Mount Martha House opens





“As per Deed of Grant, under the hand and seal of his Excellency Sir George Gipps, dated 18th day of October, 1841, under instruction from Her Majesty Queen Victoria.

All that piece or parcel of land, contained by admeasurement five thousand one hundred and twenty one acres, be the same more or less, situated in the county (unnamed), and parish of Kangerong, near Mount Martha, bounded on the west by Port Phillip Bay.”

A map of Mount Martha Estate from 1891By 1888 The northern area of the mount overlooking the main beach was owned by Melbourne businessman Robert Watson, his property Melrose was his holiday house.   In 1888 the Jamieson’s Special survey area of Mt Martha overlooking Safety Beach, popularly known as Bruce’s Paddocks, and Watsons land was sold to a syndicate including local residents Byron Moore and Robert Watson.   This group formed several different companies to open up the coast of Victoria.  The highest bid for Mt Martha property was , £14 17s. 6d, so it was then sold by private arrangement.

The Mount Martha Estate Company was formed, advertising itself as Mount Martha sur Mer and in 1888 the first tenders were called for the building of a commodious wooden building:  Mt Martha Coffee Palace.    Opulent coffee palaces sprang up across Australia in the 1880’s in response to the Temperance movement which sought to promote alcohol free premises.

Mr Tuxen You’re the  Manager of the Estate,  please tell us about your venture.

MR TUXEN :   We envisage the grandest coffee palace this side of Hobsons Bay.  It will have accommodation for 600 people, and will bring the folk from the hell hole of Melbourne Town to a health giving place, with fresh milk unlimited, almost no winter, and where there is no asthma and bronchitis.  It will be used as a fashionable watering place.   It is by design a commodious fine Queen Anne building style, with an oxford frame courtyard and a fountain playing.  A tramway and pier is also planned for the township. 

Mr  W Ireland has been contracted to construct the building and will reside at the Royal Hotel – he has just lost his horse and offered a 4 pound reward for its return. 

The  McGuigan Bros, have employed 50 men to hand dig and construct the 22 miles of dirt roads of the Estate, with a fine esplanade drive from Point Nepean Road, down Dominion Road and then along the coast to Park Road, where it turns up the hill, past Joseph Harris MLA property at top.  

NARRATOR:   The other side of Balcombe’s creek, known as Osborne, was also sold off, having been undeveloped because of lack access. It had several big holiday houses, Sir Fredrick Sargood’s property at Craigie Lea, was principle of Scotch College, among them, and Osborne House the residence of the Taylor family overlooking the estuary.

The Mount Martha Estate Company ended with a spectacular crash in the late 1890s leaving company owners insolvent.

NARRATOR:  William Trainor/Traynor was the first manager when it opened in February 1889.


Being my first advertisement in the Melbourne Argus newspaper in February 1889, I advertised unlimited fresh milk and transportation from the newly opened train line from Princes Bridge to Mornington for 7 shillings return, or on the Hygeia or Ozone from Port Melbourne.   These  Ferries run daily, with transport to Mount Martha Coffee Palace by Rourke’s Waggonettes which depart from the Royal Hotel Mornington for 1s 6d. 

I came here having been manager of  the Melbourne Metropolitan Meat Market Hotel and also a jockey and circus entertainer.  I loved to play billiards using the house license  with the guests.  So I was keen to take on  Englishman Mr H. Evans, the colonial champion of Australia.    This  took place on Wednesday 16th July 1890 in the Mechanics Institute in Mornington with Mr Evans winning the contest.  I later settled in Mornington after my wife died 1890 from an epileptic seizure. 

NARRATOR:  Colonial wine and billiard table licences were granted to the second proprietress of the Mount Martha Coffee Palace, Miss Mays.  She was believed to be a relative of Mir Tuxen in September 1890, who took over from Mr Trainor.

MISS MAYES: There are few roads, and the area is extensive bushland.  It is common for bush fires to start.  One was lit by a spark from a copper at the back of the building.  Another occurred on Friday 7th Jan 1898 when word reached Mornington that the Mount Martha Coffee Palace was in great danger from bush fires raging in the vicinity.  Several trap loads of men were soon obtained and driven out, but on arrival it was found that the danger was not so great as reported, owing to the well-directed efforts of Messrs, Bergland and Wilks, who chanced to be on the scene during the day and lit rebutting fires.  The residence of Mr. Byron Moore was also threatened, and several men were retained by that gentleman to watch all night.   Senior-Constable Murphy and Rains also remained on the spot.

Great consternation prevailed amongst  the visitors at the palace when the fire

was approaching, luggage and bicycles being heaped on the road. The fire fighters returned about 11.30 pm and found the chief damage was the burning of several small hedges on the roads about the Mount Martha Estate. The pine and ornamental trees suffered considerably.

NARRATOR;  Over the next 11 years Mount Martha Coffee Palace, which was known in Melbourne Town as Mount Martha Hotel, had several mangers and hosted the cream of Melbourne society.  These including the Governor, Lord and Lady Brassy who would sail down in their yacht Sunbeam and moor at the Mornington pier, or ride their bicycles from Frankston.

The Acting Governor Sir John Madden was a regular visitor as was Victorian Premier Irvine who came to recoup from a severe cold and bronchitis.

The Bishop of Riverina and Sir Frederick McCoy, the renowned Irish palaeontologist and botanist, local resident Mr Byron Moore, and many of the prominent Victorian families of the time visited the hotel.   The hotel registers, as reported weekly in the Melbourne newspapers, show names of many early Melbourne families, who went on to found business which are today household names.

Mount Martha house was popular with honeymooners with elaborate accounts of their weddings being reported in the papers.  Mount Martha local Stuart Calder’s parents  Mr Calder and Hilda Kathleen, honeymooned here as well as at other places on the Peninsula.

The evening entertainment was in the front rooms, with furniture pushed to one side for impromptu dances, and with Melbourne’s elite partying far into the night.

One newspaper reports the new Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne attended Mount Martha House to be entertained for afternoon tea by the then Manageress Miss Mary Catherine Buckley who was manageress from 1893 – 1897.    She then went on to manage Mornington’s Royal Hotel.

Please move to alongside to the station 3  for Guest House days.


ANDREWS. C.  Mount Martha House 1890 – 1997

CALDER, W.  The Changing Face of Mount Martha

CALDER, W.   Mount Martha Lands and People 2009

GORDON. M.  Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula  pub: Loch Haven Books, Dromana, 1997.

HUXLEY. D.  “This Old House Once Knew our People”   Compiled for the 40th    Anniversary 30 WRAAC Barracks, with cover drawing by Duncan Forrester.

Mount Martha CFA

Mount Martha Estate Booklet  1890

RAAF Museum

National Library of Australia – Trove Newspaper

State Library of Victoria

Australian War Memorial

Winty and Stuart Calder


Brodie Goozee

Malcolm Gordon

Mornington & District Historical Society Inc

Mount Martha House Historical Collection

Many thanks to all contributors and supporters