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Wren House

Wren House, or Studley House as it was previously known, was for many years the home of well known Melbourne sporting promoter and businessman John Wren.

John Hodgson, mayor of Melbourne in 1853-54, member of the legislative Council and early Boroondara resident, purchased the land on which Studley House (Wren House), Studley Hall (Burke Hall) and Studley Villa (or Villa Alba) were subsequently built, from Ellen Miller in 1853.

Hodgson began building Studley House after remarrying in 1859 but lived there only a short time before dying in 1860. Hodgson's property was sold to James McEvoy, squatter, and in 1902 John Wren purchased Studley House from McEvoy's estate.

Wren was a twenty-two-year-old boot clicker when in 1893 he chose to go into business on his own account, with his totalisator in Collingwood. He was recorded in Kew rate books as a bookmaker, with his office in the Colonial Mutual Life Building, Collins Street, when he bought Studley House at 15 Nolan Avenue.

The Studley House Wren bought had nine rooms, plus kitchen, pantry, scullery, and bathroom, none of which counted as real rooms in those days. In 1919 Wren rebuilt Studley House into a mansion, at least from its outside appearance, though critics have said that size and unimaginative layout were its major features internally. An entirely new wing was added, in which the builder, Mr. W. J. Murphy, managed to copy the original design successfully.

Six of the nine children of John and Ellen Wren were born at Studley House. After John Wren died (in 1953) and Ellen Wren moved to Caritas Christi Hospice, Studley House was bought in 1966 by Xavier College. The building was subsequently renamed Wren House.

Today Wren House is an integral part of the Burke Hall campus, the preparatory school of Xavier College, where it is used as the music and art school.

Wren House has many period features, including fireplaces, wooden staircases, roses, cornices, extensive balconies, stained windows and much lead-lighting.

The house offers stunning views of the surrounding area, the city and the bay. This building is floodlit of an evening. It remains one of Melbourne's most famous historical buildings.

These notes have been prepared from the book "Hawthorn and Kew Sketchbook" written by Brian Carroll and with the kind assistance of Xavier College.