Mont De Lancey

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Mont De Lancey, a picturesque heritage homestead in the outer east of Melbourne, is one of the earliest depictions of pioneer life in the history of Australia.

The well tended gardens, augmented by a pure white gazebo, are an impressive frontage to the homestead. As the car swathes up the driveway, visitors are first enthralled by the idyllic valley setting, they will then discover the central house nestled in between velvet green hills. Through arched windows inside the church the vividly coloured landscape is visible, with sunlight channeling into the pulpit lending a languid, serene ambience. Weddings are often held here.

It is surprising to find that Mont De Lancey, in the 1850s, was actually one of the first properties to exist in the district. Over the years it has operated as both a dairy and a strawberry/raspberry plantation, employing field hands to harvest the rich produce. It is serviced by a series of outbuildings including a rustic kitchen where today one can imagine the life of the early hardworking Australian pioneers.

A small French community once settled in this part of the district and Mont De Lancey was built by an immi-grant called: Henry Sabire, he came from the Guernsey Islands, a small group of islands in the English channel with both a French and English influence. It was also a refuge for the French Huguenots; Protestants who were forced to flee France due to religious persecution in the seventeenth century. The is-lands have a restless history, due to their isolated position, which includes poverty, child labour and even German occupation during World War II. Henry Sabire settled at Mont De Lancey in 1867, building the house himself, and as he was an experienced stone mason created one of the few brick homesteads in that district at the time.

Nowadays Mont De Lancey affords the visitor an insightful glimpse into the lives of our early settlers, with rooms authentically recreated to represent how they would have appeared in the mid to late 1800s. The sit-ting room, bedrooms, and dining room (amongst others) are filled with period furniture and maintained as a museum, complete with mannequins acting out scenes from that era. Separate outbuildings include the co-lonial kitchen, inside a hut, and the blacksmith’s workshop, in a large shed. There is also a cafe, Les Chesselles, that serves traditional French cuisine including vol-au-vents, petit-fours, and a vast choice of cheeses, it is also where a high tea can be enjoyed with strawberries and cream. It runs from 9.30am to 4pm, Wednesdays to Sundays. A French style breakfast with accompanying wine can also be sampled be-tween 9.30am and 12.30pm on weekends.

Mont De Lancey runs a series of special events for tourists and the local community aswell as school pro-grams which allow student groups of up to 100 to experience and learn about pioneer life at the homestead; dressing up in historical costumes and participating in chores including butter churning and making lemon-ade.

By Danielle Carr

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