Album Frontispiece


Hampton Street, Brighton (c1887 to c1894)

Hiawatha 2006By the time of his daughter Marguerite's birth in January 1888 Alfred Shaw's family had moved from William St, Balaclava, to an existing house in Hampton Street, Brighton, where they were to stay until 1894. They named it "Hiawatha" and from then on William Street was referred to as "Old Hiawatha". It was a substantial house standing on at least 10 acres and with views to the bay. Although the interior fittings are long gone the house still stands at what is now 29 Heathfield Road and until recently formed part of the St John of God Hospital. As of August 2006 most of the hospital additions had been demolished and the house was being renovated to be included as part of an aged care complex being added to its rear.



1842MapThe land formed part of Henry Dendy's "Special Survey" and was part of large property (60+ acres) between the present Binnie Street and South Road owned before 1881 by James Watt and on which stood a 6 roomed wooden house (probably shown in this 1859 map). In 1881 Andrew Thomson and John Niven, partners in a publishing business, purchased 39 acres and built "twin" mansions, "Hiawatha" and what is now "Chevy Chase" standing less than 100 metres to the north.

Each stood on a 10 acre "home" block stretching from Hampton Street to about the current Mirams Street. At various times in the late 1800s these two estates took in much of the surrounding land as well. In 1891 Alfred Shaw is said to have owned an additional 19 acres extending to South Rd and most likely including the current site of St Leonard's College (and possibly being the balance of the 39 acres mentioned above). The Chevy Chase estate at its most extensive was bounded by Hampton St, Binnie St and Canberra Grove with an arm of land fronting South Road.


Red GumWhen the Shaws arrived these two houses stood at the "edge of civilisation" (see 1887 map). To the west was the slightly more densely populated bayside area of Brighton while to the east market gardens stretched into the distance. Across South Rd, outside Brighton, was the "Castlefield" property, the homestead of which still stands within Haileybury College. Much of the land had been cleared for agriculture but on the Hampton Street boundary of "Hiawatha" there still stood an old and massive red gum seen in the photo at the right. The group stand at Hiawatha's gate with the matching gate of Chevy Chase further along ther fence.

The streets and houses in the area can be seen on the 1905 MMBW map. It includes part of Castlefield and Harefield which became the basis for St Leonard's College.



Hiawatha 2003"Hiawatha" was originally known as "Ratho Park" and after the Shaws left it became "Ratho" when original owner John Niven again took it over. The house was rented to Andrew McKellar from 1896 but by 1905 the tenant was George Clauscen, a furniture retailer, former mayor of Fitzroy and associate of some of Melbourne's most well-known "landboomers".

Some time after that the house became St John of God Hospital and during that ownership the Bayside Heritage Study described it (and Chevy Chase) as " ..... a large double-storey rendered brick Italianate mansion. The symmetrical front elevation has a balustraded tower above the central entrance, which is flanked by canted bays. A double-storey cast-iron verandah with wraps around the front and side elevations. The hipped slate roof is penetrated by rendered chimneys with corbelled caps". The description of "Hiawatha" goes on to describe the ".. considerable alterations ..... A three-storey light brown brick wing was added to the rear of the house c.1960s. The verandah balustrading on the house has been replaced, and an external staircase added." So severe were these alterations that a 1970 application for National Trust classification was rejected.


The Binnies at Chevy Chase

Chevy ChaseThe Shaw family albums have only a one or two photographs of the time at Hiawatha. Alfred Shaw had much to occupy him in the latter part of his occupancy of Hiawatha. He took at least one extended trip to England during this period and while away the first rumblings of problems with the Victorian economy were being felt. From England he resigned his position as commissioner of one of the savings banks but according to family stories was unable to sidestep the impending property crash which was to see the family leave for Perth in reduced circumstances.

Thanks to friend and neighbour, John Binnie's expertise with the then cumbersome art of photography we do have some record to give us a feel for the lives of the Shaws at Hiawatha and the Binnies at Chevy Chase.


After leaving Hiawatha most of the Shaw family ended up in Perth.



   1 Professor Miles Lewis' database on Melbourne Mansions found at

   2 City of Bayside Heritage Study: Building Citations Allom Lovell & Associates

   3 Weston Bate, History of Brighton

   4 Brighton Historical Society, Various documents "Chevy Chase" file