By GISELA HORNER | Volunteer Friends of Bella Vista Farm
Bella Vista farms homestead awaits its visitors with a bright, fresh face. The exterior and rooms have recently been painted and restored by heritage specialists.
Over the past months of lockdown, dedicated Friends of Bella Vista have provided daily maintenance. They have fed the sheep, tended the gardens, re-hung the curtains, mended and restored furniture.
Bella Vista began life modestly in the 1840s when it was known as “Robertson’s Farm”. William Thomas Pearce purchased acreage for 287 pounds, part of it once owned by John and Elizabeth Macarthur where they grazed their merino sheep.
Mark Pearce, a direct descendant of the original owner and a Friend of Bella Vista Farm says: “I feel very privileged it is owned and restored by the local council and I am excited the whole community can enjoy the farm and the surrounding park”.
William bought enough land to give each of his five surviving sons a 500-600-acre working farm. Bella Vista went to Edward H Pearce.
In 1864, after the farmhouse was damaged by fire, Edward commissioned a builder and carpenter to restore and enlarge the homestead.
Eleven years later, he married Isabella Adelaide Archdall and their five children were born at Bella Vista. There have been many memorable times over the 108 years the family owned the property. It witnessed two visits by Governors of NSW, Sir Hercules and Lady Robinson in 1872 and Lord and Lady Carrington in 1887, visiting the farm for its famous citrus orchard.
The Sydney Morning Herald proclaimed that “Mr Pearce’s orchard is reputed to be one of the largest, if not the largest, in the colony, something like 300 acres are covered with rows of orange and lemon trees and the fruit seem to rival the leaves in number” – (SMH 13 Sep 1887).
During this time, this place even became a brandy distillery using grapes grown on the property. The schoolroom at Bella Vista (pictured) was where Edward’s children were homeschooled – today, that term has special significance for us all!
Edward H Pearce lived a full life. He died in 1912 and son Edward W.C.A Pearce (Toby) inherited the farm. Toby and Nellie Hedges married in December of the same year and following the family tradition, they too had five children born at Bella Vista, one of them being Mark’s father, Keith Hamilton Pearce.
Keith lived at the farm until he left to serve in WWII. After the war he lived at Bella Vista until he married Paula Anne Mocatta in 1950. In that year the property was sold to a brick-making company and 24 years later was ‘compulsorily resumed by Sydney Water’.
The future of Bella Vista remained in doubt in the ‘70s but fortunately, Bella Vista homestead was deemed an important historical site in 1982 and placed on the Register of the National Estate.
A Commission of Inquiry under the Heritage Act re the granting of a Permanent Conservation Order declared the importance of “…. the rural setting, important landscape features, hilltop location and views to …… from Bella Vista”.
In 1998 ownership of Bella Vista Farm Park was transferred to Baulkham Hills Shire Council, now Hills Shire Council.
On 14th September 2006, Mayor Sonya Phillips set up an inaugural meeting which led to the formation of the Friends of Bella Vista Farm Park and this continues to the present day. Of course, any history of Bella Vista is not complete without acknowledging the land on which Bella Vista stands. The Darug people have been custodians for some 4,000 years.
The Friends of Bella Vista Farm are proud to help maintain this beautiful historic building in whatever capacity they can.
You can read in more detail about its history in the book: ‘Bella Vista Farm Its past and its people: A Chronology’ by Mark Pearce, Carolyn Gould and Sharon Rawstron, available at the house for $20.
I’d like to acknowledge the authors of this book. It was most useful to me in writing this article _ Gisela Horner
Sunday, December 5th will be a special day at Bella Vista Farm when the gates will open to the historic gardens and house between 9am and 2pm.
Hills Shire Symphony Orchestra will be playing in the grounds, there will be tours, Devonshire Teas, childrens’ games and a Trash and Treasure stall.
There is plenty of parking and COVID regulations will apply.