Frognall – The Original Canterbury Mansion


Melbourne in the 1880s was a boom town. With the influx of wealth from both the Golden Fleece (the Merino Wool) and the Gold Diggings of both Ballarat and Bendigo, many of the newly rich (noveau riche) set about building their Shangri-Las. At the same time the rest of the population were also building and expanding into the outer suburbs of Kew, Essendon, Williamstown and Malvern. Mr Clarence Hicks, the original owner of Frognall, the very large mansion situated on 7 acres of land at 54 Mt Albert Rd Canterbury, was a timber merchant, arguably Melbourne’s largest and most successful.

The most recent valuation of Frognall done in recent years put the property value at an estimated $20 million.


Unlike many of the homes we have reviewed in the past Clarence Hicks the original owner was neither a pastoralist nor a mining magnate. He was – a timber merchant – the material of choice for most building projects during the 1880s. Clarence was very well connected with Melbourne’s early elite. His father had been the registrar for Copyrights and Patents and a close friend and confidant of both John Batman and John Pascoe Fawkner.

804Clarence Hicks commissioned the colony’s leading builder of the times, Mr Robert Gimlin to ‘erect one of the finest mansions in the colony’. It appears to have been oft quoted in respect of many of Melbourne’s mansions. The elite of the colony were somewhat competitive. At the time Mr Clarence Hicks was the President of the Boorondoora Shire (better known as Camberwell).

The mansion constructed became known as Frognall. True to trend in the 1880s it was an Italianate style mansion. However it was unique in that it featured an amazing degree of concrete architectural renderings including arcaded and balustraded loggia. The grand building is enhanced with a pedimented entrance and deep bracket eaves with a tower capped on each side by projecting broken pediments.

The major difference between Frognall and other impressive 1880s mansions is that the estate and gardens remained largely intact. As well, the service wing, stables and coach house block remained in relatively original condition. It has however since been subdivided, unfortunately.


Clarence Hicks was not to enjoy his creation for long. Located less than a mile and a bit from his timber yards in Upper Hawthorn (opposite the Tower Hotel) it all went pear-shaped with the crash of the 1890s. All that remained of the original extensive timber yards was a Mitre 10 hardware store and carpark.


Clarence fought valiantly to protect himself from bankruptcy and managed to do so. He headed to Western Australia where he had previous dealings with the WA Jarrah Timber Company. He had resurrected his career, but unfortunately met with an untimely early death at 46 years of age. He was by that stage also the Grand Master of the Western Australia branch of the Masonic Lodge – a connection that may well have saved him from total misfortune during the crash of the 1890s.

The estate was purchased by the Laycock family in 1901 who remained in residence there until 1942. The family offered the building to the Commonwealth Government as a gesture to the then War effort. The house became an RAAF base, part of the communications network, and remained so for over 40 years.


Frognall was privately purchased in the early 1990s. The present owners received permission to subdivide and there are now a further 4 properties on the estate.


Many of Melbourne’s grand homes and mansions did not survive the early 20th century or if they did, were modified terribly during the 1960s through until 1980s. Frognall has survived and for that we are fortunate. A grand home with an equally grand and impressive beginning. A reminder perhaps of more genteel times.

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of the preservation of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.


The Manchester Unity Building – Owners fear Metro Tunnel risks


The Manchester Unity Building, an iconic Melbourne landmark located on the North West corner of Swanston and Collins St is considered to be ‘at risk’ by its owners corporation, from the tunneling works in Swanston St for the new Metro Tunnel.

The fragile facade of the tower is ‘at risk’ from the tunnelling but the danger is being overlooked says Kia Pajouhesh, Chairman of the Manchester’s owners corporation.


But first let’s get some perspective here. The Manchester Unity Building, located opposite the Melbourne Town Hall was constructed in 1932. The site had been purchased in 1928, but the onset of the Great Depression meant construction was initially delayed.

Architect Marcus Barlow designed the building which was duly constructed by W.E. Cooper Pty Ltd reputedly for a contract price of £215,000.


The building was constructed to a very tight construction schedule, using tracking methods for the first time in Australia. The build was completed in record time and the first section was opened to the public for shopping on the 1st of September 1932.

A grand opening celebrating the formal declaration of the building’s completion, featuring lights illuminating its tower and spine occurred on the 12th of December 1932.

The building is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register. In its ‘Statement of Significance’ it is described as a ‘modern commercial gothic style’

Statement of Significance


The Manchester Unity Building was built in 1932 by Walter Cooper Pty Ltd. It was designed by the architect Marcus R Barlow to meet the corporate needs of the Manchester Unity Group, a friendly society with 28,000 members in 1932. The twelve storey building, located prominently on the corner of Collins Street and Swanston Street, has a concrete encased steel structure and is clad with moulded terra cotta faience. The overall effect is one of a modern commercial Gothic style. The structure is crowned with a corner tower of soaring, diminishing buttresses in a style presumed to be inspired by the Chicago Tribune Building, which received worldwide publicity when built in 1927.

Within twelve months of commencement of work the Manchester Unity building was officially opened by the Premier of Victoria. By early May 1932 the sub-basement, basement and ground floors were ready for shopfitters and other finishing trades to move in. The remaining floors were added at the rate of one a week, and by late July 1932 the roof was laid and work started on the tower. Newspapers carried regular reports on the progress of the building, and a trip to the city to watch construction was a regular event for many Melbournians.

440The Manchester Unity building was the first in Victoria to have escalators. These provided access to the basement and the first floor directly from the main arcade entrance at Swanston Street. It was also one of the first Victorian buildings with automatic cooling, and rubbish and postal chutes on every floor. Australia’s largest diesel generator, located in the sub-basement, provided an emergency power supply. Of the original lifts, two of the three have been converted to automatic operation but the beautiful inlaid timber and panelled interiors to the lift cars have been retained.
The exterior facade is clad in biscuit coloured terra cotta faience. The faience is intricately moulded to produce continuous narrow columns and shafts rising up the facade, serving to emphasise the verticality of the building. The bulk of the building extends to 40.2metres, which was the height limit for central Melbourne at the time. Prominence is given to the corner by the tower, which soars above the main bulk. Towers were permitted to break the city’s height limit as long as they did not contain occupiable rooms.


Internally there is extensive use of various Australian marbles as cladding to the walls. The ground floor lobby ceiling and cornices have high-relief depictions of Aboriginals, Australian flora and fauna as well as transport, building and primary industries. Cornice plaster panels in the corridors of all the floors carry depictions of the friendly society’s role in welfare provision.

Located on the eleventh floor are the former offices and boardroom of Manchester Unity. They walls are decorated with sliced timber veneer panelling. The boardroom table was constructed in situ and is nearly six metres long. The top is finished with a rosewood veneer and rosewood inlay border, and a moulded and carved edge. Twelve monogrammed leather chairs also survive. It is likely that the table and chairs were also designed by Marcus Barlow’s office, part of the total design of the building.


How is it significant?

The Manchester Unity Building is of architectural, historical, social, aesthetic and technical significance to the State of Victoria.

437Why is it significant?

The Manchester Unity Building is architecturally significant as one of the tallest building in Melbourne when it was completed in 1932. The architectural styling, with its soaring vertical emphasis, was a daring break from the conservative palazzo architecture of the 1920s, which was typified by large and dominant cornices. The styling was complemented by the fashionable cladding material of glazed terra cotta faience. The modern commercial Gothic style of the Manchester Unity Building stands in contrast to the ecclesiastical Gothic of nearby St Paul’s Cathedral. The building is architecturally significant as the greatest achievement of noted architect Marcus Barlow.

The Manchester Unity Building is historically significant as the initiative that convinced Melbournians that the building slump caused by the Depression was almost over, such was the grand scale of the project and the speed at which building progressed. The fast building programme was controlled by the use of a works progress schedule, an innovation to the local building industry at the time.
The Manchester Unity Building is socially significant as a landmark in both positioning and scale. It challenges, for scale and presence, the Melbourne Town Hall located opposite.


The Manchester Unity Building is technically significant for the surviving original Otis-Waygood escalator between the ground floor lobby and mezzanine. The Manchester Unity Building was the first in Victoria to have escalators installed.

The Manchester Unity Building is aesthetically significant for its intact interiors. The intricate plaster panel cornices and ceilings, the use of marble, and the inlays to the lift cars and sliced timber veneers in the boardroom all display a high standard of artistic workmanship that is without par for a building of this period. The boardroom table and chairs are historically and aesthetically significant. The survival of a boardroom table of this scale and grandeur from this period, complete with chairs, is unusual in Victoria. They formed part of the total design for the building.


The potential risk of damage to this building calls into question the difficult but necessary juxtaposition of development and preservation. It would appear that the building’s owners believe that not enough research or examination of potential damage to the building has been undertaken by the Authority charged with constructing the tunnel – the Cross Yarra Partnership, nor has it perhaps done enough due diligence on such risks to historic buildings – Manchester Unity, the Town Hall and St Paul’s Cathedral.

For a more rounded picture please read the article here reprinted from the Age Newspaper, April 12 2018.

Manchester Unity building warns of Metro Tunnel damage

Melbourne gothic landmark the Manchester Unity Building is at risk of cracking from tunnelling for the Metro Tunnel, its owners fear.

The fragile facade of the tower is at risk of cracking from the tunnelling, but the danger is being overlooked, says Kia Pajouhesh, chairman of the Manchester’s owners corporation.

The soaring Art Deco building on the corner of Swanston and Collins streets, built in 1932, is renowned for its narrow columns, glass walls and terracotta tiles.


The Manchester Unity Building on Swanston Street

Dr Pajouhesh has accused the authority and the consortium overseeing the project, the Cross Yarra Partnership, of failing to properly assess the building’s capacity to cope with vibrations caused by tunnelling under Swanston Street.

A one-hour property inspection was done on the building in February last year, but the assessment was “substantially deficient”, Dr Pajouhesh claims in a scathing eight-page letter sent to the authority.

“We are at a loss to understand the basis behind the decision to use land under the [Manchester] without this critical information,” he wrote.

Dr Pajouhesh is the owner of Smile Solutions, which occupies six levels of the building.

“This conduct leaves us with no confidence that the consortium has at heart the interests of the custodians of one of Melbourne’s most prized heritage assets.”


The 1932 building is one of Melbourne’s most beloved.

It comes amid revelations that five hairline cracks have emerged on the Westin building as a result of the early works at the City Square construction site.

A spokesman for the authority said the cracks in the building’s plasterboard were superficial, would not pose any structural risk, and would be rectified.

The Metro Tunnel project will provide much-needed extra capacity on the city’s rail network by allowing more trains to run through the city, outside of the City Loop. Once complete, the project will include five new stations and a nine-kilometre tunnel connecting the Cranbourne-Pakenham and Sunbury lines.

ad2ddc53bd65504e0bd52a527f836bc9edc9cf33Work is already under way to build the underground Town Hall station at City Square, but tunnelling under Swanston Street will not begin until next year.

The Town Hall station has recently been re-designed to make it larger and more spacious, and that will require more land.

The new designs indicate that tunnelling will occur closer to the Manchester building.

The consortium has already warned that St Paul’s Cathedral and Town Hall may have some superficial cracking, but their risk assessment did not include the Manchester building.

“[The Manchester] is much closer to the project’s CBD south station site than both St Paul’s cathedral and the Melbourne Town Hall,” Dr Pajouhesh says.

He also warns that “the grout between the tiles, which contains asbestos, is prone to failure.”

Dr Pajouhesh’s letter was sent on Tuesday this week, just as Melbourne University warned that the $11 billion underground rail project could damage equipment and facilities in the Parkville Biomedical Precinct.

The university’s chief financial officer Allan Tait said he was concerned that vibrations from tunnelling, and electromagnetic interference caused by trains running through the underground station, would “render critical research equipment inoperable”.

Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre has also warned that radiotherapy treatment machines may be affected by vibrations.

The Metro Tunnel spokesman said the authority had been engaging with the owners of the Manchester building since 2015.

He said two property condition surveys were carried out for the building in February this year and a comprehensive condition survey would be done before tunnelling began.

“The project has some of the world’s best engineers and tunnelling experts working through these challenges,” he said.

A government spokesperson said the building owners’ concerns were “the types of issues that are routinely managed on similar tunnel projects in busy cities around the world”.


These are quite serious matters. Note that the grout used on the Manchester Unity Building securing the external tiles contains Asbestos.

It would be appropriate that the Engineers responsible for the tunnel, its excavations and its infrastructure do more than pay lip service to heritage values.

Recently, the Cross Yarra Partnership facilitated the removal of many heritage listed trees on St Kilda Rd and Albert St in preparation for the Anzac Station excavation. It was said these trees could not be moved as there would be too much disturbance of underground services. Somewhat surprising in that the proposed excavation is to be ‘six stories deep’ – and action that surely may ‘disturb underground services’.

Melbourne has some wonderful historic heritage treasures. This soaring Art Deco building – the Manchester Unity Building, the grand old Melbourne Town Hall and St Paul’s Cathedral are just the most obvious of many buildings possibly subject to damage with construction of the new Metro Tunnel. And at this stage it is certainly not too late to put in place remedial research and provisional works to protect these heritage treasures.

Progress and development don’t necessarily require wholesale destruction. It is a bold and exciting project (the Metro Tunnel). But let’s at least ensure the protection of our city’s icons for future generations. It’s really time for action and re-assurance.

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of the preservation of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.

Call to Halt Temporary Queen Victoria Market Structure. Update on St Vincent’s Hospital Appealing Heritage Rulings.

This week we bring you two further updates – one on the Queen Victoria Market re-development and renovation, and one on the state of play regarding the St Vincent’s Hospital 11 storey extension project. In both instances there are serious challenges to Heritage Listings or Heritage Victoria rulings.

With candidates lining up to replace former Lord Mayor Robert Doyle, there is a significant indication that the Robert Doyle backed plan for the Queen Victoria Market will not proceed in its present format.


The issues involved are not just the heritage sheds, but the difficult and uncompromising trading conditions being imposed upon market traders during the construction period. Add to this the multi storey adjacent developments (approved) there is a general sense that the Queen Victoria Market would entirely lose its character and sense of history.

The market is a ‘people’s’ venue. Its stalls, its produce, its trading hours all reflect the demographics it has traditionally served – workers, students, migrants, bohemians and more recently city and inner city dwellers. It provides choice, quality and product simply not found in supply line marketing such as Supermarkets and Department Stores.


Alternative plans have been mooted, prepared and submitted by the ‘Friends of the Queen Victoria Market’ – and ignored.

There are strong objections from both traders and the market’s shoppers to the proposed development. Opponents are now asking that the temporary structure planned for traders to use during the shed dismantlement and basement construction now be shelved – permanently. Read this article from the Age Newspaper dated 02/03/18

Ditch $7m temporary pavilion, say opponents of Queen Vic Market plans


An artist’s impression of a proposed temporary “greenhouse” pavilion to be built on Queen Street, between the two sides of the Queen Victoria Market.

Opponents of redevelopment plans for the Queen Victoria Market say a $7.4 million temporary “greenhouse” pavilion is a waste of money that should be abandoned.

Melbourne City Council is set to approve new plans on Tuesday for the Queen Street pavilion, proposed to temporarily accommodate traders dislodged by council redevelopment works.

But those works were thrown into disarray last week when the state’s heritage authority refused to grant Melbourne City Council a permit.


The city council wants to put services for traders working in some of the 140-year-old upper market sheds below ground. It also wants to dig underground parking for 220 cars.

Heritage Victoria, though, ruled that this should not be done saying the proposed works were “unacceptably detrimental” to the heritage sheds, and that the works were unnecessary on economic grounds. Acting lord mayor Arron Wood has vowed to challenge the refusal.

But this challenge will take up to a year.


A view of the proposed temporary greenhouse pavilion, in Queen Street.

The council is pressing ahead with the planned temporary pavilion, designed by architects Breathe.

While the cost has risen from $5 million to $7.4 million, the structure is shorter than one the council approved last year – it will be 111 metres long, not 264 metres.

The pavilion’s ground level will be for traders while the upper level will include a greenhouse.

A council spokeswoman said the temporary pavilion would ensure stallholders could continue to trade within the market while works were carried out.

And she said the new pavilion would allow operators to test stalls with better access to refrigeration and storage, and trial different opening hours.

The greenhouse, designed to raise environmental awareness, will necessitate seven plane trees being cut down.

A lobby group representing some traders and shoppers, the Friends of Queen Victoria Market, said the pavilion project should be put on hold.

Spokeswoman Miriam Faine said a group of opponents to the plan intended to be at Tuesday night’s council meeting to speak against the pavilion.

She said there were two reasons it was not needed: “Their [the council’s] plans are up in the air, and the market at the moment, it’s half empty so they don’t need it for that reason too.”

She said the market needed more stall holders, “not more structures like this”.


An artist’s impression of the proposed buildings on the “Munro site”, on the corner of Queen and Therry streets, opposite the Queen Victoria Market’s deli hall.

Also at the council on Tuesday are designs going to Planning Minister Richard Wynne for a tower and linked low-rise building developer PDG is building, with the city council.

On land known as the “Munro site”, the tower will rise to 40 storeys. Together with the council’s building, it will include 410 apartments – including 56 low-cost housing units.

Ms Faine said Mr Wynne and the state government should be given credit for having refused the 60-storey skyscraper Melbourne City Council had wanted built there.


It would seem somewhat preemptory to continue with this part of the project if the heritage appeal is a minimum one year away.

The second update pertains to the St Vincent’s Hospital multi-storey development. The Hospital intends to press ahead with its plans to demolish a portion of the historical Eastern Hill Hotel (the former headquarters of the Eight Hour Day movement), the historic Easthill House and the rear of the Dodgshun House, on the location where the cottage St Mary McKillop was born in 1842 was located.

There is deep dissension within the local community and with the local Council (Yarra Council) with all relevant properties being covered by a full suburb heritage overlay.

Again, please read the Sydney Morning Herald article here reprinted from the 27/03/18.

Private hospital plans to demolish heritage-listed buildings

St Vincent’s Private hospital is seeking to partially demolish two heritage-listed Fitzroy buildings, one associated with the eight-hour day movement and the other with Saint Mary McKillop, to make way for an 11-storey hospital extension.


An artists impression of the new St Vincent’s Private hospital.

The hospital’s plans, labelled “imperialist” by local opponents, were approved by Yarra Council with strict conditions around the heritage buildings.

St Vincent’s Private subsequently appealed the decision at Victoria’s planning tribunal.

A justification for the development submitted by St Vincent’s says the hospital is facing “bed block” during the week, forcing it to divert non-elective or urgent private patients to other hospitals.

The new hospital wing will replace part of the existing hospital and includes demolishing a portion of the Eastern Hill Hotel, razing the historic Easthill House and removing the rear of the two-storey Italianate mansion, Dodgshun House.

The gold-rush era former Eastern Hill Hotel, on the corner of Brunswick Street and Victoria Parade, is listed on Victoria’s heritage register and was once used by trade unionists as the headquarters for the eight-hour day movement.

Dodgshun House, also on the register, is the Brunswick Street location of Marino Cottage where Saint Mary McKillop was born in 1842.

Easthill House on Victoria Parade is considered individually significant from a heritage perspective.

The entire site of the hospital also falls under a heritage overlay.

St Vincent’s hopes to replace all three buildings with a $94 million structure featuring natural and midnight copper cladding that will house 91 new multi-day beds for patients, 12 same-day beds and additional operating rooms.

The building will be set above a new podium on Victoria Parade and Brunswick Street.

Yarra councillor Steve Jolly said the plans also included building over a heritage bluestone lane and demolishing a three-storey building at 5 Brunswick Street that was an Indigenous birthing center in the 1970s.

“St Vincent’s Private can expand like invading imperialists or show a bit of respect for local heritage. It’s up to them,” Mr Jolly said.

“We can’t let big cheque books override our history.”

The hospital has also applied to expand an existing multi-storey car park at 93-99 Victoria Parade.

Unfortunately for St Vincent’s, its application to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to review conditions put on its planning permit failed to get a clear result.

The conditions effectively stopped the hospital extension from intruding on any part of the sites listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.

Tribunal deputy president Helen Gibson said it wasn’t possible to provide an “easy or straightforward response” to the question asked of the tribunal.

“My opinion must be qualified and will not necessarily produce a simple, definitive answer to the underlying question of whether [the] conditions .. are valid,” she said.


The business case for the extension simply doesn’t stack up when considered against the actions of other inner city Hospitals. The Jessie McPherson and Mercy Hospitals moved to suburban locations where building provided no issues. Fitzroy is an iconic reminder of our original history. Apart from eyesores like the Housing Commission Flats on Brunswick St and the full estate there, it remains largely intact. On the surface it would appear that demanding the demolition or part demolition of heritage buildings of quite some significance is simply bloody minded. And remember, this is not an extension of the ‘Public Hospital’ but purely a money making venture, by St Vincent’s ‘Private’ Hospital.

It’s a well funded and clever ‘sleight of hand’ with smart copywriting of press releases hinting at minimalist effect to the area and its heritage. Well this time, many people both local and otherwise say ‘No!’

It’s an integral part of our heritage and it deserves to be preserved and acknowledged.

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of the preservation of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.

Queen Victoria Market Heritage Ruling denies Melbourne City Council Plan. Update – on Flinders St Station Refurbishment

The Queen Victoria Market redevelopment plans of the Melbourne City Council have effectively been stopped in their tracks by a ruling from Heritage Victoria. Heritage Victoria is an arm of the State Government’s Planning Department, led by Planning Minister Richard Wynne. Mr Wynne has long been opposed to the below ground construction part of the redevelopment.


There are powerful interests at play here. Even without Former Lord Mayor Robert Doyle pushing the project as his signature development, the current Council plan has strong support from the business community. Acting Lord Mayor Arron Wood acknowledges without heritage approval, the project cannot proceed.

The City of Melbourne have called in the big guns to shore up their plan and future agenda for the market. The Acting Lord Mayor claims that the current ‘Sheds’ could be removed and re-installed upon completion of the basements and ground works. Heritage Victoria does not agree that this can be done without permanent damage to the sheds and their heritage appeal.


Council has some rather notable opponents with regard to this opinion. Former Prime Minister Paul Keating was quoted last April (2017) as saying he believed any such removal would simply destroy the heritage value of the sheds.

The City of Melbourne have called upon their links with the City of London. Mr Donald Hyslop, the chair of London’s 1000 year old Borough Market visited the Queen Victoria Market last year.


Here is the full report in the Age Newspaper dated March 28th 2017.

If we do nothing, the market will die’: Fury at heritage ruling

The Queen Victoria Market will die a slow death unless major renovation works to heritage sheds are allowed to proceed, say Melbourne’s acting lord mayor and a prominent economist who wrote the business case for its redevelopment.

Melbourne City Council has vowed to appeal Heritage Victoria’s decision to reject an application to temporarily remove four of the market’s 140-year-old sheds.


A diagram showing the council’s plan to put services for market traders below ground. Since this image was created, the council has decided to dig down further – to three levels, to also include parking for 220 cars.

The council wants to remove the sheds, dig three levels of parking and storage areas for traders beneath them, then return the refurbished structures to where they have stood since 1878.

But Heritage Victoria on Tuesday told council officers it did not accept assurances that the sheds could be returned in their original condition.


Acting Lord Mayor Arron Wood at the market on Tuesday.

The heritage body, a state government authority, also believes the fabric of the 19th-century market would be irreversibly altered should the plan go ahead.

Acting lord mayor Arron Wood said without the heritage approval in place, the council could not proceed with its plan.

“The project is absolutely predicated on the below-basement facilities – all of these things are linked,” he said.

“This refusal means we can’t remove the sheds, we can’t go underground and deliver the parking the traders wanted and the below ground facilities the traders wanted,” Cr Wood said.

“This puts in jeopardy the entire project and we will appeal this decision.”
He said there was no question the sheds could be removed, restored and returned without damage.

Economist Marcus Spiller, whose company SGS completed the business case arguing for a major redevelopment of the market, said the market’s potential catchment pool of shoppers had tripled in the past 20 years.

“But the customer base has flatlined or even shrunk. If you go through the markets on any day but Saturday, you will see stalls with hessian shrouds over them – almost like coffins.”

“The place is suffering an incremental decline. If we do nothing, the market will die – it will become a skeletal remains of a once vibrant place,” Dr Spiller said.


One of the heritage sheds Melbourne City Council wants to remove, restore, and dig beneath.


The shed redevelopment is part of a plan to replace the market’s above-ground parking with a new park.

The chair of London’s 1000-year-old Borough Market, Donald Hyslop, visited the Queen Victoria Market last year. He responded to an email from Melbourne City Council on Tuesday night about the heritage refusal, expressing his surprise.

“When we remade the market with the railway works going through between 2005 [and] 2012 we had to take all the main hall and roof structures down piece by piece, store for several years, and then put it all back together,” he wrote. He said the sheds were “better than original now but all heritage intact”.


London’s Borough Market was restored without losing its heritage values.

London’s Borough Market was restored without losing its heritage values.
Cr Wood said something identical could happen in Melbourne.

Heritage Victoria’s decision comes despite the council having spent more than $15 million planning the revamp of the Melbourne landmark, which attracts 10 million visitors annually.

Last April, former prime minister Paul Keating attacked the city council’s plan, saying taking the sheds down and stripping their lead paint to restore them would ruin their heritage value.


“Imagine in this day and age, [the sheds] somehow being disassembled and re-riveted. All of the patina goes. Melbourne is trying to list this as a heritage site but there will be no heritage left.”

Planning Minister Richard Wynne has long been opposed to the below-ground construction part of the redevelopment plan, although he last year signed off on construction of a 40-storey apartment tower on land opposite the market’s deli hall on Elizabeth Street.

On Wednesday he said that it needed to be redeveloped, but in “a respectful way”. He said removing the sheds and returning them was an option Heritage Victoria did not accept as a ‘‘respectful resolution of this issue’’.

Heritage Victoria had been reviewing the council’s application and holding discussions with the council’s heritage consultants since September last year, Mr Wynne said. ‘‘It’s not as if this has been a quick or short-term conversation. This has been going on for some months.’’

Premier Daniel Andrews said his government was supportive of the market’s redevelopment. “This is an iconic site, it’s a big part of our economic activity, big part of Melbourne’s history and our story as we look to the future,” Mr Andrews told reporters on Wednesday morning.

But he said Heritage Victoria’s ruling was “very clear”.

“There will need to be a fresh look taken at this; there will need to be a fresh application put forward,” he said. “I’m prepared, all of us I think are prepared, to work with Melbourne City Council to try and find a way forward on this.”

He said everyone wanted a better Queen Victoria Market.

“It’s a very special place and its history is very important to us and we need to safeguard and protect the heritage of the site while at the same time finding a way to make it even better.”


The Queen Victoria Market has long been the people’s market. It’s simple, no fuss with a wealth of choice. It simply doesn’t require the major ‘overhaul’ the Council is currently suggesting. The reality is that it sits on a prime real estate site, and represents one of the last opportunities for developers in or near the Melbourne CBD.

It is a place where people from all demographics and ethnic backgrounds mix and depend upon. By all means modernise elements of it such as refrigeration, presentation and access. But it should never suffer the type of ‘modernisation’ as suggested by the City of Melbourne. You don’t have to travel far to see a successful modernisation of a market that retains the original charm, yet offers a better facility, visit the South Melbourne Market. Rather than suffocating it, the Port Phillip Council have celebrated it and attendance and trade figures are way up.


The there is the elephant in the room. Lying beneath the sheds are the remnants of Melbourne’s original cemetery. It has been suggested there could be thousands of unmarked and undocumented paupers’ graves that were simply not included in the re-interments at the Melbourne General Cemetery. Many of those buried in such a manner were Melbourne’s original indigenous inhabitants.

Flinders Station Update

The second project update is the Flinders St Station refurbishment. The signature Flinders St Domes are now waterproofed and repaired internally, as is the famous Victorian Railways Ballroom. It would seem our feathered friends have been busy.


Read about it here…

Flinders Street station dome cleaned for first time in a century in $100m restoration


More than 10 tonnes of bird poo has been removed from the dome of Melbourne’s Flinders Street station as part of restoration works.

The station is undergoing a $100 million makeover, with works expected to be finished by 2019.

Flinders Street station was built in 1910, and this is the first time in more than a century it has had significant cleaning and restoration works.

As part of the project, the building has been periodically covered with scaffolding as it is returned to its original colours.

The clock tower on Elizabeth Street was recently cleaned and restored, and Minister for Major Projects Jacinta Allan said cleaning and restoration on the iconic dome had been finished.


“The dome really is a symbolic part of Flinders Street station, indeed it could be said that it’s the international symbol of Melbourne,” she said.

The refuse was treated as hazardous waste and removed from inside the dome by a specialist company.


Roof repaired in the disused ballroom

The station’s neglected ballroom is somewhat legendary among Melbournians, and there have been plenty of proposals for its use, from hosting a craft market to crisis accommodation for the homeless.

The ballroom was in a state of dereliction, and work has been done to waterproof and stabilise its roof.

Ms Allan said no decisions had been made about how the ballroom and other spaces would be used once the works were complete.

“There’s certainly been plenty of ideas put forward,” she said.

Ms Allan said the works were not just about protecting the station’s history, but also to improve its useability.

“Flinders Street station is our busiest station – around 200,000 passenger movements go through this station every single week day, 26 million passenger movements a year,” she said.



Ten tonnes of Pigeon poop! Extraordinary!! Sounds like it could replace Nauru as a source of ‘superphosphate’. In reality it demonstrates the level of neglect this iconic landmark has endured over the last 100 years.


What will be interesting is to see what use this intriguing facility will eventually be put to. We wait with great interest. What the project does demonstrate is that with respect for Heritage listing, these wonderful old historic buildings can live again and provide us with both markers in our history and wonderful facilities for today’s and future generations.


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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of the preservation of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.

Daylesford – The Enigma of Gold, Culture and the Healing Waters

With Easter nearly upon us, thoughts turn to where to head for a break. A favourite destination for many is the town of Daylesford, about 100km west of Melbourne. Gold was discovered on Wombat Flats, now deep below Daylesford Lake, in 1852. These alluvial deposits were the forerunner to deep quartz mining, which continued until the 1930s. Gold – the foundation of another heritage town, in this case providing the bounty that built the magnificent buildings of Daylesford and Hepburn Springs.


Daylesford these days is better known as the Spa capital of Australia. It has long been renowned as a place to ‘take the waters’ and now features the Hepburn Spa complex and walking trails with many springs to sample the mineral waters on your way. (The Hepburn Mineral Springs Reserve is a 30 acre reserve surrounding the Spa Centre. It is heritage listed.)

43_Daylesford Lake Villa 1 - Lake view

It is also famous for the simply stunning buildings, its streetscape and the rolling hills, surrounding the extinct volcano – Wombat Hill, which overlooks the twin townships of Daylesford and Hepburn Springs.


In many ways it is a challenge to maintain the historical character of the precinct yet still facilitate the needs of the regular stream of tourists and the local population. From the early 1990s, the local Hepburn Shire Council has received royalties on all mineral waters sold on to beverage companies in Australia. The majority is bottled in Melbourne. The funding then available has been used to develop the new Spa complex and other tourist related facilities.



The Hepburn Springs Bathhouse was first opened to the public in 1895 providing ‘social bathing’. The Hepburn architecture is predominantly Edwardian due to the bushfires in 1906 which effectively destroyed the original township, which was predominantly Victorian architecture as in nearby Daylesford.

In 1864, the local population determined to protect the mineral springs from mining. The migrant populations from Italy, Germany and England rated the mineral waters ‘more valuable than gold’. A bathhouse was constructed in the 1890s. It has been remodelled several times. It was mainly the efforts of the ‘Swiss Italians’ that saved the springs for posterity.


The most recent remodelling was completed in 2008. From what was effectively a rundown, red brick facility, a mix of Federation, Edwardian and other influences, constructed in the early part of the twentieth century, the Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa is now housed in a thoroughly modern complex, offering hydrotherapy, massage and beauty therapy. It is a tasteful extension and renovation that acknowledge the past yet provides the comforts of the present. The new development cost over $13 million.

Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens

For this week the other location to be visited is ‘The Convent Gallery’ or to give it its proper title ‘The Holy Cross Convent and Boarding School Brides of Christ Convent’.


Purchased by the Catholic Church in the 1880s as a presbytery for the local priest, it was originally built back in the 1860s as a private residence for the Gold Commissioner. It was disparagingly referred to as ‘Blarney Castle’ at that time.

From the 1890s, the church expanded the complex to accomodate nuns and boarders – opening in 1892 with building continuing through until 1927 including the new North Wing and substantial chapel. The accommodation wing was three storeys with an attic. No heating was provided and with massive costs in upkeep, the nuns moving to alternative accommodation, by the late 1970s the building and its gardens were derelict and neglected.

In 1988, it was purchased by a well known local artist and ceramicist Tina Banitska. It was reopened on March 31st 1991 as the ‘Convent Gallery’. Since then there have been further rounds of renovation to the buildings and grounds that add new life to the original grandeur. These include two major glass fronted function rooms, a penthouse suite and the ‘Altar Bar and Lounge’.


Externally the building retains its strong Victorian architectural features. Sitting high on the slopes of Wombat Hill, it provides panoramic views to the north and west of Daylesford town and Hepburn Springs. It houses several individual Galleries, a large retail area, a café, the two function rooms and the penthouse suite. It also retains four tiny ‘nun’s cells’ – the original nun’s bedrooms. Perhaps a reflection on the very frugal and harsh past.

It is a real celebration of Art History and Culture. We thoroughly recommend a quiet drink in the ‘Altar Bar and Lounge’ and a toast to the former Archbishop of the Melbourne Diocese, Archbishop Carr. He envisioned the place to become ‘a source of light and edification’ back in 1891. It may well have taken over a hundred years to materialise, but the Convent Gallery is certainly that now and well worth a visit.


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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of the preservation of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.

Mooramong Homestead – Hollywood comes to the Western District

Let’s take a detour from controversy this week and substitute glamour. Hollywood starlet, handsome colonial grazier and 4000 working acres. But lets forget the sheep for a moment and focus on crystal and crockery. This is the home of the son of LKS MacKinnon, the famous Lawyer, racehorse owner and breeder immortalised with the naming of the MacKinnon Stakes during Melbourne’s Cup Week Racing Carnival.




The property was originally a ‘Squatters Run’ of over 15,000 hectares claimed in 1838 by Scotsman Alexander Andersen and his two partners. Having sold off two thirds of the run, Andersen named the property Mooramong. The sale and profits from grazing provided him with sufficient capital to commission Geelong Architects Davidson and Henderson to design a new homestead and have its construction completed by 1873. Andersen eventually sold the property in 1889.



During the 1920s, the property was purchased by lawyer and racing identity Mr LKS MacKinnon who in turn gifted it to his son DJS (Scobie) MacKinnon as a 21st birthday present. Scobie excelled as a grazier and breeder of sheep. In 1937 whilst visiting Britain for the Coronation, young Scobie met Canadian born silent screen actress Claire Adams. Besotted the young couple married after a whirlwind 3 week courtship then honeymooned for an entire year whilst touring through Europe, the UK and the USA. Both were independently wealthy. Scobie utilised his gifted property well, achieving record wool clips, whilst Claire had inherited substantial wealth from her first husband. Not only that, she had acted in over 46 Hollywood movies including five Zane Grey films. She worked with the very best producers, directors and actors of the time.



It was Hollywood in real life as the strapping young Cambridge Undergraduate turned grazier and breeder wooed the glamorous starlet – then settled at Mooramong!

Art Deco was all the rage at the time and a staid 19th Century homestead became a very fashionable and trendsetting abode – Modern style, Art Deco elements, with Georgian accents. Melbourne Architect Marcus Martin had been engaged by Claire Adams, The transformation was deemed a modernisation and at the time perceived as very daring.


The weatherboard exteriors were rendered and the 19th Century Gothic features removed even when Architect Martin strongly objected.

A heated pool (the first in Victoria) and an Edna Walling garden design was prepared but never fully implemented. A pavilion and pergola completed the thoroughly modern improvements to Mooramong commissioned by Claire Adams.

Much of the 18-month-long renovation work was done on the interior. Of course, a home theatre was an essential part of the brief for this couple. Other entertainment areas included the music room, bar and games room, the latter two being all the rage in fashionable homes of the time. These areas all displayed the influence of modernism, as did the pool furniture and light fittings throughout the home.


The style of the bar with its green leather dado with chrome strips, recessed fireplace and curved bench took its lead from the interiors of ocean liners such as P&O’s new Orcades. Another fashionable 1930s innovation adopted at Mooramong was the use of built-in furniture, particularly in the kitchen but also in the bathrooms. The use of Formica, too, was cutting-edge, as it was not generally available in Australia until after World War II. Wrought-iron features, such as the front screen door, also appealed to Martin.

Claire, it seems, may not have been Martin’s easiest client to work for, not because of temperament but due to her reported difficulty in understanding drawings. So it was often a case of “build and demolish until it is right”, according to Stephen Dorling, Martin’s assistant at the time. The lounge mantelpiece, for example, was rebuilt six times. She also, apparently, returned a grand piano to London because it wasn’t exactly the colour she’d ordered.


The Mackinnons were very popular, though, and great charity workers. They entertained the cream of high society and local community folk alike, throwing open their home for parties, film nights, musical evenings and card nights, and welcoming all to swim in their pool. Claire’s natural charm and beauty won hearts and her love of animals was legendary.

She even came in for criticism when in 1944 a great bushfire threatened Mooramong and Claire’s first thought was to save the dogs by letting them off their chains — before worrying about the expensive farm equipment. Still, almost single-handedly, she managed to save most of the property, only losing some outbuildings and the manager’s residence, which was rebuilt in 1947.


More work was done on the house over the years, though wartime shortages made it difficult during that period. Scobie died of cancer in 1974. His devastated wife had myriad photos, home movies and press clippings to remind her of their wonderful life together, until her own death in 1978. The couple had no children, and the house and bulk of their estate were bequeathed to the National Trust.


Today the property, its outbuildings and features remain pretty much as the MacKinnons left it, a working farm typical of the Western District of Victoria, still operating today. Photographs, curios, furniture and art remaining gives the overall feeling of a glamorous home (and couple) of the 1930s, through to the 1970s that remains etched in time. To this day the property remains a popular location for feature films and television dramas.


Well worth a visit, you can find more detail on location and opening hours on the National Trust website.

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of the preservation of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.

Fortuna Villa – Riches beyond imagination

Gold – that beautiful precious metal – is what Bendigo is built upon. This week we look at one of Bendigo’s most famous Mansions – Fortuna Villa, a building of over 40 rooms. Its original owner was George Lansell, a very successful mining investor. George invested in deep mining of Quartz reefs. He went deeper than anyone had before him and his reward was fabulous wealth. His home was full of exotica from all over the planet – his garden too was filled with rare and exotic plants from mystical and secret places, most of which are now long gone.


Bendigo has produced over 9 billion dollars worth of Gold since the 1850s – that’s $9,000,000,000, the second highest producing Goldfield in Australia to Kalgoorlie. No wonder historic, elaborate bank buildings line the streets of old Bendigo. Originally discovered by the wives of two farm workers on a pastoral lease, a Mrs Kennedy and a Mrs Farrell, alluvial gold mining soon made way to deep shaft mining after 10 years. After 100 years the Bendigo Goldfield represented the largest concentration of deep mine shafts for Gold anywhere in the world.

George Lansell was born in 1823 in Kent, England. As a young man, George and his two brothers emigrated to Echunga in South Australia to ‘pan for Gold’. The Lansells were soap and candle makers by trade. By late in 1853 George Lansell and his brothers Wooten and William had moved to Bendigo and set up their business as butchers, soap and candle manufacturers. By 1855 Stockbrokers were visiting George and encouraging him to invest n deep shaft mining. By 1860 he had invested, lost and reinvested a number of times. He was learning what was required to be successful at this type of mining. By 1865 – a bad year for mining in Bendigo – Lansell took advantage of the tough times and bought up many shares in the Advance Mining Company and Cinderella Mine. He insisted that the miners go deeper than ever before and from then on he and his companies reaped massive rewards. By the 1870s he had accumulated a large fortune from the Garden Gully Mine and he then purchased the 180 mine. Although he was initially always on the edge of financial ruin, his methods paid off and he became a Millionaire, a philanthropist and returned to London. He was petitioned by the Bendigo Mining industry to return and in the late 1880s he did return. George continued to build onto the house Fortuna he purchased in 1871. He collected furniture, sculptures and art from around the globe. Outside he designed a spacious estate featuring walks, lakes and imported plants and flora. He died in 1906 with his second wife surviving him until 1933. His mansion was in fact directly opposite his prosperous Fortuna Mine.


His second wife Edith and their six children lived there, she remained there until her death. He commenced his lavish building program immediately after he purchased the property in 1871.

Generally described as ‘over the top’, it was opulent and went far beyond being utilitarian. Drapes covered faux windows, mantle pieces appeared from nowhere. The impression was one of immense wealth – and power.


George Lansell enjoyed the beauty of classical Europe and the Orient and the ‘villa’ very much reflected his personal style and tastes.

The house came close to being demolished after the death of his second wife Edith Lansell. Edith had continued to add to the house and its contents up until her death. One of the interlinked mining companies sold off the contents of the house with much of the collection saved. Many of the items have been displayed in the Post Office Gallery in Bendigo and the Bendigo Art Gallery.


By 1942 it had been acquired by the Federal Government Department of Defence and used as a Map Making facility during WWII and remained in the hands of the Defence Department until 2008.

It is now in the hands of a private owner who permits regular tours and public access after 65 years of being closed.


According to the Heritage Council of Victoria, Fortuna Villa’s description is as follows:

“The Villa is a rambling three storey asymmetrical rendered brick mansion, in a variety of styles , predominantly French Second Empire and Queen Anne”, reflecting the various periods of construction. Cast Iron Balconies decorate the North, East and West elevations. The original house, purchased in 1971, is encompassed in the centre of the present house and is much altered. Originally it was designed in 1857 and extended to the further designs of Bendigo Architects Vahland and Getzschmann, Emil Mauermann and William Beebe.


By the early Twentieth Century, Lansell had expanded the house to over 40 rooms, one of the largest in Victoria. Lansell transformed the industrial site of settling ponds and tailings dumps into spacious gardens and ornamental lakes, extravagant fountains and follies, with pathways and exotic plantings.

The estate is actually located atop of the rich New Chum reef.

The house has been stripped of its original furnishings but still retains magnificent lead light and etched glass windows, with plaster and pressed metal ceilings, parquet flooring, its two very unique bathrooms (c1904) and its outstanding conservatory (c1880) with French Ruby glass imported from Italy and floor to ceiling windows of etched glass depicting mining scenes, Australiana and Heraldic scenes. Then there is the Pompeii Fountain (c1879), a copy of the great fountain in Pompeii inspired by Lansell’s 1879 visit to Italy and Pompeii, and a further fountain and rockery in the South Garden, stables, a tailings dam converted to a brick Swimming Pool (called the Roman Bath), a coach house, a brick laundry, a former shade house South of the house and a garage North West of the house for Lansell’s Benz motor car, the first in Bendigo.

How is it significant?

Fortuna satisfies the following criterion for inclusion in the Victorian Heritage Register:

  • Criterion A Importance to the course, or pattern, of Victoria’s cultural history
  • Criterion B Possession of uncommon, rare or endangered aspects of Victoria’s cultural history
  • Criterion C Potential to yield information that will contribute to an understanding of Victoria’s cultural history
  • Criterion D Importance in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a class of cultural places and objects
  • Criterion E Importance in exhibiting particular aesthetic characteristics
  • Criterion H Special association with the life or works of a person, or group of persons, of importance in Victoria’s history.


Why is it significant?

Fortuna is significant at the State level for the following reasons:

Fortuna demonstrates key historic phases of Victoria’s history, notably the gold mining era, the development of the City of Bendigo and the history of defence in the state. The Fortuna cultural landscape is associated with the gold mining industry of Bendigo, particularly the extraction of gold from the richest quartz reef in the world in the nineteenth century, which had a significant influence on the settlement of Bendigo. (Criterion A)

Fortuna is an outstanding demonstration of the wealth and prosperity of Bendigo and Victoria during the gold rush period. The quartz-crushing works attached to the mansion represent a direct link between its owners’ wealth and its source. Fortuna is historically significant as the home of two of Australia’s wealthiest gold-mining families, Christopher and Theodore Ballerstedt, the earliest successful reef miners on the Bendigo goldfields. These men are often referred to as Australia’s first mining magnates, and George Lansell, known as the ‘Quartz King’, one of Australia’s most successful and adventurous nineteenth century mine owners. Although there were no mines on the Fortuna site, the estate was developed largely on the waste from Lansell’s 180 mine, north of Fortuna, which was one of the richest mines in Bendigo. The ore treatment site was gradually transformed into a picturesque landscape of lakes and gardens. Fortuna demonstrates the lavish lifestyle of the very wealthy families of Victoria’s gold-rush period. (Criterion A)


Fortuna is an example of the large private properties appropriated by the military during World War II, and has been in Defence control since 1942, when it was acquired as a base for mapping activities. It was the headquarters of the Survey Corps, later the Army Survey Regiment, until 1966 when it became the Defence Imagery and Geospatial Organisation (DIGO). The work of the regiment was highly important for the war effort, as preparing maps was a matter of urgency. New techniques based on American methods were developed at Fortuna, including innovations in aerial photographic surveys, and cartographic and lithographic techniques. (Criterion A)

Fortuna has a number of features which are rare in Victoria. It was rare for such a lavish house to be built so close to the industrial works that were source of the wealth that created it, in this case the crushing works for the ore from the Ballerstedt and later the Lansell gold mines. This reflects the need for security to protect the gold produced on the site. The survival of a nineteenth century villa estate, with a grand house surrounded by its original garden, is also unusual in an urban setting, and many of Fortuna’s garden structures, such as the iron fountain, rotunda and iron arbour are now relatively rare. Other rare features at Fortuna include the Pompeii fountain and the Roman bath, whose significance is increased by its origin as a tailings treatment pool built by the Ballerstedts in the 1860s. (Criterion B)


Fortuna has archaeological significance for its potential to contain historical archaeological features, deposits and objects associated with the establishment, development and use of the place. In particular the battery house is likely to contain archaeological features and relics associated with the operation of Lansell’s quartz crushing battery (and possibly remains of an earlier battery belonging to Ballerstedt), and other mining activities. 

The area in the direct vicinity of the house has the potential to contain historical archaeological features, deposits and objects associated with the construction and use of the place, including sub-floor deposits, refuse and garden or landscape features. (Criterion C)

Fortuna is an outstanding and relatively intact example of an extensive nineteenth century villa estate. The house, developed over several decades, is significant as one of the grandest residences built in Victoria in the nineteenth century. The villa is significant for its outstanding collection of stained and etched glass windows, for its ornate plaster and pressed metal ceilings and parquet floors, and for its now rare intact early bathrooms. The conservatory is significant for its outstanding glass workmanship, and is regarded as among the most important examples of its kind in Australia. The Pompeii fountain is unique in Victoria and indeed in Australia. The Roman bath is significant as a rare feature in a nineteenth century villa, and is the only known surviving private swimming pool from this period in Victoria. (Criterion D)

Fortuna is aesthetically significant for its decorative architecture, its remaining interiors and for its landscape setting and garden buildings and structures. The picturesque landscape extensively planted with trees, shrubs, garden beds and lawns is located on high ground that retains an undulating and modified land form of a former mining site with terracing, walls, steps, fences and gates, roads and paths and a lake, being a former settling pond. The contrasting and extensive plantings consisting of conifers, evergreen and deciduous trees, palms, shrubs, herbaceous plants, camellias and roses form a garden of aesthetic significance. Fortuna’s gardens, at their peak, were a marvel of aesthetic design, and many significant plantings remain. (Criterion E)

Fortuna is inextricably linked with George Lansell, the ‘Quartz King’, Australia’s first gold mining millionaire, who is credited with being the driving force behind much of Bendigo’s early prosperity. Lansell made a significant contribution to the mining industry in Bendigo and is credited with the introduction of technologies such as the diamond drill for quartz mining. Fortuna Villa and its grounds were Lansell’s passions and he decorated them extravagantly. (Criterion H)


Fortuna is also significant for the following reasons, but not at the State level:

Fortuna is of historical significance at a local level for its association with the history of Bendigo.

Fortuna is a historic landmark in Bendigo. It symbolises the founding of the town, and is important as a reference point in the community’s sense of identity. Many of the town’s citizens have worked on the site and several active community-based social groups have been formed to actively promote the history and importance of the site. The community, through the City of Greater Bendigo, has shown a profound interest in the future of the site.

Fortuna is significant for its association with one of Australia’s wealthiest gold magnates, Christopher Ballerstedt, who played an important role in the development of Bendigo’s gold mining industry. It is a demonstration of the work of the prominent Bendigo architects, Vahland & Getschmann, E Maurmann and W Beebe.


All in all a rather significant building and a spectacular history, but there is a final chapter.

In 2017 the Fortuna Villa Estate was released for public sale. The masterplan offers modern housing – houses and townhouses positioned in a horseshoe configuration facing back at the Estate’s Lake and Historic Mansion.

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According to the Estate’s website it consists of “79 contemporary architectural residences on one of Bendigo’s most renowned locations.”


You can view the development here

For us it certainly provides a major juxtaposition to the eccentricity and charm of the old estate. But you will experience “spectacular views of gardens, lake, historic villa and uninterrupted views over Bendigo”.

The last question is whether it resonates with the Heritage Listing and its reasons for protecting the original Fortuna Villa. We’ll let you be the judge of that.

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of the preservation of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.