Glenfern once stood in more than four acres of ornamental pleasure grounds and orchard complete with stables, pigsty and cows. Even today it boasts a spacious though more modest garden.

The main section was built in 1857, the east wing perhaps some time later and the south wing in 1876. Over the years its occupants and use have in fact been natural precursors of the use we have today.

The first owner, John Bakewell, sold the undeveloped site to Francis McDonnell in 1857. In the early 1860s straitened circumstances forced him to sell the contents of the house - including his library of 1000 recently imported works, two pianos and a harp.

McDonnell mortgaged Glenfern and died a short time later. In 1866 Thomas Watson bought Glenfern and lived there for a decade with his wife and up to nine children. In those days, of course, it was relatively isolated and a visit from family and friends often required an overnight stay.

Captain John Theodre and Mrs Lucy Boyd bought the house from Watson in 1876 for 3250 pounds - the same amount he had paid in 1866 - obviously there was no raging inflation at that time. The Boyds were the founders of a family of much creative talent - including renowned artists, musicians, writers and architects. The bay window (right) at Glenfern was the setting for a well known painting by Emma Minnie Boyd (nee a Beckett) wife of painter Arthur Merric Boyd.

In the latter years of the Boyd family ownership and initial Ostberg ownership, Glenfern had several tenants including a widowed Mrs Danne who started a private primary school she called Newington College. From 1910 to around 1928 Miss Agnes Mair ran a private primary school known as Glenfern College.

The Ostberg family occupancy overlapped the era of this college and continued until the death of Miss Amy Ostberg in 1984 when ownership of the house and adjoining 1964 flats was passed to the National Trust.

Glenfern's transformation into a Centre for the Arts and Culture began in 2002-03 when some conservation work was carried out on the main rooms (left and right) so they could be used for the filming of the Heath Ledger 'Ned Kelly' movie.

This initial funding also enabled refurbishment of the exterior of the front section. Around the same time the Team of Pianists led by Professor Max Cooke became the Trust's Artists-in-Residence at the property.

The Team runs the Glenfern Piano Institute with lessons and masterclasses for students and teachers at all levels and presents concerts at Glenfern and other historic houses.

In 2004-5 the Trust received a Heritage Program grant, funding from Arts Victoria under the 'Creating Place and Space Program' and the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust, and allocated funds from its own reserves to commence stage two to establish the Writers' Studios.

Just as this work began, the Pratt Foundation provided an extremely generous grant to enable the completion of this and the next planned stage, which removed inappropriate additions and restored rooms as studios and common areas.

The Writers' Studios will be administered for the Trust by Writers' Victoria which will also hold readings, book launches, workshops and other events at Glenfern.

❊ Address & Contact ❊

Glenfern⊜ 417 Inkerman St, East St Kilda | Map
417 Inkerman St,East St Kilda
03 9656 9800

❊ Web Links ❊


❊ Also See... ❊

National Trust of Australia (Victoria)

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