Claremont House, 12 Lady Clark Ave, Claremont | (03) 6249 8818 | www.claremonthouse.com.au/
View by appointment only
Like a grand lady with flounced skirts, Claremont House bats her eyes as we crunch up the winding road to reach the crest of the hill. There she sits, Lady of all she surveys, suffering through the nips and tucks of her current owner who passionately, obsessively wants to bring her back to life, in all her glory.
With a history dating back to the 1830s, it was a sheer fluke that Joel Roger Van Sanden, a former pilot, found himself as the latest lord of the manor. The secrets Claremont holds must be many, and I’m sure if anyone can unearth them, it’s the new Lord.
We were there on a Sunday, ready for High Tea, and a tour of the house. I’m saying right up front, that the cost of the high tea, at $35, including a huge tour, performance and history of the house was incredible value. Joel is proud and loves to depict the history with embellishment, and the aid of a clever actress, Jean, who plays Mary, the overworked and underpaid domestic. She was hilarious, and an unexpected fillip.
There’s an original billiard table that’s the size of an Olympic pool in the grand ballroom, and so heavy it sits on sandstone plinths set in the floor. It came in 3 pieces, and was the first ever table produced in Melbourne, by a company still going strong. We take our places around the walls and Joel launches into the history of his lady and true love.
And it goes on. And on. With people, dates, times, stories, we get, in parts, the entire history of this old, old manor. Georgian through to her bones, with a balance and symmetry that hasn’t been lost throughout generations and renovations.
The archives, photos and albums that lie waiting on top of the billiard table are testimony to Joel’s relentless pursuit of perfection. His voice is a bit loud (you don’t need to bellow, Joel, we can hear you), and the monologue is long. Too long actually, so by the end of it, we really needed our tea.
And what a tea that was! Small bites, tarts, cakes, sandwiches, scones, pies, sausage rolls, made on premises, and all deliciously fresh, tasty and washed down with hot tea or coffee. Grand. Really grand.
“We view the stateroom where Dame Helen Mirren stayed recently, and the bath and sauna she enjoyed. Lucky dame!”
Joel finally takes us on the tour and into the rooms and bedrooms of this incredible place. It’s a work in progress, and by the time we reach the Widow’s Walk, the view takes our breath away. And the steps. They’re steep. We view the stateroom where Dame Helen Mirren stayed recently, and the bath and sauna she enjoyed. Lucky dame!
Joel is working hard on getting his restaurant and Café Chantant (Singing Café) back into operation, after years of the local bloody council pushing small slivers of bamboo under his fingernails and some blood letting at their convenience.
Shameful, shameful, and if I run into any of these pathetic creatures who have doubly made this journey so hard for him I’ll give them a piece of my mind.
The ongoing council scandal in Glenorchy shire is simply a sign of just how sick and corrupt that organization was.
We enjoyed our afternoon so much we’ve already booked to enjoy the first night of Café Chantant, and you should too. Joel needs our support, and we need obsessive mavericks like him to restore our history and beautiful landmarks.
But Joel, cut it back a bit, please! Too many dates and people and too much history to the point our collective brains were swimming and quickly reached overload. Or possibly, we just can’t absorb terribly much anymore!