Vicki and Peter Ulrich, owners of Fenwick House at Shaws Bay in Ballina.
Vicki and Peter Ulrich, owners of Fenwick House at Shaws Bay in Ballina. Cathy Adams

House full of mystique

FENWICK House at Ballina's Shaws Bay could easily be the setting for a fairytale.

With Italian marble tiles and fireplaces, an English mahogany staircase, ballroom, four metre-high ceilings, chandeliers and other extravagant details, the mansion still manages to impress, more than 120 years after it was built.

But not many people get to admire its beauty.

It has been owned by Peter and Vicki Ulrick for the past 17 years, and they have fallen in love with their heritage-listed home.

"We lived here for 10 years before we moved to Sydney; we raised our children here," she said.

"We haven't completely ruled out coming back one day."

Fenwick House was built by Captain Thomas Fenwick in about 1886 for £9000 - a small fortune back then. The English mahogany staircase alone is estimated to have cost about £900.

The architect was the captain's nephew, James, and all materials and labourers were brought to Australia for the work.

It's a majestic and mysterious old building, and one which has certainly kept Ballina residents talking over the years.

Like any old house, it has its fair share of ghost stories.

Apparently you can sometimes smell a woman's perfume wafting from room to room, while others have reported "shadows" flitting across the upstairs hallway.

"I don't believe any of it," Mrs Ulrick said.

"We've had this place for 17 years and we've never seen anything.

"But people like to talk."

Another rumour is that there was a tunnel from the basement of the house through to the other side of Missingham Bridge, which Captain Fenwick used to sneak supplies to the house.

This one could be true.

When The Northern Star visited, Mr Ulrick showed us a door at the back of the stairs, which opened to a small room.

He removed planks of wood from the floor to reveal a deep, dark hole.

"It used to be deeper, and they reckon this was the start of the tunnel. It'd be blocked by now, of course."

Local history enthusiast Boyd Trevithick is a descendant of Sarah Shaw, who was Captain Fenwick's second wife.

He has spent many hours researching Fenwick House, and says Captain Tom and Sarah lived there together until his death 1896.

"The estate eventually went bankrupt, and Fenwick House was transferred to William Cope in November 1919," he said.

Mr and Mrs Ulrick are offering the property for lease, but are open to ideas about the use of the building into the future.

For more information about leasing Fenwick House, call Troy Outerbridge from North Coast Commercial Real Estate on 0418 604 525 or Chris Harley on 0412 758 830.

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