Garden, Riversdale Road, Camberwell

Garden, Riversdale Road, Camberwell

The grand residence Astolat is located at 630 Riversdale Road, Camberwell, and was built circa 1882-1884 by solicitor Mr Thomas Plumley Derham Junior. The distinguished name of the property was inspired by the character Elaine of Astolat in Tennyson's poem Idylls of the King.

The home’s architecture is typical of the Italianate style that was popular with Melbourne’s upper-middle class during the late nineteenth century, with its asymmetrical building form, return cast-iron veranda, refined cement render detailing, intact fenestration, chimneys and slate roof.

The garden was developed soon after the completion of the mansion and is recognised as a typical nineteenth century suburban villa garden, featuring: an oval lawn formed by the carriage drive, a tennis court with original pavilion built in 1890, an elaborate timber picket fence and well-established tree and shrub species of the era.

Mr. Derham lived at Astolat until the property was sold in 1895. Several short-term owner occupations followed until the Martyn family purchased the property in 1916.

In 1985 the Tilley family bought the estate and carried out major restoration of both the residence and the garden. Australian natives such as Acacia species (wattles) and Hymenosporum (native frangipani) were introduced, and many tree-weed species were allowed to flourish, such as Pittosporum and Cotonester.

The Tilley family also made structural additions that diverted from the original design and changed the Victorian feel of the garden ‒ including urns, a small circular temple, the recessed seating area west of the court and new additional buildings at the rear of the mansion.

In 1995, the present owners bought the property and have carefully returned the garden to its original Victorian glory. A tree replacement program has been implemented and is slowly removing self-sown and inappropriate tree species, replacing them with species of the Victorian era, including:

Renovations within the garden have created seven specific themes, including: a fern garden, tropical garden, cherry walk, woodland garden, hot perennial border, grey border and a winter border. These gardens act like rooms, encouraging you to venture further and to explore what is around the next corner. In addition, the various botanical themes enhance interest throughout the year, with changing textures, forms and colours.

The garden’s structural framework is made up of a number of mature trees, notably:

In 2007 an underground tank was installed beneath the lawn to the east of the residence. The capacity of the tank is over 300,000 litres and is fed from run-off from the buildings and the drains throughout the property. This practical development will ensure that the magnificent gardens of Astolat remain healthy and intact, to be enjoyed by future generations.