There’s a special “something” about certain buildings, especially when just looking at them is enough to tell you that they have a story to tell. Holmhurst Guest House, a sprawling Edwardian mansion in Bathurst, New South Wales, is such a building.
While some buildings lurk behind impenetrable fences and remain mysterious, getting a look around Holmhurst Guest House is easy. These days, it’s a popular Bed and Breakfast in Bathurst with its own website. And if pictures on a screen don’t convey enough of its ambiance for your liking, you can simply book a room and stay there for a few nights. It’s certainly a space that offers a unique experience.
Guesthouse owner and manager Robyn Hanney is the person to ask about the building’s history - and as its looks imply, it has seen over a century of life’s ups, downs, dreams, and dramas. Here’s a brief summary covering the basics of Holmhurst’s history.
Chapter 1: The Family Residence
Back in 1904, when it was built, Holmhurst must have been everyone’s idea of a dream home. The man behind the construction was a respected banker, Mr James Holmes, and it was here that he settled with his family and lived out the rest of his days.
Little else is known about the man himself, but it’s easy to imagine a large family, living out an elegant lifestyle behind its walls. The garden, still part of the property, must have been a wonderful place for children to play, and Mr and Mrs Homes were surely among the “Smart Set” of the town in their day.
They would have entertained guests in the spacious rooms, and an invitation to dine with the couple would surely have been considered as an occasion to don one’s best clothes and exercise one’s best “company manners.”
Chapter 2: The Catholic Orphanage
Sadly, Mr Holmes and his family would not enjoy their beautiful home for many years. In 1915, he died, and his widow donated the property to the Catholic church.
There are both sunny and sad sides to this, the longest chapter in the building’s history. It became St Joseph’s Orphanage, also known as St Joseph’s Girls’ Home, and it would continue to fulfill this role until its closure in 1975. Today, we can see a plaque commemorating the many girls who reached womanhood here. It touchingly refers to their tears and laughter as well as their time spent at work and at play. Though some reports say that the nuns were often strict and not always as merciful as the name of their order, The Sisters of Mercy may suggest, we can safely assume that there were nevertheless times of happiness, acts of kindness, and even love.
The building itself underwent some changes, notably, the addition of 4 extra wings, including a chapel during this part of its history. After all, it was no longer a building meant to house a single family with a handful of children. But nothing remains the same forever, and the orphanage was closed in 1975. The Catholic Church retained its ownership of the building and used the space as a seminary for ecclesiastical studies until its sale to a new owner.&
Chapter 3: Holmhurst Reborn - From Student and Motor Racing Enthusiast Accommodation to Welcoming Guest House
In 1992, “St Joseph’s” was sold to a private entrepreneur who recognised the potential of the large building as a residence for university students. It was also a convenient spot for accommodating motor-racing enthusiasts pursuing their passion at the nearby Mount Panorama racetrack. It was during this phase of its varied history that the name “Holmhurst” was restored to the stately building
In 2018, Robyn Hanney became the new owner, and her vision was much more ambitious. Together with her partner Greg Hargans, she resolved to recapture both the ambience and the sense of elegance, converting the magnificent building into a welcoming guest house for Bathurst’s visitors.
Today, we see the high-ceilinged rooms a far cry from how they must have looked during their decades as an institution. Holmhurst is a happy home once again, and a truly beautiful one into the bargain. It’s a place fit for weddings, honeymoon memories, romantic weekends away, and family holidays with the kids all rolled into one, and it’s not just the place or its period-appropriate furnishings that makes it that way.
Both seasoned travelers, Robyn and Greg know how to make guests feel welcome. They believe in the personal touch. The welcome, the panoramic look at the surroundings from the gorgeous balcony, directions to local attractions, and sociable evenings around the fire – Robyn and Greg are the perfect hosts.
Asked about the house in its current incarnation Robyn proudly says: “There are very few buildings like this in Bathurst. It allows guests to step back in time and appreciate the architecture and style of a bygone era.” Robyn and Greg have created an experience in hospitality that makes you feel right at home from the first time you enter the doors of Holmhurst Guest House.
To us, this may seem like a happy ending, but to Robyn and Greg, every day is another new beginning. The story of Holmhurst continues…
For more information and to book your stay at Holmhurst Guest House visit, HOLMHURST - Affordable B & B Accommodation in Bathurst or call 0434 937 306