History of Grimwade House

In 1917 the Grimwade family made a gift of Harleston, a seven-acre property in Caulfield, enabling Melbourne Grammar School to open a second preparatory school to supplement Wadhurst.

Harleston – a family’s home and gift

In 1875 Melbourne businessman Frederick Sheppard Grimwade (1840-1910) and his wife Jessie (1842-1916) and their five children moved into their new family home, ‘Harleston’, on Balaclava Road in the then countryside of Caulfield.

Designed by well-known architect Thomas Watts, ‘Harleston’ was a handsome two-storied Italianate villa, with extensive gardens and adjoining farmland. Named after the village of Frederick’s birth in England, the house was to be the Grimwade family’s home for more than 40 years.

Frederick had arrived in Melbourne 1863. Soon after, with his business partner Alfred Felton (1831-1904), he established the firm of Felton, Grimwade & Co, which soon became the largest pharmaceutical supplier in the Colony of Victoria and, in time, a pioneer of the Australian chemical industry. Frederick died in 1910.

In 1917, following the death of Jessie Grimwade, her four sons – Norton, Harold, Alfred (known as Sheppard) and Russell – gave ‘Harleston’ and its grounds to Melbourne Grammar School as a memorial to their parents. Frederick Grimwade had been a governor of Melbourne Grammar and on the School Council. All four sons had attended the school.

Opening on 28 February 1918, the property became ‘Grimwade House’ – Melbourne Grammar’s second preparatory school.

Changes over the years

Initially opened as a preparatory school (Year 1 to Year 8) for both boarders and day students, the boarding house closed in 1978 and, in 1979, Grimwade House became co-educational. Ten years later it became Melbourne Grammar’s dedicated Junior School (Prep-Year 6).

During the Second World War part of the School was evacuated to Healesville, but improvements to the buildings continued and facilities developed.

The Netley Music School and the Cordner Physical Education Centre were added in the late twentieth century, and in 2004 Emeritus Professor Sir Gustav Nossal unveiled the foundation stone for a new heart of Grimwade, the Alfred Felton Hall, which opened in 2005 as a centre for concerts, plays, presentations, meetings, functions and other activities.

Grimwade House today

Today Grimwade House is a thriving coeducational junior school with more than 650 girls and boys.

Harleston is the home of Prep and Year 1. Students enjoy the large, airy rooms, many of which retain their original decorative features. The school’s Learning Strategies department and Chinese learning spaces are up Harleston’s wide staircase.

Much has changed over 100 years, but the buildings and grounds of the Grimwade family home still rings to children’s laughter.