Ulupna: Family Home and Lunatic Asylum

Estate Agent’s sketch of Ulupna 1979.

There were three separate escapes from the lunatic asylum in Charman Road, Cheltenham. According to

Fairlie Taylor one patient ‘climbed on top of a dray load of cabbages bound for the Melbourne market" and was not discovered until the cabbages were unloaded The second, also escaping in the night, hid in an empty water tank standing beside Geeham’s cottage in Charman Road. When Mr Geeham went to investigate the sound emanating from the tank he was "shocked to see a woman clad only in her night gown pop up and say "Peep-oh!". The third escapee threw herself off the cliffs at the local beach and was very badly injured. The shock restored her sanity but she died that night.

The asylum was conducted by Miss Emily Harcourt at 159 Charman Road, Cheltenham for at least five years up to 1906. The property was called Ulupna. The land on which the asylum was conducted was part of the land taken up by Stephen Charman in 1852. Charman paid £328 for 160 acres of Crown Land which stretched from the corner of what is now Charman and Balcombe Roads back towards Weatherall Road. He farmed the land for several years with the assistance of his family. Later he subdivided it and sold Edward Luke Vail sixteen acres on May 15, 1888. This was the portion of land on which Ulupna, the building in which Miss Harcourt conducted her "medical home’ was erected.

The property Ulupna has had several owners. Vail sold it to John Bates of Malvern on December 30, 1893 and on Bates death in 1902 it passed to his wife, Louisa. On her death in 1915, control of the property passed to her son Richard John Bates, a Gippsland farmer. Richard sold Ulupna to George Broadridge King in June 1917 for the sum of £2,250. The terms of the sale were £100 on the signing of the contract, £400 within 14 days with the balance being paid within seven years at an interest rate of 5% paid half yearly. The King family remained in the house for many years with George King working the land as a market garden. It was in the late 1930’s when part of the market garden was sub-divided and sold off for housing. On the death of George King’s wife Margaret, their daughter, Margaret Whitehead purchased the house from the estate becoming the registered owner on September 10, 1963. By this time the land surrounding the house had been greatly reduced in area. The land immediately in front of the house which provided access to Charman Road had been sold, so the entrance to Ulupna was now via Gordon Street, Beaumaris.

Front verandah of Ulupna 1999.

Robert Whitehead, son of Margaret Whitehead, remembers the house when it still had a frontage onto Charman Road. "There was a circular drive in front, with a large palm tree in the circular lawn. I remember Grandma King going round the house to light the gas lights and gas chandeliers, which my father, Ken Whitehead, converted to electric. I also remember that the bedrooms had call-buttons connected electrically to an indicator board in the kitchen which I believe was a left over from the home’s days as a nursing home or hospital."

Ulupna 1999.

Ulupna was sold by the Whiteheads by auction on August 25, 1979. The description of the house provided for intending purchasers noted the significant features of the five bedroom house; the wide verandah, stained glass and leadlight windows, "marble fire places which provided a focus in every room" and "stunning ceiling roses". The solid brick home was made from dark Hawthorn hand-made bricks, imported slate roof and "wonderful Victorian embroidery on the masonary (sic) below the eaves and on the chimneys." The ballroom of 32 feet by 16 feet which featured a skylight ceiling, leadlight windows and "special brick pillar supports for billiard table", and the "fabulous underground cellar area 16 feet by 12 feet by 8 feet" were seen by W. Hegarty & Company, agents for the sale, as important features.

Edward and Diane Crawford were the successful purchasers at the sale and they retained the property until August 1997 when the title passed to Michael and Catherine Dauth. Less than two years later Ulupna changed hands once more. On March 1999, Raven Television Productions Pty. Ltd of East Brighton became the new owners.

  • Photographs, courtesy of David R. Joy.
27 June 2018
  • Joy, Shirley, M., Ulupna, No 26 Gordon Street, Beaumaris, Victoria, Aspects of 110 Years of its History [Manuscript].
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