Heronswood Main House

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105 La Trobe Pde, Dromana
Mornington Peninsula Shire
Heronswood, La Trobe Parade, Dromana, is a building of national architectural importance, being an innovative and highly creative design and, with Barragunda, Cape Schanck, perhaps stylistically unique in Australia. The main house is in a highly individualistic picturesque Gothic Revival style. The north-east wing is particularly distinctive and important for its multiplicity of elements and their detailing and has a strong relationship to contemporary English and American practice. The south-west wings are more severe and conventional

(The Commission is in the process of developing and/or upgrading official statements for places listed prior to 1991. The above data was mainly provided by the nominator and has not yet been revised by the Commission.)
Heronswood, La Trobe Parade, Dromana, was built as a retreat by William Edward Hearn, academic and politician, to designs probably by Edward La Trobe Bateman. The main house of 1871 is asymmetrically composed and constructed in bluestone with limestone dressings and bell cast slate roofs. The single storey north-east wing, with varied windows and roof shapes, verandahs and loggia, contrasts with the two storey south-west wings.

Professor W. E. Hearn purchased the land from Dr Godfrey Howitt in 1864. Barragunda at Cape Schanck was built for Howitt in c1866 by Edward La Trobe Bateman, probably under the supervision of the notable Melbourne architects, Reed and Barnes. It is not known whether the Cottage Orné already existed at Heronswood at this time. Hearn, apparently inspired by Barragunda, commissioned the same design team for Heronswood. The completion date of 1871 is recorded above the entrance to the porch.

William Edward Hearn (1826-1888), political economist, jurist, politician and university lecturer, was born in Ireland and emigrated to Melbourne in 1855. He had been selected in London for a position at the newly established University of Melbourne. He had a distinguished career, taking part in politics and administration, as well as teaching students who later became noted public figures, such as Alexander Sutherland, H. B. Higgins, Samual Alexander, Isaac Isaacs and Alfred Deakin. The first two being later owners of Heronswood. Some of Hearn's publications and books attracted critical praise and remained as references for almost a century. It is believed that the text Plutology or The Theory of The Efforts to Satisfy Human Wants was written at Heronswood.

Alexander Sutherland (1852-1902) and his wife Elizabeth took over Heronswood from Hearn in 1880. Sutherland was a poet, philosopher, journalist and school master. From 1901 he was Registrar at the University of Melbourne. His legacy is perhaps strongest as a social historian. Sutherland wrote many books and edited the celebrated Victoria and its Metropolis (1889). He wrote The Governance of England at Heronswood.

After Sutherland's death, Heronswood passed to his friend Henry Bournes Higgins (1851-1929). Higgins was a lawyer who became a High Court Judge, a radical politician and one of the most controversial jurists in Australian history. He was influential in the movement towards Federation and wrote the famous 'Harvester Judgement' which formed the concept for the Basic Wage and foundation of the arbitration system. Higgins died at Heronswood and is buried in the Dromana cemetery.

In 1932, W. A. and J. A. Farey became the owners of Heronswood. They continued the tradition of using the property as a retreat. The Farey family occupied a bakery in Hawthorn. The next owners, Jack and Ada Wilson, bought Heronswood in 1957 and made it their permanent residence.

The Wilsons subdivided the original thirty-five acres in 1964. In 1973, Heronswood was sold to T. Shugg and then later to S. Moffat. The current owners Clive and Penny Blazey bought the property in 1982 and have collected historical information about Heronswood.

The designer of Heronswood is believed to be Edward Latrobe Bateman (c1815-1897). He was a distant relative of C. J. La Trobe and emigrated in 1852 as a gold digger. In Victoria, Bateman worked as an illustrator, draughtsman, architectural decorator and landscape designer. He worked with one of Melbourne's leading architectural firms, Reed and Barnes. It is believed that Joseph Reed may have assisted in the design of both Heronswood and Barragunda at Cape Schanck.

Comparative Analysis: Architecturally, Heronswood can be placed within the picturesque movement in Victoria. The Gothic Revival style is usually seen in ecclesiastical or institutional architecture in Australia and is rare in domestic buildings. Heronswood can be compared to Barragunda, Cape Schanck and Chatworth House, attributed to Bateman, and 'Kolor' at Penshurst in the Western District, which Reed and Barnes designed in 1868. Each building, although exhibiting some stylistic deVices in common with the others (such as a rustic, picturesque character and distinctive roof line), is significant in its own right. Comparisons can be made with the work of the architectural firm Davidson and Henderson in Geelong, and other buildings by Reed and Barnes. The style is inspired by the theories of the famous French architect and writer Viollet-Le-Duc.
Set on a hilltop with panoramic views over Port Phillip Bay, Heronswood is a pastoral property which has retained a significant amount of land. The house, built of granite in 1871, is substantially intact and an unusual Gothic Revival style. It is a picturesque building, asymmetrically massed, with local limestone for quoins, corbels and around openings. The steeply pitched slate roofs reflect the hierarchy of rooms within and feature bell-cast forms.

Similarly rustic materials remain in the detached timber cottage, built c1864. It has drop slab wall construction between unsawn posts, particularly rare because of the diagonal laying. The cottage has a shingle roof (which has been renewed), and limestone chimney. It has bush poles as rafters at the eaves and internal lining with vertical beaded-edge boards. The overall effect is of a picturesque Cottage Orné.

Other features of the property are early stone walls and stairs, a terrace with 120 year old Chinese tiles and significant plantings, including a Cook Island Pine.