For most of history…
Beleura is located on the lands of the Bunurong or Boon Wurrung people, the first peoples to occupy lands surrounding Port Phillip Bay, Westernport Bay and South West Victoria.
For most of its history the headland of Schnapper Point was a place for indigenous people to hunt and collect seafood. The cliff faces contain middens – shellfish remains – that are evidence of thousands of years of indigenous fishing and settlement of a rich and fertile land abundant with wildlife and marine life.
Built by Butchart
James Butchart, a successful merchant who supplied mutton to the Gold Rush settlements throughout Victoria, built Beleura in 1863 on 180 acres of a pastoral run he purchased overlooking Schnapper Point, now Mornington.
James Butchart commissioned architect Joseph Reed of the famed Melbourne firm of architects Barnes and Reed, to design an Italianate Villa in a Classical architectural style. Beleura was described as the finest mansion in the colony.
James Butchart died on the steps of Beleura in 1869.
A Home fit for a Governor
Well-connected businessman and steamship owner Charles Edward Bright purchased Beleura in 1870. Pursuing a career in business in Melbourne, Bright was president of the Chamber of Commerce, Chairman of the Melbourne Harbour Trust, a trustee of the Public Library, Museum and National Gallery, and a director of the Union Bank of Australia.
Bright’s father-in-law Sir John Manners-Sutton, 4th Governor of Victoria and later Viscount Canterbury, used Beleura as an unofficial summer retreat. When Charle Bright’s father-in-law retired, Beleura was leased, firstly to the Victorian Government and was used, for a short time, by Victorian Governor Sir George Bowen as his official residence and secondly to B.T.P. Backhouse who conducted the Mornington Grammar School.
From the late 1880s to 1916 Beleura was owned by a succession of successful businessmen, industrialists, graziers and politicians.
Sir George Tallis Years
In 1916 Mr and Mrs George Tallis, later Sir George and Lady Tallis, were attracted to an auction of a subdivision of Beleura into 183 lots. Lady Tallis purchased most of the titles at the auction and the Tallis family acquired Beleura to use as a summer retreat. Sir George was the first owner to add land to Beleura, ultimately acquiring some 348 acres around Beleura and 6000 acres of farmland around Mornington.
Sir George was a theatrical entrepreneur who for many years was Chairman of the global entertainment company J.C. Willamson Ltd. which toured plays and musical theatre to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and London. Sir George and Lady Tallis continued the traditional use of Beleura as a seaside house and had four children. Lady Tallis died in 1933 and Sir George in 1948 after spending time developing Beleura as a farm in his retirement.
Residence of Composer John Tallis
In 1948 Sir George’s youngest son, Jack Morton Tallis, or John as he preferred, took Beleura by family agreement saying at the time that it was a momentous decision, and not wholly a wise one.
A composer who contributed to post war Australian Ballet productions, John Tallis dedicated his life to the preservation of Beleura. He worked on developing the gardens inspired by his European travels. John Tallis died in 1996 and bequeathed Beleura, its collections and The Tallis Foundation to the people of Victoria.
In 200 years, a visitor will be able to unravel how we lived in the second half of the 20th century, an astonishing legacy.