Corio Villa hits the market for first time in 67 years

by AF

Image from the National Trust

Corio Villa, Geelong
$5,850,000 SOLD

Corio Villa in Geelong has been listed for sale for the first time in 67 years. What makes this picturesque gothic style house unique is that it is a prefab home that was created in Scotland and shipped to Australia. It is the first pre-fabricated cast iron house in the country.

Prefabricated houses and commercial buildings were often imported from Britain in the 1850s to fulfill housing demand during the era of the gold rush. California, too, was also a large importer of these structures.

Sometime between 1851 and 1854, Geelong’s Commissioner of Crown Lands, William Nairn Gray, ordered the house from the foundry in Edinburgh. It was manufactured by Charles D Young and Co. from designs by Neil and Miller, architects and engineers. Shortly after the flat-pack house was shipped to Australia, the factory burnt down and all moulds were destroyed in the fire, making this home unique in Australia and possibly the world.

Gray passed away shortly before the house arrived by ship. It sat unclaimed on the wharf for six months as a jumbled pile of unclaimed iron pieces with no paperwork. The port authorities had to dispose of the iron and sold it cheaply to merchant Alfred Douglas. Local craftsmen were hired to make sense of the various pieces and succeed in assembling the house.

The pre-fabricated pieces included 12mm thick cast iron plates measuring 450mm x 300mm. They were bolted together to create flat wall sections. The window sashes, too, were made of iron and designed to slide into wall cavities.

Corio Villa in 1861 – State Library of Victoria

According to Victoria’s heritage registry, the house is described to be ‘of a paramount international significance to the history of industrial technology and aesthetic movement in the 19th century in Great Britain.’

In the early 1850’s, Victorian era attitudes to iron buildings, and the relationship between architecture and engineering changed. Simple utilitarian iron buildings which in Early Victorian times were regarded as daring and innovative industrial structures were later overlaid and enriched with architectural ornamentation. Corio Villa is a unique example of this changing attitude and one which is of paramount international significance to the history of industrial technology and aesthetic movements in the 19th century. – The National Trust

After 1875 a square porch with wooden pillars was added over the front door, and in 1890 a weatherboard wing was added to the eastern side of the house.

The house has been in the same family since 1945 and has recently been used as a guest house and to host weddings.

Earlier this year was listed for sale with tenders due by August 25, 2012. It was expected to attract offers over $5 million, but did not and is now on the market with a list price of $5.85 million.

*Update: The home has since been sold.



56 Eastern Beach, Geelong, Victoria, Australia
1hr from inner Melbourne by car

Listing agent: Wilsons Real Estate

“Historic Geelong villa on the market” – Canberra Times, August 24, 2012.
Victoria Heritage Database (
The Australian Women’s Weekly, 6 November 1974.
Recent images via