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The end of an era for the Chewton Bushlands

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Brian Parsons (1933-2014) Entrepreneur, Businessman, Real Estate Developer, Bon Vivant, Visionary.

The death of Brian Parsons in January of this year marked the ending of a chapter in the history of the Chewton Bushlands.

When referring to the Chewton Bushlands I mean that subdivision developed by Brian Parsons in the early 1970’s, and not the wider area that has lately adopted this title.

The development of this plot of land would never have happened if it hadn’t been for Brian Parsons. The 40 or so people, who live up here, and their predecessors, would never have come. They would have had to look elsewhere for that illusive bush block. Our presence here is a tribute to the vision of Brian Parsons.

It was realized long before Brian’s time that there was no gold to be had in these hills, and grazing was out of the question. The only thing of any use was wood, so that was harvested relentlessly. The place may have been hacked at, but it was never dug up as happened elsewhere, despite the road names.


Why did he buy it from Jan Cern (a Quarry master in Chewton) when he did? He liked owning all that land but it immediately became obvious to him that it wouldn’t be much use for farming so the idea of a subdivision took hold. In the 1960’s progress was equated with the subdivision of suburban land everywhere, even in Castlemaine, and Brian wanted to be part of that trend.
According to Bill Cassidy of Cassidy’s Real Estate who handled sales, his plan for the Bushlands became the ‘talk of the town’. It was a project that required the employment of many people, excavators, tree cutters, fencers, masons, labourers of all kinds, and even an engineer, most of whom were local.

It must have taken serious determination and initiative to undertake such a massive project of developing and subdividing this rugged bit of countryside.
It is still a rough bit of land but compared to what it was in January of 1967 when Brian bought it, it is relatively benign. There were no roads for a start. From the east Commissioners Gully Road nudged in partway and then came to a stop, as did Kennedy’s Road in the north and Sparks Road in the south. Brian and his excavators dug their way through the middle, composing the picturesque names of Miners Hut, Dishpan Gully, Goldspeck Gully and Old Settlers, as they went along. To help him figure out where those roads should go he hired a small plane from Bendigo and flying over he took pictures of the hills and gullies and decided then where they would work the most effectively. The Council and/or Vic Roads had nothing to do with it!


This was not a subdivision such as we see today in places like Campbells Creek. The size of the lots ranged from 5 to 8 acres and because of the nature of the terrain they had to be carefully sited. Brian asked the artist Laurie Turner to help him in making the decisions regarding Lot borders, house sites, dams and driveways. A load of rocks was also delivered to those who requested them. Even now these Lots are not conducive to the planting of a ‘cottage garden’. Some made attempts along those lines, but most owners quickly realized that it’s wisest to simply nurture the natural beauty that surrounds them.

It took over eight years for it to finally became a reality. There are many hair-raising stories to be had about how this was accomplished but eventually on November 8, 1974, the subdivision that comprised of individual titles for the 42 Lots was given legal status by the Metcalfe Shire.

Not satisfied with the idea of selling empty lots, and also in an attempt to attract buyers from Melbourne, Brian decided to build stone houses on nine of the lots. He devised a template for these and trained up local workers to build them. All nine of them still stand today and as you can see from this early picture of one of them, they are very sturdy structures indeed.

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An advertisement was placed in the The Age newspaper and slowly but surely the buyers did come and by the end of the 70’s most of the blocks had been sold. However it was not until the early 80’s that things really started to take off and more homes were built. A few of these are muddies, a few more are stone, and the rest are a bit of a mix. None would pass Council specifications if they were attempted today!

One year ago Brian came back to Chewton from Wagga Wagga where he’d been living for the last 30 years, and he and his son Michael drove through the Bushlands for the last time. He was impressed with the roads and the environment, at how much the trees have grown, and how many more houses there are now to be found. What most delighted him however was how little it has actually changed. It is still the bush, and the people who live here still do so in a simple fashion, off the grid, self sufficient in power and water, and deeply grateful to have had the opportunity to live so peaceably within the natural environment. None of this would have been possible if it hadn’t been for Brian Parsons. Therefore we thank him in absentia most heartily.

On his honeymoon with Sandy, immediately prior to leaving Castlemaine.

— Cate Freeman

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