Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Ben Turner and Clover Hill

Tongarra Museum's 2012 exhibition is Not All Beer and Skittles; The Life and Times of Benjamin Horace Turner. Ben Turner was an intriguing Shellharbour resident who built his English Manor House around a large rock on land he purchased in 1950, at ‘Clover Hill’, Macquarie Pass.

Ben was a parachute stunt jumper in England in the 1930's before he was sent out to Australia to make parachutes during World War II. Ben's company Turner Parachutes was the sole supplier of parachutes for the Australian government and manufactured an estimated 80,000 during the war years.

After the war with no use for parachutes anymore, Ben decided to make swimsuits. The girls at his factory were put to work sewing the 'Scamp' swimsuits, which were to become and Australian icon and were reputedly made from the silk destined for his parachutes.

In 1949 due to ill health Ben sold his share in the company and he and his wife Jean and their English Sheep Dog Roger, relocated to Clover Hill.

Bens gained his pilot’s licence and started an airline in the 1970s, Southern Cross Airways. He ran regular air services throughout New South Wales before retiring from aviation life and settling down again at Clover Hill. The 1970s were not good years for Ben. His restored home at Macquarie Pass was lost to fire, the National Parks and Wildlife Service resumed his farm and home for the National Park, and he separated from his wife of 30 years, Jean.

Ben was allowed to stay at his Clover Hill farm for the remainder of his life through permission from the NPWS. During this time, he began building his Tudor style manor house, affectionately known to the locals as ‘Ben’s Folley’. He built his home around huge rock formations on the property, so that the rocks literally became walls within the rooms of his house.

In May 2001, Ben Turner passed away at his Clover Hill home at the age of 91 years.

Tongarra Museum recently acquired a painting by local artist Kerry Suttenberg. Ms Suttenberg had fond memories of walking in Macquarie Pass and stopping at the ruins of Ben's house for a cup of tea. The painting depicts different aspects of his life; his house, parachutes and swimwear models are all featured.

Our exhibition was on display 6 May 2012 at 'Wings Over Illawarra', Illawarra Regional Airport where hundreds of people read Ben's story.

Tamara and Dot and the exhibition
at Wings Over Illawarra May 6 2012

Benjamin H Turner beside his Karmann Ghia at Clover Hill c.1950s.
Shellharbour Images Shellharbour City Libraries.

Jean Turner with her dog Roger and cat Shaster at Clover Hill c.1950s.
Shellharbour ImagesShellharbour City Libraries.

Ben's tudor style house locally known as Ben's Folly, Clover Hill c1950s.
Shellharbour Images Shellharbour City Libraries.

Kerry Suttenberg's painting of Ben Turner and Clover Hill.
Tongarra Museum collection.


  1. Just did Clover Hill walk enjoyed reading this on the history of the place

  2. Nature Engagement Tour guide brought this to our attention while doing our bush walking activity on Saturday morning. 21/5/2016

  3. Great Kidsfest :) It's a beautiful spot isn't it? Still some ruins hidden around the place.


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