2 April 2024

Charming Birklees restoration in Goulburn Taylor-made

| John Thistleton
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Old photograph

This 1907 photograph shows Edward 13, Marion (May) 17, Kathleen 15 and their mother, Anna Bryden, at their family home, ‘Birklees’ in Cowper Street, Goulburn. Edward was killed in action eight years later on 26 April 1915 at Gallipoli. Photo: Sally Kimber collection.

Paul Taylor once sold his ute trying to overcome his compulsion for restoring old character homes in Goulburn. But that didn’t work.

His wife, Penny, shares his interest. They’re inspired after touring Europe, ambling through leafy gardens with trickling water features, soaking in the sounds, sights and tastes of Mediterranean lifestyles and traditions.

“Older homes have individuality and charm, modern homes are built to a price,” Paul, a Goulburn paramedic, said. Penny is an electronic medical health record specialist and believes her husband’s creative restorations are a release valve for the high stress of his job.

They bought a 1920s, wrecked, three-bedroom brick home in Grafton Street for about $60,000 because it was all they could afford at the time. Having restored that they later restored a three-bedroom home at 107 Verner Street, leaving subsequent owners smitten with the outcome.

On 1 March 2013 they bought a larger home in Cowper Street. Paul could see the courtyard changing into the ones he so admired in southern Spain and Morocco.

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Respectful of the origins of old homes and curious about their history, the couple play down their restoration roles, even though they are significant. “We are just another owner; we aren’t the ones who came and saved the house or made it great,” says Paul.

Their Cowper Street home is called ‘Birklees’. Scottish-born dentist Edward Bryden and his wife Anna built the double-brick home with bay windows in 1885 and raised three children there – Marion, Kathleen and Edward.

A St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church elder, Edward also belonged to the Liedertafel Society, was prominent in the Highland Society and Burns Club and keenly interested in the local poultry club and Tirranna Picnic Race Club.

Edward died in 1907. Anna remained at Birklees up until her death in 1943. Marion died of breast cancer. A spinster, Kathleen continued living there in one of three flats she had built. Edward (Jr) was killed in action on 26 April 1915 at Gallipoli.

Sally Kimber, who lived at Birklees from about 1994 until 2002, said ‘Birk’ is Scottish for birch tree and ‘lees’ means field or woodland. She discovered Marion’s son Ted Dowling later lived there. About this time, horses were kept on the large block, and one had been kept inside the house.

During her years there, Sally painted and wallpapered inside. A talented artist, she painted beautiful floral details in the family room and a bedroom. “I even laid the bricks on the front path. Such a labour of love that house was,” she said. She has kept the clippings of the previous owners and photographs, which she intends to share with the Taylors.

The next owner, Fiona Howard, made substantial additions including a gym room and living quarters for her mother.

Birklees present owners Penny and Paul Taylor

For Birklees’ present owners Penny and Paul Taylor the sounds of central Goulburn rekindle memories of village life across Europe. At their previous Verner Street home the cries of ‘Howzat!’ from Saturday afternoon cricketers on Seiffert Oval cheered them, now the gonging of the Post Office clock reassures them in Cowper Street. Photo: John Thistleton.

Paul and Penny slept in the additions, having turned the front of the home into a construction zone where walls had cracks big enough to fit a hand through. Much of the plaster had to be removed.

Paul cleared rubble from under the home to improve air circulation, replaced joists, added more piers and installed under-floor insulation. He improved drainage, stemmed cracking at the front of the home, vacuumed out old ceiling insulation, installed batts and removed old gas lines for early light fittings.

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They engaged a colour consultant to help choose earthy tones and Penny painted Birklees inside and out.

“We have taken out every single sash window and replaced all the sash cords because none of the windows worked,” Penny said.

New flooring was put down and an old-style renderer was engaged for $36,000 to repair large cracking. Nothing has cracked since then, not so much as a hairline crack in six years. “His workmanship was fantastic, Penny said. “The money we spent was so worth it.”

Rather than change Sally’s brick paving in the front garden which included a circle of bricks, the Taylors have added more circles. Gracefully curving brick paths are lined with hardy English box hedges. The couple added a trickling fountain in the middle of the main brick circle.

Kathleen, Marion and Edward Bryden, all standing on Birklees verandah in April 1914, with two of their friends

Kathleen, Marion and Edward Bryden, all standing on Birklees’ verandah in April 1914, with two of their friends seated left and right. Photo: Sally Kimber collection.

Dominating the front yard, a nuisance berry tree constantly dropped berries which were walked through the house. When the Taylors were digging it out excited neighbours happily gave them a hand.

Penny has espaliered sasanqua camellias in another garden retreat. Purple roses edge the main brick entrance pathway and pencil pines climb skywards on the southern perimeter. Inside and outside Birklees’ restored features and new touches evoke the home’s European origins and remember Goulburn’s past.

Original Article published by John Thistleton on About Regional.

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