Update (January 2019):
The historic (in terms of Australian history, 1850s) Briars Park, Mt Martha, Victoria, Australia, used to display the Napoleonic Collection of Dame Mabel Brookes (a Balcombe descendant), including a copy of Napoleon’s death mask, in the historic “Homestead”. Unfortunately, due to a burglary a couple of years ago, a number of Napoleonic relics were stolen and the collection was put into storage while security was upgraded. This had been completed and arrangements were being made for a grand return of the Collection on Bastille Day when once again the St Helena Briars “curse” struck – termites were discovered in the Homestead, mirroring the fate of the St Helena Briars Homestead which was actually destroyed by termites. So now the Homestead will remain closed for the time being and unfortunately the Collection remains in storage while the damages are assessed and remedial works arranged.
In the meantime the Mornington Shire is preparing a 10-year plan for the Briars Historic Park (the former Balcombe farm), which receives many visitors for picnics, the waterways, bird-watching and astronomy nights, while “Napoleon still sleeps” to the dismay of the many local and overseas visitors who come to see the Collection.
The Briars Park is one of the Mornington Peninsula’s oldest properties. The park, a wonderful example of cultural landscape, contains an 1840s Homestead which houses a Napoleonic Collection assembled by Dame Mabel Brookes, the granddaughter of William Balcombe as well as various out-buildings that were required in early pioneer times. A 96-hectare wildlife reserve allows visitors to experience native flora and fauna via a series of walking tracks and boardwalks and an excellent Visitor Centre display and audio visual is an ideal introduction to the Park’s facilities.
William Balcombe was posted to St Helena when Napoleon arrived there at the beginning of his exile. Hudson Lowe became suspicious of the close relationship that developed between the French Emperor and the Balcombe family and London recalled Balcombe in 1818. He remained out of employment until 1824 when he became colonial treasurer in New South Wales, where he remained until his death in 1829. This “Briars” was Balcombe’s Australian home.
The Napoleonic Collection – 500 pieces approx.
Farm Machinery Collection – 50 pieces approx.
Norma Dodd Photographic History of the homestead collection – 30 pieces.
The Briars Park is run by the Australian National Trust > website.
More on the history of the Briars here.