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A new era for Billilla

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Image of Billilla with blue filter and Have Your Say logo

Reimagining Billilla

Share your ideas

  • Kids' ideas

    We'd also like to hear from the youngest members of our community. Download a template designed for children to draw the types of activities they would like to see at Billilla. Return details are included on the template or you can post the illustration as an idea above.

    Download the children's feedback sheet 

Memory wall


Step back in time

A short history of Billilla

A historical timeline of the Billilla Homestead and Gardens

Billilla Homestead located at 26 Halifax Street in Brighton has had an illustrious history. Primarily used as a residence up until the former Brighton City Council purchased the property in 1973, the building has been used for weddings, events and as an additional campus for two schools. The Gardens have remained open to the public and contain several heritage listed trees, a traditional parterre and a magnificent rose garden.

The information and photos on this page have been sourced with thanks from the Brighton Historical Society and Council's own historical records, including the Billilla collection. Click on the photos and the dates to discover more about the rich history of Billilla Homestead and Gardens.

1872 - newly elected MLA for Brighton, Thomas Bent purchases triangle of land bounded by Hampton, Halifax and Dendy Streets

1872 - 1878 - land is subdivided

1878 - Robert Wright, a successful miner from the Ballarat goldfields, purchases seven and half acres of land from Edwin Brownscombe

1878 - Robert Wright builds a substantial home of thirteen rooms in the mid-Victorian style. The front facade was symmetrical around a projecting rendered portico that was decorated with an Italianate parapet and urns. Flanking this portico, there was a delicate cast iron veranda with paired columns and a cast iron frieze. This verandah extended down each side of the house and on the west side the symmetry was broken by a three-storeyed tower. The tower, a most typical element of this styae of architecture, was also decorated in the Italianate tradition, with raised quoining to the corners, oculus windows at the second level and a bracketed eaves line surmounted by an Italianate balustrading and urns similar to the portico.

1879 - the construction cost of the house, combined with an economic slump, reduces Robert Wright to bankruptcy and he is forced to mortgage his house to the National Bank

Source: Brighton Historical Society

1884 - the bank forecloses on the estate and lets the house to tenants

1888 - one of the tenants, Henry Butler, purchases the house and on the same day, sells it to William Weatherly

1888 - William Weatherly names the house 'Billilla' and establishes a home for his wife Jeannie and their children Violet , Gladys and Lionel

1888 - prominent architects, Smith and Johnson, design renovations of the house, including a six stall stable building. This work does not appear to have affected the appearance of the front facade

1880s - the Weatherly children attend local schools St Andrews, Ruyton and Cumloden as day pupils

1891 - William Weatherly is appointed a director of BHP

1895 - William Weatherly purchases a large property called 'Woolongoon' near Mortlake, Victoria

1897 - William Weatherly purchases 'Colly Creek' at Willow Tree in New South Wales

1890s - Billilla remains the family home for Mrs Weatherly and the three children, despite William's purchase of additional properties

Source: Brighton Historical Society

1900 - William makes plans and alterations to Billilla in the Art Nouveau style which results in the house looking much as it is today

1902 - Lionel attends Trinity College at the University of Melbourne, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree

1906-7 - William makes further alterations to Billilla it is thought in preparation for his retirement

Source: Brighton Historical Society

Source: Brighton Historical Society

1914 - William Weatherly dies at age 74

1918 - a cyclone sweeps across Port Phillip Bay - stone finials on the parapets and towers of Billila crash down causing the porch parapet and celling to collapse

1918 - only one tree survives the destruction of the cyclone, and this, a Canary Island pine still stands in the south-west corner of the residence

1972 - Violet Weatherly dies after maintaining the house with a reduced staff since her mother's death in 1933

1973 - on 4 April, the former Brighton City Council buys Billilla on behalf of its citizens

1973 - on 5 June, auctioneers sell the antique furniture from the estate with the proceeds going to a Seniors Citizen's Centre

1989 - Billilla Committee of Management restores outbuildings which are opened by the Mayor of Brighton on 26 February

Source: Brighton Historical Society

1991 - on February 5, the Governor or Victoria, Dr Davis McCaughey officially opens a museum in the historic homestead Billilla

Later in the 1990s -2006 - Billilla iss leased for weddings and events and even open as a museum with guided tours during part of this period

For the past 15 years, the property has been leased to two schools, although the Gardens remain open to the public and Council stages several events in the Gardens each year

2021 - Council resolves not to renew the lease with the school tenant and decides to return the building to community use

Inside Billilla

Explore Billilla

Click on the flashing icons to see images and facts about the rooms in Billilla. Make sure to visit the 'History' page in the tab above to view a pictorial historical timeline of Billilla. View a list of the rooms here.

floorplan of Billilla


Got a question about Billilla or the consultation process? Have a read of the 'Frequently asked questions' below to see if your question has been answered. You can also search and review other people's questions and answers in the 'Ask a question' section. .

If you can't see the answer to your question, you can ask your own question in the 'Ask a question' section below.

Frequently asked questions

Billilla was purchased by the former City of Brighton in 1975 for $308,000 with funds from the Recreational Lands Act subdivisional fees at no direct cost to ratepayers. The property was rezoned for public purposes and the City of Brighton Council redeveloped it for use as an Art, Craft Cultural Centre.

For a time, the property was used for weddings and functions. However due to the heritage protections on the building, most of the rooms are not large enough to hold a decent-sized wedding and use for other events is limited.

Previous Councils have chosen to lease the building to schools. Both Xavier College and Yesodei Ha Torah College have occupied the building for the past 15 years.

Some of the outbuildings and stables are leased to local Bayside artists as part of the Billilla Artists Studio Program. This program is part of the Bayside Arts Strategic Plan 2018–2022 and offers free studio space for artists from across Victoria and Bayside. The program supports artists from diverse practices and across career stages. The vision of the Bayside Arts Strategic Plan 2018–2022 is for Bayside City Council to offer inspiring, creative, artistic and cultural experiences for its community and visitors to enjoy. The Billilla Artists Studio Program supports this strategic vision to: Deliver an innovative creative program and Support people to develop their creative pursuits.

The Gardens have always been open and available to the public. Council has hosted events such as jazz concerts in the grounds.

Council has recognised that this historic home is a precious community asset that should be shared and enjoyed more widely. With population growth and increasing housing density, we need to look for better ways to maximise use and enjoyment of Council’s assets to create positive outcomes for our local community.

Council is yet to make a decision on any major renovations to the building, dependent on community feedback and the outcomes of the Conservation Management Plan, although some essential work will be undertaken as necessary. The building is also heritage listed, so modifications will be limited to restoration works.

We hope to be able to offer tours of the Homestead in 2022. The building is currently tenanted by a school and the lease does not expire until March 2022.

Please view the video on this page for peak inside the rooms and what they used to look like over history.

The decision about the purpose and direction of Billilla will be a complex one. Council needs to consider the Social Needs Assessment, community feedback and the Conservation Management Plan. Council will also need to approve a budget for any restoration or maintenance that needs to be completed before the community can use the building.

It is expected that Council will consider the Community Engagement Report and the Conservation Management Plan at its April 2022 meeting. Please select the blue +Subscribe button at the top of this page to receive updates about this project.

Yes. The Gardens will continue to remain open to the public at all times. Depending on the required maintenance or agreed restoration works, safety fencing may need to be temporarily established, at times, for the safety of our workers and the community.

Any commercial activities would be determined based on business case/ market testing analysis and informed by community feedback received during this consultation. Future use should also ensure an appropriate balance between community access and commercial activity within the reactivated mansion.

An important consideration for Council when deciding on future use would be to look at any activity or use that negatively impacts on existing residential precincts around Billilla. Future development should also ensure sufficient car parking and amenities are in place.

Ask a question

We welcome your questions here. This space is not for the provision of feedback or to express your opinion. Please provide your feedback via the 'Share your ideas' or 'Memory wall' tabs.

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Giacomina Pradolin

Arts and Culture Program Coordinator

Newton Gatoff

Property Coordinator

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About this project

We're engaging with the Bayside community on how to maximise social benefit from the landmark Billilla building and grounds in the heart of Brighton.

The engagement process will gather feedback from community members and stakeholders on ideas and possible uses for both the building and gardens. This feedback, along with technical, research, and feasibility reports, will assist Council in bringing new life to the historic homestead and creating positive outcomes for our local community.

Consultation is open until 28 February 2022.

How would you like to experience and enjoy Billilla? We want to hear your stories, ideas and suggestions on how Billilla might be used in the future to maximise community benefit and support accessible, intergenerational use of the heritage building and grounds.

What can the community influence?

  • ways to maximise community use of Billilla for social benefit
  • ways to ensure Billilla offers appropriate and inclusive services that provide value and address local community needs
  • ways to ensure intergenerational and broad use of the site
  • ways to improve accessibility and inclusion
  • ways to improve and increase community involvement and enjoyment of the gardens
  • management model for the site, including how tenants and/or events should be managed
  • whether to have commercial/social enterprise/community/Council service provision occupants and the mix of occupants
  • allocation of restored/preserved spaces of the historic Homestead for tourism/education
  • whether to add additional, purpose built, architecturally designed space to allow for larger, accessible gatherings
  • ways to foster partnerships to support community connections and social engagement
  • volunteering opportunities.

What can’t the community influence?

  • changes to the layout of the building and any structural work
  • Billillla gardens to remain open to the public under any future use of the site
  • no sole/private occupation of the site that would prevent broad community access
  • selling the building.

This stakeholder assessment is a generalised understanding of sections of the community that have a connection to the project. This information is used to understand the types of tools and techniques that will achieve the strongest and most effective outcomes for engagement and communication.

Interest: What level of interest has been expressed or is anticipated

Impact: What level of change the stakeholder / community segment may experience as a result of the project / matter

Influence: Reference to the IAP2 Spectrum

Stakeholder / community




Residents close to Billilla




Brighton residents within walking distance




Wider Bayside community




Potential tenants/user groups




Artists in the Billilla Artists’ Studios




Community centres and Neighbourhood houses








Historical groups such as Brighton Historical Society, Bayside Historical Network and Friends of Black Rock House




Environmental groups




Older adult population




Young families




People living with disability




Heritage groups




Local schools




Young residents (< 25)




Indigenous residents / Traditional Land Owners




Council committees and reference groups (Arts, Disability Access and Inclusion Advisory Committee, Bayside Healthy Aging Reference Group)




The tools and techniques selected for this project are informed by the project content; stakeholders; type of feedback sought; and current COVID restrictions.

Key tools for communicating the project

  • community events and tours at Billilla (COVID restrictions permitting), including:
  • Bayside Chamber Orchestra in the Billilla Gardens 5/12/21
  • virtual interactive tours on Have Your Say engagement platform
  • information sessions and meetings
  • video and infographics
  • interactive hotspot map with information on different aspects of the property
  • direct email to Have Your Say subscribers and key stakeholder groups
  • letters/flyers to nearby residents
  • website news stories and This Week in Bayside e-newsletter
  • Let’s Talk Bayside magazine.
  • advertising, including prominent signage and social media

Key methods for gathering feedback

  • online engagement through Have Your Say, including opportunity to ask questions and submit ideas and stories
  • stakeholder tours: targeted tours for key community groups interested in tenancies and regular activities at Billilla
  • Garden Party at Billilla 27/2/22: an event designed to bring people to Billilla in order to provide informed feedback: event could incorporate live music, performances, roving entertainers, tours and food trucks
  • surveys and conversations at scheduled community event(s)
  • meetings with key community groups
  • printed information and surveys available from Billilla, Council’s Corporate Centre and libraries
  • Information available in accessible formats available on request.

We will engage with the community over an approximate 12-week period beginning late in 2021 to gather feedback on the type of uses, events and activities the public would like to see at Billilla. Following this, a feasibility study will be commissioned to assess the options for future use, schematic diagrams and financial modelling and prepare a report on the findings.

Council will consider community feedback and the feasibility study to decide on a purpose and management model for the site. Applications for lease/events will be invited and assessed according to the purpose and criteria in the agreed management model by Council’s Property team. The community and all interested parties will be advised of the outcome and future plans for Billilla and invited to, once again, enjoy this historic home.


  • Timeline item 1 - complete

    Social Needs Infrastructure Assessment

    Read a Word or PDF version of the report that will support future decision making related to Billilla

  • Timeline item 2 - complete

    Community consultation

    2 December 2021 - 28 February 2022

    Read a Word or PDF version of how we will engage with you on this important project

  • Timeline item 3 - complete

    Conservation Management Plan

    Independent consultants have prepared a plan to ensure the heritage values of the property are retained during maintenance, operation and any required works at the site.

  • Timeline item 4 - active

    Council considers feedback and reports

    Mid 2022 Council meeting

  • Timeline item 5 - incomplete

    Maintenance and any required works

    Billilla will need maintenance and upgrade works to make is accessible and fit for community use

  • Timeline item 6 - incomplete

    Biillilla opens to the public

Next steps

We welcomed all ideas for the future of Billilla throughout Summer (2 December 2021 - 28 February 2022). It is expected that Council will consider community feedback and outline next steps at a Council meeting in mid 2022.

The agenda for this meeting, including the community engagement report, will be published on the Wednesday prior to the Council meeting via Council's website. Project subscribers will be notified of the results of the engagement and the Council report at this time. Please select the blue +subscribe button at the top of this page to receive updates about this project.

All Council meetings are live-streamed via Council’s website. Interested members of the community can ask a question of this meeting or request to be heard. Depending on COVID restrictions at the time, the public may be able to attend the meeting in person

Contact us

If you’d like printed information or to learn more about this project, contact us via the details below. You can also make an anonymous submission via post, phone or email. Consultation is open until 28 February 2022.

Giacomina Pradolin

Arts and Culture Program Coordinator

Phone: 9599 4371


Newton Gatoff

Property Coordinator

Phone: 9599 4740


Bayside City Council

In person: 76 Royal Avenue, Sandringham, Victoria, 3191

Post: PO Box 27, Sandringham, Victoria 3191

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Contact us

(03) 9599 4444

Bayside City Council, 76 Royal Avenue

PO Box 27, Sandringham VIC 3191

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