Rich History of Webster Street Icon
The article (Courier Saturday, 2 December 2017 p 14) headed "Home to city's architect" by Caleb Cluff stirred memories. It also raises some questions regarding the identity of the Dr or Mr Cairns and his wife who were responsible for the c1900 extensions, the date of the house's conversion to flats and the precise form of the renamed house before it once again became Kent Villa. The Reverend Doctor Adam Cairns, Moderator-General of the Presbyterian Church (whose wife was Jessie Ballingall), died in Melbourne in 1881, but a descendant might have enlarged the house c1900. In 1948-1949 three large rooms on the top floor (possibly beneath the 'widow's walk'), were occupied by eleven senior boarders from the then Clarendon Presbyterian Ladies' College. The main boarders' residence was almost opposite present-day Kent Villa, but an increase in the number of boarders required some additional temporary accommodation until a new building was erected across the road. This means that the conversion to flats probably took place in the 1950s. In 1948-1949 the remainder of the house was probably occupied by the family of a relative of the late Mrs Cairns who had been a benefactor of Clarendon College. Her maiden name could well have been Hurst. A house was named for Mrs Cairns and continues today in the co-educational Ballarat and Clarendon College. We boarders understood at the time that our occupation of those three rooms was related to an entail in someone's will. Frequent requests from our school principal for us to be quieter indicated that the patience of the family living below must have been sorely tried at times. Other recollections are of a rather stark house exterior, a dark side entrance hall and stairway, large and light bedrooms with elegant dimensions, wonderful views which included a nearby green church steeple, open (but unused) fireplaces in all rooms which caused some draughtiness despite the modern heating, a bathroom on the landing below and possibly a balcony sealed off for safety reasons. And of feelings of exuberance and relief to be free of direct strict supervision. Most of the above details have been confirmed by a fellow boarder of 1948. We cannot recollect hearing of a ghost, but we both remember the name of the house as Cairnhurst rather than Cairnshurst although we have not seen it written. I provide the above information only because this house is so historically significant.
Val McCallum, Alfredton