Myrtle Villa Rediscovered

Myrtle Villa Polka

We’ve recently been working with Helen English Senior Lecturer at the University of Newcastle’s School of Creative Arts, who’s been researching the history of music making in the Newcastle of the 1870s.

She came across a piece of music written by Franz Becker around 1876 for a “Myrtle Villa” that sat somewhere on Newcastle’s Hill. Have a listen to a snippet of piece recorded by Helen at last October’s meeting of the Coal River Working Party: http://youtu.be/pzUfcRzSr1Y?t=24m28s The video should begin playing at the beginning of the discussion of Myrtle Villa.

We think we’ve located the site of Myrtle Villa on the Hill. Built by W. K. Lochhead Esq. in the mid 1800s(?) it sat of the corner of Bingle St. and Terrace Rd on the Hill, and an overlay on Google Earth with an old 1886 survey has shown it up. There have been addons to the property over the years, but the original footprint of the house still stands where it did.

Property of W.K. Lochhead at corner of Bingle Street and Terrace Road, 1886 overlay by Gionni Di Gravio (2014)
Property of W.K. Lochhead at corner of Bingle Street and Terrace Road, 1886 overlay by Gionni Di Gravio (2015)
Footprint of original home on the 1886 survey matches current layout, minus possible more recent extensions (Overlay by Gionni Di Gravio 2015)
Footprint of original home on the 1886 survey matches current layout, minus possible more recent extensions (Overlay by Gionni Di Gravio 2015)

At present the property is listed on the NSW Heritage Register (thanks Ann Hardy) as “Corlette’s Cottage” http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/…/ViewHeritageItemDetails… but we believe its original name was “Myrtle Villa”, and for some reason its original name has been lost until now.

Here is some info from the Newcastle Chronicle on the “Myrtle Villa Polka” from 1876:

— “We have received a very charming polka, bearing the above euphonious title, dedicated to our esteemed townsman W. K. Lochhead, Esq., and composed by the popular Maestro, Herr Franz Becker. Our fair readers will find the composition remarkably pleasing, being in an easy key, and without any of those sudden transitions which at times render polka music rather difficult of rendition. We heartily commend Myrtle Villa polka to the notice of our music-loving friends. Mater and Co. of Pitt-street, Sydney, are the publishers.” – (Newcastle Chronicle, 22 Jan 1876, 4)

Site of Myrtle Villa (a.k.a. Corlette's Cottage) today (Google Earth)
Site of the beautiful Myrtle Villa (a.k.a. Corlette’s Cottage) today (Google Earth)

It might be a wonderful thing if the house could once again hear the “Myrtle Villa Polka” created in its honour,  performed once again. Stay tuned.


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