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Mornington to Mount Martha - Esplanade Drive

After doing research and driving around the Mornington - Mount Martha areas we noticed so many beautiful mansions from an era long past. So we have decided to complie a "self drive" guide to an era of opulance and wealth not seen today. Di and I hope you enjoy this time capsule drive as much as we enjoyed doing it.

The drive starts at Mornington at the intersection of Beleura Hill Road and the Esplanade. The Esplanade follows the waterfront to Mount Martha. Along the way there are some sensational views and gorgeous beaches. Take your time and enjoy the Mansions and scenery on this awesome part of the Mornington Peninsula.


1. Pier Hill - 839 Esplanade

839 The Esplanade

This house is a late design but does have some significants. Originally the land would have been part of "Frontage Way", the house with the spiral that can be seen in the background. The land was purchased in 1951 by Mr Bruce McBrien a Melbourne businessman. However the house was not built until 1961 for Mr Robert Rothel. It was designed by architects Chancellor and Patrick who have been responsible for so many houses in the Mount Eliza - Mornington area. The house had brick walls, redwood fascias and the roof had Wunderlich terra cotta tiles. Stone from the Moorooduc Quarry was used for paving.

2. Brixham-on-Sea - 832 Esplanade

832 The Esplanade

Originally built in 1918 for Mrs Clara Cole and called "Wilburton". In 1930 Alfred Kirton purchased the property reputedly after holidaying at the Royal Hotel in Mornington. Kirton was a member of parliment for Mornington from 1932-1940. During this time he led the local friut growers in their protest against the "Fruit Acquisition Act" at a meeting in 1940 where a branch of the Friut Growers and Primary Producers Defence League of Australia was formed. The FAA act aimed to purchase friut growers produce, which could not be sent overseas during World War 2, at a reduced price.

When Alfred Kirton passed away his son David became the owner. He sold the house to Mrs Jean McKenzie in the early 1970's. In the mid 1980's Karl and Ursula Kurz were the owners. It is unknown when the name of the house was changed to "Brixham-on-Sea". The gardens and grounds of this house are stunning.

3. Combe Martin - 820 Esplanade


This beautiful mansion was built in 1939 for Charles and Emily Ruwolt for their summer house. Ruwolt owned a large engineering factory in Richmond, Melbourne.

The house is an Old English Tudor style made of clinker bricks and shingle tiled roof. The size is 80 square metres and is complete with servants quarters.

In the 1960's the Hattam Family became the owners and in the early 1970's Ian and Paula McKenzie along with Iris Grey became the owners. Unfortunately The Mornington Shire Council allowed them to subdivied the rear yard into two lots facing Morell Street. Even so, this is an imposing mansion with sensation ocean views.

4. Mulberry - 797 Esplanade

797 The Esplanade

The original owner of this site was Alexander B Balcombe in 1860. A Steven Ricketts was the owner in 1881 and the land was then purchased by Thomas and Mary Hicks in 1898. The house, a double fronted verandahed timber design was built for the Hicks family in 1989. Thomas Hicks was a local school teaher at Mornington.

In 1907 the house was sold to Mary Reid of "Belmont" in Balwyn, an inner Melbourne suburb. Mrs Reids husband who had died 3 years earlier was Robert Reid, a Company Director of Robert Reid and Co (1887) and member of parliment. Robert Reid and Co was one of Australia's largest importing agencies of soft goods as well as being a local clothing manufacturer with a large warehouse in Flinders Lane, Melbourne. In 1966 Robert Reid and co was renamed Paterson Reid and Bruce.

In 1956 W Molyneux Helicopter Co owned the house. The house was originally called "Glencoe House" . It is unkown when the name was changed.

5. Royal Hotel - 770 Esplanade

Royal Hotel

Originally built in the late 1850's the Royal Hotel was then known as Schnapper Point Hotel. Tenders were sort to build additions in 1859 and by 1863 the hotel comprised of 22 accommodation rooms. It was owned by Mr. Thomas Rennison, a Mount Eliza District Road Board member and who later was elected to the committee of management for the Mornington Forshore Reserve. In 1870 he propased to the Foreshore committee that he would plant a pleasure garden on the reserve opposite the hotel. Whether this happen we don't know. In the early 1870's the hotel was sold to Mr Andrew Rowan. It was described as a 38 room hotel with a garden and stables on three and a half acres. He extended the hotel to have 65 rooms by 1876. In the late 1870's he sold the hotel to the Port Philip Hotel Company. In 1891 a billiard room and public hall were added. Mr Michael Morvane appears to have owned the hotel possibly up until the 1930's. In 1984, it underwent restoration at a cost of $800,000. This is a significant part of history as it was the venue for many of Morningtons special social gatherings and together with it's picket fence and Norfolk Pine represents an intergral part of an era long gone.

6. Cavingsham Court Flats - 761 Esplanade

Cavingsham Court 761 Esplanade

Mr D.H. Prince had owned this land since 1924 but these flats were not built until 1947. In this post World War 2 period private building was controlled by the 'Building Directoate' which dictated that no flat could be larger than 12.5 squares. This was to ensure the proper use of 'limited resources'. It is considered unusual that a 3 story block of flats was allowed to be constructed this far from Melbourne during the post war era due to restrictions on building materials and resources. The 10 flats all consist of 2 bedrooms, a kitchen, lounge and dining room combination. Construction is of typical cream coloured bricks from the era with celular reinforced concrete floors. The original building cost was 30,000 pounds ($60,000).

7. Clyde Villa also known as Cliften and Garrycloyne - 750 Esplanade

750 Esplanade

Dr Michael Barry commissioned Mornington carpenter Ben Constable to build Cliften in 1869. Dr Barry purchased this 4 acre 'sea frontage' block in 1866 from Mr Walter Clarke. Dr Barry named the house Cliften after his birthplace in Ireland. Dr Barry's main residence was in Toorak and it is possible he never resided at Cliften as he sold it to Dr J Macgregor around 1869. It was renamed Garrycloyne (meaning dale of beautiful trees) in 1901 by the Townsend family. Artist Samuel P Townsend owned and occupied the property for over 40 years from the early 1900's. In 1969 the Dale family purchased the property. Freya Dale, who was also an artist, rebuilt the stables at the back of the house and used them as her studio. During the Dales ownership the house was extensively renovated and extended. In 1983 it was again on the market for sale. A description mentions the 'Gothic room' reputedly used as a surgery at one time. The site was subdivided in the mid 1980's and 2 blocks were sold off to the east of the property. The Canary Island palm in the front garden is reputed to dated from 1870.

8. Bella Vista - 740 Esplanade


740 Esplanade

Bella Vista was built in 1889 for John Kerr a farmer from Tarrawingee (North East Victoria). The property consisted of nine and a half acres. It is thought Kerr lived here around 1898. By the early 1900's an orchardist from Somerville, Samuel Steel Gault was the owner. He leased the house to Ernest L McCaughan who later purchsed it in 1912. In 1916 Marion Francis Lewis purchased Bella Vista and it remained in the Lewis family until the mid 1990's. In the 1970's many residence of Mornington complained to council about the overgrown front hedge being 'hazardous to pedestrians, a fire hazzard and untidy'. Council noted that the tea tree hedge had overgrown the old rail fence but consided it 'no risk to the public'. However, despite this report the then current owner John Lewis received several council notices regarding the hedge. John Lewis died in 1993 aged 89. The house is consided to be in a near unaltered state dating from the 1890's. It is thought John Lewis spent much of his childhood here. Although the property subdivided in the 1920's (creating the Bella Vista Estate) the original timber stable and attached grooms room were retained to the east of the house.

9. Dunnmoven - 737 Esplanade


737 Esplanade

Built in 1918 for Mrs Mary Williams a well known Melbourne property developer. Mary Williams was the developer that subdivided the Beleura estate in Mornington. Dunnmoven was sold in 1930 to Miss Frances Lane of St George Road, Toorak. The house was later purchased by Ms Marjorie Williams of Camberwell, a relative of the original owner. In 1969 the house was damaged by fire. The front rooms and porch were reconstructed and later alterations were made to the upper rear of the house.

10. Woodclyffe Cottage - 598 Esplanade

598 Esplanade

Woodclyffe Cottage was built in 1863 for John Connell, a well known Mornington resident. He sold the house to Richard Shann in 1870 who carried out improvements to the 6 room cottage and property. In the mid 1870's Sir Francis Murphy, a pastoralist and first speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Victoria, purchased the cottage. It was on 14 acres and the cottage was now 8 rooms. Sir Francis purchased a parcel of land adjoining Woodclyffe making the property 26 acres. Alfred Tolhurst, a stock broker purchased the house in 1908 and it remained in the Tolhurst family until the late 1970's. Edward Tolhurst, a son of Alfred subdivided the land in the 1970's.

11. Craigie Lea - 565 Esplanade

565 Esplanade

Originally built in 1863 for Dr Alex Morrison, the head of Scotch College, this house was transformed from a 6 room cottage to a 7 bedroom mansion where Miss Australia function were held. By 1870 the house was owned by J.H. Hooper a successful clothing manufacturerer from Footscray in Melbourne. Craigie Lea was transformed around this time to a two story 7 bedroom, 6 bathroom mansion with a drawing room, library, study andsummer room. The 14 acres of grounds consisted of a two room gardners cottage, caretakers cottage, glasshouse, stables and fernery. The gardens included ornamental trees and shrubs with magnificent manicured lawns. In the early 1900's Norman Myer of Myers Department Store purchased Craigie Lea. He was also the owner of Manyung at Mount Eliza. In 1946 Bernard Dowd purchased the property. Dowd was the owner of Hickory Ladies Garments and the major sponsor of the Miss Australia Contest from 1953 - 1964. In the late 1970's a Dowd family member nominated the gardens for classification by the National Trust.

12. Briarwood Cottage - 558 Esplanade

558 Esplanade

Briarwood Cottage was built in 1940 for Mrs Cecilia Ward-Ambler of Caulfield, Melbourne. In the 1970's Mrs Ward-Ambler subdivided part of the property and sold that part to Mr Markham Lewis of Mount Martha. Later in the 1970's the executors of the Ward-Ambler Estate sold another part to Mr William Larkin. The cottage is a two story Old English style with terra cotta roof shingles and a rubble stone chimney.

13. Mount Martha Coffee Palace, Mount Martha Hotel and later Mount Martha House - 468 Esplanade

468 Esplanade

Built on five acres in 1889 for the Mount Martha Estate Company who subdivied a substantial amount of land in this area. This was built as a guest house that could accommodate nearly 100 guests. The building was designed to ensure light and shade in every room. Another design feature was that the 'noisy rooms' such as the drawing room, billiards room and kitchen were at right angles to the main house so that guests would not be disturbed. The parlours of the hotel were 'fitted with cool and dainty muslins and natural woods and broken into charming nooks and corners by moresque arches and pillars.' The hotel was sold to Sir Malcolm McEachern and later in 1900 to Madame Elsie Etzenberger. Around 1915 when World War 1 broke out it appears due to her German/Australian origin she moved on. The hotel was then owned by Mrs Annie Ferrero. It continued to operate as a hotel and guest house until World War 2 when the AIF arrived in Mount Martha. The Australian Army's 'occupation' of Mount Martha was not confined to the Balcombe site. Wives of service men were accommodated at Mount Martha Hotel. In 1951 the Australian Army purchased Mount Martha Hotel and 2 hectares of land. This became the base of the No.30 W.R.A.A.C. Barracks for the next 20 years. The Shire of Mornington purchased the hotel in 1978 and advertised for expressions of use from community groups. Today it is a community centre.

14. High Clere - 447 Esplanade

447 Esplanade

High Clere was designed and built by architect Robert Hamilton. Hamilton had a keen interst in English Medieval architecture. To make it authentic Hamilton had a thatched roof placed over the standard corrugated iron roof. He designed a special watering system to ward off fire. It is reputed that the current metal roof covers the original thatched roof.




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