18-01-1873: Wyselaskie’s ‘Narrapumelap’ Homestead at Wickliffe.

The French Gothic mansion ‘Narrapumelap’ was built at Wickliffe in western Victoria in 1873 for the wealthy squatter John Dixon Wyselaskie (1818-1883) and he had the Ferguson & Urie stained glass Company  create the stained glass windows for his mansion. The window in the vestibule is personalised specifically to contain Wyselaskie’s initials “J.D.W” flanked by the year “18-73” on either side.

After Wyselaskie’s death in 1883 the property was then owned by Gerald Neville Buckley (1855-1935), the son of Mars Buckley and Elizabeth Marion Neville. After the death of Gerald in 1935 the property was owned by his brother Charles and after his death it was aquired for Soldier Settlement purposes. 

The McIntyre family brought the dilapidated property at auction in 1951 but the homestead was considered uneconomical to live in and the McIntyre’s resided in a modest wooden home about 300 meters down the hill. Over the years the original mansion was vandalised with many of the original fittings stolen or broken.

The owner of Narrapumelap, Kevin McIntyre, is restoring the homestead to its former glory which has been a childhood passion since he was a boy.

We stayed the night at the mansion in January 2011 which was a fascinating experience. On arrival Kevin gave us a tour of the mansion, which he is still restoring, and the fantastic B&B residence we were to stay in at the rear of the mansion. We were then left to our own to roam the mansion and magnificent gardens. By torchlight at night it’s an amazing experience roaming the mostly empty rooms of the mansion, and seeing the shadows on the wall cast by the antlers of the stags head in the breakfast room is very spooky. The most remarkable view of the property is from the lookout at the top of the tower above the vestibule. A  door to the side of the vestibule reveals a tiny winding staircase all the way up the tower that leads to a small doorway out on to a lookout platform where you can view the entire grounds and watch the sun set.

Kevin told us that when he was a boy, vandals were stealing and vandalising the original fittings in the mansion, such as marble fireplaces and tiles, and when he was about twelve years old he decided to climb the roof and cover up the historic old stained glass windows with boards and iron sheeting to hide them from visibility and damage. His tactic worked well and the historic windows survived and can now be seen in all their glory to this day.

Kevin’s restoration work on the mansion is nothing short of remarkable and he hopes to make it his own home one day.

Photos were taken 9th January 2011.

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This is a rudimentary YouTube clip taken with my iPhone 3GS on the 9th January 2011 from the top of the tower at sunset.

Another iPhone clip showing a tour through the mansions empty rooms just before sunset, which includes the stained glass windows and the B&B rooms at the back of the mansion.

The History of Narrapumelap.

John Dixon Wyselaskie (1818-1883)

John Dixon Wyselaskie was the son of army officer Louis Wyselaskie and Elizabeth Kerr[1] and was born in Sanquhar, Dumfriesshire, Scotland, on the 25th June 1818.

His official biography on-line at the National Library outlines the significant events in his life but it’s the events after his death that provide some interesting additional detail.

Wyselaskie arrived in Tasmania in 1837 to join an uncle, Robert Kerr, of the firm Kerr & Bogle in Hobart. In 1840 he obtained the Narrapumelap run at Wickliffe in Victoria for the firm and in the 1850’s bought out 24,000 acres of the estate from Kerr & Bogle to start his own sheep run[2].

In 1862 he married Mary Jane Austin Farrell (1838-1895) of Wickliffe, Victoria, at St James’s Church in Melbourne[3] and in 1873 he had a magnificent French Gothic mansion built of bluestone on the Narrapumelap estate at Wickliffe in western Victoria.

“A Victorian squatter named Wyselaskie is about to build a costly mansion on his property at Wickliffe. In the centre of the building will be a tower seventy or eighty feet high, from which every portion of the estate will be visible”.[4]

In 1878 Wyselaskie moved to St. Kilda at Melbourne where he built a two storey mansion named “Wickliffe House” on the St. Kilda Esplanade which had unimpeded views of the bay and the historic St. Kilda pier. He died there of a stroke on the 4th of May 1883 aged 65[5].

On the 7th May 1883[6] he was interred in the Boroondarra cemetery at Kew and three years later, on the 3rd of July 1886, one of the most extravagant and expensive marble monuments ever seen in the Colony was erected over his grave site which included a life size statue of him. The local press reported;

“One of the finest pieces of monumental statuary in the colony was unveiled on Saturday last at the Boorondara [sic] cemetery. It has been erected by the executors in the estate, and in memory of the late Mr. Wyselaskie, one of the earliest settlers of the Western district. The deceased in his will made bequests to the extent of about £40,000 to various charities, and educational establishments, by which he will long be remembered. The monument is of Italian design, and excellently executed, standing about 20ft. high. The base is square with angles so splayed off as to present an octagonal appearance. The moulded panels of the base are beautifully carved with flowers and emblems of sepulture, and on the top at each corner are four chaste figures of angels. Rising from the base is the main pedestal, embellished with sculptured festoons of flowers, and on it stands a life size figure of Mr. Wyselaskie, executed in Carara marble. This is a work of art, and coupled with the angels on the base, stamps Signor G. Fredani, of Naples, whose work it is as a sculptor in the truest sense of the word. The whole marble work stands on a bluestone base 8ft. square, the massive foundations of the same material going right down to the bottom of the grave. It is enclosed with moulded Malmsbury bluestone kerb and heavy cast-iron railing with gilded points. The erection of the monument and everything with the exception of the marble work, was entrusted to Messrs Clark and Henderson, the well known monumental masons, of Gisborne-street, E Melbourne, and they are to be complimented on the excellent general effect.”[7]

Wyselaskie’s estate was bequeathed to many significant Melbourne institutions, including the Presbyterian Church and Melbourne University.

“THE WYSELASKI BEQUELTS [sic].- Friday’s Telegraph states that owing to excessive valuation in the estate of the late J. D. Wyselaskie of Wickliffe, it is feared the amounts specified in the will to fall to the various legatees will not be realised in full. It has been stated that unless £4 per acre be received, the bequests – at least those that are contingent – cannot be met. Recently the estate, when put up for sale, had only one bid made for it at £3, 1s., owing to the rabbit pest having become so prevalent, and done so much damage. The following is the value and allocation of the estate, with the various amounts bequeathed to each legatee: – The estate was valued at £72,337 reality, and £28,000 personality. To his widow the deceased left his house at St. Kilda, with the furniture, &c., and £5,000. He also directed that the trustees should invest £25,000, the interest of which was to be for her benefit during life. He bequeathed likewise a number of private legacies, also £5,000 to the Church of Scotland at Farquhar, of which the Rev. T. Sellar was minister; £2,000 to the Presbyterian Church, Wickliffe; £20,000 to the endowment fund for the salaries of professors and teachers for training young men for the Presbyterian ministry; £5,000 for the Presbyterian Ladies’ College; £10,000 for the Presbyterian Theological-hall; and £12,000 to be invested for the endowment of six scholarships at the Melbourne University, to be called the Wyselaskie Scholarships. The residuary estate was to be invested for the benefit of the children; and in the event of there being no children alive at the death of his widow, the property was to be divided between the Melbourne Hospital, Alfred Hospital, Melbourne Blind Asylum, Deaf and Dumb Asylum, and the Benevolent Asylum.” [8]

The University ended up receiving the sum of £8,400 from the Wyselaskie executors and as at 2002, (more than a century later) the combined capital for the six Wyselaskie Scholarships was stated at over half a million dollars ($530,561.75)[9]

His widow, Mary Jane Austin (nee Farrell) became the gossip of society in 1884 when she married Alfred James Horner who was more than twenty years her junior and of questionable moral character. Horner, an accountant, had previously been sued by a widow named Catherine “Kitty’ Edgin[10] for £1,000 damages in a breach of promise case. Previous to this, Alfred’s father James had tried to intervene by visiting Catherine on the 1st of May 1883;

“…The young man’s family then got wind of the affair, and his father appeared on the scene. He visited the plaintiff. She showed him the children, and the old man said that his son ought to marry the mother of the children. The old man died on the following day, broken hearted…”[11] 

James Hassler Horner, accountant of Acland Street St Kilda, was reported as having died suddenly on the 2nd of May 1883[12].

The jilted Catherine Edgin was awarded £600 by the court and Alfred Horner was then free to marry the widow Wyselaskie, who seemed oblivious to his appalling moral character;

“…Afterwards he said he was not going to marry a poor woman, and he could only allow her £2 per week. He only paid one instalment, and then said it would be better to drown herself and poison the children. After this he said that he was going to marry the richest widow on St. Kilda. On the 30th April he married Mrs Wyselaskie, the rich widow referred to….”[13]

Alfred Horner married Mary Jane Austin Wyselaskie in St James’ Church in Melbourne and although it was stated that the “society” papers had chronicled the lavish event only one detailed account of it has been found in, of all places, a ladies gossip column in a New Zealand tabloid![14]

In October 1887 the now, Mrs. A. J. Horner, presented a large oil painting of her former husband, John Dixon Wyselakie, to the “Wyselaskie-Hall Ladies College.” [15] The College had been built with funds from the Wyselaskie bequest and was opened by Francis Ormond in March that same year[16].

On the 31st of July 1895 Mary Jane Austin Horner died at Bendigo[17] aged 57 and on the 3rd August 1895 was interred with her first husband, J. D. Wyselaskie, at the Kew Boroondarra cemetery[18].

When Mary’s will was executed and probate was proven, her Farrell relatives and her daughter and adopted daughter were the beneficiaries and Alfred James Horner was excluded[19]

Alfred James Horner left Melbourne after Mary died and headed for Perth in Western Australia, where he joined his brother, Ernest E. Horner in the firm of Horner & Horner, Fire and Insurance Assessors. Alfred died in Sydney on the 23rd of November 1918 after a “painful illness”[20]

Gerald Neville Buckley (1855-1935)

The second owner of Narrapumelap was Gerald Neville Buckley. He was the son of Elizabeth Marion Neville (1826-1920)[21] and Mars Buckley (1825-1905), proprietor of Buckley & Nunn haberdashery of Bourke Street Melbourne[22].

Gerald brought the Narrapumelap station from the estate of J. D. Wyselaskie in June 1884[23] and, apart from his international travels, lived there for the rest of his life. His exploits at big game hunting in Africa were well known and his animal trophies were on display in the homestead.

Gerald died unmarried aged 78 on the 19th February 1935 at Narrapumelap and was reported to have a combined estate of £140,262.[24]

“OBITUARY, Mr. G. N. Buckley

The death occurred on Tuesday night at his home, Narrapumelap, Wickliffe, of Mr. Gerald Neville Buckley, whose father, the late Mr. Mars Buckley, was a founder of Buckley and Nunn Ltd and donor of the Mars Buckley Cup for tennis for annual competition between Victoria and New South Wales. Mr. Buckley, who was aged 78 years, was unmarried. He was one of the leading pastoralists and horse breeders in Victoria. At the Rock House Stud, on the Campaspe River, near Kyneton, he bred many fine horses. The sires, The Night Patrol, for which Mr. Buckley paid the Earl of Stradbroke 10,000 guineas, and Woorak were both kept at Rock House. Cape Sky and Greenstead were also in Mr. Buckley’s stud, and Halbadier, Linker Up, Woorgun, and Sergeant Major raced under his colours. Halbadier and Gamekeeper are in training at present. As a young man Mr. Buckley was a member of several big game hunting expeditions to South Africa”. [25]

Narrapumelap was then in the hands of Gerald’s brother Charles Mars Buckley until his death in 1946[26]. The Soldier Settlement Commission purchased the property which was then occupied by Peter C. Jensen[27] and then R. A. S. Hayes[28].

On Monday 30th July 1951 a public auction for the estate was held at Scott’s Hotel in Melbourne[29] and the 1400 acres of property and buildings passed into the hands of Alistair McIntyre who ran sheep on the property which produced some of the finest wool at record prices in Victoria[30].

The McIntyre’s never lived in the old mansion because of its dilapidated condition but their son Kevin had loved the old bluestone building since he was a boy and has now been restoring it to its former glory for more than twenty years.

“Historic homestead restoration a labour of love”

BY ALEXANDRA WEAVER 22 Oct, 2011 03:00 AM

“RESTORING a historic south-west property has been a labour of love for Kevin McIntyre. For the past 18 years he has spent weekends working on Wickliffe’s Narrapumelap homestead, which was built in 1873 and is considered one of rural Victoria’s finest examples of French gothic revival architecture. Its original owner, John Dixon Wyselaskie (1818-1883), was a successful pastoralist and philanthropist. Mr McIntyre’s parents bought Narrapumelap at a Melbourne auction in 1951 and today live in a more modest residence nearby. The homestead was badly damaged in the 1980s when vandals broke in and smashed its ornate fireplaces. “Twenty years ago it was really quite ruinous,” Mr McIntyre said. “When I first started there was no garden, a devastated interior now it’s really quite nearing completion inside. “It’s quite a popular tour destination now. It is totally unique.” Mr McIntyre recently added a kitchen in a style sympathetic to the home’s design and removed a dining room added to the central courtyard in about 1900. “People have been following this project with quite a bit of interest,” he said. “I do most of the work myself I do all the design work. I actually make a lot of the things. “It’s very comprehensive because I really believe in the idea of one hand controlling all details: garden, design, garden structures, interior.” Narrapumelap will be open during the Melbourne Cup and Easter weekends and can be seen at other times by appointment.”[31]

Kevin also has B&B accommodation available in a beautifully restored section at the rear of the mansion.

See: http://www.narrapumelap.com.au/

Footnotes:

[1] Vic BDM: 6826/1883

[2] J. Ann Hone, ‘Wyselaskie, John Dickson (1818–1883)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/wyselaskie-john-dickson-4896/text8193, accessed 1 September 2013.

External links:

Obituary: John Dixon Wyselaskie (1818-1883)
Biography: John Dickson Wyselaskie (1818-1883)
State Library Vic: Photos of Narrapumelap from 1967
Web Site: Narrapumelap

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