Moira House

History of Moira House

Built in 1878 as the private residence of George and Annabella Sharpe.

George Sharpe was the elected Member of the Legislative Assembly – MLA – from 1877 – 1880 for the County of Moira in the Victorian Parliament – hence the name. He was an Irishman from Drumkeen County Monaghan in Northern Ireland, and came to Australia in 1855.

George Sharpe was elected first President of Benalla Shire Council in 1869 until 1875. An astute businessman, he was a successful store-keeper and flour miller.  He built the Commercial Hotel, a two storied building first licensed in 1860. George Sharpe also showed a keen interest in farming, acquiring 1700 acres of land close to town in the parishes of Benalla and Kilfeera, also 17 acres of suburban Benalla.

In May 1864 he married Annabelle Switzer, an emigrant from Killaloe, County Clare in Ireland in 1863.

Moira House a large two-storey Classical brick house was built in 1878 as the private residence of George Sharpe and characterised by an impressive five-bay rendered facade with a superb cast iron lace across the main veranda façade. The front entrance is centrally located within this and is expressed on the veranda by a two-storey pedimented projection. The simple hipped slate roof is crowned by finials.

The house is a distinctive feature of Benalla and within this town is unusually large in size. It is prominently located beside the lake and surrounded by a fine picket fence. This is a typical Italianate style house, composed and well-constructed. The two-storey main facade has had few alterations.

Unfortunately, after just four years in residence George Sharpe died on November 11th 1882.  His widow Annabella remained at Moira House until her death in 1919 without leaving a will and without any known relations.  Her estate was sold up, realising 35,000 pounds.  In today’s terms it was a multimillion-dollar estate which was claimed fourteen years later by a cousin in Ireland.

The next owner of Moira House was Richard James Cooke for a purchase price of 1,500 pounds. Cooke was a butcher who died in 1924. His widow remained in residence until her death in 1928.

Moira House was then purchased by Father O’Reilly for the Roman Catholic Church for a price of 1,850 pounds, with the intention of setting up a boys’ college. This did not proceed, and the house was let as a private residence – most notably to Edward Cleary MLA – and later as apartments. It was put on the market and purchased by the Benalla Club in 1948 with M. J. Greening of Bridge St. as its nominee.

Since that time Moira House has been the proud home of the Benalla Club which encompassed the Moira Bowls Club established in 1956. As a result of this combination a club liquor license was granted also in 1956. An extension built at the rear of the building in 1969 houses the billiard room, bowls office and ladies’ toilets.  In 2011 a decision was made to amalgamate the two clubs under the name Moira Benalla Club.

In 2014 further renovations occurred extending the kitchen, construction of a large outdoor covered decking area and the installation of a disabled toilet.

Moira House is classified by the National Trust of Australia

Researched by John Hanlon                                                                   References: Benalla Moira Club Inc.

Updated by John Hanlon 2018                                                                                         Benalla Historical Society Inc.

Pam Herbert – Benalla Family History Group Inc.