I'm an Arts student in Melbourne, with a love of drawing and writing and a passion for history and art.
Published January 8th 2014
Rippon Lea is a magnificent historical house in Elsternwick, Melbourne. It hosts many different events during the year and both the house and gardens are open for the public to view.
The front entrance to the house
The house was built by Sir Frederick Sargood in 1868. He was a prominent Melbourne figure, with interests in business, politics and philanthropy. A vast garden was also created around the house. By the 1870s the estate had grown from 26acres to 45. In 1897 the house was extended to the north and the tower was added. It was designed by architect Joseph Reed, whose inspiration has been said to have come from Italy. It was also one of the earliest houses in Australia to be connected to electricity. Ripponlea was the family's home until 1903, when Sir Sargood died.
It was bought by developers who wanted to carve up the estate and demolish the house. They did sell some of the land, however, the leader of the developers died and the estate was put on the market.
In 1910 the property was bought by Ben and Agnes Nathan. In 1935 it passed to their eldest daughter, Louisa. Prominent in the 1930s Melbourne social scene, she made renovations to the house, drawing inspiration from Hollywood. It removed many of the Victorian features, including the iron-framed ballroom, which Sargood had built. It was replaced with the new ballroom and pool which still exists. She also put a modern kitchen in, on the first floor, making the basement service area and kitchen obsolete. Luckily this preserved many of it's features.
After the government compulsorily acquired parts of the land, one for the ABC studios, which were created in 1956 for the Olympic Games, Lousia, Mrs Timothy Jones by marriage, agreed to have the house and remaining land bequeathed to the National Trust upon her death. This happened in 1972, allowing them to be available for the public.
The 1930s pool
The exterior of the basement kitchen and servants area
The servants sitting room in the basement area
The estate still boasts magnificent gardens, including an ornamental lake, fernery and extensive lawns. The original garden was redesigned in 1882 for the Sargoods by William Sangster. It was designed in a romantic Picturesque style. The public are able to wander through these at their own leisure, within opening hours.
Bridge over the lake
Visitors can also wander through the house itself. The main rooms and the staircase in particular, are beautiful to see. There are a few rooms, however, that are not open to the public and are being used as offices, which would be nice to see. Peter Rowland Catering now runs functions at the house, including in the ballroom.
The estate also hosts a variety of special events, throughout the year. These range from craft markets, to kids events and theatre in the gardens, both run by The National Trust itself and in partnership with outside organisations.
There is also a small nursery, cafe and gift shop on site, in the gatehouse building.
In general, it is an amazing place and a wonderful display of Melbourne and Australian history. Even if you're not into the history side, the gardens are magnificent. You won't want to go home.
Hi Amelia, I've been wanting to visit Rippon Lea but haven't yet. Did you have to take a guided tour inside the mansion, or were you able to walk around by yourself... and was photography allowed in the house?