Howdy all. Today I’m focussing on destination – Melbourne again because I’m pretty excited to bring you a little look at the Ripponlea Mansion and Estate, found in Ripponlea – an inner south-east suburb of Melbourne. Yes, I visited back in late June to shoot another episode of my YouTube series ‘Melbourne Revealed’. But this is another one which I think could do with a bit of expansion in the form of a blog post!
I visited back when I was in High School, far too long ago now to remember properly I guess, and I was surprised actually when I arrived at what I found. The house was designed by architect Joseph Reed and was built for a Mr Frederick Sargood, a trader and very successful businessman who when the gold rush hit Victoria, went into business supplying all sorts of things for the people who came to this part of the world to seek their fortune in gold. Sargood loved gardening and moved into the house with his large family once it had been completed in 1868, which means it is 153 years old this year. There aren’t a heck of a lot of houses that old in Melbourne, so it’s very significant.
Sargood had nine children, and spent time during his life here and in England. He moved back to England when his wife died giving birth to their 12th child. He moved back in the 1880s with his new wife and their child, and became minister for defence in the colonial government so he was not an insignificant figure of the day.
After Sargood died in 1903 the property was sold to Thomas Bent, who subdivided the property, and after he died (yes the property was even bigger) It was next bought by Benjamin Nathan, and after his death in the 1930s it was passed on to his daughter Louisa, who married in the 1920s so was named Louisa Jones. She made some extensive changes to the house, ushering in what our guide called the ‘Hollywood Era’. She lived until the 1970s when the property was given to the National Trust.
Today the property is open for guests, and an entry ticket of $15.14 gains entry and a tour of the mansion. I had a lovely guide, Helen, and was in a group with one family of four, so a nice small group. Due to Covid restrictions only a certain number of people were allowed in each room at a time, depending on the size of the room. Most we could all go in but smaller rooms were given a capacity of 2. More if from the same family. The tours had just restarted I think for the first time in over a year, as the venue had been used for something else in the last six months and before that was closed due to lockdowns.
The guides are all volunteers, so they love the place and it’s not hard to see why. The mansion actually from the outside doesn’t look quite as amazing as it does from the inside. The living rooms are very elaborate, there’s a small conservatory attached to the main one on the ground floor. That living space is quite bright and does evoke a feeling of 1930s Hollywood. It’s interesting how that style mingles with the Victorian style as well, some rooms were kept 100% as Victorian era by Mrs Jones.
The dining room did undergo some changes but still is very Victorian. Hollywood era rooms let in a lot more light, whereas the Victorian era dining room is rather dark, with darker colours and less light let in from outside.
Upstairs you can see a bunch of different bedrooms, the master bedroom being known as the ‘Best’ bedroom. It has a lot of light. Mrs Jones actually painted over the original wallpaper in some rooms including the entrance hall to brighten it up with more whites and light creams. It works!
The bathrooms are interesting. It was one of the first houses in Melbourne and Victoria to have indoor toilets – although they originally had to have the servants remove what was done! The servants quarters are upstairs but they are used for administration so you can’t tour them.
Once the house is visited, the gardens await, and they are actually even more impressive! There is a small lake, for example, and a number of bridges. There’s a rather beautiful fernery too, a windmill and more. There’s a very ‘Hollywood’ pool too, with a large fountain at one end. That’s just outside the house.
The Ripponlea Estate has other buildings you can’t enter because they are used for things like weddings. Gardeners at work everywhere – the place has always needed a big team of gardeners. You can climb some steps as there’s a tower at the top of the hill, the tower was closed but the view at its base was still pretty high and gave a great view.
All in all, it’s a highly worthwhile place to visit in Melbourne and I was surprised by just how big, beautiful and basically, how good it was. I would thoroughly recommend it for those interested in touring historic houses when visiting places. Personally I find such places way more interesting compared to your typical museum, I think you get a much more accurate feel of the history of a place.
Thanks for reading today. Hope all is well wherever you may be in the world. And May the Journey Never End!