Edward Twentyman House

46 Basting Street Northcote

Twentyman House, on the corner of Bastings and Waterloo Road, is one of the earliest houses to be built in Northcote. Portions of the building date from as early 1853 or earlier. The property also contains the remnants of one of the last nineteenth century cottage gardens in Melbourne. Edward Twentyman came to Melbourne from England in 1854. His father Daniel came seeking gold as did so many others. Edward worked as a builder on the gold fields.

Twentyman moved from Carlton to Bastings Street, Northcote, and continued in the building trade. He married a woman, Margaret Askew, who had recently arrived in 1869. She also was from Workington in England where the Twentymans had emigrated from. She had a younger brother David Christopher Askew who began work as an architect. David Askew graduated from Melbourne University with a Civil Engineering degree in 1882. For a number of years David Askew lived in this house with Edward Twentyman. Askew was later to become Vice President of the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects. In due course Edward Twentyman Jnr. continued the firm well into the 1930s.

In 1882 the firm of architects Twentyman and Askew began. The list of buildings they designed is impressive: Cairns Memorial Church, East Melbourne (c1886), Yallum Park in South Australia (1879-80), Colonial Sugar Refinery’s buildings in Port Melbourne (c1886) which have recently been restored and incorporated into housing. The firm also designed many flour mils for Gillespie, Aitken and Scott including the Dight’s Falls mill (1886/1887). They designed one of the great symbols of ‘Marvellous Melbourne’ the Block Arcade in Collins Street (1890-93). In Clifton Hill they designed the Campi Buildings at 149-167 Queens Parade (1883). They designed many of the cable tram buildings around Melbourne. Later work included ‘The Cannery’ at Shepparton (1932).

The firm was equally active in Northcote. These included alterations to the Wesleyan schoolroom (1874), renovations to Northcote School (1876), a villa for Mr. Gibson (1882), Carnegie Library (1910), Northcote Picture Theatre (1911), and various shops and residences.

Twentyman House is unique for its history of construction and that it remained in the one family until 1996. There appears to be an original four room cottage which was brick clad after Twentyman moved in. Thus the original four room house dates from well before 1854. In 1873 there was further renovation to the house with the addition of the veranda with iron lacework that can still be seen. In 1880 southern extensions to the building included a large room, kitchen and entrance hall. In the 1920/1930s alterations once again took place.

In addition to the architectural significance of this house it is one of the few houses in Melbourne that has a major remnant of a nineteenth century garden. In this light the house and its garden have been recognised as of major significance and thus has been registered with the National Trust, Heritage Victoria and the City of Darebin’s Heritage Scheme.

Gilfedder’s account of the garden indicates that it most probably dates from the 1860s-1880s. This small garden is prime example of what was common over a century ago. Plants include Indian figs (rare), bay laurel, cotoneaster, silky oak, Chinese fan palm, camellias and geranium. Most house in the 1860s would have had substantial plantings. Over time these have been reduced and the land subdivided and used for housing. The Twentyman House is a rare example of a garden that has survived. Principally, the reason for this survival is clearly that the house has been in the one family.

Apart from their contribution in the boom and alter architecture in Melbourne the Twentyman family had many sporting connections including cricket and cycling.

The recently deceased Alf Twentyman was a tramways enthusiast and had tram lines installed in the rear garden. He lovingly restored early trams in particular the North Carlton and St. Kilda No. 299 car. For many years this was on display outside the museum in Russell Street

Butler, Graeme (1982). City of Northcote urban conservation study. Alphington: City Of Northcote.

Harcourt, Rex (1994). Discovering Northcote. Unpublished notes.

Sutherland, Andrew, Ellery, R. L. J… [et al.] (1888). Victoria and its metropolis : past and present. Melbourne: McCarron, Bird & Co.