Historical information

Norval Guest-House Aginda and Wettenhall The original Norval The story of Norval begins in 1917 when it was built as a private residence for Mr and Mrs William Thompson. Mrs Thompson was a pioneer of the tourist business, having come from Ballarat to Hall's Gap in 1909 to manage Bellfield Guest-house According to Ida Stanton, in her history of Hall's Gap entitled "Bridging the Gap", Mr Thompson and his wife acquired the six roomed shearers quarters at "Hankelow", on land leased by the Wettenhall family, on the south side of Bellfield. Mr Thompson, she says, completely dismantled the quarters, carefully marking each board, then hired George McKeon to cart the material up to where the original Norval house stood. With great care, the rooms were rebuilt into a home for William and his wife Mathilda. Catherine Good, the daughter of Viola (nee Wettenhall) and niece of Dr Roland, in here "Recollections" entitled "Look to the Mountains - Viola's View 1887-1979", mentions Hankelow. Speaking of her days at Glen Holford, the Wettenhall home at Pomonal, Viola says "Verona and Francie Dennis, my cousins, and I went for one very exciting trip. Father (i.e Dr Roland's father) had bought 300 acres in the Gap to take sheep from Carr's Plains in time of drought, and had a little cottage there with one of the Glen Holford men and his wife in charge. It was called Hankelow. So we three set off over the Range from Glen Holford on foot and leading a pack horse with our night attire and no doubt sponge bags. "We stayed the night at Hankelow with Jim and Minnie. Minnie had been a housemaid at Glen Holford. I was very fond of her. It makes one laugh to think of the excitement of "roughing it"! Minnie gave us a lovely dinner with meringues, and cream, I remember, then early morning tea. After breakfast we were driven in the buggy to the foot of the Goat Rock (since renamed Mt Rosea) and off we went - walking in our long skirts and ankle boots. There was no track of any kind, nor blazed trail - we just made for the top. It was rather frightening at times because we couldn't see where the top was an it always seemed to get further and further away. The last mile was so terribly steep, with a lot of lose shale where you went up twelve inches and slipped back six. Now you motor to about a couple of miles from the top and then have a graded path. Anyway, we got there and back safely and were rewarded with a magnificent view" By a strange coincidence, Hankelow, the source of Norval Guest-house in times past (if the name can be applied to the property as a whole, which seems likely) is in fact also the source of our Wettenhall Campsite! Hankelow was named after a property owned by the Wettenhall family in England. In 1917 William and Mathilda retired to their newly built home (Norval) "to escape from the tourist business" However, so many people made requests to stay with them that they found it necessary to add several more rooms and sleepouts to their home. In this way, early in 1921, the guest-house began to take shape. Mr Thompson, a former librarian of the Mechanics Institute in Ballarat, named the house "Norval". The name "Norval" comes from a quotation from the play 'Douglas" by John Home. Written in the mid-16th century the play is set in the Grampian Mountains of Scotland. The story is of a boy who was parted from this mother during his early childhood, and was given to a shepherd who raised him. Some eighteen years later the mother by chance happens to meet here son, and not knowing his true identity, asks his name. He answers, "My name is Norval; and in the Grampian hills my father feeds his flocks." Perhaps it was simply because "Norval" was associated with the "Grampians" that it was chosen by Mr Thompson. He may also have been conscious of feeding "flocks" of tourists in his expanding, guest-house. Norval Guest-house prospered. It was known for its fine cooking and friendly atmosphere - a tradition which has carried through to the modern Norval! It closed between 1940 and 1949 because of the second world war. In 1949 it was decided to almost completely rebuild the house. Most of the old building (Hankelow plus) was demolished and rebuilt to a much larger and more modern plan. And then, on May 1, 1965, it was purchased by the Committee of Management of the Methodist and Presbyterian Conference Centres. At this time the guest-house was owned and operated by Marjorie and Lachland McLennan, Mrs McLennan being the daughter of William and Mathilda Thompson, the pioneers of the establishment. The McLennans had operated the Guest-house since about 1930.

Physical description

Photocopy 2 pages of article from book titled 'In the Making' title of article Norval guest House the original Norval