SOME­TIMES you can walk into a house and sense that you are in a home… not just a house. Toronto is one such spot. Sur­rounded by his­tory, it is im­pos­si­ble not to be im­pressed by what the cur­rent own­ers Vanessa Bell and Chris El­liott have done to the 154-year-old house. Orig­i­nally con­structed in 1863, Toronto is one of the most recog­nis­able homes in Ip­swich, and for good rea­son. It was Mrs El­iz­a­beth Lloyd who bought the Quarry Street al­lot­ment for forty-five pounds from the Crown back in April that year. Orig­i­nally named “Devon­shire Cot­tage”, she built it for in­vest­ment pur­poses and only lived in the home her­self for a short pe­riod in 1868. When the home was listed for sale in 1873, it was de­scribed as hav­ing a de­tached kitchen, ser­vant’s bed­room and a large wash­ing shed. To­day, the house still re­tains a stor­age shed that used to be sta­bles, and a wa­ter pump still stands next to the kitchen, which was used for over a cen­tury. Vanessa Bell knew she wanted the house the mo­ment she saw it back in 2010, and her pre­vi­ous home in Sadliers Cross­ing was also a home with a long his­tory. “My pre­vi­ous home was an older home, with wrap­around ve­ran­das,” Vanessa said. “One day some­one knocked on the door and said they wanted to buy it. Fast for­ward and I found my­self look­ing at only two homes, in­clud­ing Toronto. “I had a pre­vi­ous job that in­volved work­ing in fur­nish­ing and dec­o­rat­ing, so I ap­pre­ci­ate all sorts of styles. I can walk into a mod­ern home and ap­pre­ci­ate it for what it is, but for me per­son­ally, they don’t have the same ‘soul’ as an older home. I love that sense of his­tory, and that’s what I adore about Toronto.” Vanessa and Chris don’t like to use any par­tic­u­lar word to de­scribe the home, pre­fer­ring to de­scribe it as “a mix­ture of mod­ern and older 1870’s styling”, but their favourite spot is where they spend most evenings ad­mir­ing an Ip­swich sun­set. “I al­ways tell the story of one Christ­mas night af­ter every­one had gone home Chris and I were sit­ting on the front deck and we talked about who was sit­ting on this very deck a hun­dred years ago one Christ­mas night. How many peo­ple can do that? “We imag­ined sit­ting by lamp light, and dressed so

dif­fer­ently. When you think about it this house has seen two world wars, floods, you name it, all that his­tory… and I’m ac­tu­ally a his­tory teacher, so I love the fact that it has sur­vived all those events,” Vanessa said. The home it­self is im­mac­u­late, with ev­ery­thing in its place and fur­nish­ings that give it a clas­sic feel­ing, in­clud­ing a gas stove in the kitchen that in its day, was top of the line, and it still too good to con­sider up­dat­ing. If it wasn’t for the big screen TV, you’d be for­given for think­ing it was an his­toric dis­play home. “The stove was al­ready here when I bought the house, and I dis­cov­ered the pre­vi­ous own­ers im­ported it all the way from Canada. The brand is called Heart­land, and came at a cost of about $20,000 at the time, and that was in the 1990’s, so I shud­der to think what it would cost to buy to­day. “Over the last few years we’ve painted the en­tire in­te­rior, ripped up car­pets, and ex­posed the pol­ished floors. The walls were green, and the kitchen a pine lover’s dream, so with some work and a heap of land­scap­ing, we’ve got things the way we like it now, but of course it’s all still a work in progress. For ex­am­ple, there’s no bath­room up­stairs, I’m keen to do that for a num­ber of rea­sons. We sleep down­stairs rather than up­stairs as no­body wants to be go­ing up and down stairs to use the bath­room,” Vanessa said. “I don’t plan to sell, but in the fu­ture it would be good to have that up­stairs as a par­ents’ re­treat or a kids’ re­treat so that you have ev­ery­thing up there.” Vanessa and Chris sur­pris­ingly, don’t have fly screens in the ma­jor­ity of the house, and has rarely found it an is­sue due to the con­struc­tion of these older homes and the way they air. “They knew how to build houses back then. Up­stairs is warmer than down­stairs, of course, but the ground level is al­ways cool. If there’s a breeze to be caught the house is de­signed to catch it no mat­ter from which way. I don’t have fly screens, I’m not a fan, but ev­ery side of the house can open up to the el­e­ments. “Be­fore I moved in I had lots of ideas. My last home had a kitchen that had big slid­ing doors lead­ing out to a pool, and thought I needed to ex­tend the kitchen, then put in an is­land bench, but this home isn’t an open plan. Once you live in it and get used to it, you have to re­alise that some parts just don’t need to be mod­ernised.” Vanessa and Chris spend most evenings with a glass of wine, and with the lounge room and main bed­room

at the front of the house, it means that the kitchen and con­ser­va­tory ar­eas are amaz­ingly quiet. Up a short flight of stairs, you’ll find a guest room, a util­ity room and a won­der­ful sec­ond lounge room which opens to the small bal­cony, which over­looks Quarry Street and War­wick Road. “I’ve al­ways felt safe here” Vanessa said. “The house has a nice feel, and its sur­pris­ingly very peace­ful. Even though its just near the Ip­swich Hos­pi­tal and War­wick road, it’s a quiet area. I think about all the houses in this street, and I know that I could live in all of them for dif­fer­ent rea­sons, there are so many his­toric homes in this area. “I’ve been very lucky that pre­vi­ous own­ers did some of the more dif­fi­cult jobs such as re-wiring and some re-stump­ing. Every­one who has had Toronto has been sym­pa­thetic to the de­sign. It’s noth­ing to change paint, cur­tains or car­pets but it’s a dif­fer­ent story with mov­ing a kitchen or do­ing up a bath­room,” Vanessa said. Lo­cal au­thor Tanya Jen wrote a book about the his­tory of the house, which was orig­i­nally a seven-bed­room home. “The book found that 1863 was the year that the first dwelling was built on this block. The orig­i­nal builder was a mem­ber of the Con­gre­ga­tional Church, which sat on the spot where the new Coles is now on Lime­stone Street. El­iz­a­beth Lloyd built the house with her hus­band, and they were mem­bers of that church,” Vanessa said. “The church records show that El­iz­a­beth Lloyd had dif­fer­ent ad­dresses and built Toronto as an in­vest­ment, but af­ter her hus­band died of tu­ber­cu­lo­sis she even­tu­ally sold it and took her two chil­dren back to live in Eng­land.” Toronto has been open in the past for events like the Great Houses of Ip­swich, and Vanessa is open to do­ing it again. “Right now our next task is to paint the out­side of the house, which isn’t cheap. It’s re­ally nice to have peo­ple ad­mire our home, I’ve opened it for the Na­tional Trust and Zonta in the past, and for me it’s about giv­ing some­thing back. I have a huge ap­pre­ci­a­tion for old houses. “I love liv­ing in Ip­swich, and my par­ents still live here, so I want to be close to them. I do get an­noyed when peo­ple knock our city. It’s just a post­code at the end of the day,” Vanessa said. “It takes me five min­utes to get to work, and still peo­ple say ‘why do you live out there?’ “This is a great place to live, and we have so much won­der­ful his­tory, of which Toronto is just one part.”


A pic taken around 1900, where you can see Toronto in the top left


Toronto House’s kitchen ex­udes coun­try style and warmth with a stove im­ported from Canada.


The up­stairs guest room


The spa­cious main bed­room


The up­stairs lounge/re­treat


The fire­place dom­i­nates the lounge room at the front of the house

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