New chapter for Benedict House

QUEANBEYAN'S Benedict House has itself new custodians in Jessica and Rory Markham who are set to take over the business from long-time owner Kate Shelton.

It was only in January that Ms Shelton and her husband Paul Maloney decided to put the historic building on the market.

They have sold the business, the Refectory Cafe, to the Markhams and the building will be leased to the new owners for the short term. The official changing of hands will happen on May 20 but until then Ms Shelton will be imparting her wisdom and experience on the new owners.

"[Jessica and Rory] have lots of ideas and they want it to remain open to the public and very much a community centre. I'm sure they will make a great success of it and take it a step further than what I've done," Ms Shelton said.

"I hope they do well so I'm teaching them everything I know. Lots of little tips and tricks. They can take what they like from that. I'm happy what I've created is going to be continued.

"I would've been sad if this building had been turned into a warehouse or something like that or even private apartments of which there was talk. I'm pleased it's going to continue to be opened to the public and in a simple way."

Mrs Markham, 28, said it was love at first sight. She said the main attraction was the beauty of the building.

"My husband scours real estate as a matter of curiosity and he said 'we've got to see this house in Queanbeyan' and I thought, 'oh, here we go again'. We came out and had a look and just fell in love with it," she said.

"We thought 'we would love to live here' but it seemed like a dream. However, it seems to have all fallen into place. The combination of old and new really appeals to me."

Mrs Markham, currently works in admin and her husband is a lawyer but she believes they're ready to take on the challenge of running Benedict House.

"I love to entertain and cook for a crowd. Growing up my family had a tradition of sharing food and hospitality and coming together around the table," she said.

"Coming from Texas to Australia I lost a bit of that connection so I'm looking forward to having that again - the community and friendships based around food."

While the Markhams will make the move into Benedict House, Ms Shelton will be shifting down to Melbourne.

She already has several creative projects in the pipeline including recreating and taking the 'Benedict House' experience online and menu consultation for an Italian restaurant.

"I've rented a studio in beautiful convent called Abbotsford Convent. There are 113 other artists and designers in the convent ... it's quite large arts complex so I will paint from there and take the beads with me," she said.

Ms Shelton said it's been a privilege to have written just one chapter in the story of Benedict House.

"I'm going to miss it. It's a beautiful residence, it's a very peaceful place and has great dignity. Of course downstairs has been my life and I've formed friendships and created my business in a way that has given me great joy," she said.

"I've met so many interesting people and worked with lots of different staff and I know deep in my veins I will feel very sad when I have gone.

"I feel very blessed that I've been given this opportunity to be the custodian of Benedict House for this time and be part of the community."

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