Ballarat at home: Doctor's surgery now a grand home

IT MAY not look like an elegant, heritage home from outside, but that’s what is behind the business front of John and Lisa Murray’s Sturt Street home.

The couple bought the property in November 2011. They weren't looking for a house but a new office for Mr Murray.

“The real estate agent told us about this property, but it was by chance that we were walking past one evening and it happened to be open for inspection,” Mr Murray said.

“We were just blown away and made an offer practically straight away.”

The couple lived in Drummond Street at the time and enjoyed living centrally, but now love their prime position even more.

The Sturt Street building was built for Dr Thomas Hillas, the head surgeon at the base hospital and first paediatrician in Australia to perform a caesarean section.

He bought the land for 25 pounds and in 1874 mortgaged it for 700 pounds.

The property is called Winchester House, which appears on a sign the Murrays had made and placed  out the front.

They have the original deeds that were passed on to them by the previous owners.

The fire brigade bought the home in 1924 and kept it as a residence until 1984.

During that time, the living room was divided into eight bedrooms and a fake ceiling hid the original 18-foot ceiling.

However, many original features of the house remain, including the unique glass panes in the doorways.

“We just fell in love with the upstairs living area,” Mr Murray said.

“It’s almost like it’s open plan, yet it’s a 140-year-old home. 

“It’s not what you expect when you walk inside.”

Mr Murray uses downstairs for his work area as a life finance broker and the family lives upstairs.

“I’m intrigued by the craftsmanship of the house,” he said.

“It’s like tradesmen in the 1870s were practically artists. 

“To make a building like this now is almost impossible.”

A dumbwaiter runs between the ground floor and upstairs, which the family occasionally uses.

When the previous owners restored the property they found signage on the doors of each room, including a mourning room.

“I just love the central location and the overall ambience of the house,” Mrs Murray said.

Stables at the back are now used as a woodwork area and their son’s music room.

“We love our outdoor area. It’s a great entertaining space that you wouldn’t even know is here.”

The couple decorated mostly with antiques sourced from the area or with pieces Mr Murray has made, including the cabinet in the living room. He loves to indulge his hobby of replicating antique furniture.

One of their favourite pieces of furniture is their bed.

“We had this handmade at Sovereign Hill as a wedding present to ourselves,” Mrs Murray said.

“It’s so big, we’ve often joked that we’ve had to buy houses to fit around the bed.”

Ms Murray said it was rumoured that the house was haunted.

“When we first moved in, some strange things did happen, like toilets flushing and the shower turning on or off but no one doing it, but that doesn’t happen now.”

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