[La Trobe's Cottage c1844]

The inner Melbourne suburb of Jolimont is named after the property on which Charles Joseph La Trobe built his residence in 1839. La Trobe in turn named his property after a small wooded hill not far from the Lake of Neuchatel in Switzerland and near to where he met and courted his wife, Sophie de Montmollin. They were married in 1835.

In early 1839 La Trobe learned of his appointment as Superintendent of the Port Phillip Distict on New South Wales and prepared to sail for Australia with his family. He decided to provide for their accomodation in Melbourne by purchasing a prefabricated wooden house from Henry Manning of 251 High Holborn, London, England. Manning was a master carpenter who had started manufacturing these prefabricated houses which were to become very popular amongst emigrants leaving Britain for newly settled areas around the world. Manning's basic design consisted of a wooden dwelling containing two large rooms, each about twelve feet square. There was no chimney in the design but the purchaser could incorporate one if desired. There was no kitchen either as it was the usual practice to house the kitchen in a separate building a short distance from the main house.

La Trobe and his family sailed to Sydney, Australia on the "Fergusson" and after spending a couple of months in Sydney learning what was required of him in his new appointment, sailed for Melbourne in the "Pyramus" in September 1839. He was accompanied by the prefabricated house which was soon assembled on a small hill overlooking the River Yarra at Jolimont. La Trobe was in effect a squatter on this twelve and a half acre property until he purchased it in mid 1840. There were moves to provide him with government residence but in the end he paid for the house and land himself.

[La Trobe's Cottage Reconstructed]

Over the following years extensions were made to the cottage and additional structures built nearby. This cottage was regarded as Victoria's first Government House until 1854 when La Trobe returned to Europe. 'Toorak House' then became Government House until the present day Government House was opened in 1879. La Trobe retained ownership of his Melbourne cottage for many years after his departure, appointing James Graham as his agent for arranging the sale. The cottage fell into disrepair over the years and when it was eventually demolished what materials could be salvaged were used by the National Trust in a reconstructed cottage in 1963 in the King's Domain. This cottage was dismantled and moved to its present location at a later date.

The cottage is today run by the National Trust and is also cared for by the Friends of La Trobe's Cottage, whose website contains a virtual tour of the inside and outside of the cottage.


Source of Images: State Library of Victoria ( Jolimont c1844 by George Alexander Gilbert) and Friends of La Trobe's Cottage (photo) websites

( Contributed by Alexander Romanov-Hughes - PPPG Member No. 52 )

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