Monday, 20 November 2017

The Davy family, Kippenross / Brentwood and the Presbyterian Girls School at Berwick by Elsie Hoare


I  came across this letter the other day from the Pakenham Gazette of May 6, 1998. It was written by Elsie Hoare of Berwick about the Davy family who lived at  Kippenross, later renamed Brentwood , property in Clyde Road and the establishment of the Berwick Presbyterian Girls School in 1920. The letter is about an interesting part of Berwick's history.  It's a bit hard to read so I have transcribed it.

I wonder if you would be interested in the following story.

In recent months it must have been obvious to anyone driving along Clyde Road in Berwick that the land behind the great cypress pine trees at No. 121 is being cut up for development.

Unfortunately the lovely old weatherboard home, built around the turn of the century and known as Brentwood is to be demolished and another little piece of Berwick's history will slip away unnoticed.

Tucked away at the end of its long driveway, Brentwood is not visible from the  road and has largely escaped attention, although the adjacent housing estate has been called  by the same name.

In 1912, however, the property at 121 Clyde Road was called Kippenross - distinct from Kippenross House which is part of St Margaret's complex,  and was occupied by the Davy family  newly arrived  from drought stricken Balranald in New South Wales.

Humphry Davy, a distant relative of Sir Humphry Davy, inventor of the miner's lamp, his wife Mercy and their nine children looked forward to the opportunities offered by Berwick's greener pastures and soon settled into their new life here.

While the Davy boys, Humphry junior, Cyril and Arthur began the task of planting the many trees that still line the property and driveway today, Humphry senior set about stocking his paddocks with sheep with the intention of building up a sheep station  like Glen Dee, the station the family had left behind in Baranald and which is still in operation today.  As Berwick had no public hall, Humphry Davy planned to build one and had plans drawn up in readiness.

However the winter that year was one of the wettest on record and within ten short months before Humphry could put his plans info action  he fell victim of pneumonia from which he did not recover.

Left to carry on,  Mercy Davy was naturally anxious to keep her young family about her and while the younger children were still being taught by the governess  who had come down from Balranald with them, Mercy began plans for their secondary education.

With her boys established as borders at Brighton Grammar School it seemed logical for the two youngest girls Myrtle and Cynthia,  to follow their oldest sister (also named Mercy and later to become Mrs Charles Greaves) to board at Presbyterian Ladies College, then in East Melbourne.

However Mrs Davy was reluctant to send any more of her girls away. It was time Berwick had a college for young ladies, and a branch of PLC would be very suitable. With this object in mind Mercy Davy canvassed other mothers in the area to discuss the idea and in due course a founding committee was formed with Mrs Davy one of the six mothers.

As  a result of their efforts, in 1920 the Berwick Branch of the Presbyterian Ladies College, named Presbyterian Girls School,was opened, on the site where St Margaret's now stands.


Presbyterian Girls School,  Berwick c. 1924.
published by the Berwick Pakenham Historical Society in 2001.


Mrs Myrtle Martyn (nee Davy) second youngest of the Davy girls and now 95 years old, is still living in Berwick and remembers well being one of the first 'day girls' to attend one of Berwick's brand new girls schools.

Although no formal recognition has ever been made of the Davy name, Mrs Martyn is justly proud of her mother's part in the school's beginning.

Mrs Martyn is saddened to know that her childhood home must yield to the demands of progress. In its grander days Kippenross/Brentwood supported servant's quarters and a workmen's dining room as well as the usual quota of stables and out buildings. The interior of the house, with its timber panelling and marble fireplaces with carved overmantles was a fine example of its type and it is ironic to note that while the genuine article is being demolished, the federation style has never been more popular, with copies in various sizes popping up wherever new estates are being established.

No comments: