By Lance Hodgins
Kinfauns is a luxury housing estate which dominates the landscape between Hastings and Bittern. For well over a century the land passed through the hands of a succession of interesting characters.
David John Ham
Captain Ham turned to his men. “That’s it. We’ve won today. Grab a couple of hours sleep.”
Their faces were black and grimy, their skin was scorched, and their throats burned red-raw. They slumped to the ground where they stood. All day long they had prepared for the enemy, which had rushed past the town of Hastings and swept up the hill to the homestead.
They had stood with their backs to the house, and fought like demons with their water-soaked hessian bags. The fire then turned inland and joined with another to level the properties around the Balnarring Racecourse before settling south of Bittern.
D J Ham
Darkness had fallen and so had the wind. The temperature, however, did not. That Wednesday in mid-January 1898 it had been 110°F in the shade and everyone knew there was more to come.
Daybreak brought a southerly wind change and Warrenda was again under attack. The men moved the valuable contents of the house into the garden, burned a new break, and once more steered the flames around them.
When news reached the township of Hastings that “Ham’s place was safe” there was great satisfaction. D J Ham was a popular and influential member of the community. Still in his thirties, he was a councillor and Shire President and a strong supporter of the local cricket and football teams. He held the rank of Captain in the local military corps and was responsible for the master-stroke of using bullocks to haul the huge 40-pounder guns – leading to its nickname the “Ham and Beef Battery”.
Ham was the well-educated son of a Ballarat politician. He was a superb sportsman and he spent his early years on horseback on cattle stations in Queensland and New South Wales. Soon after the fire at Warrenda he went to the Boer War where, as Major Ham, he commanded his troops with notable success. After the war he conducted a successful business in South Africa for several years.
People believe that Ham named his property “War-ender” to commemorate the end of this war, yet the Boer War ended in 1902 and D J Ham’s address was Warrenda when he married in 1894. It is more likely that he named it after the prominent “Warrenda” cattle station in Queensland which he would have encountered whilst working in the outback as a young man.
Map showing Hunt’s property
Hugh Aloysius Hunt
Ham was not the first to own this property. The honour goes to Hugh Aloysius Hunt, an Irish immigrant who owned a hotel in the countryside at Moorabbin.
The 18 year-old Hunt had first come out to Australia with his family in the early 1850s. Tragically, his father died on the voyage and the family returned to their native Tipperary. It was not until ten years later that Hunt, now a married man, would emigrate again.
He was obviously well financed as he bought the Plough and Harrow hotel on the main road at South Brighton and the surrounding acres of land. He bought several other properties, but pride of place belonged to the sprawling 600+ acres overlooking Western Port Bay that he selected from the Crown.
Hunt built a cottage there in 1866/7 and advertised for fence splitters and agistees. He obviously had an attachment to the property as he soon joined notable settlers Tuck and Downward on the Flinders Road Board – the forerunner of the Flinders Shire Council. A road was named after him.
Hunt passed away just before his 50th birthday, and the land was sold to Caleb Kennett in 1883.
Caleb Amos Kennett
Kennett bought the land from Hunt’s widow for £2049 – or about $2 million in today’s money. It was clear that he could well afford it. During Melbourne’s gold rush years the teenager had applied his skills as a butcher and twenty years later his Sandridge (Port Melbourne) slaughterhouse was one of the city’s largest.
As well as Hunt’s property he also bought the adjacent land where the town of Bittern would later develop. This had originally been selected from the Crown by Mark Young, owner of Frankston’s Pier Hotel, and William Heelan, the local coach driver. Kennett now had a parcel of almost 1,000 acres.
Kennett also owned many grazing properties on the edge of Melbourne and when he died in 1888 he left an estate of £25,000 (nearly $25 million today). His trustees managed the Bittern land for some time afterwards and it not was not until six years later that Ham moved in – on January 1 1894 – and established his Warrenda.
Friedrich Wilhelm Sudholz
When D J Ham left for South Africa in 1902, the 1373 acres of Warrenda was on the market. By year’s end, the property had been bought by a newcomer to the district – one F W Sudholz.
Sudholz was a German immigrant who had established a successful cropping farm, Amby Park, near Horsham in the Wimmera. He was a popular resident of that district and served on several committees, including a term as Shire President.
Sudholz was a very clever man and his ideas frequently turned up in the patents office. He developed a combined winnower powered by a horse on a treadmill, and set about manufacturing them in Horsham. High transport costs, however, forced him to move his factory to Footscray in 1899.
F W Sudholz
The business flourished and Sudholz continued to sell his machinery throughout Victoria. His son had been left to manage the Wimmera farm but his death in a horse accident brought on a new phase in his business activities. In 1902 Sudholz sold Amby Park and embarked on a speculative spending spree at Western Port.
As well as the sizable Warrenda estate, Sudholz bought up everything in the district he could lay his hands on. He amassed a sprawling portfolio of almost 3,000 acres stretching from Bittern to Hodgins Road and inland to Coolart Road.
Sudholz settled on Warrenda and, despite his 60 years, involved himself in community affairs as president of the Hastings Mutual Improvement Society. But five years later, his intentions became clear – the large Sudholz holdings were being broken up and auctioned. There were town lots near Hastings and Bittern and farms ranging from 25 to 500 acres.
Advertisement for Sudholz machinery
The sales brochure was appealing. Prosperous farms were already dotted in all directions on “splendid flats with rich dark soil and gentle undulations of fertile, easily worked loam”. The climate was “the most equable and pleasant in Australia” and water was “sweet, pure and abundant”. There was also a homestead – “a superior 11-roomed weatherboard villa in full command of seascape scenery.”
It was clear that Sudholz was leaving the district as a clearance sale included several draught and buggy horses, numerous ploughs, harvesting machinery and 2,000 sheep.
The grand sale took place on December 10 1908. There was a large attendance but very few buyers and only one of the farm lots was sold. A year later, the homestead, its contents and the bulk of the farmland were offered again for auction as the owner was “leaving the state”. In fact, Sudholz was living in Brighton and running the local Bowling Club. He died there a couple of years later.
John Lawry Parkes
Warrenda next became the home of J L Parkes, his wife Emmaline and their seven children.
Parkes was a Londoner by birth and a son of the superintendent of the Bank of Australasia, one of the largest and oldest banks in Australia, a forerunner of the ANZ.
On his 21st birthday in 1887, Parkes learned that his father had been killed in a massive train collision in Melbourne. His share of the financial settlement helped establish him in Warragul as a stock and estate agent, and the young auctioneer shared in the land boom of the district.
He expanded into Melbourne and joined the firm of Morton and Coghill which conducted many auctions on the Mornington Peninsula, including parts of the Sudholz estate. This firm had underwritten a large woollen mill planned for the banks of the Warrengine Creek, but when that venture folded, Parkes moved his family into Warrenda.
J L Parkes and family at Warrenda 1913
His impact on the Hastings community was immediate. In 1908 he founded the Westernport Progress Association which sought to attract industry to Western Port by hosting bay trips for parliamentarians and even the Governor of Victoria. When the Great War broke out, however, it was clear that the government had different priorities and Parkes’ great project was put on hold. It would be another 50 years before his dream was realised.
In 1916, Parkes hosted his daughter’s wedding breakfast at the homestead and then made an announcement: he was selling the farm to a Melbourne syndicate and moving to Mentone. The property sale was messy and complex, and before it was completed he passed away.
His widow Emmaline continued to subdivide Warrenda, keeping 50 acres next to the Creek where she built a house for herself and her five children who were still at home. In 1929, a small cottage was built on the main road where two of her daughters, Alice and Marjorie, conducted tea rooms for five years until they were married.
George Henry (Harry) Stacey
Harry Stacey was a senior accountant for Kynock’s, the large ammunitions and armaments manufacturer in his home town of Birmingham. His work frequently took him overseas, particularly to Australia where he developed relationships with many politicians and military top brass.
After a visit in 1908, he became a strong supporter of a naval base at Crib Point and he bought up land in the area, including the farm Triton which surrounded Hann’s Inlet. He knew that the inlet was an ideal place for the planned submarine and destroyer base.
Stacey’s New Triton 1920
Stacey subsequently sold this land to the navy and, with the profits, proceeded to buy up land in the district, keenly promoting it as the future “Portsmouth of the South”. He subdivided the triangle where today’s Bittern Primary school is, forming the basis of Bittern township with a general store and post office.
He also bought several lots of the old “Sudholz estate”, the main one being the 773 acres of Warrenda. Stacey had travelled back and forth between England and Australia five times before finally settling there with his wife and family and re-named the property New Triton.
Farming life was not for the Staceys, however, and they eventually left the property.
Kenneth Arthur McLean
The next owner of Warrenda was a war hero.
Dr Ken McLean was a young medical graduate when he went to WW1 in 1917. He earned a Military Cross at Villers-Bretonneux for evacuating wounded soldiers whilst under military fire and, two months later, won a second MC for treating critically wounded soldiers under heavy enemy shelling.
After the Great War, Ken returned to civilian life as a specialist in sexually transmitted diseases. He became interested in racehorses and in his first foray into ownership he had amazing success. He was a half owner of Textile which won the Caulfield Cup in 1927.
Dr Kenneth McLean
Ken married Ann Hay Carstairs in 1929 and continued to own several horses. He named one of them Kinfauns, after the Scottish village in which his wife was born.
In the mid-30s the McLeans bought Warrenda. It was re-named Kinfauns and run as a grazing property by Ann’s sister and her husband.
Ken was president of the Athenaeum Club and a member of the VATC committee for 25 years. Locally he was captain and vice president of the Peninsula Country Golf Club.
When WW2 broke out, Dr McLean was a Squadron Leader in the Royal Australian Air Force. By then, however, the McLeans had sold Kinfauns to the Home family.
William John Home
W J Home was one of the longest practising solicitors in the State of Victoria. He had founded the legal firm of Home and Lowry in the early 1900s and was well known in court proceedings as a formidable industrial advocate.
A keen pennant golfer, Home was life member of Riversdale Golf Club and, in his younger days, was prominent in the State amateur championships. When he bought Kinfauns in 1939 he dreamed of having his own golf course one day and, in later years, this almost became a reality.
W J Home on the golf course
WJ Home and his wife Melina May moved into “the big house on the hill” and the youngest of their three adult children, John, was made property manager.
John (“Jack”) Home was newly married and he and his new bride, Beverley, took up residence in the house near the Warrengine Creek where Emmaline Parkes had once lived. In 1943 they had a daughter, Diana, who became a prominent sportswoman in the district. The Kinfauns Pastoral Company was set up and Jack ran the property as a first class grazing concern.
W J Home passed away in 1951 and “Nanna” Home lived on in the old homestead for several years. But the 1950s and 60s were years of change and there was widespread talk of major industrial growth in the Western Port region.
In 1969, after thirty years of ownership, the Home family sold Kinfauns to BHP for $1.5 million.
Kinfauns in 1957
BP had built a refinery at Crib Point, Esso followed with a gas fractionation plant at Long Island, and BHP took out options on land at French Island and Bittern.
Then, in an overnight swoop on the paddocks and orchards north of Hastings, 2,000 acres were snapped up. Even the Council was surprised when BHP announced that, with partners John Lysaghts and GKN, it planned to build an integrated steelworks there.
The Victorian Government fully supported these developments and things were moving fast. The Westernport Regional Planning Authority was set up and large areas of coastal land were zoned for “port related industry”.
Conservation groups became active. Public outcry increased and was largely responsible for the shelving of several industrial proposals, one of which would have seen Ampol build a large oil refinery on Kinfauns, served by a pipeline and causeway from Sandstone island.
The industrial land of Western Port 1972
It took a decade for BHP to decide that their Bittern land was really superfluous. They finally released Kinfauns in 1986 and it then passed through a number of hands – all with grandiose plans for development, none of which met the requirements of “port related usage”.
It was first purchased by the controversial Dr Ian McGoldrick and a group of business men including local hotelier Les Martyn, for $4.7 million. Within 12 months it had passed to Transmission Courier Services who mortgaged it for over $11 million.
Richardson and Johnson
Finally, in 1988, Kinfauns was bought for $2.7 million by the Heritage Cove Consortium, a group of Frankston based companies headed by Ian Richardson and Roger Johnson.
Although the land could be sold in 17 industrial lots, the new owners had other ideas: an international golf course resort with condominiums, a retirement village, and 127 rural residential allotments – something that Japanese investors might be interested in.
This would, however, require a major zoning change and in May 1989 the Ministry for Planning and Environment held a two-day independent hearing. It agreed that a golf course would provide a satisfactory buffer between the townships of Hastings and Bittern.
When Hastings Council backed the plan, conservation groups became alarmed. They wanted to see all of Kinfauns become a large-scale public park. Local environmentalist Brian Cumming accused Council of being deceitful and being “in a close twinkle toes embrace with the developers.” Council prepared a libel suit against him and he promptly apologised.
Aerial view of the Kinfauns Estate 2003
Cumming continued to be outspoken, however, predicting there would be “screams of anguish from residents when the bulldozers destroy this area of woodland.” Some councillors tried to fiddle with density zonings and public land requirements which merely served to prolong the process and was seen as delaying tactics by the developers.
1989 was almost over when the Minister approved Heritage Cove. It had taken just over a year and the developers were way behind schedule. Japanese interest had failed to materialise and the sale of a few neighbouring blocks was not enough to stem the tide, which was rapidly going out. The accrued debt blew out to a reported $7 million and ESANDA slammed shut the door and resumed title.
Donald Charles Hodgins
There followed a long delay and ESANDA held an unsuccessful auction. Finally, in May 1994, Don and Hilde Hodgins bought the land for just under $2 million.
Don was already a successful orchardist, contractor and land developer in the district and a significant contributor to the community. He was a fourth generation resident of Hastings which, at that time, had a high percentage of public housing and was held in low esteem by many outsiders. When Don purchased the site, he made a commitment to “balance the social scales” and he aimed at a higher socioeconomic market.
Geoff Nicol, a former Shire planning officer, was employed as project manager and negotiations were begun with a Council liaison committee and various community groups. A very thoughtful and imaginative design evolved.
The Kinfauns Estate comprised 172 allotments over an area of around 200 hectares. There were some ten-acre blocks but most were about two, irregular in shape, and set around a meandering road pattern with Sandstone Island Circle as the main roadway access.
Very little remained of the old homestead which, over the years, had been unoccupied and progressively looted. An old oak and conifer still stood, the latter being used as a promotional Christmas tree for a while. Both have since gone, replaced by 150,000 indigenous plants. The old tea rooms on the main road served as the headquarters of the development and later became the information centre for the Park. It has since been demolished.
(l to r) Hilde Hodgins, Charlotte Stacey, friend and Don Hodgins at Kinfauns
Although the Kinfauns Estate met all environmental constraints and had considerable green space, it continued to face public opposition – as had the earlier proposals. There were still people who felt it should remain farmland, or a public park.
The normal public open space contribution of five percent was far exceeded. The developers gave over 100 acres between the railway line and the Bay, and another 132 acres inside Kinfauns – all of which contained significant vegetation. To ensure that those areas were maintained and properly managed, they volunteered a percentage of the sale price received from each lot. Five years later at the close of sales, this totalled almost $1 million which funded a committee of management, later to be called “Friends of the Park”.
In Kinfauns, Don Hodgins sought to create an estate which had character and at the same time respected the environment surrounding it. His success in achieving that vision is not only a credit to one man’s determination but also a fitting final chapter in the story of those who had gone before.