WALLASEY-Beaumaris has been gardened since the 1860s. Shrubs of old, simple-petal sweetbriar roses of washed pink still flower in a row of four a short distance from where stands our much extended house – at heart a miner’s cottage. These arching canes seem to mark the edge of a track that miners, horses, carts and cattle began to make about 150 years ago. Gold was discovered at Spring Creek – later named Beechworth – in 1852. American-born miner James Ring gave court evidence in 1860 that he had buried gold valued at more than 1500 pounds near a well on land that he owned with his brother, Patrick, at Three Mile Creek. It is estimated such a cache today would be worth about $175,000. James returned from a hospital stay to find the treasure missing. Patrick, it seems, had taken it. Beechworth historian Richard Patterson says the case broke down when the court heard that James had told his brother to make use of the gold should he need of it. The gold was not recovered. But an old windlass for the well was uncovered in a small, former kitchen garden with a wonderfully-gnarled quince tree shortly after we bought the property in August 2013.
Our two hectares was named ‘Beaumaris’ by others. It is a corruption of an old Norman French word that means ‘beautiful marsh’. The land lies just above Three Mile Creek and is about five kilometres south east of Beechworth. Beyond the garden drive is a low paddock through which a smaller creek once flowed. Tussocks remain and border leicesters bob up and down among the clumps as they graze. To ‘Beaumaris’ we added ‘Wallasey’ as we both of us have ancestors who lived in the town of the same name in what once was a part of Cheshire. It stands in a corner of the Wirral peninsula on England’s Irish Sea coast and looks across the Mersey to Liverpool. A great-great grandmother emigrated from Wallasey to Murmungee, just a few kilometres to the south of where we now live, to farm in 1875. We still have the principal pieces of the 1830s dinner service – depicting a stylised Chinese garden of pink and russet peonies and a nightingale – that she brought with her. In our first spring here we were delighted when peonies – planted by others – bloomed pink splashed with purple-red.
Wallasey-Beaumaris has been in the stewardship of many people and families since the Victorian-era gold rush. The Ring brothers – James and Patrick – are thought to be the first known settlers. Patrick Ring, a miner and sometime blacksmith, had an intemperate mouth and was often before the Beechworth magistrate for using foul language in public. The Ovens & Murray Advertiser – published weekly in Beechworth since 1855 and still published today – once named him as ‘the Vulcan of the Three Mile’. George Newton, a butcher, followed the Rings, and held the property from 1884 to 1903. After Mr Newton died it was bought in 1904 by Thomas Wood, a painter. He bequeathed it to his daughter Margaret Ryan in 1918. Margaret held it until her tragic death by drowning in the well near the kitchen in 1931. It was sold by her trustees to Francis Blume and on his death in 1938 it passed to his sister Alvina, called ‘Tops’. She sold it 1971 to Adrian Bartsh and in 1977 he sold it to Helen Gordon and Neil Smooker. Helen redeveloped the garden with discerning and eclectic style until she and Neil sold ‘Beaumaris’ to Peter and Yvonne Wilkinson in 2005. The Wilkinsons did much to refurbish the house and extend the garden. Peter Kenyon and Jamie Kronborg named the property ‘Wallasey-Beaumaris’ when they bought it from the Wilkinsons in 2013.