If these walls could talk: Stonington Mansion

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Houses of a certain age are bound to acquire some element of interesting history over time; a natural consequence of the rich tapestry of human existence. Malvern’s Stonington has certainly acquired more than its fair share, especially during the early 1900s, when guests included royalty, entertainers, and explorers.

17 December 2023

Originally built in 1890 for John Wagner, a partner in Cobb & Co Coaches, Stonington was named after the Connecticut, USA city in which Wagner’s wife, Mary, was born. Stonington gave its name to one of Marshall White’s six current Melbourne municipalities, Stonnington.

The imposing Glenferrie Road mansion, nestled amongst spectacular landscaped gardens, was designed in the Italianate Victorian style by architect Charles D’Ebro and was inhabited by the Wagner family until John’s death in 1901.

Coincidentally, in the same year, Melbourne became the location of government and Stonington was leased by the State Government as a home for the Governor of Victoria. The house was eventually purchased by the state, along with its contents, in 1928 for $35,000. The mansion was maintained as Victoria’s Government House until 1931. From 1901 to 1931, seven Governors of Victoria lived at Stonington, and it was during this time that the spelling changed to Stonnington.

Throughout those years, the house hosted a plethora of notable guests, including Dame Nellie Melba, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII), the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth), Lord Kitchener, Lord and Lady Baden-Powell, Sir John Monash, Sir Keith Murdoch, and Ernest Shackleton.

In 1925, Christopher Rous, the nine-year-old son of the then Governor, George Rous, the Earl of Stradbroke, died in the house and was buried in the property grounds. Although his remains were transported back to England with his family in 1926, his ghost is reputed to haunt the house to this day.

Also used as a school and hospital in later years, Stonington was controversially sold in 2006 by Deakin University, which had received the property from the Victorian Government, to Hamton Property Group and Superannuation Fund ISPT for $33 million with plans to develop the 3-hectare site. 1.3 hectares comprising the mansion, gatehouse, and surrounding grounds were sold in an off-market transaction to art dealer, Rodney Menzies, in 2007 for around $18 million to be used as his private residence. The following year, the remaining 1.7 hectares were acquired by property developer, Ashington, who created the townhouse and apartment project, Stonington Malvern.

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Mr. Menzies occupied the mansion until 2018, when the estate was purchased by a foreign buyer for $52.5 million, making it the most expensive residential property in Victoria at the time.

Stonington will always hold an important place in Australia’s history and here at Marshall White, we look forward to seeing what lies ahead for one of Melbourne’s most fascinating properties.

Should you require advice on any aspect of selling your property, contact our Marshall White Sales Team for assistance.

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