A brief history of Amberley
Acknowledgement of First Peoples
The staff of Amberley acknowledge that the centre is situated on the timeless land of the Wurundjeri People.
Building of the residence
The original residence of Amberley was constructed between 1929 and 1930, to the express requirements and exact conditions dictated by the owner, Mr. O.W. Darch. At that time, he was the General Manager of Shell Oil Australia and New Zealand.
Entry to the house was on the lower level, directly into the lounge, now the dining room. The Billiard and smoking room is now the Darch room. The dining room, now the servery area, still using the long table which was the original dining table. The kitchen is still in use today.
The upper floor included 4 main bedrooms set in pairs at each end of the upper balcony. Each pair shared a common bathroom, still in use today. The alcove and library are still in use today. The servants’ quarters are now offices and apartments. Built-in furniture was used where possible. Wardrobes in the principal bedrooms were walk-in. There was a three-car garage, now cool room and staff room. Above this was an isolated flat for a married couple, chauffer and cook.
The House featured in Australian Home beautiful magazine in 1929 & early 1930. Copies of these articles are located on the dining room walls.
Amberley was built at a cost of £25,000.00 and took approximately 3 years to finish.
Amberley was sold to the Russell Family in 1933 at a ‘walk-in’ price of £19,500.00. All furniture and fittings where included in the sale. Amberley was situated on approximately 69 acres at this time. Mr and Mrs Russell and their three children moved into Amberley in 1934. Mr. Russell was the Founder of Repco Ltd. The Russell’s excavated the area under the dining room, excluding the concrete floor area which was added in 2004. This area included a dark room, dance floor, built in bar, bedroom and bathroom for their elder son who was killed in action during WW11.
The Russell’s also planted an orchard and large vegetable garden.
Mr. Russell died in 1946. Mrs. Russell was known for her charitable works, including many fundraising events being held at Amberley. Mrs Russell lived at Amberley up until 1955.
Amberley was purchased by Christian Brothers in 1955 to be used as a Novitiate (training facility) for Victorian and Tasmanian novices. Christian Brothers added and built a Chapel, now the Banksia Room, classroom, now the Grevillia room, sleeping quarters, now the accommodation wing, and included a library. All building was done following the characteristics of the original building as far as possible. The original building remains, with minor changes, the same as it did in the 1930’s.
Since 1975, Amberley, no longer being used as a novitiate, became a campsite for School retreats, Church retreats and special occasions. Amberley underwent the last renovation in 2004 including extending the accommodation wing, adding the large balcony off the dining room, and the Emmaus room outside, as well as renovations to other inside areas including the foyer.