When a home really is a castle

Dr Leslie James Norton has restored Overnewton Castle.

By Tate Papworth

Meet the king of the castle.

Keilor’s much-loved Overnewton Castle turns 170 this year and one man can be credited with helping to keep it standing.

Dr Leslie Norton bought Overnewton Castle with his wife and young family in 1975, however the castle was in much different condition back then.

“When we first came here it was nearly falling down,” he said.

“We sort of fixed up the roof and dried the house out. We moved into one room, then that became two rooms and so on as we kept going. It took nearly 25 years to get it to where it’s at today.”

The castle was built by the iconic Scotsman William Taylor, who purchased the land in 1849.

He initially built a simple single storey bluestone colonial-style homestead with six rooms with large shuttered windows and wide verandahs.

However a trip to Scotland in 1859 left Taylor with grand plans.

Overnewton Castle in 1887

“When Mr Taylor went to Scotland for a holiday, Queen Victoria had just built Balmoral Castle, so everyone had to have a Scottish baronial house like that here,” Dr Norton said. “That’s why he came back with the plans for this.”

The Scottish baronial style is visible throughout the house with rough textured masonry, steep pitched roofs and overhanging battlement corner turrets.

Taylor’s influence is also still visible to this day – the Taylor family crest – a mailed arm and fist enclosing a dagger and the motto “Semper Fidelis” (always faithful) – proudly adorns the space above the window in the master bedroom.

Several other windows have Taylor’s initials carved above them.

Once complete, the once simple homestead consisted of more than 35 rooms, including seven bedrooms, a schoolroom, library, drawing room, two kitchens, five servants rooms and a billiards room.

Many original features are still present throughout the castle, such as tiles in the bathrooms, a claw-foot bath and an old wood stove in the kitchen.

A bluestone butchery and dairy, lamp room, bootroom, coachhouse, stables, woolshed, shearing sheds and machine shed also still stand as outbuildings on the estate.

William Taylor died in 1903 aged 85, and six months later his wife Helen aged 71 passed away.

Their eldest son William Henry continued to manage the estate until he died in 1939 aged 81 and his wife Beatrice in 1948.

The estate remained in the Taylor family until 1959.

The Carr family bought Overnewton in 1959 and raised their three children on the property, using part of it as a family home and the downstairs rooms were used as a wedding reception centre.

They retained the estate until Dr Norton took over ownership in 1975.

“My wife was a GP so she wanted to see patients at home so she could look after the kids at the same time,” Dr Norton said.

“This was big enough for a general practice and big enough for us to have our kids here. It’s got a nice, warm atmosphere about it and was a great place to raise five children.”

Dr Norton said living in such a high profile place has had a number of highlights over the years.

“We’ve had quite a few films made here, which has always been exciting to see the hundreds of people that come along to help make the film up,” he said.

“We also had a fire in 1978 that hit the shed at the back of the house, but it didn’t get to the house.

“Also around that time we had a big flood and the place was nearly cut off from Footscray.”

Dr Norton said he hopes the castle’s rich history is around for many years to come.