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Ballam Park Homestead History

The Property

Early writings refer to Ballam Park as a run of approximately 8000 acres. A pastoral lease shows Frank Liardet as being lessee of "Ballam Park" from September 1843 to April 1850. It is belived the property was originally part of Baxter's run "Carrup Carrup" and that Frank Liardet had squatted there. It is also believed that he attempted to grow wheat for the Melbourne market but abandoned the attempt well before 1850. The original survey maps show an area marked "old wheat cultivation". This is thought to be the remains of Frank's venture into wheat production. 

The property appears to have reduced greatly in size. In July 1855, according to the Land's Title, Frank's brother Frederick Liardet purchased Allotment 3 of Section 6 which consisted of  320 acres of the land. He called his property  "Ballam Park". Construction of the house was begun in the same year. There were four blocks adjoining and in 1859 he bought Allotment 2 the next block, bringing his holdings to 640 acres. His land stretched from today's McClelland Drive to McMahons Rd and from Cranbourne Rd, half way up to Skye Rd.  Frederick sold 50 acres of Allotment 2 (the north-east corner) to his brother Frank.


The House

It is thought that the plans for the existing Ballam Park Homestead originated from the ideas of Wilbraham; the artistic father of Frank and Frederick Liardet. The house was built around the French Farmhouse style. The builder was Thomas Cogger Allchin, a builder of a number of churches and other constructions in Mornington. Mrs Sarah Allchin wrote in her diary the her husband's men were "building Mr. Liardet's house" and that she herself had done quite a bit of sewing for Mrs. Liardet and her neighbour.

The house was the first double storied, brick house to be built in the area. Oral history tells us that the bricks were made on the property of local clay.  The house stands on a foundation of uneven rocks with the floor bearers being placed directly on top of the rocks. This was common at the time and explains the subsidence that has occurred, necessitating in the work that has been done to ensure the  house will not sink any further. At the time this house was built the rest of the local population would have been living in tents and wattle and daub huts along the beach at Olivers Hill. Ballam Park Homestead would have represented itself as a mansion  at the time, a home for the minor gentry.

The house was not always the size it is today. It has grown over the years as needs required. Caroline Long in her diary of 1863 recorded that her father, Daniel Rutter Long had bought the property for 700. She mentions the dining room and the dairy in her subsequent entries. She also describes the house consisting of 10 rooms, however the 1863 rate book calls it a 5 roomed house. By 1865 the rate books have added an extra room. By 1866 it had been enlarged considerably and had 8 rooms, a two roomed cottage, stabling and out buildings.

Oral history also tells us that the staircase, front entrance doors and various other items were imported from France. This is possible as the Liardet family was of French origin. Wilbraham could have bought the pieces back with him when he returned from a trip to England in 1853. 

The house is on a number of heritage registers and has National Trust accreditation. There are a number of heritage trees on the property also. These include one magnificant old oak,  two carobs and a small grove of eight olive trees. All are belived to be from the Liardet occupation.

In 1886 there was an orchard and pine trees along the drive. These continued along the back of the house until recent times. Some had to be removed as they were deemed to be dangerous.

The housekeeper's quarters were erected during the Dennis family occupation. The garage was built in 1944.  It was extended by the Council and Historical Society to become today's museum and tearooms. Like the homestead the ceiling is of the mansard design, reminisent of a French farmhouse. The rendering on the house could well result from the fact that a member of the Liardet family patented a form of rendering during the 1770s in England.

The Occupants

The Liardets

Frederick Liardet was the son of Sandridge (Port Melbourne) pioneer Wilbraham Liardet. The Liardet Family had arrived on board the "William Metcalfe" in 1839 along with Jonathan Binns Were founder of Brighton. Were kept a shipboard diary and in it he described the eccentric Wilbraham and his attempt at mutiny while at sea. Wilbraham ended up in chains when he threatened the Captain of the ship.

On arrival at Sandridge Liardet bought a small boat  and charged other passengers to ferry their luggage ashore. This was the start of his carrier business. He and his sons Frederick and Frank also set up the first mail service in the colony which they ran for 18 years. They built the first road from Sandridge to Melbourne and ran the first carrier service along that road.  With his sons Wilbraham also established the first hotel and pier at Sandridge. 

Wilbraham wrote an unpublished history of Melbourne based on actual interviews with original colonists and he illustrated it with forty of his own water colour sketches. Much of his work is available for study at the Latrobe Libray. Many of his water colour sketches have been reproduced in books about the history of Melbourne.

The electoral roll for 1856-57 shows both Frederick and Frank Liardet as holding freehold land at Frankston. From available records it appears that 1861 was the last year that a Liardet lived at Ballam Park.

The Liardet story is fascinating and would take up too much time to tell here. Although the family didn't remain in Frankston very long, just eight short years, they did build the house and leave it for future generations.

The Longs

Frederick sold the Ballam Park holding to Daniel Rutter Long, a Melbourne chemist in 1863. The Long Family occupied the home between 1863 and 1890. They set their two sons Daniel Jnr and Thomas up in the homestead to farm the land and a number of Long children were born there. The family visited from time to time. The family held the property until after Daniel's death in 1886.

Daniel Rutter Long was born in 1803 at Whitney, Oxfordshire. His family were quakers. He originally wished to study medicine but became apprenticed as a chemist to Jacob Bell, founder of the Pharmaceutical Society of great Britain. In 1826 he entered the family business in Bath as a chemist.

In 1829 he married Miss Helen Jones at Cheltenham and they lived in Bath until 1840. Six children were born to them between 1829 and 1840. They were Susan, Henry, Elizabeth (Bessie), Thomas, Josiah and Helen.

They emigrated to Port Phillip with their six children and arrived in the infant colony on 29 September 1840. After various residences the family moved into "Hampden Villa"  the home they had built for themselves in !856. In 1958, over a century later, the house was still being lived in by a well known Melbourne medico and his family.

During his long life Daniel was deeply involved in colonial affairs and was a member of the Melbourne Police Court. He was Chairman of the Municipality of Prahran Council and was involved in the erection of the Prahran Town Hall. He laid the foundation stone. He was also a painter and left hundreds of oil paintings depicting Australian scenes. As well as all this he ran a successful chemist business.

On 8 October 1879 the Longs  celebrated their golden wedding. By then the family numbered nine as three more children were born in the colony; Daniel, Caroline (Carrie) and Charles. Susan became Mrs. Neild. Elizabeth became Mrs. Buzzard and Helen married John Denovan Gowan.

Caroline who married Alfred Edward Clarke was the writer of the diary that tells of the purchase of "Balam (sic) Park" and the doings of the family while they stayed there. She mentions several trips to Ballam Park. The trip took eight hours in a cart. Even allowing for traffic we can make the same trip in about an hour today

Daniel Rutter Long was 83 when he died in August 1886 at "Hampden Villa". His wife Helen outlived him by ten years and she died on the 23 October 1896 at the age of 93 also at "Hampden Villa"

When Daniel Snr died his sons were needed to run the Melbourne business and the homestead was leased for sometime by the trustees Executors & Agency Ltd before being sold to the Gower-Williams Family in 1902.

Leasees      

Kemp & Sheehan      1890 -1891
John Jenkins              1891 -1892
Alex Ross                   1896
Joseph G. Despard   1898 - 1899
Thos Crisp                  1899 - 1901   


The Gower- Williams

In January 1902 Cyril Gower-Williams of "Mayfield" Toorak bought Allotment 3 including the house. Between 1916  and 1926 he began to subdivide the property and sold off approximately 132 acres, leaving 189 (76.1) hectares. Although he owned the property  he did not occupy it until after 1926.

In 1927 Ballam Park  was leased to Cyril J. Johnson in 1927 for a year and then in 1928 was leased to Mrs. Alice Aileen Dennis. Mrs Dennis as a young woman had visited the homestead and loved it so much she vowed to own it one day. Aileen and her husband Dr. Charles Dennis moved into the homestead and  eventually purchased the property in April 1946.

During this time particularly after the First World War much of the property was sold off for redevelopment.  This included all of the area from Lindrum Rd to McMahons Rd. Today's Lindrum Rd was called Long's Rd until well after the Second World War. The original road to the homestead used to run from the gate at the junction of Crandbourne Rd and Long (Lindrum) Rd. It can be seen in early aerial photographs of the area.

The Dennis Family

Dr. Charles Dennis and his wife were the last private owners of Ballam Park Homestead. They were in residence for 36 years. During the time prior to their purchase of the property  the Dennis couple made many alterations to the house so they must have had some understanding with the owners. In 1925 they added what was referred to as the "housekeeper's quarters" to the homestead. This structure is believed to be the gate keepers residence which was located near the entrance to Ballam Park. They also added internal fittings. Another installation was the bathroom on the first floor.

In 1944 Dr. Dennis built a brick garage and today this serves as a museum which has been extended to accomondate the displays. Mrs Dennis recalled that the old stables that the garage replaced were destroyed by bushfires in 1944. She also noted that the original timber shingle roof was burnt as well. This was replaced by the iron roof.

Until the mid 1940s the underground tank had a wooden cover. Dr. Dennis had it replaced with a concrete slab. It also had a hand pump. The slab was replaced by the council with a concrete dome.

It was during the Dennis era that the cabinets, troughs and plumbing were installed in the scullery and kitchen. The dining room cabinets and bedroom wardrobes were also innovations of this period.

Legend has it that the entry of a large cellar was sealed over at this time too but no one has been able to locate it. This statment is now believed to be untrue.

After World War II as Frankston had become a popular holiday resort 76 acres were sold thus shrinking the property once again.

it was stated in an article found in the society's files that it wasn't until 1958 that gas, water and electricity were connected to the house. However it would appear from statements about  the various renovations in earlier times that this is incorrect.

It was also recorded  that in 1963 the house was leased to Fred and Norma Smith for a brief period.  However this may also be incorrect as new information has just been brought to our attention. So stay tuned!

After Dr. Dennis' death the house became too much for Mrs. Dennis and she offered it for sale to the Frankston Council.


The Frankston City Council & the Frankston Historical Society

In January 1964 at the request of the Frankston Council the Metropolitan  Board of Works purchased Ballam Park. The Council  agreed to repay the purchase price over seven years. The board purchased the property for community use. Ownership passed to the Frankston Council in December 1970.

In January 1967 the Frankston Historical Society requested occupancy of Ballam Park Homestead in return for a peppercorn rental. The council agreed and in return for its occupancy the society became responsible for the upkeep of the house.

In July 1973 the sewer was connected to the property. On 11 August 1982 a solid, red brick resource centre was opened. It was called the Graham Resource Centre after Jim and Molly Graham  two of the founders of the society. Both are now deceased.

The Frankston Historical Society owns and cares for collections on display in the homestead, musuem, buggy and machinery sheds. Many of the items have been donated by early Frankston and district families over the years since the society first occupied the homestead.

Society volunteers conduct guided tours of the homestead. They operate the tearooms and manage the  resource centre.
Frankston Historical Society's  main aim is to preserve the collection,  house and the grounds with the aid of Frankston City Council and to keep it open to the public.

A printed  history of the homestead is on sale in the Tearooms for $3.00. A copy can be posted on request. Postage extra.