New owners for Benedict House

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IN what she billed as  the “Changing of the Guard at Benedict House,” retiring owner of the historic Queanbeyan former convent, Kate Shelton, yesterday introduced the young couple who will take over running the popular café and arts facility.

L. Kate Shelton, with new owners Rory and Jessica Markham
L. Kate Shelton, with new owners Rory and Jessica Markham

At a party to say thank you to her loyal customers, kitchen-hands,  gardeners, produce suppliers and friends of the house before she moves to Melbourne, Shelton said she would collaborate and work with the new “custodians” of the house, Jessica and Rory Markham,  until May 20.

Queanbeyan Mayor, Tim Overall, welcomed the Markhams to Queanbeyan and offered them any assistance needed in continuing to use the house for the local community..

In a nice twist, Shelton, an artist herself, will soon set up an  artist’s studio in the well-known Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne, along with 113 other artists, designers and writers. She will also be a guest ‘cook and consultant’ at Manhattan Restaurant in Mornington.

Kate Shelton in front of Benedict House
Kate Shelton in front of Benedict House

“I need to reinvent myself,” she told those present, explaining that in July she would be setting up a new social website that would be “about community,” and that the move, which is in part aimed at living closer to her family would provide “new energy for me at my age,” although she also expressed what she called “a deep grieving for the life and people of Benedict House.”

Mrs Markham told those present that she came from Houston in Texas, where she had first met her husband, and that they had both fallen in love with the café. Later she told “CityNews” that she was keen to keep the house open for cultural activities and, with close friends in the Canberra musical community, the idea of concerts at the courtyard was very appealing.

As they anticipated the  move from a 1970s government design house in Belconnen to one of Queanbeyan’s most-loved heritage sites, Mr Markham spoke of the community spirit that they perceived in Queanbeyan – “it kills you. If you can’t connect with the community,” he said.

If the sentiments expressed by the well-wishers at Benedict House yesterday over anything to go by, there’s not much danger of that.

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Helen Musa
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