The Williams family, original owners of the Box Hill property, were sheep graziers. They were Welsh settlers who had arrived in 1870. Pioneers in the truest sense of the word, they had brought all of their possessions on a wagon.
In 1930, Gomer Williams built the Box Hill homestead for his wife. The grey bricks from which the house was constructed were made on site using sand adjacent to the homesite. Built for elegance and commodious living, the home featured silky oak parquetry floors, leadlighting and ornate moulded ceilings. Gomer, his wife and daughter Maise lived in the house. After the death of her parents, Maise continued to reside there with the woman who had been brought in to teach music many years previously. The house received little wear and tear during those years. On the death of Maise, the property went into the ownership of the Presbyterian church, to whom it had been willed.
In 2001, Jock and Maryan Hunter were given the opportunity to buy Box Hill. Jock’s parents had lived on an outstation of Box Hill, where he had grown up. Consequently, the property and its owners had warm memories for him and the decision to purchase was not a difficult one. The house was no longer in peak condition and Maryan had a vision to restore it to its former glory. Curtains, floor coverings and upholstery fabrics were chosen by her, most closely resembling the original furnishings. Leadlighting was made to order in original designs. Brass door handles and light fittings were carefully selected for authenticity. The Box Hill bathroom, which was ahead of its time when first constructed, has had very little about it changed. In the kitchen, renewed completely in neutral white tones, Maryan retained windows from an original servery and the butler’s pantry.
After the successful completion of the renovation project, Maryan, with horticultural guidance from her mother, Janet McKinnon, turned her attention to the exterior of the house. Landscaping with inland climatic extremes in mind, Maryan created a simple formal garden largely featuring roses in front of the main entrance of the homestead. Nearby gardens added more colour to the outback landscape. Most striking though, is the lagoon with the miniature Sydney Harbour Bridge. Built to precise scale of one to 36, the bridge over the billabong is an unexpected surprise to first-time visitors. Designed and built by Jock in his workshop over a six-month period 14 years ago, the bridge has been a popular venue for parties and fundraisers. One of these, a fundraiser for the local school drew 500 attendees.
Jock and Maryan conduct a successful mixed farming enterprise on the Box Hill property with the capable assistance of their sons, David and Angus, and daughter Alison. Maryan is actively involved with the local Garah community, and particularly with the Presbyterian congregation of which she and Jock are part. The church, constructed by the same builder, is in a similar style to Box Hill.
Words by Angela Zujic | Images by Christella Zujic