If walls could talk
I’ VE hit the historical property trifecta – this is the house of sex, murder and hidden treasure. You cannot walk 2m on this property at Lewisham without coming across something with a story behind it, often of the sordid or spooky variety.
Originally known as the Rose and Crown Inn, Andrew Walton’s renovated family home was built in 1825 and was the local haunt for whalers on their way home after a day at Storm Bay.
With the help of historians such as Peter McPhee and Ian Evans, builder Andrew has been able to discover much of the home’s colourful history.
Originally from England, his choice of house is very fi tting as its style and history is much more English than Australian.
Built by Samuel Thorne, an ex- naval offi cer who fought alongside Lord Nelson, the residence was leased to Scotsman Alexander Simpson, who ran it as a pub but was also using it for another venture before meeting his demise.
“He was also running a brothel upstairs – they even know the names of the women who worked here,” Andrew said. “So Simpson wasn’t really well liked because he was basically pimping out convicts’ wives.”
“One night, a fella called Charles Routley was in the pub and he and his accomplices murdered him.
“They tortured him in the house, including mutilating his thigh muscles, then he was hung and decapitated.
“The only way they recognised him when they found his body, at the back of the property, was because he had very long fi ngers.
“They never found his head – it’s probably still out there somewhere.”
The upstairs room where the “ladies of the night” worked is now the master bedroom and the money believed to have been kept on the property was never found.
“It’s thought that Routley didn’t fi nd Simpson’s money, so I had a fella come up here with a metal detector but it was constantly going off,” Andrew explained. “There was an exterior kitchen at the rear of the house and the area is strewn with bits and pieces that sent the detector off.
“So we gave up in the end. It would be nice to fi nd something but there might not be anything.”
The Walton family has found quite a few interesting bits and pieces throughout the property, including a 1797 cartwheel penny ( the fi rst kind of penny minted for Australia) and a whale tusk scrimshaw which was found near the front door.
Following the grisly murder in the mid1820s, Robert Thorne took over the property and literally left his mark on the house and its history.
“When we started renovating the inside and stripping the years of paint off the door jambs we found all sorts of ritualistic markings,” Andrew said.
“The idea behind them was to ward off evil spirits, so I think Thorne must have been bricking it [ extremely scared] thinking Simpson’s ghost would come back to haunt him.
“These kind of markings are very common in England but almost unheard of in Australia.”
On almost every door and door jamb, the etched name of Robert Thorne can still be seen along with many other Christian symbols.
One of the rarest markings of all is of an apostles’ cross, of which there is only one other known in Tasmania, at Shene in Pontville.
Andrew said during the renovation a dead cat was also found in the walls, probably originating from an old superstition to keep familiars ( witches) away.
Despite the bloody history, Andrew says the family has always felt safe and at home.
He says the former owners had pulled out the ouija board and claimed to have contacted Simpson’s ghost, but the Waltons have not had any supernatural experiences.
Three psychiatric nurses from the New Norfolk asylum took over the property in the
When we started renovating the inside and stripping the years of paint off the door jambs we found all sorts of ritualistic markings
1970s and operated the home as a cafe and art gallery before the Waltons purchased the property six years ago.
With the house almost falling down, Andrew and his crew have almost completely finished the renovations.
“When we first got it there was no insulation and the wind would whip through,” Andrew recalled.
“I was in the garden on a windy day watching the old chimney near our bedroom and it was swaying back and forth.
“The first night we stayed in there I could hear it creaking and just kept waiting for it to come through the house.
“The house is like a ship. It moves. Because it’s not got any concrete in it and it’s on semireactive soil, when it gets wet all the doors can’t be opened because the whole house has moved up a notch.”