When Warwick Forge purchased the one of Hawthorn’s most historic homes Friesia in 1970, the house was in a derelict state with several of the rooms open to the sky. As he described it, Warwick bought the house as part of a “romantic heritage notion” from the Cole family (who built Coles Book Arcade in Bourke Street) trustees after Val Cole’s two daughters kept a huge cat menagerie on the premises and allowed the building to severely deteriorate.
Much of the early restoration was carried out from 1971-1982 while he was actively involved with the National Trust and developed a more professional interest in heritage matters. With its unusual centrepiece octagonal hall, the restoration work was so effective that University of Melbourne’s Dr George Tibbits was moved to describe Friesia as “the most beautiful home in Melbourne”. At the same time, Warwick (whose family is well-known as the Forges of Footscray) and wife Sue built a successful garden book publishing business and organised bi-annual international gardening conferences. Their “green finger” influence can be seen in the magnificent garden, originally designed by Ferdinand von Muller.
Now 70, Warwick has sold the house and asked auctioneer Phil Caldwell to dispose of the furniture and effects on Sunday August 12. Much of the furniture was bought specifically for the house – some items like the Australian cedar three-leaf dining 16 seat banquet table, sideboard, rare early cedar double ended settee and whatnot through Toby and Juliana Hooper, antique dealers and authors of books on early Australian furniture. They also bought several large chandeliers for the home including one from The Netherlands, one from Italy and an 1880s French chinoisserie-style creation from Melbourne antique light fitting dealer Norman Beale. Of particular interest is the fully restored Belgian music box belonging to Warwick’s mother. Other auction items include a William Short painting of Mount Macedon and a copy of Raphael’s Mother and Child along with works by Charles Condor, Arthur Streeton, Russel Drysdale, William Dobell and Rupert Bunny.
There also are several Florentine sculptures including a copy of Verrochio’s David and Goliath. The auction contains several Royal Worcester pieces, including a major Hawkins vase from the Royal Worcester collection, a collection of 18th and 19th century gold watches and several superb garden pieces. The history of the house should fascinate auction goers. Built in 1887-88 by the German and Prussian consul William Brahe – a prominent lawyer and member of the thriving German community blessed with a rich cultural life during Melbourne’s 19th century boom period – Friesia (complete with stables and external laundry) was regarded as one of the city’s finest homes. It is situated on almost 1900 square metres of land in Isabella Grove, Hawthorn within St James Park – an area that in 1982 became part of Melbourne’s first urban conservation zone. Auction: Sunday August 12 11am Viewing: Friday August 10 Saturday August 11 10am-6pm Sunday August 12 9.30am-10.45am Contact: 0411 529 414