Historic Benedict House back on the market

KATE Shelton describes her decade-long love affair with Benedict House as "a privilege and an honour," but this week announced that the historic former convent is back on the market.

Ms Shelton and her husband Paul Maloney first moved into the property in early 2003 and set about revitalising the building, renovating it and opening a cafe/restaurant as well as making it a local arts and community hub.

However she told The Queanbeyan Age that her era as custodian of the building is coming to an end, with the couple set to sell up and move to Melbourne to be closer to family.

"I always regarded it as a privilege and an honour to own a building such as this, and I was also very aware of its history and its uses in the past, so I was vigilant in my care for it I believe," Ms Shelton said.

"It's shaped my life in the people I've got to know, and the people who have come into my life through the building is a humbling experience."

Ms Shelton and her husband were originally looking for a typical, residential block of land in Queanbeyan when they came across Benedict House in December 2002. It was a case of 'love at first sight,' although in the early days they didn't know what to do with all the space. Ms Shelton said her first concern was to keep it as a public building.

"I was happy to use it as a public building, so that people who were connected with the building could revisit it. I felt that was part of being the custodian, and I felt good to be able to do that."

Prior to Ms Shelton's era at Benedict House, the building had a string of private owners, including former Prime Minister Paul Keating, who envisioned it as a conservatorium of music. It was originally built in the 1880s as a convent and boarding school, administered by the Good Samaritan order who opened it as a 'Higher School for Young Ladies'.

Former Prime Minister Ben Chifley is also connected with the property: his mother, a young Irish immigrant finding her feet in Australia, named him 'Benedict' after the house where she found refuge.

The house, which features 13-foot ceilings on both levels as well as renovated bathrooms and kitchen and beautiful grounds, is sure to attract interest from prospective buyers over the coming months.

However Ms Shelton said it would still be some months before she's off to Melbourne, allowing customers and friends of the family time to say farewell.

"I'll say goodbye slowly over the next few months, because it will take that much time for the sale and moving."

However she said she's looking forward to a new life in Melbourne with her husband, albeit a quieter one.

"I don't have any fear of restarting something smaller, in fact, it's exciting for me. I believe when you start to repeat yourself in what you do, it's time.

"I'll follow my creative pursuits, and I'll do it in a smaller way. I'm exploring spaces and places in Melbourne at the moment. I'm just sort of feeling my way," she said.

"But I'm of the age where I need to slow down my pace and spend time with family, and I'll do it all slowly.

"When I do close the door, I'll have great sadness. But that's how life evolves. You have to move on."

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