Melbourne’s Lost Heritage – Mansions and Estates

Iconic heritage buildings were generally ornate, very substantial and designed for comfortable living, to the standards of the times. Many of the features of these incredible buildings were removed over time or worse still, the buildings were simply demolished. Here we look at three very famous, now demolished residential homes or ‘mansions’ as they came to be known.

Melbourne was founded on wealth from wealthy graziers, successful gold miners and those known as Squatters who, although not owning the lands they occupied, drew incredible wealth from those lands via Agriculture and grazing, mainly of sheep.

And when you are successful you build a magnificent home designed to last for generations. It will be surrounded by lush gardens, lawns, tennis courts, cricket and croquet pitches. There will be a ballroom and towers. And by the 1950s it will likely have simply ‘disappeared’, without a trace

Travancore Mansion

Travancore Mansion and Estate was such a building and prominent property. Known in its heyday as Flemington House, it was surrounded by 25 acres of gardens, orchards and plantations. It was situated on the Flemington Hill. At its Northern boundary was Boroda St. Its Western and Southern boundary was Mt Alexander Rd and the Eastern boundary was the Moonee Ponds Creek. The whole area must have been close to 200 acres minimum.

The original residence was built in 1852. This house was replaced by its new owner Hugh Glass. Fittings and furniture were selected and purchased in London and shipped to Melbourne for the grand new home. Mr Glass had just married and this was to become his ancestral estate.

The building featured two staircases, a gymnasium, sitting rooms, 24 fireplaces, two very substantial upstairs bathrooms, eight large family bedrooms, an extensive kitchen, very large dining room and a sewing room. The visage of the building featured a full balcony with over 72 pillars. The home also included a grand ballroom of mammoth proportions and a constructed artificial lake with white swans, ducks and cranes.

The site featured a gatehouse, boathouse, a summer house, stables and servants quarters. located in the grounds were aviaries and glasshouses. This was a grand home. The original owner Hugh Glass was a very wealthy man. He established the Tahbilk Vineyards at Nagambie in the 1860s. A Squatter, who became wealthy as a merchant, he was said to be worth over 800,000 Pounds or $2.5 billion in today’s Australian currency.


Mr Glass planted coffee, tea and rice on the grounds of his estate and was in essence the picture of the monied Victorian gentleman, follies and all.

The house was purchased by Sir Henry Madden in 1907. Over the years Sir Henry subdivided much of the estate retaining the stately home and a mere 60 acres.

It was further subdivided in the 1920s and when purchased by the Victorian Government in 1926, the house was vacant and the vast estate reduced to a mere 9 acres. Purchase price was 11,000 Pounds. It was then used as a residential school for intellectually disabled children. The building was demolished in the 1940s and all that remains are its ornate gates and entrance which now form the entrance to the Flemington Primary School.

Many homes constructed on the estate in the 1920s have a National Trust Heritage listing, and at Balance Architecture and Interior Design we have been involved in the restoration and fit-out of such homes on the estate, to meet heritage standards.


‘Chantrell’ was located at 36-38 Margaret St, Moonee Ponds. It was built on 1880 for Grazier Mr Francis Williams on a four and a half acre block.

A very grand home, the property featured five bedrooms, a large bathroom, a kitchen and scullery with pantry, a breakfast room, a large comfortable dining room, a library and a smoking room. The smoking room was originally located in the tower, a nice touch. Imagine surveying the surrounding lands with a port and cigar after a long, enjoyable dinner. The home featured an ornate courtyard, extensive gardens and a rather grand, ornate fountain.

The stately home had many owners, but from 1912 onwards it was used for the medical practice of Dr Septimus Strahan. Other prominent medicos followed in his footsteps up until 1953 when Dr Montague Kent-Hughes and his family made a real effort to restore this wonderful building to its former glory. At the time Dr Kent-Hughes added a ballroom to recapture the past affluence of the building and its beginnings.

It was torn down by ‘Developers’ in 1980 who paid the princely sum of $220,000. A year later they demolished it without a permit and received a $200 fine. Close to the Moonee Ponds Station, it was thought there may be a rezoning to commercial however it suffered the ignomous fate of having a plethora of units constructed on the site, and all remnants of this grand building have long since disappeared.

Ever wondered what stood upon the site now occupied by what was formerly the Hilton Hotel, now the Pullman Melbourne on the Park Hotel?

Cliveden Mansions

Cliveden Mansions was located on this location, the corner of Wellington Pde and Clarendon St. It was built in 1887 for Sir William Clarke, a baronet and wealthy pastoralist as his sumptuous and grand city home. His rural home, Rupertswood, located in Sunbury, a 50 room mansion and home of the famous Cricket ‘Ashes Urn’ was built between 1874 and 1876.

The Cliveden Mansions were designed in an Italianate Renaissance style by Architects William Wardell and W.L. Vernon. It included a ballroom said to hold up to 250 people.

The well known Melbourne family, the Baillieu’s, purchased the building in 1909 adding a fourth story. Eventually this grand home was converted into 48 lavish apartments. It boasted a shared kitchen as none of these apartments had their own kitchens. A dining room staffed with waiters and a French Chef catered for residents.

This exquisite building was torn down in 1968 to make way for the Hilton Hotel. Walk down Clarendon St and there is still a remnant of the old building remaining at the rear of the Hilton.

4 thoughts on “Melbourne’s Lost Heritage – Mansions and Estates

  1. Pingback: Melbourne’s Lost Heritage – Mansions and Estates, part 2 | Balance Architecture

  2. Pingback: The Sport of Kings become Property Developers | Balance Architecture

  3. Pingback: The New Development of Moonee Valley Racetrack – From History to the Future | Balance Architecture

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