Eastnor now Eastnor House

The heart of the newly named ‘Montville Estate’ at 15 Western Avenue (Lot 53 SP116528) is the original pioneer homestead of early settlers Henry and Jane Smith who built their home in 1895. Its later transformation from a simple dwelling to a substantial home reflects its change of purpose from a rural fruit growing property to a gracious manor house with all the benefits of town living. Today in keeping with so many larger estates, the property can also offer guest accommodation. With six owners over its lifetime of almost 130 years the house represents the growing prosperity and gentrification of Montville over time.

The Smith Years 1895 – 1951

Within its first 50 years when Henry and Jane replaced their original slab hut with the home they called ‘Eastnor’ it grew from a simple dwelling to a substantial house, although not as grand as the castle in Herefordshire, England for which it was named and where Jane had worked. Jane described the very first house Henry built for the young family in 1893 as “a 12×15 foot slab hut with a shingle roof, earth floor and slabs adzed smoothed for tables and chairs.” That is about 4×5 metres which these days would make a generous sized bedroom.

The house sits on a large north sloping site of 2.5 acres now spanning two titles on  the original Portion 70v,154 acres selected by Henry Smith in 1893.

The Smith house was about 40ft by 35ft and consisted of three bedrooms, a dining room, and kitchen. Provision was made for a front room to be used as a store and receiving office. Later this was converted to a sitting room. There were 8ft verandahs on the eastern and southern sides and a western verandah about 22 ft long gave entry to a side door and the small washroom at its north end. Jane had no separate laundry – the washing was done in the bath tub. The outhouse was along a path on the western side. These verandahs did not join together and a Smith granddaughter commented sadly there was no running around the verandahs to play.

The house had 1inch weatherboard cladding and a corrugated iron roof. The floors were hoop and cypress pine. The rooms were generously sized with pressed metal ceilings 10ft 6 inch (3.2m) high. There was a different pattern for each of the kitchen, dining room, drawing room, hallway, best bedroom and the two other bedrooms With a growing family of 12 children the Smith family house was added to and embellished from 1910 through to the 1940s.

Henry was both a successful businessman and a nurseryman. Originally the citrus orchard with 100 trees flourished on the land to the east of the house right down to the corner where the Back Road, now Western Avenue, met Main Street. Today neatly landscaped gardens surround the home.

Eastnor’ around 1900 with the orchard in the foreground and horses grazing along the Back Road (now Western Avenue) Note the bush to the west and the outbuildings

The house has known many firsts. In 1897 Henry Smith set up the first receiving office and store which he operated from his house until February 1901. Jane took over running both facilities until 1912 when Henry built a separate corner store and post office and leased both businesses.

It was at ‘Eastnor’ that Henry installed the first telephone line in 1911 so that his Montville residence and his Palmwoods store could be connected. A granddaughter explained, “The arduous task of stringing the single line from tree to tree from Montville to Palmwoods was undertaken by Henry’s older sons, Alf and Tom, along with the neighbour Bill Phillips, who owned Portion 96v, the eastern slope of the Range and according to him it was broken country with parts not fit for a goat to climb on.”

Montville residents came to ‘Eastnor’ in the early 1900s to do their banking transactions as Henry also leased a small building on his property to the ES&A bank. Locals met in this building for such gatherings as meetings to advocate a tramway to transport local produce off the range. There was a packing shed and a barn for the horses and their feed. Henry was very fond of his horse Laddie and the older boys had horses as well.

Apart from the early practicalities of the store, the receiving office and the bank, early Montville residents knew ‘Eastnor’ as a social hub for Church meetings and social gatherings, for card games of Euchre, for musical entertainment nights which often included Henry playing the organ, and as the wedding venue for a number of sons and daughters. Jane and Henry were gracious hosts and generous neighbours.

Jane died in 1943 and following the death of Henry Smith in 1951 ‘Eastnor’ was put on the market. along with other property he had owned. Some of the household items advertised for sale included a Kriebler piano and stool, silky oak sideboard, pine dining table with turned legs, three bridge tables, cedar curtain rods, single and double iron bedsteads, two pine safes, glass kerosene lamps, cast iron boiler and wash tubs, electric iron and cord, platform scales, spray pump and water pump. The list gives a little insight into the lives of Henry and Jane Smith.

The Rann Years 1954 – 1964

In 1954 Albert Henry Rann the father-in-law of Peter Smith, the youngest surviving son of Henry, sold his pineapple and citrus farm on the Western Road and bought part of the Henry Smith Estate including ‘Eastnor’ and a number of allotments fronting the main road. He and his wife Emma lived there until Mr Rann’s death in 1963. The property was left to his sons Charlie and Sid Rann with the title transferred to their names in 1964. Over the years a large privet hedge had grown up and ‘Eastnor’ took on an air of mystery for the passing school children who could never quite see in.

The Coats Years 1970 – 1979

The property was then purchased in November 1970 by Callum Mackenzie Coats an architect and his wife Emily. The young couple, married on New Year’s Eve, 1966, renamed the property “Paisley Place” in honour of the ancient peerage origins of the Scottish Coats family in Paisley, a large town bordering Glasgow. They established an avocado orchard on the western side of the house and proceeded to design and draw up plans to modernise the house. They installed ducted air conditioning, redesigned the bathroom to include an inside septic toilet, installed a septic tank along with a 390-gallon underground fuel tank and an extensive irrigation system for the lawn and garden. Some locals remember purchasing their fuel from Mr Coats. French doors and a fireplace were added to the formal living room.

The Coats built the swimming pool and built a northern deck overlooking the pool. They ran underground power to the pool, shed and workshop. A Palmwoods railway cottage, was relocated to the west of the residence for additional space and to provide Mr Coats with an office space as well as a studio bedroom style of guest accommodation. The timber dwelling was 24ft by 14ft (7.3m x 4.3m). and featured an enclosed verandah with a bullnose roof.

The couple’s first son Angus Orlando, born in 1968, was enrolled at Montville State School in 1974. Their younger son Guy Oliver Balfour was born in 1972. When the family sold their home just a few years later they remained in the area.


The Russell Family Years – 1979 – 2011

Ian and Jenny Russell purchased the property in September 1979, but unaware of any previous names they renamed the house ‘Belbury’ in recognition of two historic Russell and Oates properties, ‘Belgravia’ and ‘Wembury’ The couple commissioned Callum Coats, now relocated at Alexander Headlands to design a replica of their house for a giftware shop to be called ‘Camphor Cottage’ on the portion of their 3.472 hectares that fronted Main Street. Ian got busy and repaired the leaking underground water tank. He reinforced and repaired the almost derelict machinery shed and workshop to the west of the house using hardwood timber, concrete posts and he extended the roofline with second hand corrugated iron and painted the structure a heritage green. Ian unsilted the dams that were essentially mudflats when he purchased the property. The fences also needed repair as they were overgrown with lantana and in such a poor state that the cattle Ian had introduced soon made their way into neighbouring properties.

Ian and Jenny had two young children, Diana and Georgina, when they first moved into their home and when their family grew to include Annabel and David, the couple decided to extend upwards and create an attic with casement windows providing two additional bedrooms and built in cupboards. These additions were made in 1983 and not only provided more space but enhanced the visual appeal of the home.

During their ownership Ian and Jenny Russell further subdivided the land and sold 17 acres in January 1999 to Council for parkland. This included the lagoons and dam which Henry had enlarged in the 1920s, that constitute the headwaters of Skene Creek. Jenny died in 1999, but sentimentally Ian kept the house until 2011 when he sold it to Anita Price. At the time of the sale there was an unsuccessful proposal for the property to be acquired by the Sunshine Coast Council for the community as a cultural heritage centre.

The Price Years 2011 – 2020

The renovated kitchen with its travertine flooring

Perhaps the days as a family home were over. New owner Anita Price favoured a French Provincial theme and set about renovating and refurbishing a new kitchen and bathrooms. She created an ensuite and a walk-in robe for the main bedroom by claiming some of the verandah space. She demolished the old bathroom and laundry and extended the north west wing of the house to create a family/informal dining room, laundry and bathroom with its own verandah. Travertine flooring through the new kitchen, family room, main bathroom and the open laundry, along with door handles sourced direct from France completed the French Provincial look. The house was now a stylish showpiece with fretwork above the French doors, quality furnishings and elegant fittings, chandeliers in almost every room, with a distinct formal living space as well as a casual sitting room and study.

Anita renovated with care and devotion to the history of the house and when she sold one title of the house block in 2019 she ensured that there was no heritage significance to the 78m² shed which was riddled with white ants. It was demolished along with a 9m high water tower and 20m² inground water tank dating from Callum Coats’ ownership. When Anita sold the main house she was assured that the new owners, a young couple would respectfully maintain the historic elements of the house and thoughtfully incorporate them with their own contemporary style.

The Spain – Potts Years 2019 – current

Nichola Spain and Jordan Potts have been busy since their move in November 2019. The couple owned a gym at Warana for four years where Nichola was a yoga teacher before deciding to buy some land and build a tiny house. They looked at the block of land Anita had for sale, but thought the land a bit too sloping. Nichola peeked through the hedge and saw the house. It talked to her and she in turn talked to her Dad Eddie and Mum Dot and the long and short of that conversation was that they encouraged Nichola on behalf of the Family Trust to do the due diligence, make the best offer, get the best terms and then make a start on learning the art of renovating on the job. Nichola’s family are from Victoria and have renovating experience. A Queenslander is a new challenge for them.

Their first job was to clean the mould from the walls in the railway cottage which had not been used for some time. With a freshen up and redecorate and a new name, ‘The Postman’s Cottage’ is now a popular Airbnb.

Nichola and Jordan are hands on renovators where possible and have already tackled the walls now refreshed with Dulux half strength natural white. The task of removing the lead paint on the pressed metal ceilings they left to the professionals who carefully garnet blasted the ceilings. Now that the verandah decking has been replaced where needed it won’t be long before the couple’s toddler son, Indigo, will be able to claim another play space.

As at 2023 the land has an area of 5705m² with expansive lawns and graceful jacarandas creating a picturesque setting for the residence which consists of an early Queenslander of substantial size and representation with a number of extensions added over time. The core of the building on low to high stumps has a corrugated iron clad truncated pyramid roof with two weatherboard clad dormers with skillion window hoods placed on an east-west axis. The building is fronted by a verandah with a separate bullnose roof at the front and eastern elevation. Verandah features include stop-chamfered posts with crown and collar mould and ornate brackets. The verandah back wall shows exposed framework and cross-bracing. A chamferboard clad extension with a flying gable protrudes from the south west corner, featuring fretwork gable panels with central finial and bracing, tripartite sash windows and a skillion roof verandah on the western side that incorporates the chimney. A gable roof extension joins onto the rear on the north west corner. Many of the decorative features and the general design of the front of the building are representative of the 1940s.

But formal descriptions aside, the renamed ‘Eastnor House’ is in great hands as it approaches a century and a quarter. Nichola and Jordan hope to rent the house along with ‘Postman’s Cottage’ while they travel for the next few years, but look forward to it always being their home base and where they will raise their family.