Bishopscourt – 1881 Bequest Society

The 1881 Bequest Society and the CGS Foundation together with Bill White Grammarian hosted an event on the 25th of June for its members and guests at Bishopscourt the home of the Archbishop of Melbourne the most Reverend Dr Philip Freier and his wife Joy Freier. It was one of the first homes to be built in East Melbourne and it remains one of the largest intact urban estate according to Dr Elizabeth Rushen historian whose husband Peter Rushen is a grammarian “little is known about the building or property as a whole” It is an Italianate villa mansion set in a charming garden. “Essentially a private home, Bishopscourt was built on the model still practiced by English bishops where his home is also his office.”

“Ever since the Perrys moved in opinion has been divided between the building’s overriding function: is it a public or a private space? It is this contested view of Bishopscourt which has governed the lives of all residents in the past 160 years.”

Guests were treated to a delicious Devonshire tea arranged by the dedicated team of volunteers; this was followed by a comprehensive tour of the house and the gardens. John Botham, historian for Bishopscourt, took us through each room and outlined the history of the house and its occupants.

The first occupants Bishop Charles Perry and his wife Frances moved into the house although unfinished in January 1853 and from that time it has been the residence of each Anglican bishop and later the Archbishop of Melbourne. There were many modifications made to the house and although the interior has been refurbished many times over the years the main bluestone residence has been left largely intact. Liz Marsden, a volunteer at Bishopscourt took us on a tour of the extensive gardens pointing out special trees, plants and the vegetable and herb garden.

For those wanting to learn more about the fascinating history of Bishopscourt you can read Dr Elizabeth Rushen’s book that she was commissioned to write in 2010 about the relationship between Bishopscourt the people who have occupied it, and how the building has shaped their lives. See Bishopscourt Melbourne: Official Residence and Family Home (2013)

We are always pleased to see some of our Society members and importantly some new faces, and we look forward to welcoming everyone again at our next event.

These events are designed to engage with our Society members acknowledge and thank them in their lifetime and encourage others to join them and leave a legacy. If you would like to learn more about the 1881 Bequest Society, please contact either Andrew Cole or Debra Stiebel in the Foundation office.

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