Thursday, December 17, 2009

Idylwylde lost in the romantic wilds of suburban Balwyn

There was a country-born and bred chap, Oliver Gilpin, who owned a successful drapery business that soon became a chain of drapery shops (which was ahead of its time and set the standard for employing only women and girls as managers and shop assistants) and soon he was considered "comfortable" in the hip pocket.
Oliver had knocked up a lovely home called Nyora in Normanby Ave, Thornbury (which is now the Normanby House Reception Centre) with a factory, fernery, tennis court and established a private bowling green next to it which he then invited others in 1907 to form the Thornbury Bowls Club soon sold them the land and club, becoming the first president.
He then moved his family to the new house in Finch Street, Malvern called Kia Ora (click HERE to drool). Having a hankering for bowls Oliver helped create the short-lived Malvern Heights Bowls Club right beside his new house, the grounds containing lakes, ferneries, croquet and tennis courts,  ran from the corner of Finch and Central Park Rds to Belson Rd where he had an office from which he managed his chain of stores.
But he wasn't satisfied with this lovely home; he bought and built big...he built Idylwylde.
Yes, click through the pics, enjoy the gorgeous lavishness of it all and keep in mind all of this 20 acres still existed intact in 1978 in Balwyn (Melway ref 46 F6).
Now, having looked at the spacious home, try to picture how much bigger it would have been had Oliver lived to continue his plans of extending Idylwylde another 8 storeys high!
According to his biography Oliver had installed avaries, a private zoo of Aussie animals but sale ads of Idylwylde at the time state Oliver had not actually lived in it.
I quite like this bloke; he ran a successful business, was forward thinking enough to employ only chicky babes (at a time when it Wasn't The Done Thing), created a fleet of vans/trucks to deliver his goods promptly, was considered an honest and reputable business bloke and if he married three time with a couple of divorces in between, who are we to condemn a chap who still believed in romance?
And romance he must have believed in to have chosen the design of the three beautiful homes he owned. 

I likes yer style, Mr Gilpin.

*Edit -
Just found out Oliver Gilpin's granddaughter Muriel Perry authored a bio titled "Just a Pocket For The Money; The Story of Oliver Gilpin and His Stores".


  1. Agree. While the latter two houses are impressive, I think I like the Thornbury best. Very interesting post.

  2. NOW you are really talking my talk Jayne ... how utterly fascinating! Makes you wonder what they must've been like in their heyday.

    Must send Debby down to take a look - here's her ramble around a mansion recently:

    Great post!

  3. Thanks, Andrew :)
    I love 'em all lol.

    Thanks, BB.
    Yes, I read Debby's post, isn't it just gorgeous?!

  4. Ah - they are all gorgeous...

    Off to dream...

  5. Yep, all mouth-watering delightful, Jeanie and I think I may have had those same dreams myself once or 20 bajillion times ;)

  6. Mmmm, houses. Old houses. I love them.
    If I ever have the good fortune to build a house I'm going to have it sturdy enough to stand for a hundred years while at the same time looking like it has already stood for a hundred years.

  7. Oh, I hear ya, River and I heartily applaud your good taste ;)

  8. Nice post & nice blog. I love both.

  9. I remember in the early 70's, going to early morning Mass at All Hallows, then creeping through the large front gates of Marys Mount (Idywylde)with my brothers,and riding our bikes down the concrete paths hemmed in by the stone walls.
    Quite often the caretaker would come out with a shot gun and let off a round to scare us. Great memories Thanks so much.