Malcolm Farnsworth
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This is a photograph of Mandeville Hall taken about 1905 by John Ross Soden. (From the collection of Mrs. Sonia Bellmaine.)
Splendour, luxury and sophistication best describe the lifestyle of Sir Joseph and Caroline Clarke at Mandeville Hall during their two decades there. They were very prominent people, members of an Establishment whose position in society was reflected in their home and entertainments. The architecture and interior decoration of Mandeville Hall, much of which has survived, rivalled the various colonial vice-regal residences in Australia and compared favourably with the best 'back home' in England. Joseph's brother, Sir William Clarke, ordered the furnishings and furniture from the fashionable firm of decorators and cabinet makers, Gillow and Co, while he was in London on business in 1876. We now have in Mandeville Hall the best expression in Australia of the Aesthetic Movement and the work of the English designer, Bruce Talbert.

The Clarkes' lifestyle was a high point in the Boom of Marvellous Melbourne. But, like many families and their homes, the Clarkes and Mandeville Hall suffered during the Depression that followed the Boom. Joseph died in 1895. There was financial embarrassment as well as more than a hint of scandal. The mansion was put up for sale by the Colonial Bank, of which he had been Chairman, and the lavish contents were auctioned off. Mrs Clarke was asked to return the light fittings in the drawing room before the auction. Not able to sell the property, the Bank allowed it to fall into disrepair.

With a fabulous inheritance and after a tough legal battle to keep it, Mrs Isabel Ross Soden leased Mandeville Hall for a few years while she had another mansion, Grong Grong, built nearby. She filled Mandeville Hall with furniture she collected on a world trip. Again Mandeville Hall was the scene of lavish entertainments. Her four sons, their friends and Mrs Ross Soden are to be seen in dozens of family photographs taken in those halcyon Edwardian days of late Empire.

The Colonial Bank finally sold the property to Dr Tremearne who lived there with his wife and sister-in-law, Miss Ella Rowe Martyn. From 1912 when Dr Tremearne died until 1924 Mandeville Hall was run as an exclusive boarding house, the same fate which befell Cliveden, the city home of Joseph Clarke's brother, Sir William, when his wife, Lady Janet Clarke, died in 1909. Mandeville Hall was extended to accommodate the new use. The First World War brought social and economic changes which meant that such large properties could not be maintained by single families. Sir William's country home, Rupertswood, was to become a boys' school, run by the Salesian Order, in 1927.

Mandeville Hall was purchased by the Loreto Order in September, 1924. The property has been developed as a school for girls ever since. The chapel, the heart of the school's religious life, was built in 1928. Many classrooms and other facilities have been built around the old buildings at the centre of the complex. The mansion is still used for school purposes on a limited basis.

In 1987 much of the property was added to the Historic Buildings Register. The school has developed a long term program for the conservation of the building and the interiors. Along with a conservation fund this program was launched late in 1994 to mark the 70th anniversary of the purchase of Mandeville Hall by the Loreto Order.

The architecture of Mandeville Hall and the extraordinary interiors, a high point in Australia's domestic heritage, survive as a legacy, not just to the Clarke, the Ross Soden and the Tremearne families but also to the generations of pupils and staff of Loreto Mandeville Hall. | | | | © 2002-2003