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The Ross Soden and Tremearne Periods


The bookmark of John Elliot Tremearne, the son of Dr Tremearne and music and drama critic of the Melbourne Herald, by Norman Lindsay who dedicated his book Saturdee to his friend. (From the Collection of the late Mrs Mary V Green.)
An Indian summer blessed Mandeville Hall in the early years of the twentieth century. The difficult times of the Depression had passed. Economic, political and social conditions had not changed so much that the old ways could not continue. Federation brought a new sense of the future for all Australians. For a short period the mansion and what was left of the grounds were leased to another family.

Mrs Isabel Ross Soden was the widow of a sharebroker who, when he died interstate at the age of forty-four, had an estate of only 481 pounds. The Ross Sodens had moved from their mansion Larnook in Armadale (now part of King David School) to a rented house in Barkly Street, St Kilda. There, according to his death certificate, Mr Ross Soden died in 1892 from natural causes, with no autopsy required. That the precise cause of death is not stated has given rise to certain suggestions that link his death to the difficult economic times.

In a remarkable change of circumstances, Mrs Ross Soden inherited a fortune from her unmarried uncle, James 'Hungry' Tyson, the major part of two million pounds. Tyson's estate - he had died in 1898 - took years to settle with protracted court cases. She then inherited her sister's share when her sister also died unmarried and intestate. By 1903, she was renting Mandeville Hall from the Colonial Bank as mortgagee. On the strength of her inheritance, Mrs Ross Soden and her four sons, John, Alfred, Harry and Gordon, went on an extended world tour which was recorded by the boys, keen amateur photographers. The widow also bought a lot of Asian furniture, of dubious aesthetic merit, which ended up in Mandeville Hall. It appears in photographs included in an article interviewing her, published in Melbourne Punch in 1904. The boys also photographed the house and grounds and these are now valuable documentary sources for the conservation of Mandeville Hall.

The Indian summer passed and the Ross Sodens moved on to their new home, a mansion called Grong Grong set in paddocks near Glenferrie Road. It was designed by the fashionable architect Walter Butler. Once again the boys took plenty of photographs. The sons went on to pursue careers in medicine, art, the law and engineering. Grong Grong has since been demolished.

Mandeville Hall was finally sold by the Colonial Bank to Dr Tremearne. He lived there from 1907 with his wife and her sister untiI his death in 1912. He was born in Cornwall and had practised in the Creswick district before coming to Melbourne in 1905. While Dr Tremearne and his wife lived in one section, his sister-in-law, Miss Ella Row Martyn, ran an exclusive guest house in the rest. A rather similar fate befell both Cliveden and Mosspennoch which were run as 'apartment' houses in which the guests dressed for dinner in the dining room. The guest house flourished and, after Dr Tremearne's death, his widow and Miss Martyn took on the property, receiving the title in 1920. Mandeville Hall continued as their residence and guest house and was known as Mandeville Flats from 1919 until 1924. It is said that Captain Robert F Scott left Mandeville Hall in 1910 to go to the Antarctic on his fatal expedition. The famous modernist architect, Arthur Stephenson, gave Mandeville Hall as his address in 1920.

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