The land on which 83-87 Dorking Rd now stands was originally part of Box Hill pioneer Arundel Wrighte’s ‘Beaudesert’ estate. After the deaths of Arundel and Fanny Wrighte in 1887 the 300 acre estate was bought by C.F. Taylor who with F. L. Flint created the Box Hill Township Estate Company and subdivided the land in 1888.
THE THODEY FAMILY
William Thodey bought approximately 2 acres in 1889. In 1891 he built the Americanised French Second Empire style house that is standing there today. William was a Melbourne and Box Hill resident and significant landowner, a financial writer for ‘The Argus’ and Editor of the ‘Australian Insurance and Banking Record’, a member of the British Institute of Actuaries and a member of Melbourne’s Athenaeum Library committee.
William was born in Essex, England in 1842; he was the son of William and Susannah Thodey (nee Wright). In 1864 William married Mary Ann Ivey in Essex, England. Mary Ann Ivey was born in Norfolk, England in 1842; she was the daughter of Samson and Mary Ivey (nee Teesdale). Before the Thodey family left England William worked as a secretary for the renowned Reverend John Curwen who popularised Tonic sol-fa (or tonic sol-fah) a pedagogical technique for teaching sight-singing. The Reverend John Curwen invented the ‘look and read’ method of reading – Phonetics.
In 1878 William and his family sailed from England to Melbourne on board the sailing ship Hero arriving in June and shortly after sailed on board the Cuzco to Auckland via Sydney. In Auckland William worked as an Accountant for the Union Sash and Door Company. In 1880 William and his family moved to Melbourne and lived in Richmond, Hawthorn and Box Hill until they bought the land that eventually became 83 – 87 Dorking Rd, Box Hill North.
William and Mary Ann Thodey lived at 83 – 87 Dorking Rd with their children Margaret, Alan, Henry, Alfred and Robert. The family were active in their local community and were members of the Box Hill Tennis Club, Box Hill Cricket Club and Box Hill Library and Debating Society. William made numerous donations to the Doncaster and Box Hill Show (similar to the Royal Melbourne Show) as part of the organisations fund raising campaigns. His son Alfred entered the apples he had grown from his orchard in Blackburn at the show where he won second prize. In 1909 the passenger and cargo ship the SS Waratah sank on her second voyage (Adelaide to England via South Africa ) killing all 211 people on board on the South Africa to England leg of the journey. William contributed to a fund raising campaign to organise a search party, the ship was never found.
Their son Alfred served in World War 1 in France with the 10/13 Light Horse at Abbeville, on the Somme and Ypres. Alfred worked as a Real Estate agent and had an office in Hamilton St, Mont Albert. Their daughter Margaret married Thomas Samuel Luke in 1897 and moved to Wilcannia where he had family business interests. They later moved back to Victoria with their child Edith and lived in Mitcham; they eventually had four more children. Thomas worked as an Accountant, he died in 1912 aged 52; Margaret lived at 794 Station Street, Box Hill until her death in 1963 aged 92. In 1957 Margaret donated the stones from Arundel Wrighte’s original home ‘Beaudesert’ (cnr of Shannon and Station St’s Box Hill) to Box Hill Council. The stones were used to make a memorial cairn which was dedicated to Arundel Wrighte and is located in Pioneer Park on the corner of Station and Harrow St’s Box Hill. Margaret obviously knew of and recognised Arundel Wrighte’s position in helping to found Box Hill and wanted him remembered.
William Thodey died in May 1914 and Mary Ann Thodey in September 1914, the estate was sold to the Box Hill Township Estate Company, it was then bought by local resident George L Morris in 1918.
Many members of the Thodey family are buried in Box Hill Cemetery.
THE McCOOK FAMILY
The Rev W McCook may have leased the home for a few years to run the Gladstone Girls College, title records show that he bought the house in 1929. The Reverend W McCook and his wife Hannah (formerly headmistress of Bendigo High School) educated female students from kindergarten to high school leaving certificate, their children Eric, Alan and Winifred also lived there.
Their daughter Winifred was born in 1923 and was truly a quiet, inspirational person who was fiercely independent and perhaps years ahead of her time, with a strong sense of justice, work ethic and adventure. She won a scholarship from and attended the Presbyterian Ladies College in East Melbourne and gained entry to Melbourne University where she graduated from the Faculty of Law. A trailblazer, she was one of four women to graduate in Law in 1945.
Winifred was admitted as a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Victoria in 1946 and the following year she was working from an office at 738 Mt Alexander Rd in Moonee Ponds. In 1949 Winifred set up her own firm of W A McCook at 173 Main St, Ringwood (now Maroondah Hwy) working as a barrister and solicitor.
In 1949 at the request of the Status of Women Standing Committee Victorian division— A.N.C.U.N (Australian National Committee United Nations) Winifred prepared a report titled The Legal and Political Status of Women in Australia. The report is housed in the Manuscripts Collection at the State Library of Victoria.
In 1950 the Geelong Grammar School held a festival titled Our World of Tomorrow. One of the topics of the festival was The Challenge to the United Nations. The topic was selected by Herbert V Evatt who was the first President of the United Nations Security Council and the former Australian Attorney General and Minister for External Affairs.
A festival lecture was titled Rights of Man and consisted of three speakers Neville Whiffen MSC, Rev. Stephen Yarnold and Winifred McCool L.L.B:
‘Mr Whiffen introduced the discussion making two points, first, that the world must be a peaceful, happy, inhabited one and secondly, that we must think as well as being entertained’. Neville Whiffen was a chemical engineer and First Secretary and Scientific Attache with the Australian Embassy in Washington.
‘Mr Yarnold gave us an insight into the United Nations Bill of Human Rights, which contains 30 article and was signed by 58 countries. He pointed out that it is the privilege of the people to uphold this Bill, rather than the U.N. Directors’. Rev. Stephen Yarnold married Winifred Atwood Jacobs in 1946, she was the daughter of Henry and Amy Jacobs who used to live at Spenceycroft. Spenceycroft can be found on this website.
‘Miss Winifred McCook explained individual clauses of the Bill, and their effect on us’.
Winifred's Ringwood office was in a row of two storey brick buildings on the north side of Main St almost opposite the Ringwood Railway Station. They were demolished in 1966 to make way for the Eastland Shopping Centre and Winifred moved her office a couple of doors to the west to 169 Main St, Ringwood where she continued her practice.
Pre expedition period
Winifred was a great lover of wildlife and the bush and was a member of the Melbourne University Mountaineering Club. There are various interesting ‘travel diaries’ written by Winifred in the Victorian State Library Collection. She spent much of the years from 1959 - 1965 travelling the Australian outback both individually in her Land Rover, as well as forming and leading experienced teams which used army maps to navigate (as in many areas there were no roads).
Northern Territory Expeditions
From 1961 to 1965 Winifred led and organised approximately six expeditions to the Northern Territory and Western Australia in search of aboriginal cave art and artefacts. The reason she gave for her organising these expeditions was ‘I am interested only in preserving records of an aspect of native culture which is fast disappearing, and not in financial gain’ - in a letter to the Director of Native Affairs from Winifred, 1961.
The expeditions consisted of Winifred as leader, Miss Bergljot AAkerhus as Artist, Colline Muir as Botanist, Robert Bilton as Wireless operator and Bevan Fenner and John Pittle as car mechanics and drivers. The equipment that was taken included tents, food, water, cameras, a wireless radio and vehicle parts. A vital part in the preparations for these expeditions involved applying for permits to enter Aboriginal lands, medical clearances, organising with missions and stations a time and place to pickup petrol and other supplies and organising Indigenous guides.
They visited and photographed a number of sites and discovered two new sites - paintings at Livingstone Pass and incised designs in the Ehrenberg Range. Winifred notified the Northern Territory Administration in Darwin of these discoveries in a letter dated January 18, 1963 which they acknowledged in a letter they sent to her dated January 23, 1963. She submitted her reports, photos and watercolour paintings to the Australian State and Territory departments. I undertook further investigations with the assistance of the Library & Archives Department of the Northern Territory and found the reports that Winifred had submitted to the Northern Territory Administration, the report is titled ‘Miss W McCook - Anthropological work in Northern Territory’. The report is housed in the National Archives of Australia and became publicly accessible in January 2020, to read the report please click on the following link:
There is also a collection of her diaries and correspondence with missions and government departments which is housed in the State Library of Victoria. Her collection of Aboriginal artefacts was auctioned in 2016; it is not known who bought the collection. Although the proceeds of the auction went to the RSPCA the collection as a whole, is now probably lost to the Whitehorse and Australian community.
Papua New Guinea Expedition
From 1969 and 1970 Winifred traveled through Papua New Guinea climbing Mt Wilhelm (Papua New Guinea’s highest mountain at 4,509 m or 14,793ft, the highest mountain in Australia is Mt Kosciuszko 2,228 m Mt or 7,310 ft high) and also visiting Morobe, Madang and Manus Island. Her New Guinean artefacts were collected during this period.
Her collection of New Guinean artefacts was auctioned in 2016; it is not known who bought the collection. Although the proceeds of the auction went to the RSPCA as per her wishes the collection is now also probably lost to the Whitehorse and Australian community.
Winifred McCook lived in the house for 87 years, she died in 2015 aged 92. The house was sold in 2017 with the proceeds going to the RSPCA as per her wishes in her Will. For her funeral Winifred requested that mourners donate to the Victorian Animal Aid Trust in lieu of flowers.
On Sunday May 28, 2017 3AW radio broadcast a program titled 'Remembering Winifred McCook and the Box Hill Time Capsule that was her home'. To listen to the program please click on the following link:
THE HOUSE - AN ARCHITECTURAL WONDER IN BOX HILL NORTH
In 1891 William Thodey built a villa on this Box Hill site and according to a City of Box Hill Heritage and Conversation Study (1990) states that the house is a ‘substantially intact example of a relatively unusual Queen Anne style residence with tower’ and the Architect was unknown. After I consulted the world renowned Australian Professor of Architecture Miles Lewis his assessment was that the villa is suggestive of the late 19th century Americanised French Second Empire style rather than Queen Anne style and the Architect was Arthur E Clarke.
The home of William Thodey was designed by the Melbourne architect Arthur E Clarke who served his articles with John Hayward (nephew of Sir Charles Barry, designer of the Houses of Parliament, London 1837) and then worked for Melbourne architectural practice of Grainger & D'Ebro. They designed the Princes Bridge, Fremantle Town Hall; the Masonic Hall Company’s building in Lonsdale Street and Auckland’s public library and municipal offices. Charles Grainger is the father of Australian composer Percy Grainger. Grainger & D'Ebro was dissolved in 1885.
In 1885 Arthur Clarke commenced his own practice which he ran from the Nicholson’s Chambers opposite the Melbourne Town Hall. Public buildings in Whitehorse that were designed by Arthur E Clarke include the Box Hill Shire Hall (cnr of Cambridge and Station St’s, 1889, demolished in 1987), the Nunawading Shire Hall (destroyed by fire in 1927), St John’s Anglican Church, Blackburn (1890). The villa at 83 - 87 Dorking Rd is the only known example of a home using the French Second Empire style of architecture in a domestic situation in Whitehorse.
Arthur Clarke moved to Western Australia in the early 1900’s, and practiced in Perth and Kalgoorlie, where he designed the School of Mines in 1903 and the Leederville Town Hall 1914. Both these buildings are on the West Australian State Register of Heritage Places. By 1908 he was employed by the WA Public Works Department (architectural division) as the District Inspector of Works in Geraldton.
In a room where Winifred McCook displayed her collections of Indigenous and New Guinea artefacts, books and items from her expeditions there is a mural on the wall depicting a harbour scene? This scene may have been painted by Winifred herself or a member of the Thodey family – further investigation is required. This mural maybe of historical and cultural significance to Whitehorse, Victoria and Australia - its preservation maybe important to us all.
The house – a time capsule of late 19th century design
In July 2017 the Box Hill Historical Society posted photos of the exterior and interior of the house on their Facebook page. The interior and exterior of the house was in good condition and a wonderful time capsule of late 19th century design. The house was sold to a developer in October 2017. To view the photos please click on the following link: Facebook
THE GARDENS - A BOTANICAL OASIS IN BOX HILL NORTH
The 4036 sqm garden was moonscaped in August 2022. The house used to have a large mature garden that had been a part of the local environment for over 130 years, its history and was an integral setting for the house. The gardens were overgrown but with a little attention the overall structure was still present and can be fully restored. There were a number of Monterey Pines and a Red Ironbark tree's that have been categorised as being of horticultural/genetic value and unique because of their location and context, these trees were covered by a VPO (Vegetation Protection Order). The garden was planted with numerous varieties of shrubs and bushes which further investigation would probably have found other plants of significant heritage or horticultural value.
There is an unsubstantiated local legend that Baron Ferdinand von Mueller was involved with the design and /or planting of the garden. He was an internationally renowned botanist of the period and the first director of the Royal Melbourne Botanical Gardens from 1857 to 1873.
The 130 year old garden was moonscaped in August 2022.
The terracotta garden edging
The terracotta garden edging bricks along the driveway are stamped with the maker’s mark ‘ATT. Co. Mitcham’. They were manufactured and supplied by the Mitcham Brick & Pottery Co which started in 1883 in Mitcham. Aerial photos from 1945 shows a driveway running from the south east corner of the property through the garden past the villa to the stables in the North West corner. A 1914 photo of the property shows a gate in the same area, this seems to indicate it was used as a carriage/driveway since the villa was built. This would suggest that the terracotta garden edging may have been installed when the garden was laid out at the time the villa was built and therefore of important historical significance. The terracotta bricks are also a connection to the early development of the brick industry in Mitcham and Box Hill.
The terracotta garden edging bricks were thrown out when the gardens were moonscaped in August 2022.
To view aerial photos of 83-87 Dorking Rd from 1945 to 2022 please click on the following link and enter the street address into the search box : Whitehorse Maps
THE PROPOSED DEVELOPMENT
In October 2017 a developer bought 83-87 Dorking Rd Box Hill North and in June 2019 they submitted two applications for the nearly one acre (4036 m2) site.
The Whitehorse Council received a number of objections to the proposals and held a volatile Consultation Forum at the Box Hill Town Hall in February 2020. In June 2020 the Whitehorse Council refused to grant a permit to the developer for both applications, the Council is to be commended for their decision. In September 2020 the developer took the Whitehorse Council to VCAT in regards to planning application WH/2019/537 but not WH/2019/538.
In June 2021 VCAT set a number of conditions which must be met by developer in regards to planning application WH/2019/537 if they are to be granted a permit. These included a number of conditions such as the retention and restoration of the 1891 built house. These strict and specific controls and conditions clearly show that local residents, Whitehorse Council and VCAT recognise the heritage value of this house and that it must be protected and preserved.
I look forward to seeing the restoration of this very important part of Whitehorse’s early built heritage faithfully completed.
To read/download a copy of VCAT’s decision in regards to planning application WH/2019/537, please click on the following link: AustLII: 1 documents found for (huachen whitehorse)
The developer has taken the Whitehorse Council to VCAT in regards to planning application WH/2019/538, the other half of the subdivision. The hearing was held from December 13 to 16, 2021.
As of June 18,2023, it appears that no building or restoration work has commenced on the site.
Holes in the roof
As of September 2019, a hole has appeared in the roof of the house at the right side of the southern chimney, this may allow water to enter the building and cause internal damage if it is not repaired. This was mentioned to the Council in 2019 and was also mentioned to the owners at the Consultation Forum at the Box Hill Town Hall in February 2020. The hole in the southern side has been repaired.
Two other holes have appeared on the northern side of the roof, these may allow water to enter the building and cause internal damage if they are not repaired.
During the hearings Philip Martin (Senior VCAT member) inspected the site and made the following comment in regards to the interior of the house 'I also (at the invitation of Mr Scally) for completeness walked around the inside of the mansion. This was interesting but did indeed have a slightly unnerving atmosphere of neglect/decay and I am hoping that I inhaled suitably low/safe levels of any air-borne mould launching itself off the layers of solid mould that can be seen on some of the internal walls of the mansion. On a positive note, the mansion interior still has many original features and high ceilings and should be a handsome and inviting place to live when restored'.
To read more about the condition of the site, please click on the following link:
THE FUTURE OF THE HOUSE
In the City of Whitehorse there is no other building of this style and heritage which showcases the lifestyle of upper middle class families who contributed to the early development of Box Hill and Whitehorse. This McCook house should be considered for inclusion on the Heritage Victoria Register or registration with the National Trust.
The demolition or irrevocable changes made to our built heritage raises a number of important questions about how we and our governments value, define and protect it. In Victoria the state government is responsible for developing and implementing heritage legislation/protections.
When will the Victorian government implement heritage legislation that better protects our built heritage?
You are welcome to use the information on this website, but please acknowledge its source and the author.
In September 2023 a developer lodged an application (WH/2023/768) to demolish and build three dwellings at 25 Thames St, Box Hill North.
This house was lived in and may have been built by William H Elsum, a well-known Melbourne poet, historian, editor, newspaper founder and printer.
Please email the Councillors of the Whitehorse Heritage Steerage Committee requesting that an assessment be undertaken of this house by a heritage consultant to ascertain its local &/or state heritage significance.