Discover one of Montville’s oldest gardens
The story of the Muirheads
To trace the history of Lovestone Cottages is to retrace the steps of a humble Scottish timber worker, Hamilton Muirhead. Along with his wife and five children, Hamilton made an epic journey across the vast seas to the wild bush of Australia more than 130 years ago.
Born in 1848 Hamilton, Muirhead grew up in the industrial town of Cross Hill in County Ayrshire. His daughter, Annie, was born in 1879 at Meadow Main, Ayrshire which in the 1870s-80s was part of the Bargany Estate that included Meadow Main, the Lovestone Plantation, and a colliery.
Arboricultural planting of trees was carried out to a considerable extent in Old Dailly on the Bargany Estate of the landowner Henrietta Dalrymple Hamilton Duchesse de Coigny, including the Lovestone Plantation, which had 666 acres of trees planted during the 1830s-1860s. It is likely that Muirhead learned the timber trade locally in Scotland, the nearby Bargany Estate, with its extensive timber plantations and timber mill at its colliery.
By the time he was 34, the impact of unemployment and economic depression was taking its toll and emigration to the far “lands of opportunity” in Australia and New Zealand presented itself as a practical solution to a worsening situation.
In 1882, Hamilton and Mary Muirhead arrived in Australia. We can only imagine the shocking contrast between their homeland and this new hot and humid one. Showing the resilience of a true pioneer, Hamilton made his way to the forests of south-east Queensland where his experience as a timberman would lay the foundations of his path ahead. Surely, Hamilton was lured by the abundance of Hoop Pine, Bunya Pine, and Queensland Kauri Pine of the area and highly regarded for milling
After a short time living in Maroochydore and working at Pettigrew’s Mill, Hamilton purchased 80 acres of forest in an area known as Razorback. Today, we know this area as Montville but the original name references the steep ridge on which the town sits.
Today’s Montville is a buzz of activity with a thriving community but things were different when the Muirheads first arrived. There were only a handful of dwellings throughout the Montville and Maleny district and the land was dense rainforest and scrub. The family moved their household goods by bullock team to the foot of the range before packhorses carried it the rest of the way, with the family on foot behind. A far cry from the ease of the express trains or multi-lane highways we use today. The family toiled on their new land, clearing the bush and capitalising on the rich, volcanic soil to grow strawberries, cavendish bananas and gooseberries.
We can only imagine the vast tracts of ancient bunya and hoop pine forests which once stood on the Muirhead’s land, their origins going back millions of years. Long before Muirhead cut his way through the bush, the Gubbi Gubbi people harvested bunya pines for the prized bunya nut.
By the 1900s Montville was established as a popular mountain resort, and Muirhead and his family were among a small but growing number of families who claimed it as their home.
The family spent a short time in Brisbane before returning to Montville in 1906 to purchase a new property and the site where Lovestone® Cottages is found today. On 82 acres of land on the southern side of Western Avenue Hamilton and Mary raised their six children, expanded their orchard and played a vital role in the establishment of a town.
The cool lush hinterland of the Montville is ideal for fruit growing. We can only assume that Hamilton found a great sense of gratitude and reverence for his antipodean home in the bush. His lifestyle fostered in him a great sense of custodianship of the land. Evidence of this is found in the tracts of rainforest which still stand today on the property below the escarpment.
In his obituary, Hamilton is described as a man “who did not know what illness was until a short time before his death.” Perhaps Hamilton’s exceptional robustness can be attributed to a deeply nourishing and satisfying life spent amongst the rainforest.
Lovestone® – Later Years
Over the years, Lovestone® Cottages has passed through the hands of a small handful of custodians. Each new inhabitant has fallen in love with the property and added their touch. The legacy of all those who have resided here is seen in the many layers of paint on the walls of the main house and the many layers of plantings in the garden. In 1914 the property was named Raleigh Orchard.
In 1992 the first two cottages were built to welcome guests. These were named Forest Glen and Green Acre. In 2003 a third cottage was added and named Avocado with the original two being renamed to Lake and Fern. Known for many years as Montville Grove, the property changed to Lovestone® Cottages in 2020 to reconnect with the wonderful story of Hamilton Muirhead and his family, and in keeping with this connection the cottages have been renamed to the significant rainforest species on the property.
Today, the atmosphere at Lovestone® Cottages is much the same as it would have been when the Muirheads lived here. We can imagine his children exploring the bush, the old trees being used to construct the town’s landmark buildings and an intense focus on growing food.
The gardens of Lovestone® Cottages
Take a wander through the gardens of Lovestone® Cottages and you will discover the subtle tones and hues of the native rainforest, dense growth and abundant orchards. Look a little closer and you may see remnants of the past like old fence posts, odd pieces of machinery, a brass sundial and the beautiful stained glass on the homestead’s front door. As the garden undergoes its rejuvenation, we uncover many interesting objects and remnants left behind from gardeners past. Look beyond the gardens and you will find yourself looking over a 30-metre escarpment and into the heart of the rainforest.
The rich, red volcanic soil of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland provides a fertile growing environment. The first to create an orchard and garden here was a Scottish immigrant family by the name of the Muirheads. They cleared the forest to plant strawberries, cavendish bananas and gooseberries.
Over the years, new owners have arrived to add their own plantings and their own story. The result is a cumulative garden which represents more than a century of plantings.
The oldest planted trees on the property are avocado, banana, macadamia and mango trees. Each year, a bountiful harvest is produced from these trees alongside mulberries and citrus fruit. The abundant garden and surrounding native forest provide privacy for guests but also a home for resident mammals like northern brown bandicoots, short-eared possums, brush turkey families, yellow sugar gliders, and if you’re lucky you may hear a koala or two. Smaller residents include Richmond birdwing butterflies, the spectacular hawk moths, native bees and many other interesting species which quietly go about their daily lives. While the property’s many large tree species are easy to spot, take a closer look for the historical large staghorns, elkhorns, ancient tree ferns and the bird nest ferns which are iconic to the region.
Amongst all of this, prolific birdlife provides the splashes of colour amongst the foliage. From your deck you will see, and perhaps get a visit from, kookaburras, wompoo pigeons, parrots, bush turkeys and doves.
The mother of the forest
The heart of the garden is the 300-year-old White Fig tree. Visible from all the cottages, this magnificent tree is considered the Mother of the Forest and its presence is a tangible connection to the immense power of the natural environment. It is also a reminder of the fragility of nature and our duty to protect it.
Long before parts of the Montville landscape were cleared for fruit-growing, the old-growth rainforest was home to Araucaria species – the Hoop Pine, Bunya Pine, and Queensland Kauri Pine. The vast majority of this was cut down for timber in the late 1800s.
Before the clear-felling, these pines had been a part of the landscape for over 65 million years, a time before the Indo-Australian Plate had split off from Gondwana. In the Bunya Mountains, 120 kilometres west of Montville, old bunya pine trunks still bear the marks of footholds cut by Aborigines climb for bunya nut fruit.
Today, we see the lack of Bunya pines on the Lovestone property as a great oversight. Our plan is to bring these mighty trees back into our slice of forest in the hope that future generations may see these original species here once again.
Lovestone® House: a slice of Montville history
In 1906, Hamilton Muirhead built Lovestone® House on an enviable location on the crest of the famous Montville escarpment. With his wife and six children he created a vast orchard on the slope behind the house.
Lovestone Cottages wouldn’t be what it is today without the rich history of Muirhead Hamilton and his family. We feel much of his legacy still held within the house which was made from old-growth Hoop Pine. The timber was used in the original floors, ceiling and walls.
Of course, over the years there have been changes and extensions to the original homestead. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the house bathroom, toilet and laundry came into the house.
Set within the historic site are Lovestone’s three cottages – Maple, Rosewood and Quandong. Each one sits effortlessly within the forest and now, within the Lovestone history pages.
Hosts Tamara and Jonathan share a deep passion for the history of Montville and consider themselves custodians of one of its most important properties. As they work to renovate the cottages and repair and rejuvenate the land, they are also dedicated to delivering a memorable experience for every single guest.
When Tamara and Jonathan arrived at the property, then known as Montville Grove, they immediately set about removing weed species to encourage the natural regeneration of native tree species. They are advocates of the Land for Wildlife Program and enjoy working in the natural rainforest and have plans to create walking tracks for guests to enjoy.
Rich in heritage and sweeping views, Montville has much to offer as a holiday destination. From sublime coastline vistas to stunning rainforest walks, Montville is an idyllic getaway. A charming main street offers art galleries, a thriving restaurant and café scene, and the award-winning Flame Hill Vineyard is just down the road.
At our doorstep is the vast Kondalilla National Park offering bush walks and natural rock pools for a refreshing rainforest swim. The Blackall Range Hinterland drive is one of the most scenic drives the Sunshine Coast has to offer.
Find out more about things to do in Montville here.
Looking for Montville Grove?
You’ve come to the right place. We have recently changed our name to Lovestone Cottages to reflect the rich history of one of Montville’s oldest properties.
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