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The Arcaded Loggias "Bailey's Mansion" a Boom-Style Victorian Italianate Mansion - Corner Drummond and Mair Streets, Ballarat

"Bailey's Mansion" is a magnificent boom period mansion built in 1883 for successful mine manager William Bailey on the corner of Drummond and Mair Streets, in the provincial Victorian city of Ballarat.


William Bailey was born in 1827 in Wellington, Somersetshire, and came to Australia in 1848. He landed at Melbourne and was employed at a wine and spirit merchants however he remained only a short time, and he also had a short stay of eight months at the Ampitheatre Station, Lexton, when he was made manager at the Mt Cook Station, Werribee. He left Mt Cook Station in 1851, having been bitten, like so many others, by gold fever. After initially being involved in mining he entered into partnership with Wilson Brothers in the operation of general stores. Bailey returned to mining with the Staffordshire Reef Company near Smythesdale where he remained for three years as manager before accepting a similar managerial position with the Egerton Mining Company where he was occupied for the next 12 years. The mine was owned by the renowned Learmonth family. Bailey was a loyal manager and when the Learmonths decided to sell the mine he arranged the sale. As a reward the Learmonths paid him a five per cent commission on the sale amounting to 675 pounds, a very sizable sum even in those days. At the time of the sale the returns from the mine had been diminishing, and when the Learmonths paid him his sizeable commission they were unaware that they had rewarded him for arranging the sale of a mine of which he was actually now a part owner. Fortunately, almost immediately after the mine was sold its returns increased dramatically and William Bailey was left a very wealthy man.


For the princely sum of £1,400, William Bailey had a Victorian Italianate mansion, complete with tower, designed by architects Caselli and Figgis. William Bailey and his wife Emily had eight children between 1861 and 1876, so the mansion, described as "one of the most palatial homes in Ballarat" was extended further and had an extra wing added, but in the same style.


The mansion features many architectural elements used in Italianate style houses of the period beyond the typical prominent tower, including; Corinthian columns, arcaded loggias, grouped openings, the use of arches and stuccoed wall treatment. When William built the mansion it originally had cast iron verandah posts, frieze and corner brackets along the loggias, both up and downstairs. The present heavy Ionic columns being a later modification which are not so in keeping with the overall design of the house.


Originally, "Bailey's Mansion" sat amid large and decoratively ornamental gardens, most of which have since been consumed by subsequent divisions of the land and residential construction in the early years of the Twentieth Century.


It was in his beloved mansion that William Bailey died in 1906 after catching a chill, dying a happy and still wealthy man, leaving an estate of some £10,000.


After the Great War (1914 - 1918), like so many other wealthy families of the boom period, the Baileys "gilded age" had come to a shattering end. Rates, death duties and income tax had deminished the family to far more moderate means. The "servant problem" also left them unable to live on such a grand scale as William and Emily had done. They could not sell the mansion, as no-one had the means to maintain, or the wish, to live in an old mausoleum of a bygone age in the new century. There was also a local belief that it was haunted by Bailey's ghost, which made it impossible to sell. "Bailey's Mansion", now deserted, fell into dereliction.


Salvation arrived for the grand old house in 1915 when the Catholic Church acquired it for a mere £4000, £10,000 less than its original cost and a bargain, even in the depressed property market immediately after the First World War. The church restored "Bailey's Mansion" and used it to form the St John of God hospital in Ballarat. It is still an intergal part of the hospital today, the grande dame surviving as a testimony to the wealth and tenacity of its original owner.

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Taken on April 8, 2012