Ferny Hill Family Ties
By Daisy Baker,
April 17, 2019
From a restored homestead at Ferny Hill, just outside of Bridport, Sally Lethborg recounts how the property came into her family four generations ago.
Sally’s great grandfather, Captain William Henry Jones bought the first title at Ferny Hill in the late 1800s.
Captain Jones married Francis Harrington Brewer from Bowood, and they lived with their seven children in a small house near the entrance to the property which still stands today.
Sally says around the turn of the century, as residents started to move away, Captain Jones bought their properties, expanding his title.
“When it was a whole farm it was a couple of thousand acres but it has been divided now,” she says.
“Part of the farm is now leased out and is used by others for farming potatoes and cattle.”
In years gone by, there was a police station at the back of the property and a small school house on Ferny Hill Road which was attended by a handful of students, including Sally’s dad.
Many of the other titles along Ferny Hill road also had houses standing on them, however few of these structures are still standing.
Sally grew up in one of the cottages on the property, which her parents Oscar and Berna owned.
The house Sally and her husband Keith live in today was built by her grandfather Arthur Britton Jones, who was Captain Jones’ son.
“This is where my grandmother, aunt and uncle live,” she says, pointing to black and white photograph of the weatherboard house.
“The verandah was built in there because they had a prisoner of war, an Italian fellow who helped out on the farm.
“When [my grandparents] moved away, it was left empty for a long time, 20 or so years and it was very badly run down.”
Sally says it took her and Keith three years to renovate the abandoned house into the home it is today.
“There was only scrim and paper on the walls, that’s hessian with wallpaper over it and there were boards behind it and there were gaps between the walls so the draught would come through,” she remembers.
“It’s really like a new house inside but we tried to keep it in the old style.”
The original fire places are still in the front room, and while they are no longer used, Sally chose to keep them to retain the character of the building.
Outside the home is a beautiful, mature garden which was established after Sally and Keith took over, in place of large pines that towered over the house.
“We cut the pines down because they were taking over, and they were right over the house nearly and becoming quite dangerous,” she explains.
“Keith said to me ‘I’ll cut this tree down and if it falls on the house, we can’t do it up and if it doesn’t we’ll be right’. Thankfully it fell just in front of the house so we were right.”
For many years, Sally has been fascinated by her family’s history and collected information, photos and relics.
She has several items which belonged to her great grandfather Captain Jones, who was a significant figure in Bridport’s early years.
Captain Jones operated a ship called Bessie, trading bulk supplies of general cargo between Bridport and Melbourne.
In 1876 Captain Jones built the Forrester Inn, which was the first hotel in Bridport.
“From his shipping days we’ve got things like this,” she says, holding up a compass, and his rum stamp.
“We’ve still got this dinner bell from the pub in Bridport too.
“So when it was dinner time, he would hold this up and ring the bell.”
One gap in her collection, however, is a picture of his ship Bessie, which she says she would like to acquire.
We will be featuring more local historic buildings in a regular Behind Closed Doors segment. If there are any historical buildings in the North-East you think have an interesting story, please get in touch.