The Simpsons of Bellevue House, Helensburgh

Edited by Janet Lee, Secretary.
As told by Doris Sandstrom nee Simpson in 1989

This is my mother Maria and my father Thomas Rollings Simpson, with four of their children Tommy, Gladys, Bobby and baby Ruby. Photo taken in 1917 [note: their early address from 1915 was “School road” Helensburgh].

My father was born 3 February 1878 in Dalton, Lancashire England. His father was James Simpson and his mother was Jane Rollings. There were five sons including my dad, and a daughter Margaret. I don’t know much about my father’s family, only that my grandfather was a farmer and had to walk a long way to work, and he died with blood poisoning. And all I know about Grandma was that she was a very fat person. I never saw her photo as she never had one taken.

My dad moved to Lancaster where he worked as a coalminer. He met my mother in the Methodist Church as my dad was a Sunday-School teacher. My mum Maria was born in Wigan Lancashire 6 December 1887. Mum’s dad was Thomas Kendrick and his wife was Dinah Foster. My grandfather was a sausage-maker in Wigan. My grandparents had four girls – my mum Maria, Jenny, Annie and Maggie; and two boys – Bobby and Billy. 

Mum and Dad got married in the Methodist Church at Wigan on 6 March 1906. They had two children in England – James Thomas (Tommy) (born 1907) and Gladys (born 1908). My dad worked in the coal mines for 20 years and became very sick with lung disease. He was advised to come to Australia for a warmer climate, so in 1913 he came and looked the place over. He settled in Helensburgh NSW then he sent for mum and the two children. They had four more children in Helensburgh – Robert (Bobby) Kendrick (born 1915), Myrtle Ruby (born 1917), Doris (myself, born 17 January 1922) and Margaret Enid (born 3 November 1926).

This is my father Thomas Simpson returning home from working in the coal mine at Helensburgh. Arriving from England in 1913, my father soon got a job in the coal mine. He worked there till about 1932. Then he had to give up working as he had coal dust in his lungs and was very sick. However after a few years out of the mine his health improved and he was able to work around the farm till on 5 December 1950 when he died. 

He built a big stone house which he called Bellevue House and had a mixed farm, on 13 acres off Otford Road. We all had a happy childhood. After my dad’s death, my mum lived till she was 89 and died at Helensburgh on 3 July 1976.

This photo was taken when my dad was clearing the land to build our house in Helensburgh. My dad in the centre with my brother Tommy who was sixteen in 1922 on the left, and Harry Tyra on the right.

When my dad cleared the land, he left four big trees and they were used to put a flying fox on to haul all the timber and stone blocks which my dad cut with a 7 pound hammer and steel wedges. Took him a couple of years to build and all the townsfolk used to go up and watch him work and tell him he would never finish it, but he did.

Bellevue House, Helensburgh
L-R: Pig pen with woodshed behind, cow shed, verandah with copper, washing sinks and a big mangle. 

This was taken at Helensburgh Public School in 1935. In the middle row I am the third from the left. I was thirteen years old and in 7th class. 

I finished school that year and at fourteen I was working in a clothing factory right next to the Capitol Theatre (Sydney) called Cooney Clothing, making mens’ suits. My first job was sewing canvas that went into the lapels of the coat, then I made the coat sleeves which took me to my fifteenth birthday. I received eight shillings (just 80c) for a whole week’s work. My next job was at King Gee (Helensburgh) making overalls. I started on 15 shillings ($1.50) and in seven years I was getting about £2/10 shillings ($5.00). I left when I was twenty to get married.                        

My first ball gown in 1936.

I married Maurice Sandstrom at Helensburgh Methodist Church on 24 October 1942. We held the reception in the Masonic Hall. Money was scarce, so my father drove us to the top of Otford hill and we walked down to a tiny seaside spot called Bulgo where we spent our honeymoon in a tiny shack with no electricity or running water. We took all our food and my father walked from Helensburgh mid-week to bring us fresh supplies.

Wedding of Doris Simpson & Maurice Sandstrom at Helensburgh Methodist Church 24 Oct 1942. L-R: Keith McDivett, Billy Brown, Maurice and Doris Sandstrom, father Tom Simpson, sister Margaret Simpson, Norma Cardwell from the Burgh, and flowergirl Pamela Burge.

We had four lovely kids, living most of our working days in Mortdale and Oatley. Maurice retired in 1979 and we came to Culburra to live, where we have been up to now (1989). We had a happy retirement. Beside the four kids we now have 12 grand kids so we aren’t doing so bad and still have Graeme to get married.

Doris Sandstrom, 1922-2010. Written in 1989.

Bellevue House and farm, c1940s. Front of house faced fruit trees, bush & cow paddock. On the right is the woodshed, in front is a water tank on top of a rock, and the cow shed.

Source: Notes by Doris Simpson on the family photo collection, provided by her daughter Karen; Simpson family photos; newspaper article “The Golden reflections of a wedding” Oct 1994.

Note: Bellevue House is still existing. It has been renovated and extended on the front of the house, retaining much of the original stonework.


By Karen Delfs, Daughter of Doris Sandstrom, Grand-daughter of Thomas & Maria Simpson. Family photos from Karen Delfs. Edited by Janet Lee.

My grandparents Thomas and Maria Simpson settled in Helensburgh 1913-1914. They lived off the Otford Road where a track to the right went down to their place. My Grandpa built a fabulous stone cottage called Bellevue House, after arriving from England. He left England after working in a coal mine in Lancashire. His health was badly affected. The next year my Grandma joined him along with their son and daughter. I have had their names placed on the “Welcome Wall” (the National Monument to Migration at the Maritime Museum in Sydney.) Grandpa worked in the Helensburgh coal mine for many years, and then continued working on the farm. I believe my Grandpa was known as “Pumpkin Simpson” as he often won the prize for growing the biggest pumpkin.

They had six children, two boys and four girls. My mum Doris was the second last born. My mum and her brothers and sisters used to walk down the gully behind their place to Otford and Kelly’s Falls, and down to Stanwell Park. They had about four cows, three pigs, loads of fruit trees and three pens of chooks if I remember rightly. Mum and her sisters had to milk the cows before they went to school. Mum said it was about a 3 mile walk to school and when they came home, many times if the cows got out, the children had to go down to a place mum called “Pastures Green”, get them home and then milk them.

Maria & Tom Simpson at the farm in 1939.

The oldest child, my Uncle Tommy, walked through the bush to the slaughter yard where he worked everyday, so you can imagine the family never went hungry. Fresh meat, chooks, milk and loads of fresh fruit and vegies.

My mum Doris worked in a factory on Otford Road. My mum said that the boss was really nice because if it was hot they were allowed to work in their petticoats. 

One of my Grandma’s nephews from Brisbane came down to stay at Grandma’s 59 years ago (1962) and he connected the electricity for Grandma. Funny thing, for about 18 months after that, Grandma would open the door, go to the mantelshelf over the fuel stove, light the lamp, come back to the back door and switch on the light. I think Uncle Bobby ended up being an electrician – he was the second son.

As kids we had great fun going down there for holidays. I was born in 1944 and have three younger brothers, and seven cousins, so you can imagine the fun we had. My Grandpa did not believe in being idle so when he knew we were coming he would have stacks of wood cut so we could carry it closer to the house for Grandma to use under the copper and of course the stove. I always say “my Grandma’s house” because Grandpa died over 70 years ago (1950). On cold nights Grandma would put a few bricks in the oven then cover them with army blankets when hot and off we would go to bed, brick and all. Of a night, no TV of course, Grandma would cut up old woollen cloths into strips and my brothers and I would sit in front of the fire making peg rugs.

Bellevue House c1970s.

My mum and dad were married in the Helensburgh Methodist Church in 1942 and Grandpa was a part-time minister there. For my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary (in 1994) we tried to replicate the event. However, the church was gone but luckily the Masonic Hall was still there (where the reception had been held). We had all the grandkids there to help serve out the food which we had cooked at home and warmed up the best we could. The kids got a bit carried away with their responsibility and were happily collecting the dishes perhaps a bit too quickly. Anyway, it was a great night and everyone really enjoyed it by the letters we received. Mum and Dad were really surprised at the whole event – old-fashioned maybe, but great. 

Basically, I have been going to the Burgh for 77 years. Luckily my husband loved it down there also. I am so glad that I have lived at this time and was able to enjoy such a simple happy time. 

Karen Delfs, October 2021.