A “thorough” restoration of heritage homes underway at Rushall Park

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A “thorough” restoration of heritage homes underway at Rushall Park

October 1, 2020

Two major restorations of heritage homes are underway at Rushall Park, including one in Sumner Avenue built in memory of Melbourne business legend Randal Alcock.

Alcock, whose motto was “I must be thorough,” left school aged 13 to become a highly-respected leader of Melbourne’s business community and for his power of decision, persistence and genial temperament.

A Life Governor of OCAV, Alcock made his fortune in wholesale grocery and shipping operations. He resisted requests to stand for election but, influenced by service, took a keen interest in politics and actively supported Federation. His refusal to enter politics was rued by many including one journalist wrote in 1912 that ‘if only men like R. J. Alcock could be installed in our Parliaments the whole business of politics would very soon undergo a radical change’.

A colourful character, Alcock always went to work by public transport, clad in morning dress and top hat; his office was simple and bare. His skill in mental arithmetic was impressive, but he was not a great reader.

He died in 1927, his estate valued for probate at £865,816. The Alcock cottages were completed late 1929 and the first residents were Edward W. Cross and Leonard Clayton.

The other major restoration is 28 Coppin Avenue, one of five cottages built in memory of notary and travel writer, James Hingston. He arrived in 1852 in Victoria aboard the Cleopatra and proceeded to the Mount Alexander goldfields, where he was largely unsuccessful. After six months, he returned to Melbourne to establish a law agency and patent business in Chancery Lane, which he ran all his life, later in partnership with Alfred Ford.

An astute investor, Hingston benefited from the spectacular growth of ‘marvellous Melbourne’. He became the largest single investor in Melbourne Tramway shares, which at the height of the boom in 1888 were estimated to be worth more than £250,000. After the crash of 1891-92, and despite his still considerable wealth, he referred to himself as a ruined man.

Ruined or not, for some reason not known or understood, he left money in his will to the Old Colonists’ Association of Victoria.

Among the first to benefit from Hingston’s largesse was the colourful Mary Bromley who moved into the cottage in 1903 shortly after it was built. Mary was a known dancer who practiced many of her routines in the cottage. Her last dance was in 1911 when she trod the boards with fellow resident Johnny Riley at his 91st birthday. She died shortly afterwards aged 93.

Phillip Wohlers, CEO of OCAV, said the history behind both cottages, their benefactors and residents, was fascinating to read through.

“I am always interested to read through our annual reports to learn more about the extraordinary people who have been associated with Rushall Park, and then to dig further to find out more about their contributions to early Victoria.”

The restorations are fully funded through OCAV and have been approved by Heritage Victoria.

“Our home has always been a place where family and friends are welcome.  Our cottage at Rushall Park is no different and the community of friends here is important to us and that’s why their work is part of my art box,” Jennifer Barden said.

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