A schematic rendering done by R. Vincent in 1980, courtesy of the State Library of Victoria showing the northern elevation (above) and the western elevation (below).
Royal Parade, although never possessing the same social cachet as its sibling boulevard to the south - St Kilda Road - was nonetheless home to some of the northern suburb’s most desirable real estate and the largest estates outside a small pocket of Essendon. Royal Parade was the traditional entrance point to Melbourne from the north and, accordingly, “the road to Sydney”. However, in the boulevard’s early years, it likely looked extremely bare, with its 60 metre wide street fronted by clusters of insignificant Victorian terrace houses. As the road crept north, so did development, and by the time of Federation, the northernmost parcels of land fronting the Parade were divvied up and soon played host to grand residences designed in the most cutting-edge contemporary designs of the day, showing themselves off to visitors on approach to the city. Although according to Victoria Heritage, the site of ‘Nocklofty’ was first subdivided in 1891 by the Southern Terminating Building Society; the Radical Terrace was able to dig up surveying maps of the region from 1868 that shows the land between Royal Parade (then called Sydney Road) and The Avenue (then called Park Road) up for auction. The site of Nocklofty is at the northernmost apex of the intersection to the far right of the below map. Based on the map below, the site of the home appears to have been purchased by a WSF Murray. However, we have no knowledge of any structure where Nocklofty now rests until a retired engineer by the name of Kenneth Munro took ownership in 1905 and began a two year construction of the home that now stands the year following.
An 1868 surveying map of what was then referred to as “North Melbourne.”
The hall stand and bench contain the Munro coat of arms.
The external aesthetic of the brick-fronted Federation Queen Anne style home is elaborate, if quite typical of the period. However, the interior woodworking completed in part (or in entirety) by Munro himself overflows with Australian patriotism: Californian redwood barges carved with gum nuts and leaves, and cockatoos perch above the master bedroom door.
Much like St Kilda Road, Royal Parade underwent a beautification scheme in the early 20th Century in direct response to the City Beautiful movement. In 1913, English elms were planted which to this day canopy the road and offer the residences that line the western edge of the boulevard some semblance of privacy (segregated traffic lanes also help). By the post-war years, much of the single-family residential character of the northern portion of Royal Parade disintegrated, offering an odd mix of mid-rise apartment blocks, office buildings, and a pair of Melbourne University residential colleges. However, several prominent Federation mansions remain. The most important comparable to Nocklofty is Auld Reekie at 509-513 Royal Parade. The 1910 home on 2200sqm (and also with a belvedere) sold in July 2007 for $4.7m. That price, in addition to be the largest non-development land sale in Parkville that we know of, speaks well for Nocklofty achieving a $4m+ sale. For the record, the home last traded hands in 1980 for $240k.
A 1945 aerial of Melbourne shows the elegant row of English Elms planted only 30 years prior. Nocklofty sits at the apex of Royal Parade and The Avenue in the upper left of this photograph.
Today, the heritage listed home has 4-bedrooms, 3-bathrooms, and sits on 1,643sqm of parkfront land with secondary access from The Avenue. The interior layout has no discernable modifications save for the the enclosing of the rear verandah (the kitchen was originally only accessible from a back patio) and therefore significant work will be required for luxury family living. The heritage-listed nature of the home, alongside the interior woodworking that dictates much of the floor plan, will be an obstacle to the new owner. Although one interesting quirk that Munro got right from the get-go is a master bedroom ensuite, a rarity for its day (see original floor plan below).
One recent, but easily remedied, tragedy is the awkward, low-roofed self-contained unit at the backside of the property that rests beneath an elaborately gabled roofline. Something’s gotta change there.
demountable classroom self-contained unit at the backside of the property.
Nelson Alexander agent Arch Staver has the listing: 551 Royal Parade, Parkville
Click below for more listing photos and a contemporary floor plan.