Tay Creggan House and Garden, 30 Yarra St, Hawthorn, VIC

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Tay Creggan by Dean Melbourne
Tay Creggan by Dean Melbourne

"Tay Creggan was originally built as a magnificent Queen Anne styled mansion overlooking the Yarra River in Hawthorn. Completed in 1893, the enormous red brick and stucco mansion features amazing complexity in the roof structure which incorporates a small tower, dormer windows, high pitched gables and large terracotta chimneys. Tay Creggan is now part of Strathcona Baptist Girls Grammar School after it purchased the building in 1969."

"Tay Creggan in Hawthorn is a magnificent example of the Federation Queen Anne style of architecture.
  • The house demonstrates the picturesque and eclectic qualities of this style by its elaborate and varied roof forms, leadlight windows and rough cast walls with creeper covering.
  • It is the most accomplished residential work of the architect Guyon Purchas and was designed for his own use.
  • The interior of the house retains much original Art Nouveau decoration and a remarkable ballroom illuminated with glass ceiling domes.
  • The residence is enhanced by its setting within a well preserved example of a nineteenth century picturesque garden
  • The two elements of house and garden represent the style of living of the upper middle classes of Melbourne in the late nineteenth century.
  • The significance of the property is further enhanced by its placement within the St James Park Estate

Architectural excess can be cause for sheer delight:
Built in Hawthorn in 1889, Tay Creggan is considered one of Australia's most important houses. Photo: Luis Enrique Ascui
Built in Hawthorn in 1889, Tay Creggan is considered one of Australia's most important houses. Photo: Luis Enrique Ascui

Built in Hawthorn in 1889,

Tay Creggan is considered one of Australia's most important houses.
"Tay Creggan" - the house on the rocks - is the fantastical building of gables, dormers, turrets and tall, twinned chimney stacks that can be glimpsed from across the Yarra at Richmond.

"Up closer you can see scalloped terracotta roof tiling, fancy fretwork and finials, the ''candle snuffer'' profile of the most prominent turret, the many pretty porches and the diamond leadlight in bay windows that project from the timbered upper storey.
When the house - now the year 9 campus of Strathcona Baptist Girls Grammar School - was built in 1889, it was an architect's own home that took the boom style of late-Victorian housing to the next level of lavish.

"With all that exterior detail and exceptional interior appointment - the ballroom has three stained-glass cupolas, four wooden dragon gargoyles and a huge inglenook fireplace in Scottish oak - it has always been problematic for architectural historians to classify.
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"Stylistically, what is it?

Elizabethan revival? 19th-century eclecticism? Early arts and crafts? Queen Anne revival? Picturesque gothic? Colonial Gormenghast? The embellished copy of an Italian mountain villa once visited by its architect?
It has been called all of these. But whatever the model, it is considered one of the most important houses in Australia. The National Trust says Tay Creggan makes it into ''the first rank of noteworthy buildings''. Certainly unique in Melbourne, it sent its architect, Robert Guyon Purchas, broke.

"Purchas was bumped from ownership, almost as the house was completed, by the 1890s bank crash.
And for the next three decades the terraced garden estate, with its coach houses, stables, paddocks and tennis and croquet courts, was a family domain that required 10 maids, a coachman and four gardeners.

"As you do, the new owners did some renovating and lavished even more features on the grandiose scheme.

They moved and remade the great staircase in ''finely worked New Zealand kauri''. They introduced family crests, beaten copper fireplaces, narratives of hunting scenes in stained glass and touches of art nouveau.
"The house is set in the St James precinct, which has some of Melbourne's finest post-gold rush houses and gardens and, for this reason, was the first gazetted conservation zone in the state's history (1973)."
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"Tay Creggan was built by the prominent Melbourne architect Robert Guyon Whittlesey Purchas (known as Guyon) as his own home. He bought the land, a 1.5 hectare sloping site between the railway line and the Yarra River, in 1889 and built the house in 1891-2, but ran into financial difficulties at the beginning of the 1890s depression and sold the house in 1892.
  • Purchas was one of the most prominent architects in Melbourne around the turn of the century, one of the first to be influenced by the English Arts and Crafts movement, and helped to establish the journal Arts and Crafts in 1895. The house was bought by Michael Spencer, whose family crest appears above the fireplace in the hall.
  • Purchas designed a number of changes to the house for Spencer, including the conversion of the ballroom to a grand billiard room. Following Spencer's death in 1900 his widow married A H McKean, and the house was further altered, with the enlargement of the entrance hall and new stairs constructed.
  • In 1937 the house was purchased by the Catholic Church for the Sisters of the Holy Grail, who added the Tudor Hall and dormitories, now used as classrooms.
  • It was sold to the Baptist Union of Victoria in 1969 for use by Strathcona Girls School, and is now their Year 9 campus. Since then extensions and renovation works have been carried out, including the replacement of the roof tiles and the addition of a large new kitchen in place of the original.
Tay Creggan_Hawthorn_hall_KJ_Feb 09
Tay Creggan_Hawthorn_hall_KJ_Feb 09

Tay Creggan_Hawthorn_turret_KJ_Feb 09
Tay Creggan_Hawthorn_turret_KJ_Feb 09

"Tay Creggan is a picturesque asymmetrical red brick two storey Victorian Queen Anne Revival style house set amidst spacious grounds overlooking the Yarra River.
  • "The roof is elaborated with turrets, and with dormers and gablets with finely-worked barge boards and finials, and is covered with Marseilles pattern tiles and terracotta ridging. The red brick walls have rough-cast with brown woodwork on the front facade, and the windows are casements with small diamond-paned leadlights.

Tay Creggan_Hawthorn_billiard room_KJ_Feb 09
Tay Creggan_Hawthorn_billiard room_KJ_Feb 09

  • "The house is notable for its fine detailing, including the slender decorative chimneys characteristic of the Elizabethan period, the weather vane on the candle-snuffer roof of one of the turrets, and the small entrance porch with scalloped tiles.
  • "Internally a number of the rooms are interesting for their timbered ceilings, fireplaces, ingle-nooks and bays. The staircase is of finely worked kauri timber and the landing has a notable stained glass window by William Montgomery depicting a hunting scene, with contrasting art nouveau decoration above.
  • "The most outstanding room is the billiard room, which is remarkable for the three stained glass domes above, the enormous Scottish Oak fireplace with Art Nouveau style copper repouss� work, and the carved decoration of the roof timbers, which have carved dragons on the beam ends. There are several former servants' rooms in the attic. The house retains its original entrance gates and driveway, a row of Bhutan Cypresses along Yarra Street, and some original terracing in the garden area to the east of the house.
  • "Tay Creggan is architecturally significant as one of the finest examples in Victoria of the Victorian Queen Anne Revival style, incorporating many Elizabethan-period features, and as one of most picturesque houses built in Victoria in the late nineteenth century. It is significant as one of the finest works of the prominent Melbourne architect Guyon Purchas, whose late nineteenth and early twentieth century houses exemplify the Arts and Crafts approach to the 'total work of art'.
  • "Tay Creggan is historically significant as a reminder of the way of life of the wealthiest citizens of Victoria in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and as the home of one of the prominent architect Guyon Purchas."


  1. http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/ahdb/search.pl?mode=place_detail;search=state%3DVIC%3Bkeyword%3Dpicturesque%3Bkeyword_PD%3Don%3Bkeyword_SS%3Don%3Bkeyword_PH%3Don%3Blatitude_1dir%3DS%3Blongitude_1dir%3DE%3Blongitude_2dir%3DE%3Blatitude_2dir%3DS%3Bin_region%3Dpart;place_id=5671