Rippon Lea Estate

Melbourne, Victoria

The Rippon Lea Estate is one of the National Trust’s most well-known properties in Melbourne.

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- Patricia Miller

Discover Rippon Lea Estate in Melbourne

Rippon Lea Estate is a truly beautiful mansion, set within 14 acres of Victorian pleasure gardens, in Elsternwick, Melbourne, Victoria. It was built in 1868 on a plot of land double the size of today’s estate and had around 15 rooms after completion. Over the years the rooms have expanded but the land has decreased, nonetheless it continues to highlight the extravagant nature of the lifestyles of Melbourne’s 19th century high society.

Despite the beauty of the mansion, the gardens are a huge part of the estate’s charm. Across the site there is a lake and boat house, an archery hut, lookout tower, coach house, flower gardens, an orchard, and the Southern Hemisphere's largest fernery. Even the pool and terrace twinkles between flowers and shrubbery.

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- Paul Harrison

As a National Heritage Listed site since 2006, the Rippon Lea Estate is under the management of the National Trust of Australia who invite exploration through guided tours.

The History of Rippon Lea Estate

Early Origins

In 1868, Frederick Sargood, a wealthy businessman who sold soft goods during the gold rush, commissioned the construction of Rippon Lea Estate. The mansion, completed that same year, was named after his mother's maiden name, Rippon, and the English word for meadow, Lea.

Situated on Crown Allotment 253 in Elsternwick, the estate served as a self-sufficient farm complete with an underground watering system and mansion that had both internal toilets and electricity – a rarity at the time. Under Sargood’s care Rippon Lea thrived, particularly in the garden where he grew orchids and ferns among other imported plants.

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- Patricia Miller

Renovations at Rippon Lea

In the late 19th century, architect Joseph Reed led many projects to expand areas of Rippon Lea. Additions included a second floor, a striking tower (which today is really the first thing you notice), and an expanded fernery. In the garden, landscaper William Sangster, put in a huge lawn, lake, and lookout tower.

There was another makeover in 1897 when the dining room was extended and the kitchens were remodelled, both of which allowed for more guests at the property’s frequent social gatherings, a sign of the venue’s social status.

Rippon Lea Estate
- denisbin

Changing Ownership

Following Sargood's passing in 1903, Rippon Lea was acquired by politician Thomas Bent, who used it for entertaining and charity events. Then in 1910 the Nathan family, owners of Maples Furniture, purchased the Rippon Lea Estate. Benjamin Nathan, had a passion for gardening and during his residency he installed glasshouses and conservatories to shelter his beloved botanical collections.

Benjamin’s daughter, Louisa Nathan Jones, continued to uphold this passion, whilst (influenced by Hollywood glamour during the 1930s) she sought to modernise the mansion. Jones installed a swimming pool and new ballroom for her lavish parties. Interior renovations reflected her glamorous tastes, with elegant neo-baroque styling and a lighter colour scheme.

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- Patricia Miller

Preserving Rippon Lea Estate

Despite facing threats of demolition and land acquisition, Louisa Nathan Jones fought to preserve the Rippon Lea Estate. When she passed in 1972, the estate was bequeathed to the National Trust, ensuring its lasting protection. Today the estate welcomes visitors to appreciate its Lombardic Romanesque architecture and explore the grounds through guided tours.

Visiting Rippon Lea Estate

Inside the mansion, the rooms are filled with period furnishings, family heirlooms, and other decorations so that they showcase the mansion as it would have been at the height of the Victorian period.

Outside, Rippon Lea’s gardens are breathtaking. Wandering around you can visit the brown brick coach house, orchard filled with fruit trees, or throw down a picnic blanket by the large lake. One of the highlights is the Fernery, a stunning iron-framed glasshouse filled with hundreds of species of ferns and palms. Stepping inside the air is filled with the scent of flowers and the sound of trickling water from the many streams.

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- denisbin

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What you need to know

Rippon Lea Estate
192 Hotham Street, Elsternwick Victoria 3185
-37.879150, 144.997787
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