Rotha, Hawthorn

Rotha, Grand Queen Anne Mansion

Heritage Listed Location

29 Harcourt Street Hawthorn, Boroondara City, Victoria, Australia

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One of the Five most beautiful homes currently on the market in Victoria

29 Harcourt Street, Hawthorn East
By Jennifer Duke, Thursday, 28 November 2013

  • Five-bedroom, three-bathroom home ‘Rotha’ is circa 1887 and designed by architect John Beswicke.
  • With a tennis court, swimming pool, botanical garden, grand dining room, a subfloor cellar and a library, it’s absolutely beautiful.
  • We particularly like the decorative stained-glass look that is heaving focused on in the photographs, as well as some of the more elaborate lighting.

10:32AM Sunday Nov 10, 2013 David Adams

Designs on a grand estate

Home of 19th-century architect John Beswicke is likely to fetch more than $8 million.

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Rotha, the former home of 19th century “starchitect” John Beswicke, has gone on the market in Hawthorn East, Victoria.

  • Beswicke – responsible for landmark Melbourne buildings such as the Hawthorn, Malvern, Essendon and Brighton town halls – designed and built the two-storey, red brick house (pictured above) at 29 Harcourt Street for himself in 1887 and the Beswicke family continued to occupy it until 1980.
  • On 3145 square metres of grounds, the state heritage-listed property features five bedrooms, a grand entry hall and dining room, library, marble kitchen and meals area. It comes with an alfresco entertaining area, cellar, tennis court, pool and vegetable garden.
  • Sam Wilkinson & Ross Savas, of Kay & Burton, are running an expressions of interest campaign closing on December 3 at 5pm. They expect $8 million-plus.[1]
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Details: Significance
Rotha was designed by the notable nineteenth century architect John Beswicke as his own residence. The house, built in 1887, is two-storey red-brick and includes design features which anticipate the Australian Queen Anne style popularised at the turn of the century.

  • A single-storey ballroom was added sometime before 1902.
  • Rotha is one of eleven houses constructed as a speculative venture in Harcourt Street by Beswicke and his father Charles, one of the Port Phillip District’s early squatters. The Beswicke family occupied the house until 1980.[2]
Internally, Rotha is a Victorian home, not of Federation style, although it does have polished floor boards.
Internally, Rotha is a Victorian home, not of Federation style, although it does have polished floor boards.

Rotha is of historic importance as a result of its association with one of Victoria’s early squatting families, and as the residence of the eminent architect John Beswicke.

  • Rotha is unique in anticipating the Federation Queen Anne style style of architecture not popularised until the end of the nineteenth century.
  • Rotha is architecturally important in exhibiting good design and the aesthetic characteristics of Beswicke’s style. It is also important because of its composition, its retention internal features, and for its retention of original outbuildings including the stables, gardeners shed and plant nursery, and for the retention of the original garden plan.
The ceiling in the dining room is coffered, typical of Arts and Craft style
The ceiling in the dining room is coffered, typical of Arts and Craft style

“A marvellous Melbourne icon at the heart of the esteemed Harcourt Estate; ‘Rotha’ c1887 was designed by celebrated architect John Beswicke as his own opulent family residence on approximately 3,145sqm (33,850sqft) of magnificent grounds.[3]

  • “Perfectly preserved heritage splendour evokes timeless grandeur and luxury beyond the circular driveway and majestic facade crowned by polygonal turret and candle-snuffer bay.
  • “Embraced by sprawling botanical garden with north-facing rear, stunning swimming pool and N/S Mod-grass tennis court; a family lifestyle of unrivalled richness is reflected in the lavishly-adorned formal rooms, sympathetic contemporary enhancement and substantial accommodations.
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  • ‘Rotha’ features breathtaking entry hall, five bedrooms, three stylish bathrooms, grand dining room, exquisite drawing room, sumptuous sitting room (fireplace inglenook), north-lit family room, library, brilliant marble Kitchen and meals area (Zug, Barazza and Liebherr appliances), breakfast room, powder room, laundry, subfloor cellar, colossal fireplaces, hand-crafted stained glass and entablature, heating/cooling, video intercom, ducted vacuum, balcony, alfresco entertaining area, garaging with loft studio and electric gate access via front and side ROW.
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Statement of Significance

Rotha at 29 Harcourt Street in Hawthorn was designed by John Beswicke as his own home.

  • Beswicke was an accomplished and successful architect who designed many civic, commercial and domestic buildings, including several in Harcourt Street and the Malvern, Camberwell and Hawthorn town halls which are all visible from the elevated position of Rotha.
  • Rotha was in the Beswicke family ownership for ninety years and has survived intact, with some of its original decoration and fittings, to illustrate its designer’s taste and lifestyle (Criteria H.1). The design of Rotha demonstrates the eclecticism of the transition period from Victorian to Edwardian tastes in architecture and the beginnings of the Picturesque Queen Anne style.
  • The triple gable detail is characteristic of Beswicke’s work and overall the design displays innovation. The exterior appearance of Rotha produces an illusion of grandeur belied by its interior which is modest but exhibits some unusual planning in the hall and staircase arrangement (Criterion F.1).
  • Rotha has considerable streetscape values and together with the other local Beswicke designed houses makes an important contribution to the character of Harcourt Street (Criterion E.1).[4]
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Rotha is a two storey red brick house built in 1887-88 to the design of the architect John Beswicke for use as his own residence. A single storey billiard room was later added to the east of the house prior to 1902.

  • The building complete with contents remained in the Beswicke family until around 1980 when Beswicke’s son Rupert died. The house was auctioned and the contents dispersed.
  • The design of the house is asymmetrical and includes an eclectic assortment of detailing including both hipped and picturesque gable slate roofs, a polygonal corner turret with bell cast candle-snuffer roof, banded depressed Gothic arches over some of the windows, a square panelled verandah frieze framed in timber with turned drops and an extraordinary central polygonal bay with a modelled brick chimney stack at the front and three radiating Gothic gables heavily decorated in timber fretwork.
  • There is a central recessed entry porch between the bay window faced drawing room on one side and the polygonal corner bay window of the dining room. The front door opens directly into a double storey hall which contains a U shaped staircase. The bottom of the stair curves into the hall while at landing level it divides into two flights; one continuing to the rear bedrooms and the other to the front of the building.
  • A balcony over the recessed entry porch opens off the stair well at first floor level. To the rear of the house are the kitchen, what was originally the servants’ dining room and other service rooms. The ground floor contains four main rooms, kitchen and service rooms. The first floor originally had five bedrooms and a small bathroom. It was extended over the rear service rooms adding two extra rooms.
  • The house retains some of its original interior decoration. This includes fine timber joinery and doors with entablatures depicting animal scenes, stained glass windows, original wallpapers and painted finishes including woodgraining and stencilling, pressed metal ceilings, original light and curtain fittings, oiled wooden venetian blinds and marble fireplaces. Some of the original wallpapers have been replaced with more modern designs. Much of the remaining original decoration is in good repair.
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Rotha 29 Harcourt Street

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Rotha 29 Harcourt Street

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Bedroom in Rotha

The property retains its timber stables at the rear, gardener’s shed, plant nursery and original garden plan with mature plantings.

  • A driveway focuses attention firstly upon the house in its elevated position and secondly upon a small fountain with female figure statue at the centre of the central circular parterre.
  • The house is one of eleven two storey houses in deep gardens built in Harcourt Street by Beswicke in a speculative venture with his father, Charles, between the years 1873 and 1900. Their styles include Queen Anne, Tudor and Italianate and they were progressively lived in by members of the family and then sold.
  • Rotha is the most unconventional of these houses and its eclecticism is a consequence of three factors: that it was to be Beswicke’s own residence and so he was not constrained in his expression and experimented with the unconventional; experimentation was endemic in this period in Melbourne; and the late 1880s saw the beginning of the Picturesque movement in architecture in Melbourne. Beswicke was a prolific architect and amongst his designs are the Brighton, Hawthorn, Malvern and Dandenong town halls, various Churches, as well as a large number of commercial buildings and residences in the suburban and inner city areas of Melbourne.

Rotha has been renovated in keeping with the original style. Some of the original 1888 Victorian decoration is still intact, but the original Beswicke family furnishings were auctioned off. The front garden retains much of its form and mature plantings but has had a tennis court built in it, necessitating a slight realignment of the turning circle. (May 1990)

Picture Gallery

Picture Gallery at (1)Floor Plans (2)

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More Photos

More Photos

Views and Interior of unrenovated Rotha:

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Rotha 29 Harcourt Street

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Rotha 29 Harcourt Street
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Bedroom in Rotha
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East end of music room in Rotha

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Rotha 29 Harcourt Street Hawthorn

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Rotha 29 Harcourt Street

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Rotha 29 Harcourt Street

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Hallway looking down to
stair landing at Rotha

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The alcove ceiling at Rotha

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Skylight above stairwell at Rotha
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Sitting room ceiling rose at Rotha

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Rotha 29 Harcourt Street

References (Heritage Listed Location) : On My Doorstep‎‎ Book about John Beswick

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