History and images of an historic Hunter Valley homestead

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The history of Skellatar house - the end of the Bowman Era

Let's return now to the twin brothers for whom the house was built, Andrew and Edward Bowman.

Andrew Bowman's first wife died in childbirth in 1878, the second year of their marriage. He remarried in 1883, the year that Skellatar House was built, and it's unclear whether he ever lived at the new house. In any event, Andrew and Edward now divided their share of the estate between them. Andrew took the eastern portion, which he called Gyarran. He built a homestead there in 1900, and it is still standing, near the New England Highway on the top of Black Hill in Muswellbrook. Edward Bowman retained what had been the central portion of the original estate and the Blacket-designed homestead. In 1890, at the age of 50, he married Irene May Purchase, and their family comprised three daughters and a son.
They are pictured above with one of their daughters, Winifred.

Edward was an alderman at Muswellbrook for twenty-two years, and he served six terms as mayor between 1875 and 1901. In 1906 he was elected the first president of the Council of the Shire of Wybong. This official-looking portrait is from the collection of the Muswellbrook Shire Local and Family History Society.

He was a magistrate, a councillor of St. Andrew's College at the University of Sydney, honorary secretary of the Upper Hunter Amateur Race Club, and a First Lieutenant in the Muswellbrook Corps of the New South Wales Volunteer Infantry. Bowman Park on Skellatar Street, Muswellbrook, was established on land that Edward Bowman gave to the people of Muswellbrook. When he died in 1926, Skellatar was inherited by his only son, Edward Hunter Bowman.

Edward Hunter Bowman was born in 1895 at Skellatar. After his father died he established a dairy on the property, and continued grazing the existing cattle and sheep. In the early 1930's he went to England and bought his first racehorse, a stallion named Archcullen. Hunter Bowman went on to become a prominent personality in the world of horse racing. He owned, or part-owned, a number of successful horses, including Allunga, Flying Knight, Cherry Bar and Hesdin. He established a racecourse on the estate, and this later became the Skellatar Park Racecourse. He served as president of the Upper Hunter Amateur Race Club, the Muswellbrook Jockey Club and the Polo Club. The ballroom wing of Skellatar House was constructed for Hunter Bowman in the 1930's, so he must have been a gregarious sort of fellow who enjoyed entertaining. He married Jean McLellan Trotter in 1921, but they had no children. Hunter Bowman died in 1952, and the Skellatar estate was subdivided and sold.

So now we come to the Education Era in the history of Skellatar House, from 1953 to 1997.

Click here to read about the Education Era in the history of Skellatar House

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