1875: Rupertswood Mansion, Sunbury, Victoria.

At the Victorian Intercolonial Exhibition of 1875, Ferguson & Urie exhibited a “Portion of Staircase Window for Mr. Clarke’s mansion Sunbury”,

The foundation stone for Rupertswood Mansion was laid on the 29th of August 1874 and officially opened in the presence of over 1,000 people on the 16th of March 1876.

The windows at Rupertswood are the largest known collection of privately commissioned stained glass created by Ferguson & Urie. Six sets of windows span two floors, three on the bottom floor and three on the top floor. The windows are all of secular designs with the bottom floor windows having intricately designed hunting scenes painted by the firm’s senior stained glass artist David Relph Drape. Three of the scenes include Drape’s name or initials near the bottom right corner of each scene.

Photos taken 6th February 2011.

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The Bacchus Marsh Express, Vic, Saturday 31st July 1875, page 4.

“PAINTED windows are not confined to cathedrals, churches and other places of worship. Mr. W. J. Clarke, whose mansion on the Sunbury estate is now in course of completion, under the architectural supervision of Mr. Geo. Brown, has given a large order to Messrs. Fergusson [sic] and Urie, glass-stainers of Collins-street east. What between elaborately embossed side windows in the hall door entrance – very pleasing to the eye – the various shades of colored glass in the ante-rooms, conservatory and billiard-room, and the lantern light above the main staircase, the spectator cannot be struck with the brilliant effect produced. There are three large stained windows on each landing of the grand staircase, those on the lower landing representing sporting scenes, the most prominent figure being “The stag at bay,” boldly and faithfully done after the late Sir Edwin Landseer. Coursing is well depicted in the same window, as are other field sports. Floral decorations occupy the panels on the upper staircase. Altogether, Mr. W. J. Clarke may be congratulated in his absence upon having his ideas so well carried out. Messrs. Chirnside are also adopting stained glass decorations; and if the design submitted be approved of, they will have “The twelve months of the year,” each representing the class of game obtainable here and in the old country, have made an elegant border. Many sketches, all in colors, some lay, others ecclesiastical, are to be seen in the establishment of Messrs. Fergusson [sic] and Urie, the bulk of which have been accepted and executed.- Age.”

The Argus, Melbourne, Friday 17th March 1876, page 7.

“…Mr. W. J. Clarke had issued invitations to upwards of a thousand persons to participate in a fete – one of a series, we believe – given to celebrate the completion of a handsome mansion he has erected on his Sunbury estate, from the plans of Mr. George Browne, the architect of the Theatre Royal in this city. It was literally open house to all comers, and no expense was spared to provide for the entertainment of the guests. The day was everything that could be wished, the sky veiled by grey clouds, and fresh breeze tempering the atmosphere sufficiently to render out of doors not merely tolerable but enjoyable. In the morning the children of the three local schools assembled in front of the house, and signalised the raising of the Victorian flag for the first time on the tower of Rupertswood by giving three lusty cheers…”

Australian Town an Country Journal, NSW, Saturday 3rd March 1877, page 28.

“…Mr. Clarke’s magnificent mansion is situate at Sunbury, about two hours’ ride by train from Melbourne. The foundation stone of this fine building was laid on the 29th August, 1874…”

Victorian Heritage council document (viewed 19 Feb 2012).

“The foundation stone for Rupertswood was laid on 29 August 1874 with some 1000 people in attendance. The mansion was built by contractors George Sumner & Co. from designs prepared by architect George Brown…”.

“… During the ownership of Sir William Clarke, Rupertswood became one of the principal social centres in Victoria, with hundreds of guests arriving at the estate’s private railway platform to attend hunt meets, balls and house parties. Clarke was one of the most prominent people in the colony. He was a member of the Legislative Council and received the colony’s first baronetcy. He was so prominent that he was able to have the Mt Alexander rail line diverted past his property. Hence, the Rupertswood Railway station. The estate also had its own half battery of horse artillery when Sir William Clarke formed a small permanent force in 1885. The drill hall and the vault remain as reminders of this privately sponsored regiment”.

The Birthplace of the Ashes (Rupertswood.com.au – viewed 19 Feb 2012).

“Rupertswood” holds a place in the great sporting rivalry between Australia and England, as it was on a field at “Rupertswood” that the “Ashes” were created. On Christmas Eve of 1882, after a congenial lunch, Sir William Clarke suggested a social game between the English Cricket team and a local side, made up largely of Rupertswood staff. By all accounts, it was an enjoyable game with no one really keeping score, however, it was generally agreed that the English won. Pat Lyons, a worker at “Rupertswood”, clearly remembered the afternoon many years later. It was his understanding that Lady Clarke, at dinner that evening, had presented Ivo Bligh with a pottery urn. It was purported to contain the ashes of a burnt bail. This was a light hearted gesture to commemorate England’s win at “Rupertswood”.

In 1926 the Catholic Salesian Order purchased Rupertswood and 700 acres from the estate of William Naughton (who had owned the estate earlier) to establish a school for the poor. The mansion was restored for used as a convention centre and boutique accommodation and was opened to the public on the 27th January 2002 under the management of Rupertswood Mansions Pty. Ltd.

As at mid 2014 the Salesian Order have not renewed the Rupertswood Mansions Pty, Ltd. contract and have resumed control of the mansion. The entire contents of the mansion was sold at auction in July 2014 and it is no longer open to the public.

Related posts:

30-03-1882: Death of stained glass artist David Relph Drape.

External links:

Biography: Sir William John Clarke (1831-1897)

Biography: Janet Marion Clarke (1851 – 1909)

ABC News, Rupertswood Auction, 9 July 2014.

The Age on-line, Rupertswood Auction, 5 July 2014.

[i] Victorian Intercolonial Exhibition Catalogue 1875, Group 4, page 47.


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