# 36919

Photographer unknown

[MELBOURNE] “Rosebank”, residence of Thomas Napier Esq., 1866.

$1,500.00 AUD

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Albumen print from a wet-plate collodion negative, 240 x 300 mm, laid down on its original card mount (removed from a frame at some point), with a contemporary inscription in pencil across the bottom edge of the mount: ‘Rose Bank. Residence of Thos. Napier Esq. 1866’; the print has some fading at the edges, but is otherwise in excellent condition; the verso of the mount still has strips of paper waste around the edges taken from the Melbourne Argus newspaper, 8 September  1866 (giving a terminus ante quem – latest possible date – for when the image was taken).

An uncommonly large format print for the mid 1860s, this wonderful view of Thomas Napier’s grand residence “Rosebank”, taken by an unidentified photographer, must surely be one of the earliest surviving photographic views taken in the Essendon district. It is also quite possibly a unique image – we have not been able to trace another example. The house’s top-hatted owner can be seen in the front garden immediately below the fluttering flag, and several other family members or acquaintances of the Napiers stand on the upstairs and ground-floor verandahs and in the garden on the right.

‘”Rosebank” is located in Rosebank Avenue, Strathmore, behind the St. Vincent’s Catholic Church. It is now the Convent of the Sisters of Charity.

The original Rosebank house was built by Thomas Napier, the earliest European resident of the area that was to become Strathmore. He built the house on what was then known as Napier Hill circa 1845 and lived there until he died. He died in 1881 and the property was then divided between his wife Jessie and surviving son Theodore. Jessie kept the area with the house. When Jessie died in 1891, the house and property was passed to her daughter Eleanor and son-in-law, George Page Barber. It was around this time that original house was badly damaged by fire and the present house built. It is believed that the house was rebuilt very close to the site of the original house.

The second Rosebank House was a large two storey brick house with a wide verandah and balcony and a rooftop lookout. Iron lace work adorns the verandah, the balcony and rooftop lookout. Inside the house the main feature is the beautiful wide timber staircase. Many of the rooms have ornate fireplaces of marble or wood, some with inset hand painted tiles with rural scenes. The house also has a number of beautiful stained glass windows.

Eleanor Barber died in 1902 and her husband George died in August 1914. Because of the First World War and the scattering of the family immediate sale of the property was not possible.The furniture was stacked away, the house locked up and a caretaker put in charge. George’s son, Dr Norman Barber visited the house in 1917 he discovered that the house had fallen into some disrepair.

When the war finished a plan of subdivision was prepared dividing the Rosebank property into 63 housing blocks, and 17 shop sites facing Woodland St and the railway line. The Rosebank house together with 2 acres of land was offered separately. An auction sale was was held in November, 1920. The price of the residential blocks was advertised as around 3 pounds each.

“Rosebank” house was purchased by the Catholic Columban mission in 1923 and is now a convent of the Sisters of Charity. Restoration work was performed on the house in the early 1990’s and the house is in excellent condition internally and externally.’ (Strathmore Community History http://www.strathmore3041.org/rosebank.html )