Beau­ti­ful Bright­side

In bring­ing their once di­lap­i­dated Fed­er­a­tion gem back to life Ian and Anne Of­for have found some fas­ci­nat­ing his­tor­i­cal con­nec­tions

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - FRONT PAGE - Jes­sica Howard Any­one in­ter­ested in putting their own amaz­ing home up for con­sid­er­a­tion for house of the week can email jes­sica. howard@news.com.au

PROV­ING there is his­tory around ev­ery cor­ner, the once di­lap­i­dated Bright­side House, in Glen Fern, has been won­der­fully re­stored and the new own­ers have un­cov­ered some fas­ci­nat­ing sto­ries in the process.

Since 1971, English- born Ian and Anne Of­for have lived in Scot­land, Korea, Sin­ga­pore and Vic­to­ria be­fore mov­ing to Tas­ma­nia in 2010 af­ter find­ing the list­ing for the home on­line.

“It was in a state of much dis­re­pair,” Anne said.

“The ve­ran­dah had col­lapsed as had the con­ser­va­tory and a small room on the op­po­site end.

“The grounds had been for­got­ten and the orig­i­nal or­chards gone.

“For­tu­nately, the beau­ti­ful art nou­veau ar­chi­tec­ture had sur­vived with the fire­places, skirt­ing boards, fin­ger plates, ev­ery room with beau­ti­ful tin ceil­ings still there.

“Even the orig­i­nal doors and win­dows, high ceil­ings and un­for­tu­nately also the out­door toi­let and bath­room.”

So be­gan the ar­du­ous, but ul­ti­mately re­ward­ing, chal­lenge of bring­ing the home back to life, al­low­ing in­te­rior ar­chi­tect Anne to show off her skills in de­sign and styling.

One of the great­est finds dur­ing the ren­o­va­tion, was the dis­cov­ery of beau­ti­ful pressed tin ceil­ings, be­neath a thick false ceil­ing.

The old con­ser­va­tory has been trans­formed into a mod­ern kitchen and din­ing area and the main bed­room con­verted into a lounge.

The former liv­ing ar­eas where many a party would have been hosted now house the master bed­room and a for­mal lounge.

In fact, it was the or­nate ceil­ing, in what is now the master bed­room, that sold the house for Anne and is in fact still her favourite thing in the home.

You would never know that the lux­u­ri­ous main bath­room with its hang­ing chan­de­lier was once the maid’s bed­room.

Keen ge­neal­o­gist Anne has com­piled a very com­pre­hen­sive his­tory of the Fed­er­a­tion gem and its former own­ers.

The house was built in 1906 by or­chardist and jus­tice of the peace Charles Wil­lis Fysh, whose grand­fa­ther was the first pre­mier of Tas­ma­nia in 1856.

The owner of the first car in the state Mr Fysh, how­ever, pre­ferred to travel by horse and trap.

Dur­ing her re­search, Anne dis­cov­ered that Mr Fysh’s daugh­ter Es­ther was still alive and liv­ing in Tas­ma­nia and since un­der­go­ing an ex­ten­sive two- year ren­o­va­tion, the Of­fors have had her back to see their spec­tac­u­lar re­sults. “She was over the moon,” Anne said. “She re­mem­bers her mother coming back in the 1940s, when it was really go­ing down­hill, and stand­ing in one of the rooms and cry­ing be­cause her hus­band had built it and she saw it dy­ing.”

Now 98, the Of­fors have promised to host Es­ther’s 100th birth­day at the prop­erty.

And it only seems fit­ting con­sid­er­ing their ex­tra con­nec­tion.

“I came across a name I recog­nised in the 1700s from Ian’s fam­ily tree and re­search­ing it found that his fourth great grand aunt was re­lated by mar­riage to the Fysh fam­ily,” Anne said.

“So he is re­lated to the per­son who built this house. What are the odds? Of­fors are clearly sup­posed to be here.”

Fam­ily pho­tos dat­ing back as far as the late 1800s adorn the walls of the hall­way to ce­ment their con­nec­tion to the home and all its grand his­tory now their his­tory too.

With their son’s wed­ding at the prop­erty coming up in Fe­bru­ary next year, Ian and Anne will be here for some time yet, how­ever, they know that ul­ti­mately the house will be too big for them.

But in the mean­time they still have some work to do to com­plete the ren­o­va­tion and some his­tory of their own to cre­ate.

Pic­ture: RICHARD JUPE

READ­ING ROOM: The for­mal lounge is the per­fect place to un­wind.

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