House with a golden past: Clowance retains its historic elegance

A HOUSE that tells a myriad of stories, Clowance, in Barkly Street, is filled with history.

Many original features remain of the 1890s home that was built for goldmine owner and mayor Isaiah Pearce. They include the marble-effect entrance, fireplaces, ceilings and cornices. 

The present owner, Michael, said in his research, he had learnt Mr Pearce chose not to build around Lake Wendouree as he thought it to be too snobbish.

Since then, the home has been a maternity hospital and a women’s boarding house. 

Michael bought the house three years ago, when he moved to Ballarat from Melbourne and was immediately blown away by the property.

“The previous owners had spent 10 years restoring the home and did such a great job,”he said. 

“We haven’t done much, just done the drapes, carpets and chandeliers.”

Michael had been collecting antiques for many years but didn’t have a house in which to showcase them.

“I hadn’t lived in an old home like this before.

“The house has brought the furniture to life and the furniture has brought the house to life in a way.”

Michael said the wife’s bedroom demonstrated one of the first built-in-robes in Australia. 

“When the house was built, Mr Pearce’s wife slept in a different bedroom to him. I think it’s just what they did back then,” he said. 

“Mr Pearce had it built after a standing wardrobe fell on his wife and she died in the coming days. 

“He built it to prevent anything like that happening again.”

He said the way the house was built was clever, with skylights positioned to illuminate many rooms. 

The fireplace in the drawing room is bordered by hand-painted tiles depicting Lake Wendouree in the summer time. 

Near the Golden Point home is Pearce Park, named after Isaiah. “Isaiah built a smaller version of the house for his eldest daughter just over the road and she ended up marrying the architect, WE Gribble, and living there with him.”

About 18 months ago, Michael was contacted by Isaiah’s great-grandaughter who now lives in New Zealand. 

“We’ve since became friends and she’s even come to stay. She’s given us so much information about Isaiah and the home.”

They have also met many people born in the house when it was a maternity hospital, as well as other relatives or relatives of those involved in the making of the house. 

Michael said they made full use of the house. 

“You’re only ever a keeper of something. It’s not yours forever.

“So you can prepare it and take care of it while you have it and that’s what we try to do. 

“We try and use everything we’ve got – every room and all the antiques.”

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Michael inside his Barkly Street home Clowance, which was built in 1890 for goldmine owner and mayor Isaiah Pearce.

Michael inside his Barkly Street home Clowance, which was built in 1890 for goldmine owner and mayor Isaiah Pearce.


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