Malvern House (also known as Valentines) is a large Italianate two storey mansion in ornate stuccoed brick with a servants¡¯ wing and a detached laundry building.
HOW IS IT SIGNIFICANT?
Malvern House satisfies the following criteria for inclusion in the Victorian Heritage Register:
Importance to the course, or pattern, of Victoria's cultural history.
Importance in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a class of cultural places and objects.
Special association with the life or works of a person, or group of persons, of importance in Victoria's history.
WHY IS IT SIGNIFICANT?
Malvern House is historically significant as a monument to the extravagance of Melbourne's land boom of the 1880s and early 1890s. Commissioned in 1891 by solicitor, land speculator and later politician John Mark Davies (1840-1919), it was designed by English born architect Thomas Watts (1827-1915) and originally named Valentines. Davies made his fortune in land speculation and Malvern House was one of the largest of the boom period mansions constructed in Melbourne, and is comparable to the scale of the mansion Stonington [VHR H1608] in Glenferrie Road, Malvern, built 1890, and used as Victoria's vice regal residence between 1901 and 1931. Malvern House became a symbol of the financial crash during the 1890s as Davies was brought to the brink of bankruptcy and he and his family lived in the servants' wing of the partially completed mansion for some time. [Criterion A]
Malvern House is architecturally significant as an unusually grand Italianate mansion which demonstrates the extravagance in mansion building at the height of Melbourne's land boom of the 1880s and early 1890s. Its most striking features are its impressive scale, austere Italianate expression, towering, top-lit ballroom and elaborate interiors. While it is a late and somewhat unremarkable example of the Italianate mode, it is distinguished by its size and forms a landmark within Melbourne's inner eastern mansion belt. The place is a fine example of the work of the long-established architect Thomas Watts, whose works include the pioneering Italianate design for Bontharambo [VHR H0359] in Wangaratta. While mansions are reasonably common in Melbourne's inner east they rarely survive on the scale found at Malvern House. [Criterion D]
Malvern House is historically significant for its associations with English-born solicitor, land speculator and politician John Mark Davies (1840-1919). Davies played a prominent role in public life in Melbourne and gained substantial personal wealth as a speculator in Melbourne's land boom of the 1880-90s. The 1890s economic crash interrupted his career, bringing him to the brink of bankruptcy and embroiling him in financial scandals. Davies rebuilt his career and served in the Victorian Legislative Council, becoming Victoria's Attorney General in the early 1900s. He was made a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) in 1918 and was given a state funeral in 1919. [Criterion H]