The builder of Westbury, Doctor Edmond Henry Burkitt, was born in the village of Chartlon, Wiltshire in 1867. The town of Westbury with its famous chalk figure of a horse cut into the hillside is nearby and we can presume that Burkitt names his new and grand home in the antipodes after the English town.
After attending Hurstpierpoint School near Brighton, Burkitt and three brothers migrated to Australia. Burkitt studied medicine at Sydney University and graduated in 1896 as Bachelor of Medicine and Master of Surgery. In 1898 Burkitt married Amy Theodora Hungerford at Bowral.
Dr Burkitt began practice at Coonamble but arrived in Dubbo in 1901 succeeding to the practice of Dr de Moin. He completed ‘Westbury’ in 1915 – a noted building then, it was replete with tennis court, extensive gardens, servants quarters, cellar etc.
On 1st March 1916 Dr Burkitt enlisted in the Australian Medical Corp with the rank of Captain and after serving in France he returned to Australia on the 27th September 1917. He wrote an article for the Australian Medical Journal in December 1917 mentioning ‘an attractive field of work lies open in the Battalion Ambulance and Clearing Station’. He encouraged other surgeons to enlist and in a chilling final sentence wrote ‘moreover, there will be ample work for many surgeons in the spring’.
Dr Burkitt fathered three daughters and one son. His daughter Marion Esdail Burkitt was born 14th April 1905. She married John Hall Best of Sydney and as Marion Hall Best, she became reknown as an interior designer with her work represented in the National Gallery in Canberra and her inclusion in Vol. 17 of the Australian Dictionary of Biography.
In addition to his medical pursuits Dr Burkitt was a community spirited man. He became inaugural President of the Dubbo Returned Soldiers League, an alderman of the Dubbo Municipal Council , Director of the Brotherhood of the Good Shepherd and sat on the Council of the Holy Trinity Church.
Dr Burkitt died on 14th November 1925 suffering from ‘inoperable cancer’. Dubbo flags flew at half mast in respect to ‘a splendid citizen and a lovable man’.
Westbury circa 1949
The Dubbo floods of 1955