Rippon Lea is an outstanding place to visit. It is an important & surviving example of a 19th century private suburban house in Victoria’s gold boom era. Just beyond the entrance is Gate House where you can purchase entrance tickets, browse at the souvenir shop or enjoy a cuppa at the cozy tea-room.
This impressive Victorian Italianate style building sits on an extensive 14 acres of land & consists of an urban mansion, large garden & outbuildings. This historically significant property was cherished home to two families; the Sargoods & Jones, who collectively spent nearly 100 years living in this estate.
An exhibition “Love, Desire & Riches” was on & we enjoyed the beautiful lacy wedding gowns as well as the romantic ambience within the mansion.
During the late 19th century, Sargood & his 2nd wife Julia began updating the estate & the house was not only extended but the interiors re-decorated with ornamental stained glass, elaborate embossed wallpapers & ceiling papers to beautify their home.
This grand, old house has been so well conserved that it looks beautiful both on the inside & outside.
Rippon Lea Estate was built in 1868 for Sir Frederick Sargood, a wealthy Melburnian businessman, politician & philanthropist. Frederick & his wife Marion bought this land parcel in the Parish of Prahran, Elsternwick with an area of 26 acres. Two glasshouses were incorporated into the house & could be accessed from the interior rooms, bringing the garden & Sargood’s passion for orchids, indoors.
The basement kitchen complex was built in the 1880s & is a rare surviving example of a 19th century kitchen suite, which comprises of a kitchen, scullery, pantries, cool rooms, servants’ hall & wine cellar. It was abandoned in 1938 after the installation of a modern kitchen on the ground floor.
The Stable complex was built some time in 1868. It now serves as a garage but in those days it would be where the horses & the coach carriages are parked.
This windmill is iconic of the Australian bush, as during the 1st decade of the 20th century much land was still being developed for agricultural expansion & these water pumping windmills sprouted all over the water scarce interior.
There are over 90 historic cultivars of apple & pear trees in this orchard alone which the National Trust of Australia (Victoria) is trying to re-establish. The water system in Rippon Lea is anything less than impressive. It has one of the earliest, most complex & relatively intact examples of 19th century underground engineering works found in Australia to maintain a private garden.
I walked through the cavernous, iron-framed fernery which was full of ferns, trees, plants & shrubbery on a descending slope from the main house. It felt a little like being in the woods, when I caught a whiff of the dank air, heard chirping birds & the cicadas.
Rippon Lea is located 8km from Melbourne’s Central Business District & comprises a 2-storey house with 15 rooms, an extensive pleasure garden around the house, together with glasshouses, vegetable gardens & orchards.
The Sargood family lived in Rippon Lea until the death of the patriarch in 1903. Many extensions were made to the mansion over time but the greatest one was in 1897 when the house was extended to the north & a tower was added. Lady Sargood sold the property to the Premier of Victoria, Sir Thomas Bent. In 1910 Benjamin Nathan bought Rippon Lea & moved in with his family. The house was later bequeathed to his daughter Mrs Louisa Jones in 1935.
The mansion was further refurbished in the early 20th century by its last owner Mrs Louisa Jones, who added 19th century features & ‘jazzed’ up the house in 1938. The swimming pool & ballroom were additions that allowed Louisa & her husband Timothy, to throw extravagant balls, parties, family weddings & musical performances at Rippon Lea.
There are several resting places & benches hidden all over the extensive gardens which is perfect for reading or reflecting & finding oneself.
The gardens were designed to be self-sufficient & a large man-made lake on the property stores storm water run-offs from the surrounding area.
I made my way up the hillock & perched there was this Lookout Tower. Climbing slowly up a narrow staircase, I got to the 2nd level of this watch tower.
The view up here was lovely & I was glad to be rewarded for my effort. I believe this Lookout was built with a view of the estate in mind but over the years the branches of the larger trees have expanded & blocked the general view so we could not see very far off.
In August 2006, Rippon Lea was included on the prestigious National Heritage List & became the 33rd site to qualify in Australia. It comes under the auspices of the National Trust Community which has undertaken major conservation works with the help of 500 volunteers & sponsorship from its members. This grand mansion remains open to the public for gala events, weddings, picnics, children’s parties, corporate functions & stays relevant & significant to Melbourne’s community. Rippon Lea is such a delightful place to wander around & or even simply read in quiet corner. I enjoyed my afternoon there immensely.