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Auburn Road
The Masterpiece

History

Ercildoune (pronounced Er-sil-doon) was formerly known as Segovia and was built (c. 1892) on a Crown Grant of almost 58 acres made by Governor Fitzroy to Charles Robinson on 29 th April 1847. By 1879, that area had been reduced to just over 2 acres and in the 1930s and 1950s more portions were subdivided and sold.

This magnificent two-storey residence with its 'Hawthorn Blues' brickwork and immense brick chimneys is thought to have been built during the depression years of the 1890s for the tobacco manufacturer, Thomas Mitchell Hale. The house was purchased by John Greenwood Smith in 1911 and he changed the name to 'Ercildoune'. Later it was owned by the Stanway family and then spent some time as an apartment house.

The present owners bought the house at a time when its condition could only be described as dilapidated and undertook major renovation and restoration works to restore the house to its original grandeur. They obviously conducted an enormous amount of research to assist in the process of replicating original fixtures and fittings. Strict heritage guidelines had to be adhered to and it is evident that they have done a superb job.

Significance

Ercildoune was awarded an 'A' Grading in the Hawthorn Historical Study of 1992 and the property is described as a 'mansion house and garden'. Its architectural significance is due to the fact that it is a landmark in Auburn Road , as an illustration of the 'many mansion houses on large allotments constructed between Gardiners Creek and Burke Road in the 1880s.' (Meredith Gould, Conservation Architects, 1992) and its historical significance comes from its association with Thomas Hale.

The House

Downstairs

The front door is absolutely stunning due to the wonderful leadlight windows. There is an array of leadlight throughout the house. Amazingly the present owners found many of the original panels under dirt in the cellar! The flooring is original and made of 6' Baltic pine. Where it was necessary to lay new boards, for example in the kitchen area, the owners have replicated the originals.

Walking through the hallway, you come to an enormous kitchen/family area with a door leading to a children's playroom. This is a true cook's kitchen with four ovens, a steam oven and two dishwashers. Stone Italiana surfaces are used throughout. The living area was previously a billiard room and it is apparent, if you examine the floorboards, where the original footings of the table were. At the end of the room is a stunning original Belgian marble open fireplace. The present owners painstakingly restored this area (there was a false ceiling) and the ceiling you see (16' high) was created using laser cut foam to replicate the original shape.

More glorious leadlight is evident in the formal living and dining rooms. In this area, you can see a magnificent 5 branch counter weighed gasolier. Also of note are the ceiling roses. It is thought that these have not been repainted since the house was built.

Also on the ground floor is a study. This room has a beautiful bay window with original hand-painted landscape panels on either side. It is possible that this room was once a 'Breakfast Room' as there is an alcove (butler's pantry?) with bells to one side.

The staircase has a sense of the Elizabethan and is quite spectacular with its solid rails and carved banisters. These were actually sandwiched between plasterboard sheeting when the current owners bought the house! The stained glass window on the eastern wall is quite stunning. Evidence of the Hale family can be found in the initials 'C.M.H.' (Caroline) and 'A.B.H.' (Amelia) which are worked into the window. The door off to the left at the first landing is thought to have lead to a staff bedroom.

Upstairs

On the first floor, four bedrooms can be found. The first bedroom has a marvellous open fireplace and decorative ceiling rose. The second bedroom has access to the extensive veranda through walk-through casement windows. There are views from this veranda to the city. The third bedroom has its own ensuite and the fourth bedroom was perhaps a servant's room as it has its own staircase leading to the main staircase.

The second level of the staircase is entirely new and the present owners have built a fantastic parents' retreat into the roof space. This area optimises the city views and looks out over Ercildoune Avenue that was once part of the original estate.

Ercildoune can only be described as a masterpiece. The present owners have done an amazing job of blending the old with the new without destroying the original character of this wonderful mansion. They have recreated a house whose grand past is evident while incorporating many modern features desirable in a family home today.