Villa Alba

Villa Alba

Villa AlbaSituated in Walmer St Kew The Villa Alba Museum is one of the finest examples of 19th Century interior decoration marked by the unique and opulent hand painted murals that line the interior walls and ceilings.

Villa Alba was built between 1882 and 1884, is an important example of decoration from the final quarter of the 19th century.

It is the work of Scottish- trained Paterson Brothers and includes an eclectic mixture of painted, stencilled and gilded decoration.

The house and the original grounds of about 1/3 hectare was originally placed in trust for Anna Maria McEvoy by her family on her marriage to William Greenlaw in 1862.

Villa Alba is being restored as a museum and educational facility for the collection, study and display of interior decorations and decorative finishes.

The garden as seen today results from Dr. James Broadbent's horticultural knowledge and his analysis of the detailed research by Mrs. Jessie Serle; the compilation by Adshead & McQuie of information in surveyor's field notebooks from 1894 and 1911; archaeology by Maddy Atkinson and family photographs belonging to Fripp family descendants.

Broadbent's research has confirmed the original outlines of garden beds and the location of the now vanished summer house, pergola and fernery. Only one plant is thought to have survived from Greenlaw's time: a now coppiced fig tree adjacent to the retaining wall near the NW corner of Villa Alba.

The rebuilding and planting of the landscape, using material selected by Dr. Broadbent from 19th century nurserymen's catalogues and other records, has been carried out by Eagles Contracting. The public has also generously helped with sourcing hard-to-find plants.

The discovery of an original wooden garden tile resulted in the reproduction of sufficient tiles to edge the garden beds. This project is being generously supported by members of the public who purchase tiles for placement in Villa Alba's garden.

As the garden continues to grow and take on the form of its predecessor in the late 19th century, it provides an elegant setting appropriate to this significant building and is a fitting reminder of the great contribution of Sir Rupert Hamer to the cultural life of Victoria.

History and Preservation

About 1882 the Greenlaw family apparently demolished the existing single-storey house whose name had changed from Studley Villa to Villa Alba in 1870. This resulted in the two-storey Italianate mansion we see today. The house was elaborately decorated by Paterson Brothers, who introduced realistic and illusionistic elements into their work which included grand scale murals. To complement the decoration the house brimmed with the latest Aesthetic and Artistic furnishings and luxurious bric-a-brac.

William Greenlaw, the General Manager of the Colonial Bank of Australasia from 1877 to 1892, was hit in the crash of the 1890s and declared insolvent in 1893. As Villa Alba was not in his name, the family's occupation of the property was not initially affected by their reduced circumstances. Following her husband's death in 1895 Mrs. Greenlaw sold the contents of the house in a two-day sale in 1897 and leased the house until her death in 1918, when it became the property of Samuel Fripp. In 1950 Villa Alba was purchased by the Royal Women's Hospital. It was initially used as a home for nurses and much of the major interior decoration was over-painted. By the mid-1950s the Henry Pride Wing of the Women's post-natal hospital for mothers and babies gradually covered the site.

History and Preservation

In 1984 Kew Council, with the support of Mt. Royal Hospital, the owners of Villa Alba, established the Villa Alba Preservation Committee, a community-based body charged with managing and restoring the house. Sir Rupert Hamer agreed to act as its inaugural Chairman.

In 1985 the Mt. Royal Hospital granted a 25 year lease to the Kew Council (later the Boroondara Council) for the historic house and some land.

By 1996 the committee had resolved to establish a museum and resource centre of nineteenth century interior decoration at Villa Alba.

In 1999 after passing through the hands of several hospitals, Villa Alba was sold by the St Georges and Inner Eastern Healthcare Network to the Society of Jesus for the use of Xavier College.

A deal was brokered by the Department of Infrastructure in 1999 and, in August 2004, the Villa Alba Museum Incorporated gained title to the house and its original grounds. Xavier College was given the right to lease part of the original land put in trust for Mrs Greenlaw in 1862 for passive use by the students of Xavier's Early Learning Centre built on land which had been later acquired by Mrs Greenlaw.

❊ What's On ❊

❊ Address & Contact ❊

Villa Alba⊜ 44 Walmer Street Kew | Map
44 Walmer StreetKew
9852 8886

❊ Web Links ❊

Villa Alba

❊ COVID-19 Notice ❊

Many locations have gone into lockdown as the state takes action to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus (COVID-19).

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