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The Origins of Mandeville Hall


St. George's (or Athelstane), the home of Alfred Watson built during 1867, which was later enlarged to become Mandeville Hall. (From Early Toorak and District, E. M. Robb, 1934.)
The land which, after much further subdivision, was to become Mandeville Hall was sold by the Crown to James Rae in the early 1850s. Lot 29 included 53 acres, 3 roods and 7 perches; it was 4147 feet long and 1320 feet wide and was bounded by Toorak, Malvern, Clendon and Orrong Roads. Rae, a Melbourne businessman, paid the Crown eighty pounds.

Alfred Ross, the next owner, started the process of sub-division and lived himself at Orrong towards the northern end of Clendon Road. He mortgaged the rest to the Colonial Bank, the beginning of a sometimes difficult association of the Bank with the land. The Bank sold 13 acres, I rood and 33 perches - the southern end of Lot 29 - to Alfred Watson for 933 pounds, 12 shillings and sixpence in January 1867.

Alfred Watson of the softgoods firm, William Watson & Sons, built a home which was called either St George's or Athelstane during 1867. The house was impressive but it was sober and reflected conservative tastes. Watson's architects were probably the leading firm, Reed and Barnes, who were, in fact, responsible for much more exciting domestic architecture for other clients. Joseph Reed introduced the fashion for polychromatic brickwork about this time using it at Rippon Lea, the home of James Sargood, another Melbourne merchant, and at Canally, the East Melbourne home of Melboume's Lord Mayor, Sir Benjamin Benjamin. About this time the firm of architects was also responsible for some very picturesque houses in the Gothic style which were 'ghosted' by their associate, Edward La Trobe Bateman.

Bateman was also known as a garden designer and he may have helped with Alfred Watson's landscaping.

The estate was quite typical of the villas, set in semi-rural grounds, which characterised Melbourne's suburbs at this time. The colonial economy expanded not so much on the wealth brought by gold, as the extraordinary increase in the colony's population and the income from all the emerging primary, secondary and tertiary industries which employed and serviced the population. The economy flourished under Protectionism. The merchants' villas became mansions and, by the late 1880s, the eastern suburbs of this burgeoning southern metropolis, effectively the capital of the Australian colonies, saw a rich and sophisticated new lifestyle.

Sadly Alfred Watson had died at sea on his way to England in 1875. His executors conveyed the estate to Joseph Clarke in February, 1877. The most remarkable chapter in the story of Mandeville Hall was about to start under Joseph and Caroline Clarke with some help from their brother and cousin William.

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