Large estates flourish on the formally wooded hills of oaks, gums and banksia overlooking a swampy marshland scattered with ti tree and paperbark, rich with waterfowl and wallabies, the land of the Wurundjeri soon swept away by the Crown for allotments. The expanse of rolling landscape to the south of Toorak road a former land of plenty, the old boundaries of the fields exist remnant as dividers between parish’s in the form of black ribbons of tarmac laid across the hills, a parking lot for those wishing to avoid the tolls on their repeating journey to the city centre, choosing instead to sit in a monotony of temporary movement between the stops of the trams. Kenley, one of the grand mansions on a large holding forgave its land to a scattering of new Georgian in a very English vernacular, a pastiche of sorts but of craftsmanship which defies the hurriedly thrown together ‘Georgian’ styling of the now modern day. The Georgian revival in period of the 1930s and 40s owed to the work of some of my personal favourite architects specialising in this particular grace, that of Hughes & Orme and Geoffrey Sommers. The feeling of an English village isn’t lost in the architecture or the trees which line the streets, though had a Barrister by the name of Mr Charles Skinner’s ideology for the area in 1856 bared any fruition with his intention of creating an English Village, it would be seen in the more literal sense. Skinner whose family hailed from Ledbury, a small market town in an area of the Malvern Hills in the UK, purchased the land between Glenferrie, Malvern and Toorak Roads. Mr Skinner wanted for his plot to be a depiction of his much loved Ledbury and in way of enticing the sale of his subdivision of around 80 lots he had the Malvern Hill Hotel built in 1861 on the corner of present day Malvern and Glenferrie Roads, one of our only remnants of a village which never came into realisation. This southern portion of Toorak at the time was internally accessible only by swampy bushy tracks which resulted in a poor interest in the auction of Skinner’s lots and they ultimately referred to farmland.

South along Albany Road we’re discarded into the centre of Jackson’s field at a peculiar angle, almost as if we’ve wandered from the paved ways of Kooyong or Hopetoun and taken a desire path, or perhaps coerced like scattered debris of Kangaroo grass washing down from the dales of high Toorak into the swampy marshland that stretches out to the south towards Prahran. Caught in a rush of water heading in a descent with no option to turn any particular way, strewn between the banks or in this case the uniform north-south and east-west streets.

It seems almost in a less intended way the streets and the area encompassing Albany road was destined to become a rural English streetscape of sorts, maybe not in the way that Judge Skinner had envisioned but I’m sure he looks fondly on the architecture which takes residence alongside his old pasture. We only get a small insight into these properties that we view from the road, they’re hidden behind tall fences, built to blockout prying eyes, intentionally private. Clinker brick chimneys visibly stand up above the tree line, giving some way to understanding the architectural styling of the house beyond. A glimpse through the deep green of a perfectly trimmed hedge of which a gardener is, ladder aside loudly discarding his morning workings into a pile with a leaf blower. Visible are pitched roofs, overhanging eaves shading aesthetically placed windows in rendered block work, an almost mishmash of arts and crafts, old English, traditional and federation.

Biscuit tin Georgian houses before perfectly symmetrical are attached with later additions that take away the symmetry. Garages tacked on in some cases better than others, they weren’t needed or required when the house was built and now create a visual discrepancy with what we expect of traditional architecture. Windows at equal distance bookended by shutters, internally curtains are mostly drawn giving only a gap with which at the joy of another light source a part of the ceiling or a wall may become visible, a glimpse into a world of which it’s unlikely we’ll ever see out of but we get a sense of the pallet chosen and with any luck the decor. The 1930s homes built on grand subdivisions that still exist in this highly sort after patch of Melbourne between Kooyong and Orrong roads have themselves remained intact for almost one hundred years. Some replaced, their plots the foundations to modernist boxes disguised purposefully behind ivy covered concrete, hidden in sight, stark minimalism, a lust for the modern.


2 thoughts on “Fieldwork

  1. The photos are beautiful. It is an area I know well and I recognise a few of the homes, only because I have walked the streets in the area I hasten to add. I vividly remember the shock I felt the day I saw a cigarette butt lying in a gutter. Staying with my lockdown 5 km limit, I would at times catch a 58 or 72 and walk down Glenferrie Road and side streets to Kooyong Station and then the train to Flinders Street and a tram home.

    1. It’s a stunning area and I think it’s under appreciated just because of its status. That may seem an odd thing to say but I feel like the majority of people either ignore the history or just look at it for the associations it has with being ‘Toorak’. But the entire area has an incredibly rich and layered history to it that is unfortunately undermined by the wealth factor.

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