Tales of Black Rock House: Tamar's Tea Room (The Ballroom)

9th February 2022. Reading Time: 5 minutes General, Tales of Black Rock House. 1069 page views. 0 comments.

In this instalment, we take a walk down the trellised walkway to the ballroom of Black Rock House. It has recently been transformed into a tea room for Devonshire teas. The room is affectionately dedicated to Tamar Ebden - Charles Ebden wife. Who was she and what was the big family scandal? What events have taken place in the ballroom? What experiences have paranormal investigators had in the ballroom?

Black Rock House sits in the beautiful bayside town of Black Rock House.  Built-in 1856 for Victoria's First Auditor General Charles Hotson Ebden as a holiday home, it was used to entertain Melbourne's elite.  While much is spoken about Charles Ebden, the person who is not mentioned as frequently was his wife Tamar.  Not much is known about her, but there is now a special place at Black Rock House dedicated just to her - Tamar's Tearoom.  Formally known as the ballroom, it is a space that has quite the history itself!

When you approach the grounds of Black Rock House, you are met with the long trellis walkway which connects the house to the ballroom.  The room itself was most remembered for the farewell party held for the officers of the fortieth Regiment before they left to take part in the battles of Indian Mutiny.  It was even the last place well-known explorer William John Wills was seen alive.

The old house has known many merry meetings. There they entertained the officers of the Fortieth Regiment before they left to take part in the battles of the Indian Mutiny, and there, to bid a last good-bye to his friends came the gentle William John Wills, the explorer, before he went to die under a tree at Cooper's Creek. If the ghosts of the old days ever revisit the glimpses of the moon there may be interesting shades in the deep night shadows of the spreading Moreton Bay figs of Black Rock House.

Full article available on Trove: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/3867174?searchTerm=black%20rock%20house&searchLimits=

William John Wills Image Source: portrait.gov.au

As the years passed and the house was turned into a boarding house, the ballroom became self-contained accommodation.  It was eventually restored along with the rest of the house and turned into an entertainment space.  In 2021, the Friends of Black Rock House gave the room a loving upgrade and dedicated its refurbishment to Tamar Ebden, Charles Ebden's wife. 

Tamar Ebden nee Harding

Born Tamar Harding in 1823, her father Robert Harding was the rector of the City of Cork.  In 1850 she married Charles Ebden where they had two daughters and a son:

Marian was born in 1850

Antoinette (Toni) Martha was born in 1851

Charles John was born in 1853

In what was considered scandalous at the time (noted by the term 'spinster' published in the local paper),  Tamar also gave birth to children before her marriage to Ebden.  First was Catherine Harding in 1844 who sadly passed away in 1853.

"BIRTH EXTRAORDINARY - On Thursday, the 11th instant at the residence of Charles Hotson Ebden, Esq., Member of the Legislative Council for the District of Port Phillip, Mrs. Harding, Spinster, of a daughter. (The little stranger we are told, is disgustingly like its papa. - Ed.)" ("The Melbourne Weekly Courier" 20 January 1844)

She also gave birth to George Ebden in 1847 who sadly passed away the same year.

It was Tamar who named Black Rock House in honour of the small town of Black Rock just outside of Cork.  Their children were educated in London and for some years lived there with their mother whilst Charles lived in Melbourne. From 1861 to 1866 he lived in London but his health deteriorated and he returned to Melbourne where he seemed to improve. Unfortunately in October 1867 he became unwell and died at the Melbourne Club of peritonitis. He was 57. His estate left to his family was worth £100,000.

Tamar and the children remained living in London. In what was called the 'incident' Tamar was attracted to Ebden's former business partner Theophilus Joseph Keene but her daughter asked her not to marry him until she had turned 21. On turning 21 a couple of years later, Antoinette herself married Keene, who was 35 years her senior.  Tamar passed away at the age of 75 in 1899 in London.  

While it is likely Tamar did not spend a lot of time at Black Rock House, having a space lovingly created for her could act as a great invitation to potentially make contact with her.  People will often use a photograph of a person to try and communicate with them.  It doesn't matter where they are, they can even do it from home.  So what happens if instead of a photo you have a whole room dedicated to a person?

The room itself is not shy.  We have caught what we believe to be various EVPs in this room and often hear what appears to be intelligent knocking responses to our questions (that aren't the usual house noises or figs falling on the roof).  On one particular night, we dressed up for what we called 'Old School Night' where Victorian themed/steampunk dress was encouraged not just for fun, but to see if it resonated with our resident guests.  We did a human pendulum exercise in the middle of the room.  People felt like something was happening when suddenly one of the guests who was dressed as a priest seemingly had a large wooden cross he was wearing pulled from his neck.  Was it a very well timed coincidence or something more?  In fact, historical records tell us that Rev Dr Marshall of Scots Church was a former resident.  Was there a connection?

Tamar's Tea Room is open on the first Sunday of each Month for Devonshire tea, only $15.  There is also an outdoor dining area where you can drink tea with your 4 legged friends!  They may even get a free treat!  To book your spot please email friendsofblackrockhouse@gmail.com

The house is also open for historical tours with a costumed guide for a gold coin donation on the first Sunday of each month.  No booking is required!

Paranormal Investigations run at Black Rock House monthly.  For dates and tickets head to Black Rock House Paranormal Tours




More from the Tales of Black Rock House Series

Tales of Black Rock House - Looks can be deceiving

Tales of Black Rock House - The Underground Tunnels

Tales of Black Rock House - The living quarters

Tales of Black Rock House - The Drawing Room

Tales of Black Rock House - The Death Room

Tales of Black Rock House - The Children's Bedroom

Tales of Black Rock House - The Dining Room

The famous faces of Black Rock House

Tales of Black Rock House - The Hallway

Tales of Black Rock House - The Nursery

Tales of Black Rock House - Local Legends

Tales of Black Rock House: Pictures of the past

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