Glamorous Miss Phryne Fisher - photo courtesy of The National Trust
My interest in a visit to Ripponlea began when I took my car into VIP Carcare in Moorabbin last week and there, holding pride of place in the workshop, was the gleaming 1923 maroon Hispano Suiza that featured in the ABC series 1 of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries. The vehicle I was told, was being prepared for Series 2 which commenced last Friday.
The murder mystery series features the personal and professional life of a very glamorous, modern day female Private Detective. The series is set in Melbourne during the 1920s with the stylish and daring Miss Phyrne choosing to live alone, entertaining several lovers and tackling villains in Melbourne's Jazz Clubs with her pearl handled pistol. Phryne wears exotic costumes and sports a sleek bob hair style. Over 120 costumes were made for the first series which portrayed circuses, night clubs and the docks.
The grand estate of Rippon Lea at Elsternwick also features in the series as the home of Aunt Prudence and this National Trust heritage listed property is currently housing an exhibition with 30 costumes from both series on display during September and October. Take your camera along and be photographed at the entrance to the exhibition in some of Phryne Fisher's flowing robes .
A bit about Rippon Lea...... In 1868, the original owner (Fredrick Sargood) purchased 26 acres of crown land 8 kms from the city and built a two story, 15 room house. Extensive gardens were laid out around the house which featured glasshouses, vegetable gardens, orchards and a man-made lake to allow for water self sufficiency. The house was added to many times including an extension to the North which included a tower. The Polychromatic Romanesque architecture was inspired by that of the Lombardy region in northern Italy. Rippon Lea was the first house in Australia to be lit by electricity (powered by its own generators). It also had an electrically powered bell to communicate with the servants quarters and kitchen below the stairs.
On Fredrick's death in 1903, a group consortium of real estate developers lead by Sir Thomas Bent planned to demolish the house and carve up the land. The house sat empty for 6 years while the orchards and paddocks were sold off. On the death of Sir Thomas, the property was put on the market (1910) and purchased by the Nathans family (Maples furniture stores owners). On their death, their daughter Louisa (Jones) inherited the estate along with 1 million pounds.
To allow her to entertain in lavish style, Louisa remodelled and renovated extensively, redecorating in the classical Hollywood film style of the 30s. Gold embossed wallpaper and marble columns were painted white and the original ornate, iron framed ballroom made way for a "Hollywood" swimming pool and a new ballroom. Fourteen acres of gardens were retained. A modern ground floor kitchen was added and the below stairs kitchen and service area was sealed off to preserve the 19C features which include a cool room, wine cellar and large fuel stove.
As you wander around the estate, you'll come across the rotunda, archery hut, boat shed, iron bridges and the lake house. You can't miss the lookout tower, the windmill nor the tunnel under the waterfall. When you visit, remember to take note of the lake, iron-framed fernery, swimming pool and ballroom.
At the Gatehouse , the entrance to the estate you can purchase exhibition items as seen on TV during the series. There's an array of earrings, scissors, candlestick holders, vases and bowls, cards, feather pens and DVDs.