Summerhill: a window to Scottsdale’s past
By Daisy Baker
July 03, 2019
The first time Ian and Ann Wilson walked through Summerhill while hunting for a retirement property in 2002, they felt a connection.
The century-old North Scottsdale home was a derelict house at this stage, unlocked and in ill repair but the Wilsons were struck by the stunning views the property boasted in every direction.
Mountain ranges were visible from one window, and glimpses of the ocean at Bridport on a fine day from another.
“We looked around and felt that it was meant to be our home,” Mr Wilson said.
“Although I’m a minister of religion, I am also a professional engineer, so I could see myself working on the house during my time off.”
The house, built in 1908, was in original condition when the Wilsons purchased it, consisting of a corridor with two rooms on either side, a kitchen out the back and verandas around the whole house.
Their first project was building Murphy’s Retreat, an outbuilding named after the original owners.
Retired builder and church member, Don Dickenson offered to help Mr Wilson to build the retreat room on his days off which the Wilsons used as their base.
“We filled in a third of a three-bay garage and extended it with picture windows looking out towards Mount Barrow,” Mr Wilson said.
“We did it all with second hand materials, including some gothic church windows that were about 100 years old.
“Ann and I decided we wanted to retire here and I told Don I wanted to do up the house and he said that was a big job and he probably couldn’t help me with that,” Mr Wilson laughed.
Local builder David Crack came on board as the project consultant for the renovations, with Mr Wilson as the official builder.
“My son Andrew and I spent six weeks gutting the place and digging foundations for two rooms which we added – an extension to the kitchen and a sunroom,” he said.
“David helped us to lower the original high ceilings to make way for a few rooms upstairs.”
The renovations spanned the next decade and the Wilsons began researching the property’s past.
“We think it’s a most interesting property and are interested in the history because we know family members of the ancestors and so I have written a history with the assistance of former residents, family members and the Dorset History group.”
Summerhill was first owned by pioneers Robert and Mary Murphy, who lived in a house 300 metres east of the current Summerhill house.
They cleared the land of large trees and commenced farming.
The home farm ‘Summerhill’ was left to their third son Robert Junior, who went on to become the Scottsdale mayor (warden) and later a Tasmanian MHA.
The original house was burned down after the death of Robert Jr’s two sisters from tuberculosis in 1908 and 1909.
Robert Jr and Edith’s daughter Olive (Olly) and her husband Carl Schramm inherited Summerhill when Robert died in 1966.
Mr Wilson recollected a humorous story from Olly and Carl’s youngest son Kevin:
“He and his brother John were mucking about with a rifle at the front of their grandparents’ house when the rifle accidentally fired and the bullet travelled through the top of the front wall of the house just beneath the eaves,” he said.
“The bullet then ricocheted off the inside of the corrugated iron roof, passed through the back wall of the house, and finally landed by the feet of their grandmother who at the time was hanging washing on the clothes line.
“Kevin was fascinated by the path of the bullet and went on to become a ballistics specialist with Tasmania police, responsible for investigating firearm incidents.”
After the Schramms, Summerhill was owned by Doug and Betty McKerrow, Rodney and Beth Charleston, and Wayne and Wanda Campbell, who were the last owners before the Wilsons purchased it in 2002.
Mr Campbell is the great grandson of the original owner of the property, Robert Murphy.
Over the years portions of the land were leased to local farmers including Bert Farquhar.
In 2002 the Campbells subdivided the original 100-acre property, selling the house with 1.5 acres to the Wilsons and the remaining 98.5 acres to the Partridges in 2007.
The Wilsons have lovingly renovated Summerhill over the past 17 years, and ongoing maintenance of the historic home and its flourishing flower and vegetable gardens keeps them busy to this day.