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?