Before the Vines...
- By Susan Denny
The story begins with my paternal grandparents nearly a hundred years ago.
Prior to the First World war, Keith Denny worked as a chartered accountant for one of the biggest soap manufacturers in the U.K. During his time there, he over saw the firm’s expansion, (eventually to Unilever), and in so doing, became a highly proficient perfumer. He learned the very best lavender for the perfumery trade was the French Alpine lavender (“Lavandula angustifolia”) but this prized strain was at risk of becoming hybridised by a native “Spike lavender” …growing at lower altitudes and which had undesirable levels of camphor. It was a continuing problem for the French to protect their pure Alpine lavender from contamination.
Keith Denny ‘s solution was to look further afield…...to the Southern Hemisphere where no native lavenders existed and where no hybridisation could occur. He chose Tasmania…. because of its climate and similarities to Southern France.
Keith had married Nellie (my grandmother) in 1913, in her home town of “Bridestowe” in Devon, England. So…. the name “Bridestowe” was appropriated to their new southern hemisphere property at North Lilydale. In 1922, they began their new life with their two young sons Jok (7yrs) and 1-year old Tim.
Before the war years, (WW11), there were up to a 100 local people employed at Bridestowe; be it in the Factory, Tea Rooms or, out in the 50 acres of lavender fields; cutting the lavender flowers by hand with a sickle into a shoulder bag. However, war time took much of that labour force away, so production was greatly reduced.
But by the end of the war, in 1946, amongst the purpose-built sheds of the past, emerged a squash court! (it’s rumoured that it was part of Keith’s plan to entice his two sons back from England after the war to help him with the lavender). The sons, my father Tim and Uncle Jok; highly decorated from their war efforts had some pretty good prospects of their own in England, but under some pressure, returned to North Lilydale with their new brides & young families, to take on Grandad’s dream.
It was decided to purchase a second property at Golconda/ Nabowla. The North Lilydale site was proving to be problematic …. the lavender was prone to frost damage, and the planting layout…which was designed for cross cultivation, (not in hedgerows) restricted healthy growth. The challenges to reach satisfactory oil yields were mounting. In addition, there had been no serious isolation of prize lavender strains for oil quality. The new Nabowla property of The Bridestowe Estate was a fresh start and a real chance to innovate. A blank canvas. From its inception, progress was continuous and strong… but ultimately financial rewards took many decades.
Over many years of isolating the most desirable traits of numerous lavender clones, Tim Denny produced from the Nabowla site high end and unmatched lavender oil, which became widely sought by the large perfume houses of Europe and the U.S.A.
He re-wrote the scientific papers on Steam Distillation of Essential Oils that took him across the globe as the world’s leading authority.
Over his watch, he revolutionised the Lavender Industry. Through that time, he often repeated Fred Kelp’s advice some 42 years before: “Get the balance right. It’s all about …10% inspiration & 90% perspiration…not the other way ‘round!”.
He chose Tasmania because of its climate and similarities to Southern France.
Blanche Ellen Denny
Her home town of “Bridestowe” in Devon, England inspired the name.
The first seeds
Sourced from the French Alps.
The first planting trials from that original packet of seeds began.
Early days for the lavender, and 100 workers. Today’s vineyard is planted centre top of the ridge, below Mt. Arthur.
“Women’s Weekly” 1973; An example of red soil infiltration for Yours Truly!
Joan & Tim Denny
The next generation who carried on traditions at Bridestowe, before the vines.
My parents, Joan and Tim Denny.