Corio Villa, Geelong
Set above Corio Bay at 56 Eastern Beach Road, it's one of
Australia's only surviving buildings to be made from
pre-fabricated cast iron.
The Colonial Land Commissioner,
William Nairn Gray, ordered a prefabricated iron house from
Edinburgh, Scotland. The house was deliverd in a series of
crates arrived at the Cunningham pier, Geelong in 1855 with
apparently no indication of a name of the consignee. Later it
was discovered that they belonged to Gray. The house was sold
very cheaply the following year and was to be known as Corio
Villa. This villa proudly overlooks Corio Bay in Geelong.
The Corio Villa was a single-storey prefabricated iron
house designed by Bell & Miller, architects and engineers,
manufactured in Edinburgh by Charles D. Young & Co., and
assembled in Geelong by Alfred Douglass in 1856. The house is
unique in Australia, for after shipping to Australia, the
factory and the molds were destroyed by fire.
The house remained in his family until
it was sold to Dr Keith Ross of Ballarat in 1938 and then to
Arthur and Alice McAllister in 1945.
Most of the
decorative work echoes the pattern of the rose, and the thistle
Corio Villa is considered by heritage
authorities as of paramount international significance not just
in Geelong but to the history of industrial technology and the
19th-century British aesthetic movement.
It has its many original character features including
intricate leadlight windows, plaster roses and cornices,
detailed timber ceiling and wall panelling, plus ornate marble
There was a shortage of building materials in the colonies and
labour costs were inflated because of the gold rush whilst in
Scotland, the prevailing conditions favoured heavy engineering
that could produce this type of pre fab home. The walls are made
of half-inch boilerplate in sheets three-by-three feet sheets,
which were bolted together to form walls. The veranda posts and
porch supports were cast in ornate and delicate filigree
patterns, and the internal lining is mainly lathe and plaster
with some pressed metal and papier-mâché features thrown in for
Internally it is what you would expect.
Beautiful period features abound, and the room sizes are
generous. The décor is true to the period and sympathetically
modern where appropriate. It is elegant inside and out.
The house was extended in the late 1800’s and the timber
structure seems to seamlessly blend into the original iron
cottage style described in historical notes as an Italian Villa.
Walking around the lovely acre of gardens one experiences
beautiful examples of oak, elm, jacaranda and walnut trees
sitting amongst evergreen hedges and mass plantings of
hellebores, catnip and rosemary. In spring and summer the added
sights and smells of lavender, iris, roses and hydrangeas make
for a heady mix.
The history of the place is alive. The Douglas family crest
is in place just as it was when it was built, complete with the
motto “Do or Die” and so are the lion head keystones that adorn
the verandas securing the intricate fretwork together. The
ornate urns are still in place and thankfully have avoided the
ravages of time or human. As an expert wrote; “Nothing can
exceed the beauty of the examples; they are quite equal to the
great originals, in proportion, execution, sharpness and beauty
of outline. The figures stand in bold relief, and as specimens
of iron casting they are unequalled in the world.”
The McAllister family have hired out the
property for weddings and functions. The house sits on 375
square metres of the 2,885-square-metre block.
Villa, the landmark 14-room Geelong home, was sold in January
Its sale price has not been disclosed, but its most
recent declared asking price was $5.85 million.
Alfred Douglass was, according to 'Brownhill', a native of
Loughborough, Leicestershire, who arrived in Tasmania in March
1835 by the barque Wave, and in 1850 came to Victoria. Near the
Breakwater on the Barwon, he established the wool scouring works
known as Barwonside.
is thought to be a descendant of John Douglass, who lived with
his wife Bridget at Yarm, Yorkshire.
One of their sons,
also John, rose to be the Bishop of London and one of the
leading figures of the English Catholic revival. Meanwhile one
of their daughters, also Bridget, was said to have met Bonnie
Prince Charlie who ‘gave her a miniature portrait of himself’
which was handed down through generations but is now apparently
2. Alfred and Elizabeth Douglass lived in Corio Villa
until Alfred’s death in 1885 when Alfred’s son, Henry Douglass,
a lawyer, took ownership.
Many documents about Corio
Villa state that when Henry Percival Douglass died in 1927, his
son, George Douglass, took ownership of the property until he
died in 1918 as a result of wounds incurred in World War I which
saw one of his sister’s live at Corio Villa until 1938 (Probably
Mrs Chomley). However, it is possible that it was Henry Percival
Douglass's wife, Enid Mary Douglass, who lived in Corio Villa
until her death on 17 August 1938, or both.
3. Mrs Clara Jones (1899-1987), nee Douglass, widow of
Rupert Rutherford Chomley (1893-1922) and her son, George Alec
Chomley (1922-2000) lived at Corio Villa.
4. The coat of arms has been linked to Thomas Douglas,
Baillie of Edinburgh in the mid-17th Century, a son of the
Douglases of Cavers in the Scottish Borders, but no firm
ancestral link to him has yet been established.
4. In September 1933, a Miss Rosa Douglass of Heidelberg
was a guest of Mrs H.P. Douglas at Corio Villa.
5. Mrs R. Chomley returned to Corio Villa after a short
visit to Chelsea in March 1932. In the same month, Mrs Aubrey
Carter had been a visitor of Mrs H.P. Douglass at Corio Villa
|MR. ALEC. ROSS AND MISS DOROTHEA
wedding of Mr. Alec. Ross, eldest son
of the late Mr. William
Ross, "The Gums,"
Penshurst, and Miss Dorothea Mary Webster,
youngest daughter of the late Mr. Geo. Web-
ster, of New
Zealand, was celebrated at Christ
Church, Geelong, by the
Rev. F. Newton, on
Tuesday, March 16. The church was charm-
ingly decorated with autumn leaves and white
the guests were several Mel-
bourne and Western District
bride, who was given away by her brother-in-
law (Mr. H. P. Douglass), wore white. Her
were her two nieces, Misses
Mollie and Wynne Douglass. The
was Mr. Stuart Ross. After the ceremony a
reception was held at "Corio Villa," the resid-
ence of Mr.
and Mrs. H. P. Douglass. Mr. and
Fix this textMrs. Alec. Ross
leave for England by the
Orontes. Their future address will
Table Talk (Melbourne,
Victoria Thu 25 Mar 1909
Any contributions will be
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