage Naders Men’s Wear. He developed an interest in oil painting and became a talented artist, painting many landscapes around Moruya, including farm scenes, river and coastal scenes. Gay was a quiet, gentle, caring type of person with a great sense of humour. She was at Teachers’ College in Sydney in her young days and made friends there with a girl from Moruya who brought her home to Moruya for a visit. There she met a charming young man called Brian. After a time they became engaged and Gay came to Moruya as a teacher of the Kindergarten class. They married and she left teaching when her children were born but returned later, becoming a long time member of staff, much loved by her pupils.

Side view in the time of the Turnbulls. Turnbull children Note I now have a bay window! -photos Gay Turnbull The twelve years the Turnbulls owned me were very happy ones. They more or less had the street to themselves with only a couple of houses a bit further away with paddocks in between while across the road was the Jeffery farm with contented cows quietly grazing. When the area started to be built out it was not the same serene place it had been. I was not a large house and with four children the Turnbulls really needed a bigger house and the time came when I realised I would lose them. They built a new house up on the hill in the style of an old farm house with large kitchen, huge kitchen table, fuel stove. I was so sad to see them go. The older children began to grow up and leave home. They had loved me and never quite had the same feeling for the new house. Later Gay and Brian moved to the Blue Mountains area after they retired.

Front and side view -photos Judy Filmer-Smith What would happen to me now? Believe it or not I was bought by another Bryan and Gaye in 1987. They did renovations, added a room and painted me in different colour schemes but eventually went to a lighter colour, more like the original. Sadly Bryan has died but Gaye continues to live here and we are happy together as she loves me as much as my previous owners have done. She anticipates living here until they carry her out in a box. May she live to be a very, very old, old lady!

The new room -photo Gaye Finch in 2021

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