Thomas Wills at Heidelberg Historical Society

For those of us interested in early Port Phillip society, there will be a presentation at Heidelberg Historical Society tomorrow night (Tuesday 9 April 2013) on one of the early settlers of the Port Phillip District.  Thomas Wills (1800-1872) is associated with the Heidelberg district through his purchase of 176 acres in 1840 to the west of Darebin Creek, in what is now Alphington, for 3784 pounds.  There he established Lucerne Farm, a double storey, stuccoed house built of locally hand-made bricks and bluestone.  Richard Howitt, a neighbour described the house as:

delightfully situated on pleasant knolls and slopes.  Seen from the south of the Yarra, with the garden like an English one, the widening Yarra at a distance from it and the gleam of the natural pond near it, partly hidden by trees, the landscape is very picturesque.  Walking in the garden, you see natural birds which have become almost tame, so well are they protected by the owner.  (Cited in Heidelberg Since 1836 p. 20)

Governor La Trobe is said to have been a frequent visitor, and the house was well known as one of the social centres of the district.  Unfortunately, despite its ‘A’ classification, the house was demolished in 1960 as a car park for the La Trobe Golf Club.

Thomas Wills was a J.P. and a founding member of the Melbourne Mechanics Institute in 1839.  He was no fan of the judge’s despite the ‘neighbourly’ connection and he signed a petition against Willis.

On Tuesday 9th April, Anne Marsden will speak to the Heidelberg Historical Society about Thomas Wills.  She was awarded a 2013 Honorary Creative Fellowship at the State Library of Victoria to research the founding committee of the Mechanics’ Institution, which included many of the most prominent Port Phillip men of the time.

The meeting commences at 8.00 pm, Tuesday 9th April 2013 at the Ivanhoe Uniting Church Community Centre, Seddon Street Ivanhoe. Visitors are more than welcome.

Update: I’ve just found five  photos of Lucerne, taken in the 1950s, when it was in very poor condition.  You can see them at:

http://trove.nla.gov.au/version/182142672

There’s other photos of Lucerne surrounded by floodwaters from the 1930s too

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6 responses to “Thomas Wills at Heidelberg Historical Society

  1. artandarchitecturemainly

    The original Melbourne Mechanics’ Institute, as depicted in your original State Library of Victoria sketch, was rather lovely. I imagine it was looked after because of what you mentioned …i.e the organisation included so many of the most prominent men of the colony.

    So what happened to Lucerne Farm? I demand to see a double storey, stuccoed house built of bricks and blue stone, not a bloody car park for lazy poop head golf players 😦

    • residentjudge

      It’s tragic. There’s 2 photos down at the historical society of it. One was taken in the 1930s-ish when it was still inhabited, and the other just before demolition. It had a huge verandah that was almost as large as the house behind it. The balcony was held up with gigantic pillars and what looks like wooden latticed panels. To my eye it looks a bit like something you might see in southern America, or perhaps that’s just the angle the photo has been taken at. And to think it was lost for a car park. I bet that the golf club would give its eye teeth for it now.

    • residentjudge

      And I’ve found photos on Trove.
      http://trove.nla.gov.au/version/182142672

  2. I have information in my family history as follows …” Patrick`s education began at St Francis` School in Melbourne and later at Lucerne House, Heidelberg ……”.
    I believe Patrick Heffernan was born in 1838 and left school at age 17. Can anyone please confirm if Lucerne Farm ever operated as a school?
    Thank you.

    • residentjudge

      Yes, it did, and the timing works beautifully for the dates you have. Between 1855-6 it was used as a Superior College for young men, under the patronage of the Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, Archbishop Goold. Mr. W. O. Aitchison, former Professor of St Edmund’s College in England, acted as Principal. ( I have seen one reference to the school continuing up until 1861 but I’m not sure if that is the case.)

  3. Pingback: This Week in Port Phillip 1841: 8-15 March 1841 | The Resident Judge of Port Phillip

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