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Former St Joseph’s home offered for sale

The erection of a sale board at 1 Kent Road, Surrey Hills has caused a flurry of comment from residents on a local social media page and quite a number of emails to the SHPA from concerned residents. The sale by expressions of interest of 1 Kent Road and 24 Durham Road by Colliers International is by Expression of Interest which closes on Friday 27th November at 3pm.

Is it perhaps significant that neither the sale board nor the ad on the internet mention that the property has heritage significance; indeed, as part of the Surrey Hills English Counties Residential Precinct it comes under Heritage Overlay (HO 670) in the Boroondara Planning Scheme. It is worth having a look at the internet ad to understand the extent of the holding and some of the interior features that have remained intact, despite the buildings having had a mix of uses since they were sold by the Catholic Church.

(One does have to wonder about the appropriateness of the choice of background lyrics – ‘Welcome to the fire.’)

This site was identified by a Lovell Chen P/L Heritage Report in February 2014, revised in April 2016 by Context P/L for the City of Boroondara as part of the Surrey Hills & Canterbury Hill Heritage Study. The Lovell Chen study had recommended that only part of the site be included for heritage protection - that being the southern part where the grander, more historic buildings are located. The later report, adopted into the Boroondara Planning Scheme, extended the extent of protection to the whole site. The report can be read in full at The details regarding this site are found in the report on pages 140-151.

A brief history summarised from this detailed report: St. Joseph’s Home for Destitute Children is situated within the former Surrey Reserve Estate, which was advertised for auction by John Clarke & Co in November 1884. The oldest building on the site dates back to 1890 when the home was established by the Sisters of St Joseph, who had arrived in Australia in 1866 and established welfare-related facilities throughout the country. The architect was Thomas J Power, who probably also designed the near identical 1935 infirmary building next to the main building. Power is documented as the architect of other work for the Catholic church in the 1930s.

St Joseph’s initially provided care for fifty-eight children, expanding to accommodate 120 children and 80 nuns by 1907 when the first additions were made; part-funding for this was met by public subscription and operational costs were met without the assistance of government aid.

The late interwar period was one of expansion at the home, with 13 building permits granted from 1933 to 1941 for a large number of varied works. There are many references on Trove to the fund-raising initiatives designed to raise money through appeals at department stores and charity lunches, and specific appeals for donations of toys and food.

The home operated until 1980, after which it became the Victorian headquarters of Youth With A Mission, an evangelical outreach program.

Comparative Analysis, as per report: St Joseph’s, as a large and evolved late nineteenth/early twentieth century Catholic welfare institution, can be compared in a general sense to other child welfare facilities, and orphanages, in Victoria. A number of these, including earlier examples, survive including several on the Victorian Heritage Register:

• St Vincent de Paul Boys Orphanage, South Melbourne (1857, VHR H2170)

• St Vincent de Paul Girls Orphanage, South Melbourne (1858-9, VHR H1531)

• Protestant Orphan Asylum and Common School, Fyansford, Geelong (1855, VHR H1095)

• Former Industrial School, Sunbury (1865, VHR H0937)

• Convent of the Good Shepherd, Abbotsford (developed from the 1860s and with an Industrial School of 1868, VHR H0951)

• Ballarat Orphanage, Victoria Street, Ballarat.

While St Joseph’s is not of the scale of some of these larger institutions, it is still a substantial complex of buildings dating from the boys’ home use. In terms of the architecture and styles of the buildings, the earlier 1890 and 1907 components, with the timber veranda details, and exposed brick and cement dressings, are characteristic of the early phases of Federation architecture.

Assessment Against Criteria Adopted from the ‘recognised heritage criteria’ set out in the Victorian Planning Provisions Practice Note on ‘Applying the Heritage Overlay’ (September 2012).

St Joseph’s is currently judged as being of local significant against Criterion E - Importance in exhibiting particular aesthetic characteristics (aesthetic significance).

What to do:

There are a number of possible future uses of the site. It behoves the Association and members of the public interested in the history of this area to lobby to ensure that whatever the outcome, that it is appropriate and respects the heritage values of the site.

A couple of residents have suggested that this site could be considered by Council for purchase under retention of land for public use.

The site does have an existing degree of protection under a local heritage overlay within Boroondara’s Planning Scheme. At the request of a number of residents, the SHPA has written to Phillip Storer, Chief Executive Officer of the City of Boroondara Council, to seek Council’s response to the listing of the property by Collier’s International and whether or not further heritage protection should be considered through its nomination for state listing by Heritage Victoria.

This letter has been forwarded to Cr Jane Addis, who has been re-elected as the Councillor for the Maling Ward.

Please consider making your views known.


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