20 September 2016

Tallis Foundation, architecture, gardens and music/theatre. Melbourne is beautiful!

Within two hours of his ship (SS William Nicol) landing in Australia in Feb 1842, James Butchart had seen enough of the recently planned City of Melbourne to be confident about his future. He quickly wrote an excited letter to his father, back on the family farm in Fifeshire, Scotland.

Butchart certainly did well and built Beleura (c1860-1864) on land he purchased in Mornington, then just outside the edge of Melbourne. It still looks like a classical Italianate villa, designed for a Scotsman in semi rural Australia. Further Italianate elements came later eg the Corinthian colonnade veranda and balustrade parapet.

Beleura veranda

Beleura gardens

Beleura dining room

After Butchart’s death in 1869, the home was called the finest mansion in the colony and sold to Charles Edward Bright, son in law of Sir John Manners-Sutton, Viscount Canterbury  Governor of Victoria 1866-1873. Beleura thus became the unofficial summer retreat for the Governor and his family. Later the house was owned by a succession of rich, powerful and successful families.

Theatrical entrepreneur George Tallis purchased the property in 1915 as a summer retreat, was knighted in 1922 and , on retirement, developed it as a stud. Sir George was the first owner to add land to Beleura, giving it an estate sufficient to support a fine house. Lady Tallis died in 1933 so a very sad Sir George decided to use Beleura only as a summer retreat. He died at Wagga Wagga in 1948. Within a year, the estate was taken over by John Tallis, George's son. He soon dedicated his life to the preserv­ation of the estate. John Tallis died in 1996 and bequeathed Beleura and its considerable contents to the State. The property is now managed as a house museum by the Tallis Foundation.

Sir George Tallis

To celebrate the Centenary of Tallis Ownership, special events were arranged for Aug and Sep 2016. Australia's best theatrical manager between 1874-1907 was JC Williamson when there was a strong connection between Williamson and Tallis. JC Williamson’s most successful ventures was the Royal Comic Opera Company. Its greatest star was Florence Young, who was Sir George Tallis’ sister-in-law, Lady Tallis’ sister. In very short time, Sir George Tallis was JC Williamson’s Victorian manager.

In August 2016, a concert was presented by the Beleura Tallis Foundation and Beleura House and Garden, Mornington. The musical show, 1916!, was set in Sir George Tallis’ office at Her Majesty’s theatre in August 1916, the opening night of The Girl in the Train. As the curtain went up, Sir George took a moment to reflect. With fine singers from the world of opera and music theatre, a pro­fessional string ensemble and strong period costumes, 1916! cele­brated the 100th anniversary AND the connection between the Tallis family and Beleura.

House and Garden Tours will be held throughout the last week in September. Visitors will be brought to Beleura by a courtesy bus from a nearby location in Mornington. Morning tea will be served on arrival, followed by a light lunch between the House & Garden Tours. From the time the bus picks up the visitors until the time of return to the car park, the tour will take approximately 4.5 hours.

Thank you to Heritage Listed Locations for the garden, architectural and entertainment histories of this estate.


Dina said...

Who was the architect who originally designed the house and garden for Butchart?

bazza said...

OK, I'm sold on it! Melbourne is indeed very beautiful.

Andrew said...

I've heard of Beleura but never known anything about it. It is a nice looking house, grand inside but being single storey, it does not look formidable.

Parnassus said...

Hello Hels, I am glad that Beleura has been so well preserved. It is a particularly inviting house, perhaps because, as Andrew has suggested, its lack of height takes away airs of pretension, and adding its white color gives it a bit of a tropical look. Beleura is also lucky because of its few owners, who kept it in good condition. So many old houses have had to be brought back from the brink of dereliction after being turned into rooming houses and the like.

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Hels said...


my go-to source of all local architecture, the Victorian Heritage Data Base, is silent on any architect's name. They say "Constructed in Free Classical style, Beleura is built on a granite foundation with stuccoed brick walls. No plans of the original house are known to exist and there is no record of the architect or builder". Very strange!

Hels said...


100% correct :) However some parts of the city are particularly beautiful. The historical architecture, landscaped gardens and gorgeous views of Port Phillip Bay make the Mornington Peninsular most desirable.. and expensive.

Hels said...


you cannot just wander in... you always need to book in advance for a function at, or tour of Beleura. But this is the perfect time, given the 100th anniversary. And leave plenty of time for the gardens!

Hels said...


agree with you 100%. So many old houses have been destroyed on purpose, or fell into dereliction before FINALLY being renovated. I even understand that Beleura had to be converted into a school during the war and was overrun by sweaty adolescents.

Ironically John Tallis lived like a scared rabbit in headlights. He kept the blinds drawn, allowed no visitors and went outside into the gardens only after the gardeners had gone home for the day. Luckily he donated the entire estate to the state after decades of not disturbing as much as a blade of grass.

Hels said...

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which aspect of this rather smallish country mansion did you enjoy most?

Annie ODyne said...

wish I could see it without being kidnapped from a secret location for 4 and a half hours, and didn't it get left to a small dog a few years ago?

Hels said...


you will be safe, I promise :)

But now I am intrigued. Who was kidnapped?

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Hels said...

Seo Smart,

Do you like the colours of the dining room?

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Hels said...

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you are quite right, thank you. Beautiful to look at.