Keppoch House at last!

The next day Mike and I flew to Glasgow airport and hired a car to take us on the last leg of our journey travelling in Georgiana’s footsteps. The last time Jennifer and I were in Scotland we had to leave without being able to visit Keppoch House, where G was living with the Dunlop family when she married John Molloy in 1829.

This time, Mike and I were on our way to see the house, thanks to the eagle eye of Mairi Gallagher who came across our question on the website, ‘Does anyone know who owns Keppoch House? ‘ Mairi alerted Loretta Brodie who got in touch and generously invited us, even though she would not be at home on the day of our visit. Loretta’s mother Cath was the thoughtful host who not only gave us the full tour but also provided tea and home made scones and the best carrot cake I’ve EVER tasted. Even the dogs gave us a warm welcome.

I had imagined driving up to the house for the last three years since I began researching G’s life for JAG Films. When we finally arrived at the gate to the driveway I was smiling with anticipation at being in the place that held such special memories for Georgiana.

The house is beautiful and, like Crosby Lodge, situated in a stunning position. Behind the house are the hills and in front of it is the southernmost edge of the Gareloch, the loch that G sketched in pencil on the flyleaf of her 1829 diary held at the Battye Library in Perth WA. Perhaps she wanted to keep it in her memory when she left for the new colony.

The building has changed only a little since 1829, with bay windows being added on each side in Victorian times and the ceilings raised on the top floor, but the main rooms inside are the same as they were. Marti Pellow, the singer with the 80’s pop group ‘Wet Wet Wet’ lived in the house for a while and the décor he chose is a bold turn on Scottish traditional but the main internal features are still there.

I almost didn’t want to go into the house! I’d waited so long to be there and read so many, many times what G had written while she was there. I knew that she would be all around me and I was about to see what she saw, walk where she walked and touch what she touched. I knew that I would love the place just as she had and I knew how much she had wanted to go back to see her friends there – but never did.

I could see in my mind’s eye the guests arriving for G and J’s wedding in the large hallway with its huge fireplace and when I realised that the stairway is almost certainly the original one, I took off my 21st century watch and put my hand just where G’s hand would have rested each evening on the bottom curve of the banister rail as she went upstairs to her room.

It was just as when I touched the WA flower samples at Kew Herbarium, that she had sent to Mangles. There is something very moving about touching something that has been touched by another, however many years separate the two actions – something to do with the closeness of the same simple action that doesn’t change with fashion or decades passing. It wasn’t the first time or the last that I felt Georgiana Molloy close, at my side.

It wasn’t hard to imagine what life was like in the house, with the servants’ floor upstairs, the kitchens below and a large stables block nearby for the carriages and horses, but it was a little frustrating not to know every detail I wanted to find out! G could only have been given one of the main bedrooms on the first floor but I had no idea which one.

Not the master bedroom and probably not one of the other front rooms – they were probably the bedrooms of the Dunlop sisters. So I spent a while standing quietly on my own in a side bedroom and took a photograph of the door. I wondered if this was the room where G had spent her last night as Georgiana Kennedy and had written the words in the diary that I read in Perth more than a hundred years later.

The place where Robert Story married the couple was easier to guess as the choices were limited. One of the two main and interconnecting reception rooms, the large hallway itself or the impressive dining room on the front of the house. G writes in her diary, on the morning of the wedding, that she put her bridal flowers ‘in their rooms’ so I think that one room was used for the ceremony and another for the wedding breakfast perhaps. The dining room would have had the right air of formality and the most obvious position is the place where a large sideboard now stands. The place between the windows on the long wall is the obvious position for the buffet that would have held breakfast, luncheon and dinner dishes in 1829 so the same kind of piece of furniture would have stood there.

I felt sure that this is where the wedding took place and I stood quietly again with my thoughts, feeling glad for myself to be there at last and so glad for Georgiana that her marriage with John became such a loving and happy one.
A big thank you to Loretta and Cath who gave up their time to talk with us about the house and its history. You both helped to make it a special day for me.

But I haven’t told you yet about the wonderful surprises that were still waiting for me when I went outside. I was about to get closer to Georgiana than ever before. More next time!
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Georgiana’s childhood home.

Travelling by taxi from the centre of Carlisle to Crosby Lodge was an exciting event in itself! I knew that G must have travelled the same road so many times by horse and carriage. After about a 30 minute drive, we arrived at the place where Georgiana spent most of her childhood. Her family having spent a few years living in the town of Carlisle, moved to the house built for them by her maternal grandfather. The house has changed quite a bit since those days. It is much larger having had a round turret added on each side and castellations along the roof line. The barn on one side and the kitchens on the other are also now part of the main house.

It was early evening, still light and very quiet in the heart of the countryside, with cows grazing behind the house and blackbirds singing in the beautiful gardens. Mike took some photographs outside to catch the light while Patricia Sedgewick, the current owner, very kindly began showing me around the house. It was thrilling to walk the rooms and corridors that G lived in, to look out of the windows at the views she must have known and loved and to stand by the fire that warmed her on cold, English winter evenings. Most of all, I felt close to her when I walked in the garden and looked out to where the drive probably once wound up to the house.

An old gate leads to the fields at the back of the house – once the front. Georgiana’s presence there was strong, as it was in the walled garden where servants once gathered fruit, vegetables and herbs for the kitchens. Mrs Sedgewick very kindly unlocked the garden and we saw how beautifully she has restored it. I told her that G would be thrilled to see it!
photo of old gate

Mr and Mrs Sedgewick have spared no expense in restoring the house to its former glory and it is now an exquisite hotel listed by the prestigious Johannson’s guide. The soft furnishings and carpets in particular are as authentic as possible and quite beautiful. We talked a lot about the house and about G in particular. It was wonderful to be able to leave a special gift for Patricia to thank her for her kindness on an evening when the hotel was busy – and to make a link between Crosby Lodge and Western Australia.

I gave her the book that Jennifer had sent for her – a copy of Pat Negus and Jane Scott’s beautiful book of the indigenous flowers of the region where Georgiana made her home. I was about to tell Patricia that it was extra special because it is dedicated to G but emotion took over too much so that Mike stepped in to finish the sentence for me – not for the first time during our trip!

I felt so sad when we had to say goodbye, travelling the road that G would have used when she left to move to Rugby. No wonder she didn’t settle there. Crosby Lodge is a still, serene place and I didn’t want to leave either. A big thank you to Mr and Mrs Sedgewick for taking such great care of a wonderful house.

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Bernice in Abbey St, Carlisle

At lunchtime I went straight to Abbey Street. I didn’t use a map but my feet took me there. Maybe someone was helping me! All the houses looked just as they would have been when little two year old Georgiana toddled along there holding her mother’s hand. Things haven’t changed much since the 19th Century.

The stone sets are still the original ones that her tiny feet must have walked on, on the way to the market square just around the corner. Abbey Street nestles literally in the shadow of the great cathedral so the sound of the choir singing and the bells must have been part of the everyday sounds for G and her family in those early days before they moved into their new home at Crosby Lodge.

The street is one of the oldest in the city and is the joining walkway from the castle to the cathedral. There’s a noisy new dual carriageway at the bottom of the street now that separates it from the castle but in the 1800s there would have been nothing but a grassy dip where the moat once was. So tiny G had a huge Norman castle on one side of her house, a great cathedral on the other and the busy centre of a market town just around the corner.

I walked around to the back of the houses to see what was the fourth side of the square for little Georgiana in her earliest environment. I found an amazing view out over the city and onto the wild, beautiful moors and fells of Cumbria. Time to return to the CRO for more research but it occurred to me that, until she was about three, Georgiana’s young life was tightly encircled by religion, history, culture, power, commerce and some of the most beautiful scenery in England.

The archivists at the CRO haven’t been able to find out which house belonged to the Kennedy family. I took photographs of every house just in case!

The excitement certainly isn’t over yet. We’ve been invited to Crosby Lodge this evening to meet Patricia Sedgewick who owns the house that was originally built for the young Mr and Mrs Kennedy by Georgiana’s grandmother , who lived at the much grander Crosby House. I’m actually going to the house where Georgiana lived as a child and a young woman. More later from me!


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Bernice to Carlisle

I’ve been staying in the UK for more than a month now and with the chance to spend four days in the North of England and Scotland, I travelled up to Cumbria by train to meet my husband Mike there after he had finished work at a conference in Carlisle. We had a long weekend free so we planned to continue the research that Jennifer Gherardi and I had started there when we visited in March 2006. The old county of Cumberland, where Georgiana Molloy lived as a child, forms part of Cumbria now. Carlisle is the ancient market town where she was born. It has a beautiful cathedral that was standing at the heart of a famous abbey long before G was there.

Day One
Arrived at Carlisle late last night and could hardly wait to get to the Cumbria Records Office this morning. Mike is running a conference here so the day has been mine and of course I was there as they opened the doors! The walk through town was interesting – if you just look up above the shop fronts, most of the buildings are still the same as they were in Georgiana’s day and the huge Market Square is still a busy, bustling place. Here it is in 2007.

The staff at the CRO were as helpful and amazing as before – they even knew the reference number for the Kennedy family archive without having to look it up. I was soon poring over Georgiana’s own letters and trying again to read some of the more tricky cross-writing using the magnifying glass I had brought with me from London. There’s something wonderful about opening those old, folded documents just as they were opened by their first, intended reader in the 1820’s.

After three hours I was a bit the worse for wear but something caught my eye. Jennifer and I had seen the seals on the old letters many times, at the CRO last year and on the digital images of them at home in WA. But I noticed that one of the seals was quite intact – usually they break when the letter is opened. I just wondered if I could find out what kind of picture G had chosen for her own special emblem on every letter she sent. I lifted the magnifying glass to the letter and looked carefully. The thrill of discovery – and the feeling of closeness to Georgiana – were both huge. The image on her little red seal is the dove of peace with an olive branch in its mouth. Typical of her. I smiled to myself, all alone in that big, quiet, dusty old room – but then I realised something else that sent a chill down my spine. The image is identical to the logo for JAG Films, Jennifer’s film production company. I wanted to tell her right away so I sent a text then and there from the CRO. It seemed the only thing to do when I wasn’t allowed to shout at the other researchers about what I’d just found!

Here’ a photo but the quality is too poor to see it properly. I’m planning to enlist the help of the CRO to see if they can find a way of getting a better photograph for us so watch this space.

Compare it with this much larger and more macho seal, John Molloy’s I think. I couldn’t quite read the letters on it when I was there – perhaps someone else can go and take another look to find out?

The CRO closed for lunch for an hour so I had to go for a walk in the rain. I’d worked out from some other papers that Georgiana’s parents were living in a place called Abbey Street when G was born so I decided to see if I could find it over lunchtime – being far too excited already to eat. It was certainly a lunch hour to remember. More about that next time!

Bernice Barry

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New Look and Subscribe

Here is a new look for the blog…. still trying to get the perfect font but now we can provide you with a subscribe function so that you automatically get notification by email of a new entry. Further suggestions welcome!
Jennifer (Producer)

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Hello from Diana

I’m Diana, one of Georgiana’s great-great-grandaughters. Georgiana’s eldest surviving daughter Sabina married Mathew Hale who had come out to Australia as archdeacon of Adelaide. He later became Bishop of Perth and subsequently Bishop of Brisbane. One of Mathew and Sabina’s younger sons was Harold Hale, who was sent to a boarding school in Hobart because there were no schools his father considered suitable in Brisbane at that time. When Mathew retired, the family returned to England. However, after his death a number of them, including Harold, returned to Australia. Harold (my grandfather) settled in Tasmania,married Georgina Officer, and produced 5 children. My father Ted was the youngest. He married Joan Oliphant, and also produced 5 children, of whom I’m the youngest. I’m married, but have no children – only stepsons, nephews and neices.

I’ve always had an interest in Georgiana, and these days I’m particularly interested in the spirit she seems to have passed on to a number of her descendants, together with the number of us (at least in the branches I know) who have a strong interest in gardens and native plants. Nature or nurture?

One, for instance, travelled to the Middle East with her husband when he went to the First World War, and we have photos of her in nursing uniform at one of the military hospitals, sitting beside the Nile, riding a camel accompanied by the wife of one of our Light Horse senior officers, and listed in the programs of entertainment organised by the wives for benefit of the soldiers.

I’d be interested to hear from any other descendants of Georgiana and to hear any stories of the generations.

Diana West

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Diana joins us

Diana from Tasmania is going to join us on the blogging team. It seems that we are being contacted by quite a few descendants of Georgiana and John. Diana (nee Hale), is keen to keep updating the family tree and keep communication up. Our next task is to find a way of having the growing list of “Friends of Georgiana” subscribe to this blog so they get notification of postings automatically.

I’ll ask Diana to tell us a little more about herself…


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Keppoch House!

Lambs at Ardarndan Farm near Keppoch House.

Last year we spent much time trying to determine where the marriage between Georgiana Kennedy and John Molloy took place. It was a pivotal time in her life journey. Her diary indicates that she saw the proposal as an answer to her prayers because she did not wish to live with her own family and felt she may outstay her welcome with the Dunlop family. She did not underestimate the drastic step she was about to take and she changed her mind just days before the event. Mr. Dunlop counselled her to proceed. Georgians wrote…

“Heard from Captain Molloy which made me very miserable.”

“I wished to write and end all but Mr Dunlop would not let me.”

“Heard again and was quite distracted with fearful anticipations. I wrote to him & prayed my letter might arrive in time to prevent his coming truly wretched went to Bed after dinner. …

“Went to Church perhaps for the last time as Georgiana Kennedy. Oh that I had never got into such a perplexity.”

The marriage was conducted by Rev. Story (her friend Helen’s husband) and we assumed it would have been at his parish church of Rosneath, where Georgiana enjoyed visiting. The only certificate was one written by Rev. Story witnessing the marriage but it did not say the location. Our visit to the Cardross church (where the bans had been read), revealed no records.

Georgiana’s diary simply states that on that morning she…

“rose at ye past 7. Received many letters & presents. Closed my trunks. Went to gather my Bridal flowers & put them in their rooms. Fine.”

and then the next entry jumps to …

“I was no longer Georgiana Kennedy at two o’clock after the ceremony set off for Glasgow. We (crossed out) Very strange.
What a night a night this was !!!!!”

The last comment was under restriction in the archive until recently due to the personal nature of the entry but I think in this days and age we can be pragmatic and celebrate a good start to the marriage. This is the only occasion when she ever uses 5 exclamation marks!

Back to the wedding. How could we ever represent it if we did not know where it took place? While we were traipsing the Scottish countryside, Bernice’s husband Mike was putting his mind to the problem back in London. He searched the records and found that one of the Dunlop sister’s had been married at Keppoch House. It seems that this was a convention of the times. He confirmed that Keppoch House was a fairly new mansion and it was likely that rather that this would have been the venue. It started to make sense. It would have been much grander and certainly easier for the guests to attend. It also makes sense that the diary entry has no mention of travel to a church and as she was living there she simply puts the Bridal flowers in their rooms.

We had asked so many people as to who the owners of Keppoch were. One person told us that it had been made into flats! As we stood at the large gates and Bernice reminded me of the diary passage just prior to the wedding.

” On the lookout for Molloy & Doe. Maggie & I went to the xxxxxx & they came driving up. We walked about a nervous time. Very fine.”

Bernice could imagine Georgiana standing on the crest and looking down to see Molloy and Dalton approaching on this very road leading to the house. It would have been a very exceptional moment and the final reality of the threshold she was about to cross.

We posted some messages asking about Keppoch on a local Scottish history site and Marie was a gem to put us in contact with Lorretta the owner of Keppoch House. Loretta has invited Bernice to visit! Now that Bernice is back in London for a stint she is planning to go there soon and promises to take lots of pics for us.

In order to fill some of the gaps and gain more information about this period, it would be wonderful to discover if the Dunlop sisters have any diaries or letters in an archives in Scotland. They were very well educated and like Georgiana would have been prolific writers. So perhaps our Scottish friends might discover them?

Jennifer (Producer)

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Letters at CRO

Here we are – a researcher’s dream come true – arriving at the Cumbria Record Office which is located within the castle walls. And then… you can’t see Bernice’s hands shaking, as she undoes the first package.

The first item is a hand drawn map of the Swan River Colony by John Molloy. It is such a treasure. We hope one day it will be sent back here. It would surely be put under glass – and there we were holding it! We realised that the extraordinary amount important archive in the UK, meant that it would not rate as highly as it does here in Western Australian

Bernice would not mind me telling you she was gasping and near hysterical for much of the time as she came across new items. I clicked away for two days straight and bought back the loot which we are now working on. Our hero back here in Western Australia is Patrick Richardson-Bunbury, a direct descent of Georgina, who is transcribing the extremely difficult letters, many of which are cross-written (to save paper and postage).

More on Patrick’s progress soon.


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Crosby Lodge near Carlisle

A last minute dash to Crosby Lodge, the childhood home of Georgiana, was made possible by the generous reception by the owner of this beautiful private hotel, Mrs Patricia Sedgewick.Mrs Sedgewick has a deep interest in the life of the original owners and particularly Georgiana. This house was built for her parents by Elizabeth Kennedy’s father, whose estate mansion was adjacent. I think perhaps Crosby Lodge has a feminine aesthetic with delightful proportions. The Sedgewick have invested in and restored it in an admirable manner. Just imagine staying there and look out of the very windows and see the view that Georgiana experienced. Another dream of which I aspire!


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