Beecroft-Cheltenham History Group

William Henry Harris

William Henry Harris (1882 to 1954), a kinsman of Surgeon John Harris of Ultimo, left his large estate, ‘Edensor Park’ in Liverpool in 1907 to move closer to the city. He purchased 5 ½ acres of Cheltenham land between Beecroft Road and The Crescent from Mrs Catherine Rattray (wife of George Rattray, a bank official), a partly built brick house already being on the land. Harris sent two men to buy the property in notes and gold coin, but it being a Sunday, Mrs Rattray declined to do business. Harris went himself during the following week and Mrs Rattray accepted his payment.[1]

A team of men was employed to work on the house and grounds over the years from 1907 to about 1920. The house was much enlarged around a wide central passageway and deep verandas were added to all sides. This new home was named ‘Edensor’. Formal gardens and gravel paths were laid out including rare ornamental trees and some 3000 rose bushes in several large rose beds. A bowling green was constructed on the southern side of the house and much used by William Harris and his friends. A wall of Pyrmont sandstone blocks was built along the Beecroft Road and Lyne Road boundaries. Pyrmont stone was also used in veranda foundations and the trellised walk.

The stable building, a large timber construction with clerestory roof, housed the groom’s quarters as well as various bays for feed, harnesses and the horses. William Harris kept trotting horses as a hobby as well as riding horses which he was especially fond of riding daily around Cheltenham and Beecroft. Often he rode to ‘Marabar’ (‘Blackwood House’) and joined the Blackwood girls in a ride around the district. He was remembered by local people for his love of horses, his daily riding and the fact that he was never seen with his coat off. He also spent much of his time supervising the running of the small farm on his property.

In 1913 Harris purchased seven lots (just over two acres) of William Chorley’s subdivision on the corner of The Crescent and The Boulevard, and gave it to the local people for a Recreation Club. His plan of having ‘a bowling green for the Dads, a croquet lawn for the Mums and tennis courts for the children’ was carried out by the Foundation Committee, and the Club proved very popular. In 1923 he gave a portion of the ‘Edensor’ land for extensions and in the 1950s a further portion which had been a cow paddock in front of the house. He was Patron of the Club from 1913 to 1953 and spent many hours with old friends there.[2]

Mary (Molly) Harris, third wife of William, opened a house and gardens frequently for charity, especially for the Cheltenham Kindergarten which she helped establish. Large fetes, with a Scottish band playing as it marched up from the station, were very popular with visitors. Molly and William had two daughters, only one, Julie, living to adulthood.

After William’s death, part of the property had to be sold to pay death duties but a sympathetic
subdivision and covenants on the garden resulted in little alteration to its original character.

The Cheltenham Recreation Club has been important both for preserving a large area of open space and in providing leisure activities close by for local people.[3]

 

 

                  


[1] Land Titles Office 1071/79, 1103/138.

[2] Land Titles Office 1129/207.

[3] Information from Mrs Mollie Harris of Cheltenham.

 

 

 

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