By ROBERTO CHUTER
There are many houses with histories. But this particular house has more than most. Located in one of Elwood’s most historical streets, Tiuna Grove, No. 3 does not possess a heritage overlay to save it from destruction by profiteering developers. Why? No one knows why, including the City of Port Phillip. Mayor Dick Gross, admitted that it seems that it was a mistake not to include these properties in the heritage overlay in the first place. What are the Port Phillip Heritage Review doing? In 2009, Tiuna Grove and Elwood residents battled for months to save the house from demolition because developers attempted to remove the original 100 year old covenant that was in place. Fortunately, the residents and the community were successful.
Built in 1912 on land owned by Liet. Col. Harry McLeod Duigan formerly of the Australian Imperial Forces (with a distinguished military career and noted athlete), the house is legendary for its historical and cultural significance. The beautiful dwelling is a rare example of a Federation home which retains virtually all of its original interior fittings and red brick structure. In particular is the famous ‘The Red Room’ (original dining room) which still boasts of its stunning floor to high ceiling Tudor-style timber panelling and leadlight bay windows. Many artistic and lively events have taken place in ‘The Red Room’.
Flashing back to 1921, the then owner allowed Leslie Taylor, known as Squizzy Taylor, to hide out in the back room of the house after fleeing, disguised as a school boy in a Scotch College uniform, from 60-66 Glenhuntly Road, Elwood. In 1923, Chas. Miller and Edgar Clarke sold No. 3 for 2950 pounds to a large attendance and bidding was spirited. Liet. John (Jack) Frank and his wife Frances lived at No. 3 in 1944, Sadly, on 22nd June, Jack was killed.
The house became a share house in the 1980s then in 1994, the famous Australian playwright, Julia Britton, then aged 89, leased the property. Britton wrote 14 or more of her successful plays in the house, many of the produced nationally and internationally.
From 1994-2016, No. 3 became a much talked about cultural hub under Britton’s tenancy. Fifteen play and screenplay readings were read and presented in ‘The Red Room’ with many personalities of the time involved along with endless rehearsals for acclaimed and award-winning stage productions such as “The Death of Peter Pan”, “The Object of Desire”, “Half A Person” and “Homme Fatale.”
In 2001, the famous La Mama Theatre in Carlton staged an open-air season of “The Murderer’s Barbeque” for the Port Phillip community in the back garden of the property. The production was nominated for some awards and local residents packed out the performances to capacity. No. 3 was on a roll when a number of feature and short films were filmed in the house and the gardens. These included the internationally acclaimed “The Dream Children” (also penned by Britton), “Come Said The Boy”, the horror film “Swallow” and the Screen Australia documentary entitled: “Fearless” about the life of Britton also featuring the house. The documentary aired on ABC-TV, cable channels and worldwide networks. No. 3 welcomed many overseas visitors from Greece, England, the U.S. and Germany eager to meet Britton and visit the house.
No. 3 has also had a long association with the National Trust of Victoria’s properties such as Rippon Lea from 1990-2001, producing and creating site-specific performances from the front room of the house. These highly acclaimed productions included: “Loving Friends”, “The Great Gatsby”, “Anne of Green Gables” and the highly controversial adaptation of “Lady Chatterley’s Lover.” Manyfamousandinfamouspersonalitiesthathavelived,stayedorbeenassociatedwith No. 3 including: Mirka Mora (artist), Paul Cox (filmmaker), Clifford Frith (artist), John Clarke (TV Sat, Bryan Dawe, Jane Turner (actors), Nicholas Denton (actor), Barry Lowe (playwright), Heather Ellyard (artist), Andrew Domink (filmmaker), Manu Bennett (actor), Graeme Squires (actor), Gerry Sont (actor), Wayne Groom (filmmaker), John Ruane (filmmaker), Maestro Richard Dival, Anthony Breslin (artist), Kate Llewellyn (novelist), Sarah Roberts (actress), Mark Lee (actor), John Muirhead (ABC-TV producer), Chris Young (musician), Sam Mallet (composer), Ronald Woodcock (violinist), Kerri Simpson (singer), Kevin Stanton (musician/composer, Paul O’Brien (actor), Albert Tucker (artist), Dr. Michael Kozminski, Dr. Lisa Dethridge, Dr. George Mucknicki, Simon Barley (sculptor), Jacqui Henshaw (photographer), Peter Leiss (photographer) and many, many more.
With the death of Britton in 2012 and after a large memorial and marquee in the back garden the house was auctioned off in 2016 in front of a massive amount of onlookers and potential
buyers. Surprisingly, prior to this auction the owner destroyed the 100+ year old gum tree (for no apparent reason) that stood in the right hand corner of the front garden homing much birdlife. How did Council allow this to happen? Residents were infuriated. The back garden also suffered some significant loss. Originally three large 100+ palm trees highlighted the garden, (apparently in honour of fallen soldiers) two vanished over time, and only one stands today, its existence now threatened.
At present the house (and the next door dwelling No. 5) is once again under threat by greedy developers seeking to consolidate the large properties and replace them with a single building of oppressive monolith consisting of 19 apartments. Fortunately, the Minister for Planning in the Victorian State Government has granted interim heritage protection for No. 3 and 5 as requested by the Port Phillip Council. This interim protection will last until the 30th June 2020 which gives Council time to put in place permanent heritage plans. Which is about time! The developers requested an adjournment of the VCAT hearing so necessary preparations could be made. VCAT (and we all know what VCAT is like) granted it. The final hearing is scheduled over 7 days from 2-10 of December.
The developers said the demolition of the properties will not proceed until the permit is in place. But on the morning of July 10, five or six workers arrived at the site and started digging up parts of the grove to disconnect gas lines to the properties preparing for demolition next month.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if we showed up tomorrow and the bulldozers were here to knock it over,” stated one of the residents. Developer Mr. Nick McKimm expressed that the workers had disconnected the gas and power at the site as a safety precaution and was adamant the houses would not be demolished yet saying: “There will be absolutely nothing more done at the site until we have the proper permits.”
No. 3 Tiuna Grove, Elwood is an important and essential component to the City of Port Phillip’s historical and cultural identity and should be classified and preserved at all costs as a Heritage property. What heritage property does the City of Port Phillip possess that is crucial to the education and enjoyment for our children and future generations?