1887: Toorak, Werndew, Toorak Vic. (demolished c.1955)

Main entrance

Werndew in Irving Road, Toorak, was designed by Alfred Dunn, a new mansion for pastoralist and businessman, Jenkin Collier in 1887.[1]  It was home to the Collier family until the 1950s, by which time both parents, and the last of their four unmarried children, had died leaving the substantial estate entirely to charity.

Toorak Werndew auction 1954

Fig. 1: Werndew auction, 1 December 1954. The mansion was passed in at £62 000.

Image published in Argus, 2 December 1954, p. 8.

The grand mansion, named after the Collier forebears’ home town in Wales, was a large dwelling, even by 1880 standards.  Reports varied, but it contained at least 18-20 main rooms and was set on 3¼ acres in the heart of Toorak.  The extent of the stained glass is unknown, but probably included a substantial entrance with door panels, sidelights and fanlight, a staircase window and panels in other doors and windows in the home’s reception rooms.  The only surviving panel (discovered so far) is one sidelight from the main entrance, attributed to Montgomery on stylistic grounds. In anticipation of Werndew’s impending sale in 1854, the Melbourne Herald described the building at length making a feature of ‘…the stairway with solid mahogany railing and balustrade, where guests were greeted by the figure of a smiling woman on a stained-glass window above the words, “We Give You Welcome.”[2]

Sale of the contents of the house, more than 1000 lots, included mantlepieces and other fittings, but the stained-glass in the entrance and the staircase window apparently remained installed in the building.[3]   Offered by auction in December the same year, the house was passed in, but sold soon afterwards for about £65 000. Several blocks from the 17-allotment subdivision of the site were sold before the mansion was demolished in 1955.[4]  The stained glass was probably removed and sold at that time.

Werndew knight sidelight copy

The surviving window has all the hallmarks of William Montgomery’s work of the 1880s: specifically, colours of glass sheet, painting technique and general composition of the panel.  The figure in the sidelight may represent a chivalrous Knight in Armour, possibly Arthur, and was likely paired on the other side of the entrance by Guinevere, or another Knight and Lady.   Similar pairs were seen in many of Melbourne’s grand mansions, including adjacent homes, Cullymont and Eyrecourt in Canterbury installed in 1889; Walter Scott characters, Ivanhoe and Rowena filled one of the entrance’s sidelights and Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Ophelia graced the other.

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[1] Miles Lewis, Melbourne Mansions homepage, accessed 26 January 2006.

[2] Herald, 22 May 1954, p. 7.

[3] Herald, 10 July 1954, p. 25.

[4] Argus, 19 March 1955, p. 42.

Fig. 2: Knight in Armour, sidelight from Werndew, Toorak Vic. The sidelight is held in a private collection in Melbourne.


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2 thoughts on “1887: Toorak, Werndew, Toorak Vic. (demolished c.1955)

  1. Hi Bronwyn,
    I’m from the Collier Charitable Fund, which was created from the Wills of the three Collier sisters, daughters of Jenkin Collier. I’m currently creating an archive of relevant family history and would like to talk with you about this article and its findings if you’re available.
    I look forward to hearing from you.
    Meg Kelly


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