13 Warwick Farm Road
Olinda Victoria 3788 Australia
p: +613 9755 1783
Dalcrombie - the mansion next door.
Ralph worked in the gardens next door at
“Dalcrombie”, 11 Warwick Farm Road and
Lillian was the housekeeper for the same
property. The historic building named
Dalcrombie was owned by Mr. Earl Coles,
of the Coles and Garrard, Optometrist
firm. It is a beautiful example of Art Deco
architecture and was designed by
prominent Australian Architect Mr Harry
Norris (1887-1966). Mr Harry Norris also
designed the family home Burnham
Beeches for Mr Alfred Nicholas.
Dalcrombie was built by J. Ezmond
Dorney in 1938 – 1939, and was reported
to once have had 150 feet of dove cotes, a
monkey house and a seal enclosure.
a love of nature.
While building the house and garage,
Ralph and Lilian taught themselves about
gardening and plants from the English
gardening magazines they read, and the
gardening courses they attended. They
were very inspired by the fashionable
English Gardens of the time. They planted
the Conifers along the front fence line, left
of the driveway. The Conifers were claimed
only to grow to 12 feet in height, Mr.
Sangster surprised how they had grown
way past that. They also planted an avenue
of Japanese Maples with a Conifer at the
end of each, on the high side of the garden,
and a Blue Spruce outside the bathroom, at
the end of the Cottage. The apple, orange
and lemon trees in the orchard were also
planted by the Sangsters.
the Mary Vale seminary.
Father Michael Kalka, a Gladstone
Park Parish Priest stayed with us in
2001, 30 years after spending a term
at Mary Vale in 1975. He explained
that thirty men could stay here at a
time, and that they enjoyed a cooked
breakfast every morning, silver
platters filled with bacon and eggs, a
cooked lunch and dinner was served
daily, and cakes were cooked for
morning and afternoon teas.
The building was hydronically
heated, and water was pumped up
from Perrins Creek. Father Kalka also
explained that The Chapel windows
were all stained glass, sadly only the
arched windows remain.
Following a decline in the number of
priests being trained, the property
then became a retirement home for
Nuns of the Sisters of Charity.
Kevin Dennis -generosity.
In 1958, Ralph Sangster sold the Cottage
for 4,500 Pounds and moved back to
Canterbury, he bought a house on a one
acre block with a beautiful garden.
The Cottage was later bought by Kevin
Dennis, a Melbourne icon in the 60's, 70's
and 80's, his face was a familiar sight on
TV in Used Car commercials for his
Holden Car Dealership in Balwyn. His car
yard success enabled him to follow
passion in Fine Foods, opening the
fashionable Jacksons in Toorak and
Gowings Restaurant in East Melbourne.
As further evidence of his amazing
generosity he also gave the property that
became ‘A Country House’ to the Catholic
the gardeners cottage - 1950’s.
Mr. Sangster designed and built the house,
now known as the Gardeners Cottage, at A
Country House. It took him 12 months to
buy bricks, and a futher 5 years to finish
building, as they could only save a little
money at a time to buy the materials
needed to build the house.
The garage was built first, and Lillian and
Ralph slept here when they came up for
the weekends to continue construction of
the house. In 1951 the house was at lock up
stage and Mr. Sangster said that he and
Lillian bought a mattress to sleep on the
a country house - history.
A delightful elderly gentleman named Mr. Ralph Sangster stayed with us on the 17th of November, 2007 after his daughter in
law made contact with us. Mr Sangster was very generous with his time, we sat for an hour and reminisced about his life. He
stayed for the weekend in the Cottage, the house that he built for his family in the late 1940's.
Mr Ralph Cyril John Sangster was born in 1913 to English parents and grew up in Canterbury, Melbourne. As a young boy,
and up to the age of 19, he and his parents enjoyed month long holidays over Christmas, and weekends in their holiday houses
in Olinda and Kalorama. Often the family would finish work at Noon on Saturday to head off to the holiday house for the
weekend. If it was late in the evening an adult would walk in front of the car carrying a lantern so that the driver could see
where they were going on the small dirt roads.
The children spent their holidays picking berries and riding bicycles. Mr. Sangster later went on to be become an Engineer
and married Lillian, a country girl from Gippsland, who loved horses. They lived in a maisonette (a small apartment) in
Canterbury. Mr. Sangster said that he had great synchronicity with Lillian, they had one child, a son John, and that a spinster
aunt lived with them all of their married life. In 1947 Mr. Sangster paid 900 Pounds, over 3 instalments to Mr. Charles
Livingston Hall for a 5 acre potato farm on Government Road, now Warwick Farm Road. Mr. Sangster said the land was
covered in bracken and you could see all the way to Mt. Baw Baw.
national rhododendron gardens.
A dark red flowering Rhododendron
named the“ Unknown Warrior ” planted
in the garden bed outside the front door of
the Cottage was a wedding present from
Mr. Sangsters Father. Both Ralph and
Lilian worked in the National
Rhododrendron Gardens helping with the
plantings and landscaping design layout.
They continued their work and support
with the National Rhododrendron
Gardens for the next 41 years.
“Ralph was a Chemical Engineer with
I.C.A.N.Z. and spent his retirement
devoted to rhododendrons and music. In
summer months he would travel up to the
gardens from Canterbury to water by hand
the young rhododendron plants. Lillian
and Ralph travelled overseas and
interstate extensively, including trips to
He became President of the International
Rhododendron Society which required
travel to the UK, NZ and the USA to
collect ideas for the NRG. His vision
included encouraging politicians to be
interested in the NRG by inviting them to
visit several of the great gardens in the
hills. Some of these were Dr Cox’s Holly
Farm, Rick Coles’ Mernda Heights,
Ansell’s Pirianda Garden and Peter
Damman’s Morningside. “
From the Rhododendron newsletter 2012
by Val Marshall