Malvern House, formerly Valentines, and sometimes known as Davies' Folly, was designed by Thomas Watts & Sons, and built in 1891-2, reputedly by Joseph Hallow, for John Mark Davies, solicitor, politician and speculator. It is a two storey mansion in ornate stuccoed brick and originally consisted of forty rooms. The house's most striking features are its towering ballroom and elaborate interiors.
How is it significant?
Malvern House is of historical and architectural significance to the State of Victoria.
Why is it significant?
Malvern House is of historical significance as a monument to land boom extravagance, a symbol of the often reckless speculation that characterised the 1880s boom, and a reminder of the equally devastating effect of the early-1890s crash. Originally constructed for John Davies, a solicitor who had made his fortune in land speculation, the house was one of the largest of the boom era mansions. Unfortunately for Davies, his finances were devastated by the collapse of 1892, before the house was completed, and he and his family were only able to occupy a more modest wing of the house, on lease from the mortgagees. For some years after the collapse, the house stood derelict and incomplete, a symbol of Davies' (and much of Melbourne's) folly. Eventually the building was completed, although Davies himself was never to live in it. Most of the house's originally large grounds were subdivided and the house itself was converted to flats before being acquired in 1924 by the Church of England for a school, for which purpose it continues to be used.
Malvern House is of historical significance for its associations with John Davies, a man who not only played a prominent public role in late 19th and early 20th century Melbourne, but typified the experience of many land boom speculators. Davies combined an expertise in law with a talent for land speculation that made him a rich man and a Member of the Legislative Council by the 1890s. But, both the enjoyment of his wealth and his political career were interrupted by the crash and financial scandals of the early 1890s (he resigned his position as Attorney General in 1892), although he managed to get re-elected to the Legislative Council in 1899, becoming Attorney General once again from 1903 to 1919. Although Davies' political fortunes were restored, he was never to occupy the main part of Valentines.
Malvern House is of architectural significance as a fine example of the work of the long-established architect Thomas Watts, whose works include the former Baptist Church in East Melbourne. The house, particularly its towering ballroom, is an excellent illustration of the architectural extravagance that characterised much mansion building at the height of the land boom.