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Philanthropy and Art at Bolinda

Art and charity have long been generated from “Bolinda” at 43 Kent Street, built in 1884 by “gentleman” Isaac McClelland.

By the early 20th century, Harry and Eleanor McClelland lived there and McClelland and Vary (Egbert), art furniture manufacturers, operated the workshop at the rear.

In 1917 their son, emerging artist Harry McClelland, set up his studios there, doing his own paintings and drawings and providing classes and tuition.

The McClelland family’s legacy to Victoria is now the beautiful McClelland Sculpture Park and Gallery in Langwarrin, near Frankston.  This was originally “Studio Park”, where Harry painted and his sister Annie May wrote poetry after the family moved from Flemington to Long Island, Frankston.  By the 1920s the McClellands were established as the centre of a bohemian group of creative personalities, enjoying lives “full of aesthetic and philosophic pursuits”.

Annie May bequeathed the gallery and surrounds to honour her brother’s memory, but the McClellands’ philanthropic deeds extend back far earlier than 1971, when the gallery was opened.

In 1915 Bolinda hosted events for what was described as the “Starving Belgium Babies’ Milk Fund”.  On Saturday 15 May 2015 (by “special permission of the Attorney-General”) there was a “sale of goods” at the artists’ studio.  Entrance was for a penny a child or thruppence for adults and activities included “raffles, spinning jennies, auction sale, sucking pig, sheep, poultry etc etc” with “an interesting and varied collection.”

This was part of a worldwide endeavour.  “Belgian Relief” (or the Commission for Relief in Belgium) was an international organisation established to try to supply food to occupied-Belgium (and northern France) during WWI.  It was headed by Herbert Hoover, later US President from 1929-1933.

In addition to the Flemington event, there were dramatic productions in Moonee Ponds, a Children’s Carnival at Ascot Racecourse and a sale and auction of arts goods by the Arts & Crafts Society at Commerce House in Melbourne, all raising funds for Belgium.

Another artistic legacy from the McClellands is of course the house itself.  “Bolinda” remains a magnificent example of architecture on Kent Street, in what is today more often described as Ascot Vale.

The house originally contained 4 rooms but was expanded upon a few years after being built.  It is described in the Flemington and Kensington Conservation Study (MCC, 1985) as “an unusual double bayed and parapeted stuccoed villa, which follows the Italian Renaissance manner more so than others by its Corinthian order pilasters at windows, ornate balustraded parapet, swagged lower entablature, ironwork and gabled porch entrance.”

Next time you pass its ornate parapets, think of the art and the artists and their ongoing contribution to our world.


Flemington and Kensington Conservation Study (MCC, 1985)

“Sale of Goods”, Flemington Spectator, 13 May 1915 (available on Trove)

“Belgium Relief Fund”, Flemington Spectator, 24 June 1915 (available on Trove)

McClelland Sculpture Park & Gallery website


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