The Convent Gallery.
Catriona browses the Gallery.
Such beautiful pieces in the Gallery.
"A trip to Daylesford isn't just about health and relaxation. If you want something completely different, you have to see this!"
The twin towns of Daylesford and Hepburn Springs are in the beautiful hills, lakes and forests of Victoria's central highlands. The well-preserved buildings in the towns show how prosperous they were during the gold rush. The influence of the Swiss-Italians who worked the tunnel mines in the hills also remains.
Daylesford is the larger of the two and is set on Lake Daylesford, and both towns are about wellbeing, health and relaxation. They have a huge array of places to stay, but if you want something really different, Tina Banitska can provide it for you.
Her place, the Convent Gallery, has a history of 150 years. It was built as the Blarney Castle in the 1860s for the gold commissioner and his family. In 1880, the Catholic Church bought it and opened the Holy Cross Convent for Girls. The original chapel, which was built in 1904, is still a romantic wedding venue.
In 1973, the school closed, was bought by the Church of England whose plans to make it a retreat didn't happen, and the building fell into disrepair.
Tina Banitska bought the old convent in 1989, and after spending $1.3 million on it, opened it in 1991.
Set in 2½ hectares on Wombat Hill, overlooking Daylesford and with the botanical gardens as a backdrop, the Victorian gardens grow exotic plants, have trees more than 150 years old, and dry stone walls built by the nuns and the current gardener. The gardens and gallery draw 250,000 visitors a year, including nuns whose home it was. They have been helpful and generous to Tina, and are grateful for the restoration.
The Convent has seven fine-art galleries spread over three levels. The ground floor is a treasure trove of everything from antique jewellery to beautiful glassware. Jewellery is mostly silver in one-off pieces, and they specialise in unique designs and gemstones. They also have unusual costume jewellery. The second level is devoted to exhibitions of young local artists, and there are always reminders of the nuns.
Exhibitions are of paintings and sculptures, but glassware, ceramics, pottery, fine fabrics and furniture are also included and are changed every six weeks.
One large room was the girls' dormitory where their beds were lined up and the nuns kept vigil from tiny cells.
The old infirmary on the top floor is Tina's favourite room. It has been left the way it was, and is a constant reminder of how the nuns lived for many years.