Terraced houses are the quintessentially
building type of the mid - Nineteenth Century. The earliest are in Fitzroy and
St Kilda. Elwood House, built as two terraced houses for investment in 1854-55,
is the third earliest terrace surviving in Melbourne.
The earliest surviving terrace is the first
stage of Glass Terrace, 72-74 Gertrude Street,
Fitzroy (1853-54). Next is Royal Terrace, 50-68 Nicholson Street
1853-58). 5 Upper Esplanade was built in 1855, Eden Terrace, 4-18 Dalgety
Street, St Kilda (1855-57), 24 Princes Street St Kilda (1856), Glass Terrace
second stage at 68, 70, 76 & 78 Gertrude Street (1856) and 39-49 Brunswick
It is a tightly bunched field, but worth
setting out in detail, to clarify how important were the terraces
in St Kilda. Of all these, certainly Elwood House
is the furthest from the city. It is also the earliest house in Elwood. It was
separated from the St Kilda Hill, by the Elwood swamp and must have appeared so
incongruous standing sentinel-like, anticipating the dense resort development
that never came to Elwood.
The Reverend Joseph Docker (1793-1865) was
born at Newby Head,
After working as an assistant curate, Docker married and immigrated to Sydney
in 1828. He became rector of St Mathew’s, Windsor
for five years, but gave it away to farm a local estate he had bought.
Encouraged by Major Mitchell’s account, he decided to move to the PortPhilipDistrict.
The family travelled in covered bullock-wagons, crossing the Murray
at Crossing-Place (Albury) in 1838.
He obtained the squatting rights of a run the
Aboriginals called Bontharambo (on the
near Wangaratta). It had been deserted by its owner whose shepherds had been
murdered by Aboriginals. Docker’s sympathetic approach to these people was
rewarded with their friendship and support. They continued to hold corroborees
near to his house. He prospered and built the present large granite house
Bontharambo, on the same site in 1864. He built his
house in Richmond.
There are Docker Streets both in Richmond
For investment in 1853, Docker bought eleven
allotments, of land in North Elwood (now Elwood), from the Crown Grantee J.G.
Vautier within the Elwood Hill Estate, which was a
subdivision of Crown Allotments 12 and 13, now bounded by Beach Avenue, Ormond
Road, and South Elwood (now Docker) Street and Ormond Road, facing the St Kilda
to Brighton Track (now the bike track) and Ormond (now Elwood) Beach.
So Elwood had already been named in 1853:
Docker named his house after the subdivision from which he bought. It is said
that Elwood is named after the early Quaker historian and poet, Thomas Ellwood
(1639-1713). He was a friend of William Penn, after whom Pennsylvania
is named and reader to the blind Milton.
He was imprisoned for his religious beliefs. His A Collection of Poems on
Various Subjects was published in 1710. Presumably the street names of
‘Poet’s Corner’ (Wordsworth, Shakespeare, Tennyson, Dryden, Browning, Ruskin,
Milton, Addison, Cowper, Spenser, Thackeray,
Southey, Gordon, Lindsay, Bryon, Goldsmith, Scott, Shelley,
Rosetti, Keats, Meredith, Coleridge, Burns,
and Dickens, etc) ensued
The land had been surveyed by Robert
Hoddle in 1850. Docker paid £3,525. Three of
Docker’s 11 allotments (11,12 and 13) were in
North Elwood Road
Street). In 1854 he
commissioned Russell, Watts
and Pritchard, architects to design eight terraced houses. Of these only two
were built, a pavilion pair at the west end of the proposed terrace.
The Russell is the Robert Russell (1808-1902),
one of the three earliest architects in Melbourne (23 and 39) with
Samuel Jackson (1807-76) and John Gill (c1797-1866). Russell was only in
partnership with Watts and
Pritchard for a year, although 21 buildings are known by them; and in
partnership with Watts
alone for the year prior. L. Thomas Watts (1827-1915) is the designer of Elwood
House, not Russell. He continued in business with Pritchard for another year
after Russell left and from 1856-1906, continued to practice alone. Over that
period, he designed some 209 buildings (or as Smith & Watts, 1864-1913 and
Thomas Watts & Sons, 1889-1913). Yet he is not a well known architect, other
than for his striking Baptist Church, 486 Albert Street, East Melbourne (1859),
sadly now only the façade of offices.
Due to the careful retention of the Docker
Papers in the State Library, the construction of Elwood House is particularly
well documented. A very rare, full specification survives, dated 13 December 1854,
and five sheets of architectural drawings and the complete
correspondence between architect and client.
‘We are sorry to say that the works are
proceeding very slowly...we will make every endeavour to push the building
April 1855). By 24 April: ‘the works are
proceeding with greater dispatch. One of our firm
will be on the building this afternoon; when we hope to see the roof on...it
would now be desirable to try to let the houses’. However, (on 3 September 1855)
‘...We are urging on the contractors and hope to see them complete by the time
you intend living in Melbourne...We
hope that when you come to inspect the buildings yourself, you will find they
are built to your satisfaction. Our desire is that they should be of a
permanent character and not be of so ephemeral a nature as to last only five or
24 (?) years’. Anderson Lamb & Bonham were the builders and the cost was
The builder may have failed, because
Pritchard (Russell having departed) called tenders again on 27 October 1855
for ‘completingtwo houses in North Elwood’.
Floor plans in the Docker Papers show mirrored plans behind the good Late
Renaissance façade. The halls are next to the party wall, allowing windows to
all rooms. The front parlour was followed by a bedroom, then pantry, kitchen and
scullery. Upstairs, the front drawing room opened onto the balcony, then
another bedroom, bathroom, a third (small) bedroom and servants’ bedroom. In
the rear yard each had a wc,
coach-house, stables with groom’s rooms and loft above and an underground water
tank. By November the first tenants were secured on £200 per year leases.
Rev. Docker died in 1865, the year after
Bontharambo was completed and his son, Frederick
George Docker sold Elwood House in August 1871 to John George
Dougharty (1823-89), a stock and station agent and
MLC (1880-88), for £800. In 1874, Dougharty
proceeded to combine the two terraces into one large, 20-roomed house. He added
a single storey wing on the south side, (which was demolished around 1935),
added various outbuildings and the canted bay window to the front of no. 30.
The 1906 MMBW plan shows a cellar to no. 30A, hedges, a summerhouse and
A notice survives for an auction of this and
‘Seaview House’ dated 16 January 1874.
Either this did not proceed, or it may refer to another house, since Elwood
House is described as Gothic(!) In any case, Elwood
House was not sold then. A watercolour of the house, possibly at about this
period is held by the Port Phillip City Collection.
In the 1880s, North Elwood
residents were in the delicious position of not having to pay rates, since they
were outside the area of St Kilda Road Board, and of the Boroughs of St Kilda
In 1917-18, the Dougharty
family and its purportedly aristocratic French branch the
Huons, converted Elwood house into five flats. In 1923 it was sold to
James Griffith of Brighton.
Land to the south and north was subdivided and sold for suburban houses with the
loss of garden and outbuildings.
In 1971, the stables (no 28) were let on a 99
year lease and an outbuilding known as the ‘men’s
quarters’ was demolished to enable sufficient car parking. In 1978, Elwood House
was returned to being two terraced houses, no. 30 and 30A. In 1998, two large
double-storied, semi-detached units were proposed for the backyards of Elwood
La Trobe Collection, State Library of
J..The Two Lives of Joseph
Docker.pp 241 & 242.
(Architects’ Index) Architectural Survey.Final Report.
November 1977. pp 35, 91 & 103.
Ian. Ed. The Cambridge
Guide to Literature in English.CambridgeUniversity
(General Ed). Australian Dictionary of Biography.Vol 1.MelbourneUniversity
Melbourne 1966, P 311.
File No: 2973.