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The Design of Mandeville Hall


Mosspennoch, Clarendon Street, East Melbourne, designed by Charles Webb in 1881 for James Purves QC who defended Joseph Clarke in the cases with Mrs Clara Parker
Charles Webb had a substantial practice and, while he was prominent in his profession, he lacked the refinement and style of Joseph Reed. Like Reed, Webb was born in England and was apprenticed to a London architect. His older brother James had already migrated to Van Diemens Land and in 1839 crossed to the Port Phillip settlement, establishing himself at Brighton as a builder. Charles Webb was President of the Victorian Institute of Architects from 1882-1883. He had just designed Mosspennoch, a town house next door to William Clarke's future home, Cliveden, which was designed by yet another architect, William Wardell, one of the leaders of the profession. Mosspennoch was the home of Mr James and Mrs Caroline Purves and it was Purves QC who had represented Joseph Clarke in the Clara Parker cases. The facade of Mosspennoch is remarkably similar to Mandeville Hall.

Webb's new facade for Mandeville Hall is Palladian in its inspiration, a most formal style to choose and one which goes beyond the conventional Italianate used for most mansions including Government House. Carefully detailed classical omament is used to embellish the facade. Structure is represented rather than real. Columns and pilasters, Corinthian above and Ionic below, are superimposed on a series of arches set on piers to form a loggia. This system can be traced back to the Colosseum of ancient Rome. The undulating facade is almost Baroque in its voluptuous forms with swelling bays and a two storey portico. The large sheets of curved glass in the bow windows would have been extremely expensive to produce at that time. The siting of the house, initiated by the original residence, maximises the sweeping view to the west, beyond the front terrace and the main lawn.

The grounds of the new Mandeville Hall were laid out by the local nurserymen, Taylor and Sangster. From 1867, their nursery was at the north-west comer of Toorak Road and Wallace Avenue and both men lived nearby. Sir William Clarke had commissioned them to lay out the grounds at Rupertswood. Sangster, a Scot who arrived in Melbourne in 1853, was considered to be the leading landscape gardener of the day. For a while he was head gardener at Como and then gardener to the Governor, Sir Henry Barkly, at Government House. Under the pseudonym, 'Hortensis', he wrote a column in the Australasian. Sangster died in 1910, but the nursery lasted until the First World War at least.

In their heyday, the grounds included a sinuous carriage drive, which started at the lodge in Orrong Road, gravel paths and concrete fountains, two aviaries, a very large trellised fern house, hothouses and a vinery as well as extensive service yards and buildings, all of which have disappeared. The stables, long since converted into other uses, survive on the Clendon Road boundary. They are probably still similar to their original external appearance and would be the best evidence of Reed and Barnes' design work. Such extensive gardens, both recreational and practical, were the norm in Toorak. The Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works surveyed the area in the early 1900s prior to installing the new metropolitan sewerage system. Vast and highly developed estates, including Mandeville Hall, appear in the plans for the Toorak area. Unfortunately, the MMBW only noted street trees but many of the existing trees in the garden and the large terrace across the facade are important survivors from Sangster's scheme. Even the present drive approximates the original.

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