Mulberry Hill

Mulberry Hill

Mulberry Hill was remodelled in 1926 by architect Harold Desbrow-Annear for Joan and Daryl Lindsay. It is an absolutely fascinating place to visit, because it has been left exactly as it was when Joan died in 1984, down to the pieces of soap in the bathroom which were specifically numbered. You can see them in the photo below.

Both Daryl and Joan Lindsay were important figures in their own rights. This post is going to be mainly about the house. The PMI does have a number of books about both Daryl and Joan and the wider Lindsay Family, including Joan’s autobiography Time Without Clocks and Daryl Lindsay’s The Leafy Tree My Family you can see Time Without Clocks below (The Leafy Tree was on loan). And you can explore the selection on the catalogue here.

We also have the excellent Beyond the Rock, which looks at Joan Lindsay beyond Picnic At Hanging Rock. It explores the life that she and Daryl lived at Mulberry Hill as well. You can see it below

Speaking of Picnic at Hanging Rock, one of the advantages of being a 166 year old library is that you sometimes end up with first editions of books that go on to become very famous, simply by being in existence when the book was written and buying it then. So we have a lovely first edition of Picnic At Hanging Rock. I especially like the intricate letters that start each chapter.

But this post isn’t about Picnic At Hanging Rock, or Hanging Rock itself. If you want to know more about Hanging Rock and the book you can find out more here.

So to return to Mulberry Hill. The PMI actually doesn’t have a book specifically on the the homestead. We have one conservation policy from 1998, and it gets mentions in several articles in historical society journals, a heritage study and one book on Victorian Heritage. So I want to pause here to talk a little about these sorts of mentions and why they can be useful. It also explains why we index our journals. As we have key word indexed our journals onto the catalogue I was able to discover that three National Trust journals from 2009, 2014 and 2017 each had an article on Mulberry Hill. In retrieving these from their boxes, I made a couple of pleasing serendipitous discoveries too (not just that they were exactly where they were supposed to be). In the 2009 journal, under the Mulberry Hill article, there was a picture of one of our committee members, Chris Michalopoulos with Dame Elizabeth Murdorch. In the 2014 journal there was an ad for the PMI! You can see both below, and I love how these sorts of discoveries can be made in the PMI’s very multifaceted collection. Our website and phone number haven’t changed either.

The articles turned out to be quite useful they were about: Mulberry Hill reopening in 2014, a donation to Mulberry Hill in 2009, and a long article from 2017 about Mulberry Hill on the 50th anniversary of Picnic At Hanging Rock. You can see the opening page of the final article below

From Discover Historic Victoria we have a short biography of the house and why it was so important to the Lindsays. Finally, from the Frankston Heritage Study, we have an examination of why the house has heritage significance.

This is the joy of our collection and catalogue, when you can use it to find all these disparate resources on one subject.

Therefore, while there is quite a lot of information, we do not have it all collated in one place. So one of the purposes of this post is to add to the collection, as I’ll be using my photos and information from my visit to the house in early 2019. I like the idea of being able to extend the PMI’s collection personally, in a slightly round about way, especially during COVID.

So, after what is actually quite a long introduction about how I found the information (always a worthwhile detour I think), I’ll return to Mulberry Hill itself.

I wanted to begin with a little background to Joan and Daryl Lindsay.

Daryl Lindsay came from the prolific Lindsay Family of Creswick in Western Victoria. Of the ten children, five went on to be leaders in Australia’s artistic world, including Norman Lindsay of Magic Pudding fame. You can find out more about the Lindsays here

Daryl Lindsay, or Sir Daryl as he became, was the ninth child, and a noted artist. He was also appointed director of the National Gallery of Victoria in 1941 and oversaw much of its collection growth. Mulberry Hill houses a number of his paintings. You can see one of his flower paintings and the vase that was painted in the photo below.

Joan Lindsay was born Joan a’ Beckett and married Daryl Lindsay in London on St Valentine’s Day 1922 which she described as “the only date I have ever remembered except 1066 and Waterloo”. She was a painter in her own right, but definitely became best known for Picnic At Hanging Rock which she wrote at Mulberry Hill in only 4 weeks. You can see the typewriter she wrote Picnic At Hanging Rock on below.

Mulberry Hill is a monument to the life Daryl and Joan built together. The house you see now is Joan and Daryl’s dream, but it was not the first house on the site. They found what would become Mulberry Hill when they were visiting friends in the area in the early 1920s. Joan described it as “The house of our dreams suddenly materialised under our eyes- or rather its roof and one chimney- it happened so quickly we hardly knew it had happened at all, at the exact moment in time and space when the corrugated iron roof of a four roomed weatherboard cottage at Baxter Victoria, Australia, caught and held for a moment the last pale light of the winter afternoon. In that moment the lines of our destiny were laid out as surely as steel tracks of the railway.”

They bought the house from the old couple who owned it only a few weeks later, naming it and the surrounding land Mulberry Hill after the sprawling mulberry tree in the yard. The original cottage dates to the 1880s but it was extensively remodelled by Annear, in the popular American colonial style. This work included additions purchased from Wheelan the Wrecker such as the slates, the upstairs balcony balustrade, the staircase and a few of the doors and windows. Daryl and Joan moved in, in 1926 and Mulberry Hill became the haunt of artists of all types. The Frankston heritage study has the National Trust describing Mulberry Hill as:

“A house of no architectural distinction but epitomising a phase of Australian culture due to having been frequented by many figures of the local and international art world and still containing a range of Australian paintings selected by or presented to Sir Daryl and Lady Lindsay”

While the house might not be as majestic as say Ripon Lea or Como, it does have its own charm. You can see some of the rooms in the photos below. As you’ll see they are not on a grand scale, but they do feel truly lived in.

The core of Mulberry Hill, is the artists who lived and worked there. Joan’s writing room in particular is quite striking as it is bare of anything that could be a distraction. She would write on a lambswool mat on the floor surrounded by a sea of paper, which she’d pin together and later type up on her typewriter. You can see the room in the photos below

Daryl Lindsay’s light filled studio with its paint palates and incredibly comfortable looking daybed is also a testament to his work as an artist, much of which also adorns the walls at Mulberry Hill. You can see the studio below.

The other defining feature of Mulberry Hill, is that when I say that it was left exactly as it was when Joan Lindsay died in 1984, I mean it. Her shoes are still beside the bed, Daryl’s jacket still hangs in one wardrobe (he died in 1976) and Joan’s clothes in the other, their beds are still made up, the nicknacks are on the shelves in the kitchen and as I mentioned earlier, the soap is catalogued.

Mulberry Hill, is not the best known of the National Trust’s properties. In fact is was actually closed for some time, reopening to the public again in 2014. It is still in somewhat of a fragile state- you can’t wear shoes inside hence any of the bare feet you might see in my photos- but if it weren’t for COVID it would be open now. It is a house and grounds with an odd atmosphere, but one that was very clearly a beloved home as well as the residence of two acclaimed artists. Interestingly enough, for a post that was intended to be mainly about the house itself, I have in fact written a post mainly about the influence of Joan and Daryl on the house and the imprint that they have left there, and I think, ultimately, that is as it should be.


Time Without Clocks:

Beyond the Rock:

Discover Historic Victoria:

Trust Spring 2017:

National Trust Magazine 2009 and 2014:

Mulberry Hill Conservation Policy:

Frankston Heritage Study:

Picnic At Hanging Rock:

Site visit 2019

The photos are all copyright Ellen Coates.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s