The Old Bookham Church, formerly St Columba’s Catholic Church, has been lovingly renovated into a bed and breakfast by Marguerite and Tess of the Julian family, whose ancestors helped build the church in the early 1900s. As well as being admired for its greenstone exterior, the church is known for the magnificent stained glass window now gracing the new kitchen.

Marguerite explains they have been very careful to preserve the ceiling, the floor, and the windows. All the windows have been fixed, but the building remains quite like it was as a church. Plumbing and electricity have been added, and the two former alters moved together to form a kitchen island. 

During her visit to Bookham, Federal member for Eden-Monaro Kristy McBain visited the new business and remarked the colour choices were very soft and gentle. 

Federal Member for Eden-Monaro, Minister for Regional Development & Territories The Hon. Kristy McBain centre with Bookham Business owners Tess & Marguerite Julian

Also visiting were several Yass Valley Councillors, including Mayor Allan McGrath, who was very impressed with the restoration and business venture.

Old Bookham Church-Tess Julian describes the renovation process to Yass Valley Council  Mayor Allan McGrath

Deputy Mayor Jasmin Jones also took the tour and said it was cleverly done and sympathetic to the building’s history as a church. 

When Tess visited her sister Marguerite, the pair were inspired to renovate the church Marguerite had owned since 2005. Over the course of two years, they have transformed it into a beautiful abode for travellers in the area. 

“We thought, we’ve got to do something with it; otherwise it’s just going to die,” said Tess. 

“It was a pure collaboration. I’m quite good at the detail, Marguerite’s good at the vision, so we work quite well together.”

Tess spent much of her time online sourcing the perfect pieces to complete the former church’s interior. Everything has been carefully considered, for example the choice of diamond tiles reflect the pattern in the original windows. 

“We had the best group of builders who were local builders, Richard Schofield, and they were perfectionists. They worked with us so well,” said Tess.

The cost of the infrastructure was around $100,000. Then, the refurbishment and beautification was another $50,000. The sisters say they are happy with the cost as it was a good investment. 

The Old Bookham Church runs their own website and booking system, and guests can order ready-made meals to stock the fridge before arrival, which they can then heat in the fully equipped kitchen. Then, guests can sit at the old shearing table that Tess and Marguerite found in their brother’s shearing huts. Bookham local Kevin Schofield refurbished the table beautifully for its use at the bed and breakfast. 

Behind the table is a striking stained glass window depicting the crucified Christ and His mother. It was donated by the sisters’ grandmother Ellen Julian in memory of her husband Joseph Julian. 

Ellen Julian, who died at the age of 99, donated the stained-glass window

“She was an amazing woman because she had nine children in eighteen years with two husbands. She lived until ninety nine years and nine months until her death in 1923. There are great stories of her shooing away bushrangers; she was a fabulous woman,” said Tess. 

“She would keep the gold watch and the gold sovereign under the sitting chook because the bushranger was coming!” recounted Marguerite. 

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A stained glass expert advised the sisters it probably was commissioned in Europe before being brought to Australia. Peter Walker, first cousin to Tess and Marguerite, also shares Ellen Julian as his great-grandmother. He explained that her husband came to the area as one of the first settlers in 1858 and was the first to bring Merino Sheep to Bookham. 

Southerly Jones