Bleak House, Mudgee: 150th Anniversary
Bleak House, at 7 Lawson Street, is one of Mudgee's most significant historic houses. On Sunday 13th June 2010 John Kellett, owner of Bleak House, and his partner Bronwin Sams, welcomed some 100 guests to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the house.
Bleak House was completed circa 1860 for prominent grazier and businessman William Richard Blackman, son of Mudgee pioneers William and Sarah Blackman, nee Cobcroft, who had a slab house and store on the site as early as 1833. At the time it was built the two-storeyed Bleak House was the grandest house in the town and district.
The Blackman family leased out the house for many years in the 1880s and 1890s when it was used to house girls' schools. In 1901 Bleak House passed out of the Blackman family and for many years it was used as a boarding house. In 1921 prominent Mudgee grazier Henry Hunter White of Havilah offered the house to the Church of England for use as a girls' hostel and in 1928 he gifted the property to the church. The hostel closed in 1935 and the property was sold and subsequently subdivided; a cottage near the entrance and the former coach house and stables were now on separate titles.
During WWII the house was divided into flats and many alterations occurred. In 1981 Barry and Enid Doherty began a massive renovation and restoration program to bring the building back to a single dwelling. Fortunately many of the original features were intact: the grand stair hall (see picture to the right) and cornice, architraves, skirtings, doors, windows and French doors. Subsequent owners continued to enhance the house and expanded the garden which the Dohertys had established. For some ten years until early 2010 Bleak House functioned as a 'bed and breakfast'.
Official celebrations involved a welcome speech by owner John Kellett, an historical summary by John Broadley (President of Mudgee Historical Society Inc), and an explanation of the significance of the name 'Bleak House' by local bookshop owner and historian Col Jones. Col's daughter, Lilly, concluded the official celebrations by reading excerpts from the novel Bleak House by Charles Dickens.