Monday, 13 January 2014

The Summer Series #1 - Rippon Lea

Over the coming weeks, I will be presenting a series of reviews on some of Melbourne's most iconic destinations. Having been born and bred in Melbourne, (and as a result, passionately in love with her), there are certain places that are jewels not to be overlooked by both its residents and visitors.
The National Trust kindly hosted my family to enjoy a series of outings in our beautiful city over the school holiday period. I will be displaying those properties we visited here in a succession of posts. I hope you will enjoy the images as much as we enjoyed the breathtaking journeys we experienced attending each of them in person.

The first of the properties we visited was Rippon Lea. This elegant mansion was home to two of Melbourne's wealthiest families for over 100 years. Designed and established in 1868, the mansion encased the lives of Frederick and Marian Sargood and their family.
The Sargoods made their fortune as the owners of a successful drapery firm during the time of the gold rush. During the 1870's, Sargood was elected to the Legislative Council and eventually went on to become Victoria's first Minister for Defence. When Frederick passed away in 1903, Lady Sargood sold Rippon Lea to the then Victorian Premier, Sir Thomas Bent.
In 1910, the home changed hands again and became the residence of Benjamin Nathan and his family. In 1935, his daughter Louisa Jones, inherited the home and the example we see today has remained largely unchanged since the re-decoration carried out under her guidance around that time.
In 1972, Louisa died and left the mansion to The National Trust and as a result, to all Australians to enjoy into the future.
Thank goodness for her generous donation too. What a diamond this residence is.

Yes, the Sargoods had it Sar-Good! (So good! - Say it with a posh accent!)
The home was certainly a fitting residence for these families of standing. Lush and extensive gardens surround a mansion of such majesty reached via a long and winding entranceway which once would have seen many persons of importance arrive in both horse and carriage and vehicles. First sight of the house from this driveway draws a sense of awe. It is large, imposing, elegant and elaborate.

Extensive lawns are fringed with even more expansive gardens bearing established trees, flowerbeds, orchards, rotundas and even its very own lake for boating! (Not forgetting the tennis courts and swimming pool). Pathways invite visitors to wander and admire. Every angle has a new discovery, decoration or scene to behold. It is hard to believe you are in a suburb of Melbourne as it is more like a scene from the countryside of England. The only exception to this is when you pass by the fence where the ABC studios are located.
During the 1960's and 1970's, the family fought a long and difficult court battle to retain a section of their pleasure gardens after the ABC attempted to acquire it. Thankfully, the family won the right to retain their property. To have removed some of the splendour from this prized home would have been a serious mistake indeed.

Visits inside the house itself are conducted in small-group tours. It is such a magnificent home! From the moment you are invited inside and the doors are closed behind you, it is as if you have stepped back in time; as if the family and their servants have just gone out.

Time has frozen here and captured so much elegance and beauty within it. The sounds of modern Melbourne are shut out, replaced by an imposing silence and a sense of living history.
Our tour group had a total of nine young children in it. Oddly, the awe they felt under the weight of this impressive residence silenced them all for the duration of the tour! (When does that ever happen?!)

The grand dining room. A breakfast table in the master bedroom and vintage pictures
of the home's former inhabitants.
Rippon Lea is in its original state, as decorated in the 1930's by Louisa who was very much into the Hollywood style of the time. Embossed, gilt wallpaper from the age of the Sargoods was painted over with cream paint, as were the black marble columns and even a giant gilt frame featuring an original oil painting of untold value - an unfathomable decorating error but done and irreversible nonetheless. It was the taste of the time and the height of fashion.

The servants area at the rear of the house.
House employees washed dishes for 300-400 guests at this rustic sink!
The servants had a separate area below the home which is open to be freely explored outside of the tour. The area is plain and simple and illustrates the hard working lives and times of the lower classes who lived a life in service to those fortunate enough to be in the upper rooms. 
Rippon Lea is a perfectly preserved Victorian residence and one definitely worth experiencing. We were touched by its magic for weeks and just a wee bit envious! More information can be found here regarding its history, opening times and function facilities.

Rippon Lea is located at 192 Hotham Street Elsternwick, Melbourne, Australia.
Have you experienced Rippon Lea before?
What is your favourite National Trust property?


  1. Gosh I love Melbourne in summer! I actually haven't been to Rippon Lea before but it's one of those places I've always been meaning to go too... and now after seeing your pics I definitely think I'll have to visit! xx Lucy from Bake Play Smile #TeamIBOT

  2. Wow How special is that house. So great to get a tour . Melbourne certainly is a special place. I love how old houses can take your imagination back to how life was once in these grand mansions. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Worth a visit. I love old homes too - especially when they are this grand.

  3. I remember going to Rippon Lea when I was a kid. I saw a fantastic Anne of Green Gables production there in the gardens. I will never forget it :)

    1. That sounds gorgeous! I probably saw you there as a kid. I visited Rippon Lea many times as I used to LOVE the place (and remembered why I did after this recent visit)!

  4. wow fancy schmancy! i have had a VIP lunch at the original Moet family home in Champagne. i sat where Napoleon Boneparte used to sleep when he travelled through town. wow havent thought about that place for years. thank you for the reminder i'm going to find the photos and bore my kids with them after lunch :) xx

  5. Hwaw! Sounds sensational! Truth is, I can so see myself living this life! I am very envious of your travel and the Moet bit!

  6. I have to confess that my first impression of Melbourne was not too good. I visited the city right in the middle of winter (years ago when I had just been in Australia for a year or so). The chill felt so gloomy and dark. But I did come away with beautiful images of the great ocean road. Looking forward to your series to take a second look at Melbourne which is after all considered the top most livable city.

    1. LOL! I can so imagine you being unimpressed! I think Melbourne's weather lets us down but it is also an intrinsic aspect of our culture too. If it weren't for those awful days we are forced indoors, we wouldn't have so many wonderful, rich things about our culture!

  7. Looks beautiful it does!
    I'm yet to meet a local Melbournian who isn't passionately in love with her :)

  8. I adore Rippon Lea and was fortunate enough to spend an afternoon there recently for a vintage fashion talk in the ballroom. What an incredible place it is and rich with not only history, but endless photo opportunities too. #teamIBOT

    1. Sounds great! Unfortunately the ballroom was closed to us at this visit as they were preparing for a wedding. I have attended a wedding there though and it was a spectacular backdrop. I loved visiting that ballroom when I was a kid though.

  9. I need to visit Melbourne some time. I went surfing at Bells Beach when I was a teenager but spent no time in the city. There definitely isn't that much history or culture where I live!

  10. I love Melbourne and could easily live there. I visit often and can get around the city with ease unlike my knowledge of Sydney which us only a 90 min train rude away. Something charming in the city lanes and trams. Have travelled around Victoria widely too but never been to Rippon Lea - new excuse to visit Melbourne ha ha

  11. I'd love to visit Melbourne and perhaps even live there one day. Though as a born and bred Perth girl now living the country/Beach/winery life I wouldn't have a clue where to start. If love your advice on what Melbourne I'd like to live in and expense wise for living as well. Michelle xo


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