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Corio Villa, Geelong








Set above Corio Bay at 56 Eastern Beach Road, it's one of Australia's only surviving buildings to be made from pre-fabricated cast iron.

The Colonial Land Commissioner, William Nairn Gray, ordered a prefabricated iron house from Edinburgh, Scotland. The house was deliverd in a series of crates arrived at the Cunningham pier, Geelong in 1855 with apparently no indication of a name of the consignee. Later it was discovered that they belonged to Gray. The house was sold very cheaply the following year and was to be known as Corio Villa. This villa proudly overlooks Corio Bay in Geelong.


 The Corio Villa was a single-storey prefabricated iron house designed by Bell & Miller, architects and engineers, manufactured in Edinburgh by Charles D. Young & Co., and assembled in Geelong by Alfred Douglass in 1856. The house is unique in Australia, for after shipping to Australia, the factory and the molds were destroyed by fire.

The house remained in his family until it was sold to Dr Keith Ross of Ballarat in 1938 and then to Arthur and Alice McAllister in 1945.

Most of the decorative work echoes the pattern of the rose, and the thistle of Scotland.

Corio Villa is considered by heritage authorities as of paramount international significance not just in Geelong but to the history of industrial technology and the 19th-century British aesthetic movement.

It has its many original character features including intricate leadlight windows, plaster roses and cornices, detailed timber ceiling and wall panelling, plus ornate marble fire places.


There was a shortage of building materials in the colonies and labour costs were inflated because of the gold rush whilst in Scotland, the prevailing conditions favoured heavy engineering that could produce this type of pre fab home. The walls are made of half-inch boilerplate in sheets three-by-three feet sheets, which were bolted together to form walls. The veranda posts and porch supports were cast in ornate and delicate filigree patterns, and the internal lining is mainly lath and plaster with some pressed metal and papier-mâché features thrown in for good measure.

Internally it is what you would expect. Beautiful period features abound, and the room sizes are generous. The décor is true to the period and sympathetically modern where appropriate. It is elegant inside and out.


The house was extended in the late 1800’s and the timber structure seems to seamlessly blend into the original iron cottage style described in historical notes as an Italian Villa. Walking around the lovely acre of gardens one experiences beautiful examples of oak, elm, jacaranda and walnut trees sitting amongst evergreen hedges and mass plantings of hellebores, catnip and rosemary. In spring and summer the added sights and smells of lavender, iris, roses and hydrangeas make for a heady mix.

The history of the place is alive. The Douglas family crest is in place just as it was when it was built, complete with the motto “Do or Die” and so are the lion head keystones that adorn the verandas securing the intricate fretwork together. The ornate urns are still in place and thankfully have avoided the ravages of time or human. As an expert wrote; “Nothing can exceed the beauty of the examples; they are quite equal to the great originals, in proportion, execution, sharpness and beauty of outline. The figures stand in bold relief, and as specimens of iron casting they are unequalled in the world.”

The McAllister family have hired out the property for weddings and functions. The house sits on 375 square metres of the 2,885-square-metre block.

Corio Villa, the landmark 14-room Geelong home, was sold in January 2013.

Its sale price has not been disclosed, but its most recent declared asking price was $5.85 million.



1.  Alfred Douglass was, according to 'Brownhill', a native of Loughborough, Leicestershire, who arrived in Tasmania in March 1835 by the barque Wave, and in 1850 came to Victoria. Near the Breakwater on the Barwon, he established the wool scouring works known as Barwonside.

Alfred Douglass is thought to be a descendant of John Douglass, who lived with his wife Bridget at Yarm, Yorkshire.


One of their sons, also John, rose to be the Bishop of London and one of the leading figures of the English Catholic revival. Meanwhile one of their daughters, also Bridget, was said to have met Bonnie Prince Charlie who ‘gave her a miniature portrait of himself’ which was handed down through generations but is now apparently lost.


2.  Alfred and Elizabeth Douglass lived in Corio Villa until Alfred’s death in 1885 when Alfred’s son, Henry Douglass, a lawyer, took ownership.

Many documents about Corio Villa state that when Henry Percival Douglass died in 1927, his son, George Douglass, took ownership of the property until he died in 1918 as a result of wounds incurred in World War I which saw one of his sister’s live at Corio Villa until 1938 (Probably Mrs Chomley). However, it is possible that it was Henry Percival Douglass's wife, Enid Mary Douglass, who lived in Corio Villa until her death on 17 August 1938, or both.


3.  Mrs Clara Jones (1899-1987), nee Douglass, widow of Rupert Rutherford Chomley (1893-1922) and her son, George Alec Chomley (1922-2000) lived at Corio Villa.

4.  The coat of arms has been linked to Thomas Douglas, Baillie of Edinburgh in the mid-17th Century, a son of the Douglases of Cavers in the Scottish Borders, but no firm ancestral link to him has yet been established.


4.  In September 1933, a Miss Rosa Douglass of Heidelberg was a guest of Mrs H.P. Douglas at Corio Villa. 


5.  Mrs R. Chomley returned to Corio Villa after a short visit to Chelsea in March 1932. In the same month, Mrs Aubrey Carter had been a visitor of Mrs H.P. Douglass at Corio Villa.


6. Mr Murray McAllister, son of Arthur, was living in Corio Villa in the 1970s.


The wedding of Mr. Alec. Ross, eldest son
of the late Mr. William Ross, "The Gums,"
Penshurst, and Miss Dorothea Mary Webster,
youngest daughter of the late Mr. Geo. Web-
ster, of New Zealand, was celebrated at Christ
Church, Geelong, by the Rev. F. Newton, on
Tuesday, March 16. The church was charm-
ingly decorated with autumn leaves and white
flowers. Among the guests were several Mel-
bourne and Western District people. The
bride, who was given away by her brother-in-
law (Mr. H. P. Douglass), wore white. Her
two bridesmaids were her two nieces, Misses
Mollie and Wynne Douglass. The best man
was Mr. Stuart Ross. After the ceremony a
reception was held at "Corio Villa," the resid-
ence of Mr. and Mrs. H. P. Douglass. Mr. and
Fix this textMrs. Alec. Ross leave for England by the
Orontes. Their future address will be "The
Gums," Penshurst.

Table Talk (Melbourne, Victoria Thu 25 Mar 1909




The images below are from the sale cataloge for Corio Villa when itwas placed on the market in 2012 at a price of $5,000,000

Corrio villa interior Corio CofA  


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Last modified: Friday, 17 May 2024