Banyule – No-one’s getting married there any time soon – an update, and Federation Square gets a very big shed!

A couple of weeks ago, we reported that the Banyule Council had challenged the current owners of the Banyule Homestead over their plans for its proposed use as a Wedding Venue. We can now report that this application has been defeated in VCAT and the building will remain as it is now – a private residence on a private estate.


Situated on the banks of the Yarra River, the building is in fact one of Melbourne’s oldest, and possibly most interesting original grand mansions. It was constructed in 1846 – an Elizabethan style building unique to the times in Victoria.

You can refer to our previous blog here

Here is a report from News Ltd on the VCAT result.

Banyule Homestead plans slapped down by VCAT


The elegant mansion looks out across the Yarra River

PLANS to turn one of the state’s oldest surviving houses, the heritage-protected Banyule Homestead, next to the Yarra River in Heidelberg, into a wedding venue have been rejected by VCAT.

Banyule Homestead will not be turned into a wedding venue after plans were rejected by VCAT.Source:Supplied

PLANS to turn one of the state’s oldest surviving houses, Banyule Homestead, next to the Yarra River in Heidelberg, into a wedding venue have been rejected by VCAT.

The elegant 1846 property’s Toorak owners applied for a permit to host up to 160 people, obtain a liquor license, build 48 car parks, convert an existing garage into a kitchen and provide acoustic fencing after purchasing the property at 60 Buckingham Drive for $5.2 million in 2015.


 It sold in 2015 for $5.2 million

The eight-bedroom mansion on about 9100sq m was built for Sydney overlander Joseph Hawdon and designed by colonial architect John Gill, and has been used as the backdrop for Shaun Micallef series The Ex-PM.

It’s considered of historical significance to Victoria for its link to Hawdon.

Heritage Council of Victoria documents state it’s architecturally significant as “one of the earliest surviving houses in Victoria” and “a rare example of a pre-gold rush house in Melbourne to have retained a substantial part of its original appearance and setting.”


Inside the stately property


Shaun Micallef’s ‘The Ex-PM’ has been filmed there

It’s also “a rare example of the use of the Elizabethan style in Victoria, and the only known example of the adoption of this style by Gill.”

VCAT members concluded the plan was not suitable for the neighbourhood.


Also of interest is the current stoush over Federation Square. Some of our readers were concerned regarding the interim Heritage listing imposed by Heritage Victoria, fearing the ruling was ‘standing in the way of progress’.


But fear not! The Melbourne Tunnel Authority has announced plans to remove the Visitors Centre on the corner of Flinders St and Swanston St (opposite St Paul’s Cathedral) and replace the Visitor’s Centre with the biggest shed Melbourne has ever seen. Now there’s progress for you.

Read about it here.

Minister for Public Transport Jacinta Allan recently announced that work to build an entrance at Fed Square for the new underground Town Hall Station as part of the Melbourne Metro Tunnel project will begin shortly.

The works mean there will be some traffic changes in place, including Flinders Street being reduced by one traffic lane westbound between Russell and Swanston streets.  Drivers will still have one left-turning lane from Flinders Street into St Kilda Road, and one lane travelling ahead.


Rail Projects Victoria is encouraging motorists to plan ahead and allow up to an extra 15 minutes if travelling through this stretch of Flinders Street.

From 2019, following the completion of piling works on the site, an acoustic shed will be built over the Melbourne Metro Tunnel site to reduce noise, dust and light from 24/7 excavation and tunnelling.

This acoustic shed will also allow the Metro Tunnel works to move as quickly and quietly as possible, and will minimise disruption for visitors, staff and tenants.

When complete, the Town Hall Station will make it easier for people to reach some of Melbourne’s key tourist destination – Fed Square.  The station will also have a direct underground connection to Flinders Street Station, so passengers can connect seamlessly with City Loop services.

Even through these times of disruption, there’s always plenty to do at Fed Square!

New signage on site will ensure visitors can navigate through the precinct in a safe and supported manner, and great events and activations will ensure Fed Square remains Melbourne’s place to be!



Several changes had been planned for the iconic Federation Square in Melbourne as part of the redevelopment project including the demolition of the Yarra building to make way for Apple’s flagship store and the construction of a Metro tunnel entrance.

Observing that “there may be a prima facie case for the inclusion of this place in the Victorian Heritage Register”, the executive director of Heritage Victoria Steven Avery said that the planned redevelopment works may “detrimentally affect its cultural heritage significance”.


However, this decision has not gone down very well with the Victorian Government, given that the Federation Square was built just 16 years ago and cannot really be considered a heritage asset. Classifying modern sites as heritage structures could impact future projects, according to tourism minister John Erin.

But a building’s age is not a factor for inclusion in the heritage list as per the Heritage Act 1995; several Melbourne buildings have been added to the Victorian Heritage Register at a much younger age including the National Gallery of Victoria, which opened on 20 August 1968, and was added to the register in 1982.

The Royal Historical Society of Victoria has supported Federation Square’s nomination for inclusion in the heritage register with the chair of its heritage committee, Charles Sowerwine, saying: “In architectural terms, it embodies a remarkably coherent example of late 20th-Century architecture. In civic terms, it has become a truly public civic square.”


In both cases watch that space. The battle for Federation Square isn’t over just yet. It would appear the Apple ‘Pagoda’ will be unlikely to appear, but as can be seen the State Government are concerned here with precedent – should 16 year old buildings be heritage listed. It’s a very interesting question.

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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.

Federation Square update and accelerated destruction in Armadale.

Many of our regular readers have enquired as to what is happening with Federation Square and the proposed Apple Store announced this year. Good news! The National Trust of Australia’s Victorian branch nominated Federation Square for protection in early August. Heritage Victoria has handed down an interim order prohibiting any works anywhere in the vicinity of Federation Square – including the Metro Rail Tunnel. The interim order is considered a serious indication that Heritage Victoria is considering granting permanent protection to the Federation Square Precinct.


Works were not planned to commence until 2019. Supporters of the precinct such as ‘Citizens for Melbourne’ believe this is a strong indication that Heritage Victoria is looking to include the precinct on the Victorian Heritage Register. President Tania Davige said the interim order permits her organisation and others to take stock and assess the very special nature of Federation Square – or at least what it is that makes it truly special.

“Hopefully, after eight months of discussion behind closed doors, Victorians will now have the opportunity to have a say about the future of their public, cultural and civic square.”

The order also states that Federation Square is under “imminent threat from approved works to facilitate the Metro Tunnel at the CBD south precinct that may detrimentally affect its cultural heritage significance”.


City of Melbourne heritage portfolio chair Cr Rohan Leppert said the public backlash to the proposed Apple store proved Federation Square “is a site of state significance”. He said he was glad that Heritage Victoria was taking the proposal to permanently protect Federation Square seriously.

“Heritage Victoria’s decision to apply an IPO formalises these public heritage values and is very welcome, as is the exceptional leadership of the National Trust,” he said.

Apple and the state government want to demolish Federation Square’s Yarra building to make way for a tech store.

Tourism and major events minister John Eren said on Thursday that his position on the fledgling heritage status of Federation Square had not changed since Heritage Victoria began assessing it in late July.

“It would be unprecedented to heritage list a site that is only 16 years old, and to do so could lead to significant implications for future projects,” Mr Eren said in a statement.


“This will not stop us delivering the Metro Tunnel and other vital projects that are good for Melbourne and good for jobs.”

The “refined” design, submitted to Planning Minister Richard Wynne in July, includes a glass rectangular structure, which resembles a floating iPad. The new roof design of the building will allow for solar power.

Melbourne City Council received some 800 complaints about the original design and voted to force Apple to re-draw the plans.

Melburnians were angered when the plans were initially and unexpectedly announced in late 2017.

A station called Town Hall is set to be built on the corner of Federation Square and will stretch underground along Swanston Street. Construction was to have begun this year.

Nominations for heritage listings go through a thorough assessment process, which includes community consultation.

If the heritage listing is successful and Federation Square becomes protected, future developments would require assessment and permission from Heritage Victoria.


Another interesting Heritage battle is continuing in Armadale. The suburb is being targeted by Developers keen on using the large blocks ‘available’ for building apartment complexes. It isn’t going to stop until Richard Wynne, the Planning Minister, steps into the fray.


The first dwelling under threat is already being slowly dismantled for its building materials. Located at 33-35 Huntingtower Rd it is one of Armadale’s oldest and most expensive homes. built in 1909 ‘Offerton’ was sold ‘off market’ in October 2017 for $10.8 million! This was the fourth highest reported residential price ever in the suburb.

Houses such as this are difficult to achieve Heritage listing for. Individually such homes will not be granted interim protection. The intelligent move is to try and ensure a heritage overlay for the entire block or a large section of the suburb.


This home is Federation style and the only of its kind in the street, one of the few in the entire suburb. Stonnington Council accepted the report of a ‘heritage consultant’. The consultant dismissed the call for a listing on the basis that the property was simply not a good enough example of Federation style.

Currently the demolition company is carefully removing the hand made and crafted features of the home for further resale.

Stonnington Council permitted the demolition to proceed last October – 9 days prior to it being sold as earlier stated for $10.8M.

A building permit for the knock down was then issued by a private building surveyor in March.

He said as the council had 15 business days to consider a proposed demolition, there was no opportunity for public consultation.

No plans have been lodged with council for a replacement building.

The resident said she understood the new owner was a developer who planned to replace the house with high-end townhouses.


The resident said she and fellow Armadale locals didn’t become aware of the knock down until the work had begun.

“People don’t want this place pulled down because it’s irreplaceable,” she said.

“It’s one of very few in the suburb — Armadale is made up of worker’s cottages and modest Victorians.

“Melbourne is changing so fast, and there’s no community involvement.”



Also, in Armadale a home built in the 1880s at 34 Armadale St Armadale is now facing the wreckers hammers. It will also make way for apartments. A demolition permit has been issued. Valued at $6 million, local residents believe the building to be ‘of architectural significance’. Unfortunately no-one thought to apply for a heritage listing and this beautiful building will almost certainly be demolished.


Gracious period detail adorns the home including soaring ceilings, magnificent open fireplaces and tessellated tiled return verandah.



With substantial grounds, a tennis court and landscaping by John Patrick, this is a beautiful property.


The real problem is that such purchases and demolitions are simply not made public until the bulldozers are doing their job. Armadale is a beautiful suburb, but the likelihood is that in 20 years it will have experienced the same level of development and high per metre occupancy rates as nearby North Caulfield and East St Kilda.


The cautionary tale is to observe what is in fact unique, of historical and architectural merit in your suburbs and take action through both your local council and bodies such as the National Trust and the Heritage Council of Victoria to protect our older suburbs.

It takes an active and vigilant population to ensure we do not further diminish the wonderful heritage we currently enjoy in such locations. Don’t assume, check. once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.

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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 Manor House and Banyule – Our Heritage – Some of our earliest buildings.

For many of us the 1840s seems like a very long time ago, but in Architectural terms it is yesterday, so to speak. For Victorians however this is actually the period when many of our earliest buildings were designed and constructed, and for most people these buildings are obscure – being now surrounded by modern suburbia or townships. This week we review The Manor House in Bacchus Marsh, the nearby Former Leahy’s Residence and lastly the jewel in the crown – Banyule in Heidelberg, currently the subject of a protracted VCAT dispute between current owners and Banyule Council.

Manor House


Manor House is one of Victoria’s oldest homes. In the time of John Batman and John Pascoe Fawkner, pastoralists from Launceston in Tasmania’s north were exploring the Southern Coastal regions of Victoria. One such gentleman was Mr Kenneth Clarke who had emigrated to Van Diemen’s Land in 1818. Clarke brought over a flock of sheep from George Town in Tasmania on behalf of the Great Lakes Pastoral Company.

In 1838 Mr Clarke chose to shift his initial operation, situated near the junction of the Werribee and Lederberg Rivers further west to the Pentland Hills. His original holding passed to Captain William Bacchus and his son, also pastoralists.


Bacchus extended his holding on the river junction to a radius of 3 miles. The property consisted of the Head Station and four outstations (huts). In the survey of 1839-40, a structure is shown on the present day site of Manor House, possibly a brick building pre-dating the existing house.

Bacchus was a foundation member of the influential Melbourne Club, a member of the Melbourne Cricket Club and the ‘Pastoral and Agricultural Society of Australian Felix’. He became a successful land developer in Melbourne, avoiding the ‘1842 depression’. In 1846-47, Bacchus erected a substantial and imposing house of a scale which reflected an image for a suitable dwelling for a country gentleman. As is oft the case, Captain Bacchus only lived in the house for two years before he died. The house was occupied after he died by a Robert Neldur Clarke for two years until Bacchus’s son, William Henry Bacchus, leased the property to the Victorian Colonial Government for use as a Court House (Petty Sessions).


Amusingly enough it was then sold to James Elijah Crook in 1856, and the Crook family occupied the home for over 90 years. It received National Trust accreditation in 1959 – one of the first to have such protection bestowed upon it.

The house was eventually restored by Dr Pulteney Malcolm and his wife who did so with the assistance of National Trust honorary Architects John and Phyllis Murphy. So by now you’ve realised – Bacchus Marsh was in fact Bacchus’s Marsh.

The house is architecturally significant as one of Victoria’s earliest surviving substantial homes. It is built in the Victorian Regency style – with a high level of craftsmanship in its joinery and stonemasonry.

For your enjoyment here is an article from the ‘Bacchus Marsh Express’ Sat 23rd February, 1907.

The Manor House, Bacchus Marsh.


Between tenancies we had a glance round the building and grounds last week, as many others did, and found the site and building both admirable and of considerable historical interest, as Victorian annals go.

The building is of two storeys, with freestone facade, substantial and ornamental. There is a side wing curved brick wall, and a “horse block” of stone in front of the door. There are five top-storey windows, and two on each side of the doorway. Some fluted columns still show good “arrises,” and the building is in good repair, on the whole, but needing renovations. There is a battered sundial in the garden-a relic with a history, no doubt. In fact the place is full of history, as it was the Courthouse, the lock-up, and various other things in the early days.

There has been a fine orchard, before the days of Codlin. The trees are mostly pears, and are still bearing well. There are a couple of fine mulberry trees.

A resident owner, spending £500 on the property, could restore its former glories.

Mr. Cornelius Mahoney, J.P., a resident here for 63 years, and a mason by trade, gives us the following particulars respecting Manor House:-John Dorricut was the carpenter, with two others whose names I did not know. The mason who did the ornamental work in freestone, &c., round the windows and doorway, was Robert Rhodes. The owner when it was built was Mr. W. H. Bacchus, son of Captain H. Bacchus—both long dead. It was built in 1850 or ’51. When Bacchus sold out, Aitkin- & Clark became the purchasers, who subdivided the land, and sold it in lots at auction. The Manor House, and 12 acres of ground attached, was reserved at the price of £1,000. The Government rented it then as a Police station for a time. Subsequently Mr. J. E. Crook became the purchaser at £1,100, and he occupied it, with his family, during life. It was subsequently let to Mr. Jeremiah Ryan, at £100 a year, for a term of 10 years, with the option of purchase at the expiration of his lease, but he only survived six years of his leasehold. The freestone used in the house came from Matson’s quarry, which is a continuation of the present Bald hill. The stone was largely used in building the Treasury, Melbourne, but was condemned because some did not stand the weather-an unjust decision, because the defects were due to careless quarrying of surface stone. Had the men gone deeper the stone was of most excellent quality; and if ever the quarry is re-opened will, I am sure, prove a most reliable asset. An evidence of this fact may be obtained by any person examining the doorway, &c., af the Manor House, as hewn by the late R. Rhodes, who was an excellent mason.


Bacchus Marsh became a significant gateway to the Goldfields of Ballarat, Castlemaine, Clunes, Daylesford and Bendigo.

The Former Leahy’s Residence (quaint!) was originally a domestic residence, originally constructed in the 1840s, then converted to a hotel to take advantage of the passing trade heading to the Goldfields. It represented a strong connection with the local Irish enclave and with local sawmilling, flour milling and cheese making industries.



We move on to Banyule. Banyule is one of Melbourne’s largest municipal councils, and the Banyule Homestead, located at 60 Buckingham Drive Heidelberg, was the very first substantial home in this part of what is now greater Melbourne. The Council takes its name from this hilltop property.


Banyule was built in 1846 for a Mr John Hawdon, to the design of Colonial architect John Gill. Hawdon was an Englishman who with John Gardiner and John Hepburn drove cattle overland from New South Wales to the Port Phillip District in 1836. The property he selected had splendid views of the Yarra River. At the time Heidelberg in the 1840s was a popular rural retreat for the landed gentry. Architect John Gill determined this property was to be constructed in an Elizabethan style with french gables, crenellated oriel, pepper pot pinnacles and chimney groups. The building of two storeys provided a most pleasing visual vista and its original part-shingled roof was replaced with slate entirely by 1867.


The 1846 house had three main rooms asymmetrically arranged on the ground floor and a fine staircase leading to the six rooms on the first floor. Gothic forms were used for interior details such as mantelpieces, cornices, doors and architraves. The detached two-roomed kitchen block to the north-east might have been built in c1843, before the main house. In 1908 there were major additions, designed by the architects Klingender & Alsop: a two storey wing, in a style sympathetic to the original, was added to the south-east, and on the north side the kitchen block was linked to the house. In 1922 repair work was done under the supervision of A & K Henderson. In 1975-7 the house was altered by Yuncken Freeman Architects for use by the National Gallery of Victoria. This involved the removal of internal walls and doors, filling in of fireplaces, and the removal of a chimney. It is now again a private residence.


The grounds have been reduced in size, and later development, including the building of a tennis court and swimming pool, has altered the landscape. Remnants of the early garden planting, including cypress trees, paths and walls remain. The main feature of the garden is a very large and prominent Blue Cedar, (Cedrus atlantica f glauca) in the front garden.



Banyule is architecturally significant, again as one of Victoria’s earliest grand residences, but also importantly for its sophistication and style.

It is a rare remnant of Pre Gold Rush Victorian Architecture that has remained remarkably intact. And it is the only known rendition of Elizabethan style executed by John Gill still remaining.

Currently, the Banyule Council has taken the present owners of Banyule to VCAT. The owners desire to use Banyule as a Wedding Reception venue. This has met with strong objections from the now very gentrified surrounding suburb, which represents some of the most expensive real estate in Melbourne.


An update from Banyule Council will be available soon.


From our perspective, properties like Banyule should not be left to chance. We have a very new history, and buildings such as Banyule play in integral role in mapping our ‘DNA’ as a city – so to speak. It would be sensible for the National Trust or similar to eventually purchase places such as Banyule, as it has done with other very important heritage listed properties. The National Gallery of Victoria appears to have ‘modernised’ the building in 1975-77. Perhaps now is a great time for them to ‘make an offer’ and restore to its original glory one of Melbourne’s grandest homes, yet best kept secrets. It would be a remarkable location to profile the Heidelberg School of artists. Food for thought.


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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.

Ormond Hall – A survivor

Back in the ‘70s Ormond Hall was a popular venue for Rock and Roll. Bands such as Skyhooks, Chain, Sherbert and even John Farnham appeared there. But its real history is somewhat more interesting.


Located on a huge block bounded by St Kilda Rd and Moubray St, the land originally housed ‘The Victorian Asylum and School for the Blind’ established as it was in 1866. The facility was made up of a ‘home’ and school designed to house 120 children and adults. It was built in 1868. The ‘Protestant principles’ were stated as ensuring Blind People became useful members of society.


The original building was constructed in Gothic Revival style from the favoured building material for the Victorian Colony’s early public buildings – Bluestone. Architects Crouch and Wilson who designed the original building continued with a number of extensions, the first in 1872, the McPherson Wing as well as a number of Training Workshops. The new wing was used as a showroom for the Institute’s output of baskets, nets, brushes and matting.

The Institute’s buildings set back from St Kilda Rd provided an imposing vista from that famous boulevard. The long curved driveway flanked by large distinguished Elm trees provided a further impressive vision.


Ormond Hall for the Blind, named after benefactor Francis Ormond, was built with its entrance on Moubray St in 1891. The building was designed by Architects Nathaniel Billing and Son. It provided a major teaching and further entertainment venue. Two further brick factories were built east of the Hall between 1922 and 1926 but were demolished in the 1990s.

An earlier single storey stone building was ‘widened’ in 1926 and a further two additional brick stories were also added in 1933. The building was situated on the property’s northern boundary. This building was expanded and developed by the Public Works Department under the direction of Mr J.D. McLean.


The main RVIB building is architecturally important as a landmark institutional example of the work of notable architects Crouch and Wilson, and is comparable with the nearby Royal Victorian Institute for Deaf Children (also designed by Crouch and Wilson) of 1866. Crouch and Wilson were one of Melbourne’s most prolific nineteenth century architectural practices, and designed many Wesleyan churches and other important institutional buildings.

Ormond Hall is historically important for its role as a major teaching and entertainment venue for the blind, and for its long use as a fundraising centre and venue for social gatherings for pupils, employees and the wider community. It is important for its association with Francis Ormond (1829-1889), grazier and philanthropist, and is a fitting memorial to his abiding interest in education and music.

The three storey brick former factory is historically important as the sole surviving element of the extensive red brick factory buildings constructed behind the main building in the 1920s and 1930s.

This structure incorporates part of an early stone building constructed by the Institute. Traditional blind trades such as mat, basket and brush making were taught and carried on in the factory workshops, and the RVIB factory workshops became synonymous with the production of coir matting in Victoria.

A prefabricated Myer house placed on the grounds between 1947 and 1953 is historically and architecturally important as the only known example of one of the many prefabricated houses constructed by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation and marketed by the Myer Emporium during the world-wide shortage of housing following the Second World War.

[Note: The Myer Prefabricated House (B3) was demolished in 2010 under Permit No.P12221]

Source: Heritage Victoria


Go there now and it’s surrounded by encroaching buildings from both the Alfred Hospital complex and the St Kilda Rd office blocks on the east side of the road heading back towards Commercial Rd. Battles were fought and lost to stop ‘inappropriate’ development, particularly the Glass tower abutting the property to the north.

Ormond Hall is now basically a hospitality venue. It famously hosted the Belgian Beer Bar for several decades until the 2017 refurbishment completed by Hutchinson Builders. Lovel Chen were the Architects. Here are some of the internal vistas.


MAB Ormond Hall Village Melbourne.JPG


Hutchinson’s work on the hall included minor demolition, conservation works under approval from Heritage Victoria, repair and rectification to the tower, fire services upgrade including the fault in the bar and supper room, electrical upgrade communications and alarm, painting throughout, sand / replish Chapel floor, replace carpet, roof works, removal and disposal of asbestos.

From our perspective this is a wonderful little complex, a real throwback to the 19th Century. Being opposite Wesley College, it still maintains its perspective and independent vista. But with the crowding of larger, taller office blocks and medical facilities, it is a little lost.


Take the time to walk down Mooubray St, stroll through the little park. Shut your eyes and imagine – you’re blind, and this is where you will prepare for life. A wonderful, unforgettable place in Melbourne’s Heritage – Ormond Hall. Saved.

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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.

From Wattle Daub to Faux American Colonialism – From Necessity to Elegance – Our Heritage

When settlement commenced in Victoria, the new colony had very little to offer in the way of building materials. This week we first review some of the innovative solutions implemented by the early settlers, and then nearby the extravagance afforded by the twentieth century. From slab construction using local timber to mock American Colonial. Four different properties – the Heights in Geelong’s Newtown, the McCrae Homestead at McCrae on the Mornington Peninsula, the Briars at Mt Martha (with its Napoleonic connection) and finally Mulberry Hill in Langwarrin South.

The Heights


The Heights represents the largest prefabricated house built in Victoria (we’d suggest up until recently). It was built in Germany for businessman Charles Ibbotson. Ibbotson was in fact one of the initial partners in the famous Dalgety wool and produce agency and in 1850 or thereabouts was appointed the colonial manager of the company’s operation based as he was in Geelong.


Ibbotson was integrally involved in the development of the Geelong Botanical Gardens amongst other publicly minded services he supported. The house was originally built on two acres with Ibbotson acquiring sixty adjacent acres to complement this initial purchase.


The house was actually completed (the portable wooden house) in 1874. Naming it the Heights, it featured wide verandahs, bay windows, stables and a large water tower. A billiard room was added in 1875.


The German manufacturer was Mr Frederick Bauer. It remained in the ownership of 3 generations of the one family – the Ibbotsons – until 1975 when it was bequeathed to the National Trust. the house is open on Sundays from 1pm until 4pm. Trust members can attend for free.

McCrae Homestead


Across the bay at McCrae a different approach was taken by Lawyer Mr Andrew McCrae and his wife Georgiana, an artist. The homestead was constructed in 1844 and is a rare example of drop slab construction. It was built using local timber – messmate, stringybark (Eucalypts) and wattle (Acacia). The technique was often called ‘Wattle Daub’ at the time of its construction.


The homestead, now 173 years old, is the second oldest of Victoria’s oldest houses. Originally it was the primary dwelling on a very large lease – the Arthur’s Seat Run which comprised over 20,500 acres or over 33 square miles.


Georgina McCrae was the ‘illegitimate’ daughter of the 5th Duke of Gordon (oh my!). She was a very talented artist and a dedicated diarist. The McCraes were one of 6 pioneering families that established properties on the Mornington Peninsula .


Today the property now features a visitors centre with two galleries offering insight in to the works of Georgina McCrae, her life and family and the memorabilia of the descendant Burrell-Twycross family who lived at the homestead from 1851-1926.


a_andrew_mccrae2The homestead has been restored with many of its original features and includes furniture, art and objects from the McCrae family, giving an insight into the lives of Scottish immigrants as pioneering settlers of Port Phillip district at the time.

The homestead is open to the public on Sundays between 1pm and 4pm, but closed July and August.

Georgiana McCrae’s descendants sold the property to the National Trust in 1970.

Briars Homestead


A little closer to Melbourne, just off the Nepean Highway at Mt Martha, another very interesting homestead is located. The Briars Homestead was constructed in 1854 by Alexander Balcombe (Driven down Balcombe Rd in Beaumaris? Now you know!)


Mr Balcombe had unsuccessfully tried his hand at the Gold Diggings and upon purchase of the property he set about cultivating 40 hectares of vineyards. Alas, also unsuccessful. Balcombe was born on the island of St Helena whilst Napoleon was exiled there, his father having business dealings with the former French Emperor. Napoleon stayed with the Balcombe family whilst his own residence ‘Longwood’ was completed.


The Briars is considered ‘the Mornington Peninsula’s foremost property’.

Balcombe erected the pre-fabricated ‘Hutch’ when he arrived in 1846. He added a ‘South wing’ in 1850 and the ‘North wing’ in 1855. The property remained in the possession of Balcombe’s descendants – the Murphy and A’Beckett families until 1976. That year descendant Richard A’Beckett sold 220 hectares to the Shire of Mornington and gifted the remaining 8 acres, including the Briars Homestead , its lawns, trees and remaining outbuildings jointly to the National Trust and the Mornington Shire.



The property carries significant Heritage Listings.

The Briars at one stage had over 40 buildings on the property with 17 remaining. The Homestead is a conglomeration of different interconnected buildings of different styles and construction periods.

The timber west wing is a vernacular weatherboard cottage, with a skillion on the north side and a verandah along the south, originally with a hipped shingle roof, now covered with corrugated iron and extended. The south wing is a narrow brick building with a symmetrical plan form and a central recessed verandah along the west side flanked by small rooms at each end. The almost square north wing is of brick with a hipped roof and an encircling verandah, altered in the late nineteenth century, on to which the rooms open through French windows. The Edwardian red brick east wing originally contained one very large room, used as a dining room. It has none of the flamboyance usually associated with the Edwardian period, but reflects the simpler architecture of the older north wing. The kitchen addition to the east wing is of asbestos cement. Nearby surviving outbuildings include a small brick building, probably built between 1857 and 1862, clad with corrugated iron at one end, and with a hipped metal roof, which once contained a laundry and dairy; a concrete block apple store, built in the early twentieth century; and further away from the house the early brick stables and barn. Remnants of Balcombe’s garden, including some mature trees, survive, and the homestead stands amid an unspoilt picturesque rural landscape.



The Briars can be visited 7 days of the week all year round.

It features the historic Homestead, walking trails, the Shire Nursery, an Astronomy centre, an Eco Living display centre and several privately run hospitality destinations – Josephines Restaurant and Angus and Rose which includes a café.

Mulberry Hill


And lastly we visit Mulberry Hill. Described as an American Colonial style home, it was designed by Harold Desbrowne Annear, a renowned architect of the times. Amongst other works he was credited with were the Federation Arch on Princes Bridge Melbourne in 1901 that celebrated the establishment of the Australian Federation and the visit of the Duke and Duchess of York.


He was a pioneer in developing smaller ‘suburban size’ houses, his most notable being the Chadwick Houses on the Eyrie in Eaglemont. But this home was somewhat more grand – more in line with his earlier constructions of Beleura in Mornington and Cranlana in Toorak.


Mulberry Hill was the home of Sir Daryl Lindsay, the Director of the National Gallery of Victoria from 1941 to 1956. These days however his wife Lady Joan Lindsay is somewhat better known – as the author of the famous mystery novel and film ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’.


The House, its contents, a collection of Australian Art, Georgian Furniture, glassware and Staffordshire ceramics was bequeathed to the National Trust by the Lindsay’s in 1984 upon their passing.


Mulberry Hill was developed from a simple late 19th Century weatherboard cottage into a stylish and rather grand residence that featured a scenic circular porch with slender columns and long white shutters. Materials were reclaimed from earlier Melbourne mansions through ‘Whelan the Wrecker’ for its construction.

The property is open to the public from 11am to 4pm from September until June. A small entry fee applies.

Spring is nearly upon us and these wonderful treasures are available for all to see. It’s of real interest to see the development of building and construction in the ‘Colony’ and by viewing these remarkable homes it’s possible to trace the development and expansion of colonial extravagance when much larger more expensive mansions were constructed in the late 19th Century.

Heritage Listings give a window into our past. We must continue to protect them and the buildings we treasure.

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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.