Place Details

Send Feedback

Rippon Lea House and Garden, 192 Hotham St, Elsternwick, VIC, Australia

Photographs View Photo Database Record View Photo Database Record View Photo Database Record View Photo Database Record View Photo Database Record View Photo Database Record View Photo Database Record View Photo Database Record View Photo Database Record View Photo Database Record View Photo Database Record View Photo Database Record View Photo Database Record View Photo Database Record View Photo Database Record View Photo Database Record View Photo Database Record View Photo Database Record View Photo Database Record View Photo Database Record
List National Heritage List
Class Historic
Legal Status Listed place (11/08/2006)
Place ID 105763
Place File No 2/17/009/0004
Summary Statement of Significance
Rippon Lea is important as a surviving example of a large intact late nineteenth century private suburban estate consisting of an urban mansion, large garden and outbuildings.  The house is an outstanding example of the Victorian Italianate style, which was a popular expression in Victoria's gold boom period.  Rippon Lea is one of the finest polychrome buildings in Victoria and established a fashion. The extensive garden, originally in the Gardenesque style by the owner Sargood was later redeveloped by him in a more naturalistic style.  The estate is intact and has not been significantly reduced by subdivision.  The watering system at Rippon Lea is one of the earliest, most complex and relatively intact examples of nineteenth century underground engineering works found in Australia to maintain a private garden.

Rippon Lea has a strong association with the National Trust community which has undertaken major conservation works and re-established historic cultivars in the garden. It is important for its association with the Melbourne community and has been publicly accessible for over 30 years. It has been selected as a setting for films and documentaries because of the high degree of integrity of the historic buildings and garden.
 
Official Values
Criterion D Principal characteristics of a class of places
Rippon Lea is important as a surviving example of a large late nineteenth century private suburban estate consisting of an urban mansion, a large garden, orchard and associated outbuildings (including the stable complex, the lodge, the conservatory and glasshouses, the fernery, the porte-cochere, the 1930s swimming pool, and the 1930s ballroom).
 
The place has integrity as an uncommonly large and intact suburban estate.  The mansion in the Victorian Italianate style has retained the essential architectural features of the style that include the asymmetrical massing and the prominent tower. Particular features of the mansion are the high degree of decoration in the external architecture and polychrome brickwork along with the internal joinery and finishes. The garden is a fine example of a late nineteenth century garden, acclaimed by numerous heritage garden experts. Its period qualities are expressed in its structure and layout with mature conifers, deciduous trees and eucalypts and garden plants that include historic cultivars, along with an array of major features such as the mount, the lookout tower, the lake, waterfalls, the lake foot bridge, the entrance gates, the archery house, the fernery, the serpentine driveway and the watering system. The fernery (shade house) is distinguished for its large size, curved plan and form of construction.
 
Rippon Lea has high integrity as a late 19th Century estate.
 
Criterion G Social value
Rippon Lea has a strong association with the National Trust community which has undertaken major conservation works and re-established historic cultivars in the garden. It is important for its association with the Melbourne community and has been publicly accessible for over 30 years. It has been selected as a setting for films and documentaries because of the high degree of integrity of the historic buildings and garden.

Description
Rippon Lea is a large nineteenth century suburban estate, with a mansion constructed in stages between 1868 and 1903 set amidst grounds of about 5.7 hectares.  The house, which is not visible from the street, is approached via impressive entrance gates, past a brick gate lodge, and a long a curved driveway lined with mature trees and shrubs.  The house is a grand polychrome brick towered house in a Lombardic Romanesque style, of two-storeys plus a basement, is set on a bluestone base and has a tiled hip roof.  White and red bricks contrast with the basic brown bricks to highlight arches, arcading and quoining, and to relieve expanses of brickwork with a lozenge-shape pattern.  At the front of the house is a cast iron porte-cochère and a cast iron conservatory with a glass barrel vaulted roof, and along the garden front on the south-west is a cast iron verandah.  Adjoining the building to the south and linked to it by an enclosed passage is a ballroom with an adjacent swimming pool complex.  The swimming pool is surrounded by a raised promenade level, shaded by a concrete colonnaded pergola with small pavilions at the corners, has a fountain at one end and change rooms and toilets to one side.  Other surviving outbuildings include an intact brick stable complex, comprising stables, coach house, harness room, feed room, loft, men’s room, and laundry rooms.
 
The most important features of the house are the materials and style used, the basement kitchen complex, the range of intact bathrooms from different periods, including a men’s cloakroom complex near the front door, the nineteenth century hall wallpapers, the cast iron porte-cochère and conservatory, and the 1930s ballroom and Hollywood-inspired swimming pool complex. 
 
The landscaped garden of Rippon Lea was laid out between 1868 and 1903 in the then popular Gardenesque mode.  The garden includes a large area of lawn, extensive shrubberies and flower gardens, an orchard of historically significant fruit varieties, and a lake with an adjacent lookout mound topped by tower.  It has several important intact garden structures, including: the four level octagonal lookout tower on the mound; a grotto; a large curved fernery, which is the largest known shade house in Australia; an archery house; a tennis pavilion and a boat house.  The property has a sophisticated water collection, irrigation and drainage system, which includes a windmill and underground storage tanks and pipes, which was designed to ensure the water supply to the garden. 
History
Rippon Lea was created by Frederick Sargood, who in 1850, at fifteen years of age, had arrived in Melbourne from England with his family.  He later joined his father’s soft goods firm, and spent some time as its manager on the goldfields.  Sargood eventually assumed control of the business, which became possibly the largest firm of merchants in the southern hemisphere.  Sargood made a fortune, became a leader of Melbourne society, a notable political figure and Victoria’s first Minister of Defence, and after Federation was elected to Australia’s first Senate.  He was knighted in 1890. 

The site of Rippon Lea was acquired by Sargood from 1868, and he named it after his mother, Emma Rippon.  In 1868-9 he built a two-storey fifteen-room house, designed by Joseph Reed of Reed & Barnes, Melbourne’s most important architect of the time, who designed many of Melbourne’s public and private buildings.  Reed had visited Italy in 1863, and after his return introduced to Melbourne a distinctive polychrome brick Lombardic Romanesque style.  This use of structural polychromy, which was then popular in England, was revolutionary in Australia at this time, when most important buildings were in stone or stuccoed brick.  Rippon Lea was among the finest polychrome buildings in Victoria, and established a fashion.  Victoria has the earliest examples, and is the only state to have had a continuing tradition of this structural polychromy.
 
The 1868 house was of two storeys.  On the ground floor were the usual drawing and dining rooms, study and breakfast room.  More unusually there was an outdoor pavilion or piazza adjacent to the dining room (this was enclosed by 1880).  On the first floor were six bedrooms, a dressing room, and a nursery, an earth closet, and, also unusual for the time, two bathrooms.  In a single storey wing to the north-east was a gun room, a maid’s room and a day nursery for Sargood’s twelve children.  The service rooms were all in the basement, unusual in nineteenth century Australia, and the area around these was excavated to provide natural light.
 
Substantial alterations and additions were undertaken between 1882 and 1889, reflecting Sargood’s increasing wealth.  These alterations and additions were also designed by Joseph Reed.  A tower was added and the number of rooms in the house was increased to thirty-three.  On the ground floor the dining room was extended and a cast iron conservatory added to it, a verandah was built along the garden front on the south-west side of the house, the ground floor maid’s room was extended and converted into a billiard room, and two water closets added.  A second floor containing six servant’s bedrooms, two more bathrooms and a water closet was added to the single storey wing.  The basement offices were altered, and a ballroom added on the south side of the house.
 
In 1897 the front of the house was altered, with the drawing room extended, an elaborate conservatory with a glass barrel vaulted roof added to it, a men’s cloakroom complex added near the front door, and a prefabricated cast iron porte-cochère erected at the entrance.  Bathrooms were added and extended.  In 1903 a billiard room and museum were added to the side of the ballroom.  The architects for these additions were Tayler & Fitts, who used the same style and materials introduced by Reed.  This consistent application of the same style on a house over several decades by different architects is unusual.
 
From 1868 Sargood began to develop magnificent gardens around the house, both ornamental and practical, and by 1903 Rippon Lea had one of the largest private gardens in Australia, equaled in size only by the Melbourne Government House garden.  Along with its well-known owner, it received considerable attention from the press in the nineteenth century, and this was continued to some extent with its subsequent owners.
 
Before the property was subdivided, the garden was renowned for its stylistic variety, sophistication and large scale, as well as the broad range of recreational facilities it provided, such as archery, tennis (it had one of the first tennis courts in Melbourne), boating on the lake and a rifle range.  Rippon Lea and its garden was the scene of entertaining on a large scale by the Sargood family. 
 
The garden at Rippon Lea included: a large area of lawn; shrubberies; flower gardens; a lake with a grotto, a bridge, a boathouse, and a lookout mound with a four-level tower, which is a notable example of nineteenth century garden architecture; a fernery which was probably the largest in Australia, and reflected the contemporary enthusiasm for ferns; a croquet lawn; a tennis court; a rifle and archery range; and aviaries.  More practical areas were a very extensive, but still visually decorative, kitchen garden and orchard, as well as farm paddocks. 
 
Sargood was a man of many interests, including engineering, sanitation and irrigation.  He devised a sophisticated system for water self-sufficiency for the house and garden.  An underground water collection, irrigation and drainage system, with water pumped by a windmill, ensured that the garden flourished.  This system is now being reinstated.
 
After Sargood’s death in 1903 the property was owned by a succession of wealthy Melbourne families.  Sir Thomas Bent, then Premier of Victoria, owned it from 1904-09, and subdivided and sold part of the property to the north.  From 1911-35, the owner was Benjamin Nathan, the founder of Maples’ furniture stores, who added a gate lodge at the entrance (by Oakley & Parkes, 1926) and a large glasshouse for the propagation of orchids (now demolished).  The property was inherited in 1935 by his daughter, Mrs Louisa Jones, who in 1939 altered the 1903 billiard room and museum to form a new ballroom (demolishing the earlier one), added a pool complex in the highly fashionable Hollywood style much-admired by the wealthy in Melbourne at the time, and also redecorated the dining room.  These alterations were carried out by the architectural firm of Robert Hamilton, then popular with the Melbourne elite.  They are significant in their own right, and demonstrate the extravagant lifestyle of the wealthier members of society at this time.  Jones also subdivided and sold some of the property. 
 
In 1954 the Australian Broadcasting Corporation purchased about a hectare to the south, and in 1963 attempted to compulsorily acquire another two, including the lake and much of the ornamental garden.  Jones then bequeathed it to the National Trust, and for ten years there was a battle to resist the compulsory acquisition.  Jones lived there until her death in 1972, when it was given to the National Trust.
 
The National Trust have restored and cared for Rippon Lea for over thirty years. It is open to the public every day and is popular for weddings and garden festivals.  It has been used as a setting for films and documentaries including the T.V. series of the life of John Wren.

Condition and Integrity
The original property of 27 hectares had been reduced by subdivision to about 5.7 hectares.  Most of the original ornamental gardens and garden structures are on these 5.7 hectares, and most of what was lost were the unusually extensive service areas of the garden and the paddocks.  The original garden scheme, including the irrigation system remains largely intact from the nineteenth century. 
 
The house is intact, and in very good condition.  The form of the main part of the house is largely as it was in the nineteenth century, and adjoining it is the intact 1930s ballroom and pool complex.  Many of the interior finishes survive from the 1890s, including the wallpapers (which were painted in the 1930s) and light fittings in the hall areas.  The dining room was redecorated by Louisa Jones in the 1930s and is intact from this period.  Since 1972 the National Trust has reinstated the drawing room to its 1930s appearance, redecorated the nursery and a first floor bedroom, changed a bedroom into an art gallery and installed a new kitchen on the ground floor.
Location
About 5ha, 192 Hotham Street, corner Elm Street, Elsternwick.
Bibliography
Aitken, Richard and Michael Looker, eds. 2002. The Oxford Companion to Australian Gardens. South Melbourne: Oxford University Press.
 
Apperley, Richard, Robert Irving and Peter Reynolds. 1989. A Pictorial Guide to Identifying Australian Architecture, Styles and Terms from 1788 to the Present. 
North Ryde: Angus and Robertson Publishers.
 
Nomination to the National Heritage List. Rippon Lea. 
 
Serle, Geoffrey and Russel Ward, eds. 1976. ‘Volume 6: 1851 – 1890’ in Australian Dictionary of Biography, ed. B. Nairn. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press.
 
Tanner, Howard and Jane Begg, eds. 1976.  The Great Gardens of Australia. Melbourne: Macmillan Company  of Australia.
Tanner H., Cox P., Bridges P. and Broadbent J. 1975. Restoring Old Australian Houses and Buildings: an architectural guide.  Macmillan Company of Australia.
Aitken R. 2004. Gardenesque. A Celebration of Australian Gardening. Miegunyah Press and State Library of Victoria. Melbourne. Australia.
Baskin J. & Dixon T. 1996. Australia’s Timeless Gardens. National Library of Australia. Canberra.
Tanner H. 1979. Converting the Wilderness. The Art of Gardening in Colonial Australia. Travelling Exhibition. Heritage Council of New South Wales. Langridge Press. Sydney.
National Trust of Australia (Victoria). 1974. Rippon Lea. Property Booklet. Gardner Printing. Nunawading. Victoria.
Aitken R., Schapper J., Ramsay J. and Looker M. (Eds) 1998. A Theoretical Framework for Designed Landscapes in Australia. Volume One. Burnley College. The University of Melbourne.
Aitken R., Schapper J., Ramsay J. and Looker M. (Eds) 1998. A Theoretical Framework for Designed Landscapes in Australia. Volume Two. Burnley College. The University of Melbourne.
Betteridge C. 1996. A Theoretical Framework for Designed Landscapes in New South Wales. National Estates Grants Program. Burnley College. The University of Melbourne.
Australian Heritage Commission. 1983. The Heritage of Victoria. South Melbourne. Macmillan Company of Australia.
Serle G. & Ward R. (Eds) 1976. Volume 6: 1851-1890. Australian Dictionary of Biography. Ed. Nairn B. Melbourne. Melbourne University Press.

Report Produced  Thu Aug 28 03:26:22 2014