One of the highlights of my little sabbatical to Maldon and Castlemaine last week was visiting the Buda Historic Home & Garden at 42 Hunter Street, Castlemaine. An accredited museum and of national significance, it houses the intact furnishings, personal belongings and art collection of the talented Leviny family who resided there over two generations for 118 years from 1863 to 1981.
A gracious gold rush era home and 3 acres of heritage garden featuring original plantings and structures including the bird aviary, tennis pavilion and grape pergola amongst many original garden ornaments created by the Leviny family members, makes this an impressive historic home to visit and I'm so glad I did. The Leviny's had 10 children and that alone was mind-boggling, imagining all 10 children running around this gracious home with a beautiful garden that goes on literally, forever.
Named after Budapest by its Hungarian owner Ernest Leviny, bus tours and large groups enter the premises to immerse themselves in this little piece of history. At the entrance when you pay the entry fee, there are gifts for sale - giftware, homewares, jewellery and so on, featuring original Leviny designs, along with art cards and craftwork produced locally. I went for two huge slabs of handmade soap (Moroccan Spice and Forest Pine which you can buy online) that had divine aromas which I plan to slather all over my skin and come out smelling like a princess after a shower.
At the end of the tour, at the back end of the house where the dining kitchen area is, there's a pop-up shop filling a little table and cupboard with homemade chutneys, jams, tomato sauces and more. Again, I got some sweet cauliflower chutney, homemade tomato sauce and green cherry tomato relish, because that's what you do (everyone should) when you go to small towns. You support locals whose income is very seasonal and dependent on good weather and tourist season. It didn't matter whether I needed them or not. It was just such a good feeling to put a smile on someone's face and to know you're supporting local. Do note that you can SHOP for a variety of giftware ONLINE.
Ernest Leviny (1818-1905) was a very talented silversmith and jeweller who worked and lived in Paris from 1843 to 1846, then moved to London where he operated a manufacturing jewellers and goldsmith business between 1846 and 1852. The goldrush in Australia during the 1850s attracted him to travel to the Victorian goldfields to try his luck. Arriving at Port Phillip, Melbourne, early in 1853, he went directly to the rich alluvial goldfields of Forest Creek, and the bustling new township of Castlemaine. There, he established a successful watchmaking and jewellery business in the Market Square. He was successful enough to retire from business in 1863 and married Bertha Hudson a year later.
Between 1965 and 1883 they had 10 children - 4 sons and 6 daughters. Two of their sons died under the age of 5 and of their daughters, only 1 of the 6 married and had 5 daughters, who spent much of their time at Buda with their aunts. The five daughters who lived most of their lives in Buda which was originally Delhi Villa, renamed; were very creative in some form of art or craft and you can see artwork by the whole family displayed throughout Buda. There's also a viewing couch in front of the TV that plays their story in a loop. The website is filled with information about the history of this house and the people who lived there.
The main bedroom simply labelled 'Mother's Room' is of great significance because a young bride of just 20 years of age gave birth to all her 10 children in that bedroom. It was also a time when it was not unusual for a husband and wife to have separate rooms during the Victorian era, and it's likely that the youngest infants slept in the bedroom with their mother until the next child was born. It was also a mother's retreat where she could have some time to write letters and organise the running of the house.
The small Drawing Room in the Victorian era was the finest room within the house and an indicator of the family's status. It was kept for more formal occasions and entertaining visitors. The room is now used primarily to exhibit a few of the decorative objects in silver and gold made by Ernest Leviny alongside some of his tools of trade and personal belongings. Buda holds a large number of Leviny's exquisite jewellery designs created in London and Paris before he migrated to Australia. A few select examples are mounted on the walls, showing his level of talent and skill in this area.
The Music Room was added in 1890 as the new Drawing Room, accommodating a piano played by Bertha Leviny who was a skilled pianist. Sadly the original piano had to be sold to pay for house repairs in the 1930s and has been replaced with the present grand piano on loan from the Trustees of the Castlemaine Art Gallery and Historical Museum. The room was occasionally used for guests, including Bertha's younger sister Anna Hudson when she came to stay. Anna was also an accomplished pianist studying music in Germany during the early 1890s. In later years, this room became Kate's bedroom.
The hearth of the home, the kitchen was generally kept separate from the main house as the risk of fires was so great in those days. Buda's kitchen and service quarters were connected to the main residence by an open-sided walkway with a vaulted iron roof. An underground tank was installed with much foresight by the original owner considering the horrendous consequences suffered on the early goldfields from the lack of fresh clean water.
As you can imagine, in a household of 12 people, the laundry/scullery would have been on overtime. Monday was traditionally washday and often regarded as the worst day of the week for the servants. Washing the linen was hard work especially for a large family. Generally, a soap jelly would be prepared on the previous Saturday and the family's linen collected so that cuffs, collars, pinafores and underwear could be soaped, rubbed and put in to soak until Monday when the washing was done.
Imagine for one minute the logistics of lighting the fire under the copper to heat the large tub of water to boil the linens, using a washboard, washing and rinsing all that laundry for 12 twice, putting it all through the wringer, hanging it out to dry, then smoothed out between heavy wooden rollers and ironed using flat, oval and box irons to flatten the creases. I'm already tired just typing about it. One thing I won't tire of is encouraging you to visit this beautiful abode and sit for a moment contemplating 10 children running around you as you float through their home, bringing them back to life as your thoughts dwell upon their lives,