Once a surgeon’s homestead, church manse, air raid shelter, to a catering business, reception centre and accommodation venue for international students, Home Lea’s walls are filled with history.
Now owned by Betty Brady, who bought it in 1980, Home Lea plays an important role in Launceston’s heritage.
It came to Mrs Brady’s attention when she lived across the road.
“I went to Invermay School myself, and the girls that lived in this house also went to Invermay School with me. Their mum lived here until she became really old,” she said.
“I used to always say to my husband if that place ever comes on the market I will buy it. Then it came up for auction … so I came over here and bought it. I only had to walk across the road.”
Mrs Brady spent years uncovering Home Lea’s history.
Scottish ship’s surgeon Dr Thomas Landale arrived in Sydney in 1821 and applied to Governor Lachlan Macquarie for land.
He received several grants in Van Diemen’s Land, including Invermay Island, which runs from White City, Invermay, to Forster Street and Invermay Road to the Tamar River.
Mostly swampland, Dr Landale built a house on a hill, which is now the crest of Home and Mayne streets.
I used to always say to my husband if that place ever comes on the market I will buy it.Betty Brady
This house is Home Lea, in which he lived with his wife Harriet Dry, the eldest daughter of Richard Dry senior of Quamby Estate, and their children.
Harriet’s brother Richard Dry junior became one of Tasmania’s Premiers.
Builder Charles Box moved to Invermay Island in 1862, calling it Boxes Hill.
“Many streets in the area remain named after these early occupants – Landale, Box and Mayne, which was named after [Landale’s] son in law,” Mrs Brady said.
The property became Home Lea when Westbury’s Field family bought it as their town house.
“The property later became a church manse [circa 1912], with many charitable garden parties held in the vast gardens,” Mrs Brady said.
“In World War II many couples turned up to the door for a quick marriage service. Also in World War II, a public air raid shelter was built at the bottom of the property.
“When the war was on, people just used to get married in their normal clothes. He might be called up to go to war so they’d rush up to a minister and get married before he went away,” she said.
Mrs Brady established successful catering business No 10 there, which was officially opened in 1989, and also held events at the property.
“I had a wedding in there once and this little old lady in her 90s came to the door and she said, ‘Oh I know where I am; I’m at Home Lea. My uncle used to own this. I used to ride the little pony out of stable down there in the corner’.”
After discovering she was speaking with the Fields’ niece, Mrs Brady started holding annual lunches for her family.
“She’d gather up the relatives – some from Hobart and some from the mainland – of the Field family and they’d have a private lunch here,” she said.
After their lunch the family members would walk across to St George’s church, Invermay, to see wood carvings by Ethelwyn Field, who used to live at Home Lea.
“Ethelwyn was a very famous wood carver and silversmith, which must have been amazing for women back then,” Mrs Brady said.
“Her sister [Nora Payne], who went to England, became internationally famous as a wood carver and silversmith.
“When I was developing it I used to talk to Ethelwyn. I wondered if she was a little ghost haunting the place,” she said.
Mrs Brady uncovered other connections to Home Lea through her research and people visiting the property.
“When I had No 10 I’d have people come who’d say my grandparents got married here in the war,” she said.
“Over the years I’ve been able to pick up bits and pieces,” she said.
Mrs Brady built the stone walls on the property, laid the pavers, painted the house, knocked walls out and decorated the ceiling with fabric.
The property was was a popular destination for weddings, leaver’s dinners and even birthday parties for Launceston children.
“Every day after school – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursdays – I’d have kid’s birthday parties from 4pm to 6pm as [alter ego] Betty Boop with the flashing light and Betty Boop t-shirt,” she said.
“Then I got into the grade 6 leaver’s dinners, so for about three weeks I had nearly every school in Launceston, Longford, Perth from Sunday to Thursday.”
Home Lea is for sale through LJ Hooker Launceston, with offers of more than $575,000 considered.
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