Commendation – Victorian Community History Awards 2020
Bonleigh, in its eponymous avenue in Brighton was originally built circa 1862 on five acres that ran down to Port Phillip Bay. For her current owners Jill Davies and Graeme Samuel is was love at first sight in 2015 when they were introduced to Bonleigh. Within months they had bought the house and started on the renovations. During the renovation period Jill discovered relics that gave an insight into Bonleigh’s history and owners and thus the seed for this book, 4 years in the making, was sown.
Jill commissioned Abi Belfrage to research and write not just the history of the house and its owners but to tie it into a broader context, the social history of Melbourne during Bonleigh’s occupation.
This large book is a beautiful rich history that is wonderfully illustrated with both colour and b&w photographs and images. The book spans the European history of the land from 1852 to 2015 and also touches on the Indigenous history prior to European settlement.
Bonleigh was used as a boarding house during World War Two and it remains an important remnant of Brighton’s 19th century sea front estates. The house was designed by architect A.L Smith in 1860 and is one of the first homes built in the Melbourne suburb of Brighton. It was the home of Henry Arthur Pitt and Gertrude Augusta Pitt, parents of Kathleen Fitzpatrick.
Professional historian, Abigail Belfrage runs The History Dept., a history and research consultancy in North Carlton, Victoria. The History Dept.’s work is informed by Abi’s deep appreciation of the many stories that live in people, records, places and landscapes, and her experience, skills and knowledge in telling those stories over many years. Abi is passionate about how individuals and communities can connect with their history, protect and grow knowledge about their cultural heritage, and look after places and collections.