JUST TWO GENERATIONS of the Leviny family occupied Buda for a period of 118 years, from 1863 to 1981. Ernest Leviny purchased the property in Hunter street Castlemaine with one acre of land, then known as Delhi Villa, from Baptist missionary Rev. James Smith who, with his wife, had chosen the Mt Alexander Goldfields for retirement from the hardships of mission service in India.
Ernest Leviny (1818-1905)
View this fascinating documentary on Ernest Leviny, researched by Lauretta Zilles curator of Buda Historic Home & Garden and produced by Ben Harding of Media Magnet. Spoken by John Flaus
Ernest Leviny was born at Georgenberg, Hungary, in 1818 and trained as a silversmith and jeweller in Budapest. He lived and worked in Paris from 1843 to 1846, then moved to London, where he operated a manufacturing jewellers and goldsmith business between 1846 and 1852. The goldrush in Australia during the 1850s attracted Leviny to travel to the Victorian goldfields to try his luck. Arriving at Port Phillip, Melbourne, early in 1853, he went directly to the rich alluvial goldfields of Forest Creek, and the bustling new township of Castlemaine. There, he established a successful watchmaking and jewellery business in the Market Square. By 1863 he was able to retire from business and purchase Delhi Villa. In 1864 he married Bertha Hudson, bringing her to Castlemaine to settle at Delhi Villa.
Bertha was born in Greenwich, England, and travelled to Australia with her family in early 1850, settling first in Melbourne and then moving to Launceston, Tasmania. Ernest and Bertha were married in December 1864 in Launceston, and moved directly to Delhi Villa after their wedding.
The Leviny Children
Ernest and Bertha had ten children between 1865 and 1883: four sons: Louis, Alfred, Ernest and Francis, and six daughters: Mary, Ilma, Beatrice (Kate), Gertrude, Bertha (Dorothy) and Hilda. Of their four sons, two died under the age of five years. The eldest son, Louis, served in the Boer War and lived in South Africa. Their other surviving son, Ernest Junior, worked as a surveyor in Western Australia on such projects as the Kalgoorlie pipeline and early railway works. He married and lived in Melbourne, returning to Buda to live after the death of his wife in the 1930s. Only one of the six daughters married. Ilma married Dr Jim Thompson, and they lived in Castlemaine, not far from Buda. Ilma had five daughters, who spent much of their time at Buda with their aunts.
A Creative Family
The five unmarried daughters lived most of their lives at Buda. Each of the daughters was creative in some form of art or craft. Mary, the eldest, had much to do in helping to run the household, and was a major contributor to making everyone's clothes, embroidering, smocking and decorating. Hilda specialised in embroidery, Gertrude in woodcarving, Kate in photography, and Dorothy in metal and enamel work. Examples of their work are to be seen throughout the house and garden. A fascinating insight into Mary Leviny's life can be gleaned from her diaries Click here for a full transcript of Mary Leviny's diary 1890 -1896
Goldfields Stories: The Leviny Sisters documentary and research information The important documentary below forms part of a comprehensive story of the Leviny family on the Culture Victoria website, where there is further information, including photos and artwork taken from the book "Buda and the Leviny Family" by curator Lauretta Zilles.
Buda: The Story of the Leviny Family Castlemaine, 1863 -1981 Video by Sally Miller and Stephen Oakes for Culture Victoria
Transcript of the Culture Victoria documentary: The Leviny girls had a love of nature and beautiful things instilled in them by their parents. They were all taught needlework from an early age and encouraged in their artistic pursuits. A good education for young middle-class women in those days included the learning of languages, music, and drawing, amongst other things.These were desirable accomplishments for acceptance into certain circles of society. Ernest Leviny was a Hungarian silversmith and jeweller who came to Castlemaine in 1853 to mine for gold. Though his mining efforts did not directly yield him great wealth, his business in the central market square prospered, allowing him to invest in property and shares. His returns elevated him to a position of status as one of the wealthiest gentleman in Castlemaine by the time of his death in 1905.
BUDA HOUSE Buda was built in 1861 by a Baptist missionary, Reverend James Smith, who had retired with his family to Castlemaine from service in India. He originally named the house Delhi Villa, the design of which had been based on an Indian bungalow to suit Australian conditions. Ernest Leviny purchased the house in 1863 and it became the Leviny's family home when he married Bertha Hudson from Launceston, Tasmania in December of 1964. Two generations of the Leviny family were to reside at Buda for 118 years.The Levinys had 10 children, all born in the house between 1866 and 1883. Five of the daughters remained unmarried and spent most of their lives at Buda.
CHANGING ATTITUDES The Leviny daughters were raised during an era when many changes were occurring in society. This included a change in attitude towards women entering higher education. The gaining of professional qualifications opened up opportunities for women to join the workforce.The question of women's suffrage was on the political agenda, as well as the Federation of Australia, together with a growing spirit of nationalism and pride in being an Australian.
ARTS & CRAFTS MOVEMENT After their father died in 1905, the Leviny women launched into redecorating the house, removing much of the heavy Victorian-style drapes and fittings, replacing then with simpler, more modern fixtures and furnishings. In the late 1890s and early 1900s, the effects of the British Arts and Crafts movement picked up momentum in the teaching of decorative arts in Australia. All of the Leviny girls attended classes at the School of Mines in either Castlemaine or Bendigo. Both Mary, the eldest, and Dorothy were taught art by Arthur T. Woodward in Bendigo, who was a great proponent of the arts and crafts methods and philosophy. It was probably him who introduced them to "The Studio" magazine, which the Leviny women subscribed to and other books and periodicals relating to the movement. The arts and crafts movement was a major influence on the Leviny women's hand-crafted items, including needlework, wood carving, metal work, photography, and interior decorations, which were used to adorn their home.
GROWING INDEPENDENCE The Levinys were socially advantaged women of independent means due to their father's financial position. They were under no particular pressureto marry or earn a living, but Dorothy and Hilda did work for a living at various times. This independence gave them the freedom to pursue their creative interests and remain in the family home for the duration of their lives. End of Transcript
For more information on the Leviny family, the book Buda and the Leviny Family by curator Lauretta Zilles is available to purchase. Call (03) 5472 1032 for a copy to be posted or drop in to the Buda giftshop at 42 Hunter St Castlemaine.
Ernest and Bertha Leviny c1870
Buda after alterations with Ernest Leviny c1893
Ernest and Bertha Leviny and their six daughters
Bertha Leviny with five of her daughters and a grandson c1910