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Smeaton House

An historic feature of the town of Smeaton is Captain Hepburn’s residence, ‘Smeaton House’ on the old Hepburn estate.

Captain Hepburn’s ‘Smeaton House’

One of the Victoria’s earliest substantial homesteads, this two-storey stuccoed brick Regency mansion was built in 1849 for the Smeaton settlement’s founder, John Hepburn.
Smeaton House was so-named by Hepburn after his relatives’ ancestral home near his birth place in Scotland.

(The original “Smeaton” is a country estate in East Lothian, Scotland, near East Linton. The Smeaton Estate belonged to the Hepburn family for 400 years, until 1934. The mansion no longer exists, but other buildings including the old farmhouse, are still there. It is now owned by the Gray family, but is still called the ‘Smeaton-Hepburn Estate’. Anyone wanting to find out more about the Smeaton Hepburn Estate in East Lothian, Scotland, click HERE.)

The first house built by Captain Hepburn in Smeaton (Victoria) was a five roomed cottage.

In 1849-50 Captain Hepburn built Smeaton House on a knoll overlooking Bullarook Creek. 

Smeaton House is a 19-room two-storey symmetrical house in a colonial Georgian style, with a large cellar and two parallel single storey service wings at the rear, enclosing a service court.

Smeaton House – 1930’s

The house is of brick, covered with lime plaster, on bluestone footings. It has a hipped roof, originally covered with shingles, but later replaced by slate, probably in about 1860. There are pairs of sash windows on the ground floor on each side of the central entrance, and five across the first floor, a fan-lit front door, and a single storey timber verandah across the front and two sides, and between the service wings at the rear. The front and side facades of the upper storey are decorated with recessed panels between the windows.

Smeaton House – 1980’s

This house was certainly worthy of such a dominant local figure who became the largest land-owner in the district.
Recent research into the days of early brick-making in Victoria has brought to light the interesting construction records of Captain Hepburn’s Smeaton homestead which was built of bricks made on the spot. The excavations from which the clay for the bricks was taken, are still visible today.

Smeaton House is of historical importance to the State of Victoria as one of the earliest substantial homesteads built in the colony, and one of the first built in country areas after 1847, when the early squatters were able to obtain more secure tenure of their land. Captain John Hepburn lived in Smeaton House from 1849 until his death in 1859.

Smeaton House is a substantially intact example of an early country homestead with a U-shaped house plan with rear service wings, a form which was uncommon in the city. The use of recessed panels on the upper storey is most distinctive and uncommon, and the fan light and other details are notable.

This homestead is of architectural significance as an important surviving work by prominent early colonial architect John Gill, one of the earliest successful architects practising in Victoria. It is an unusual example in Victoria of the colonial Georgian style.

The homestead today is in an excellent state of preservation. It is still privately owned and occupied but can be seen from the Estate Lane roadside without intruding upon the privacy of the owners.


Smeaton House was designed by architect John Gill. Gill was one of the earliest successful architects practising in Victoria. He was trained in England and arrived in Melbourne in 1842. He was responsible for a large body of work in Victoria, including houses, inns, offices and warehouses. He was President of the Victorian Institute of Architects from 1861-65.
Some of his Melbourne buildings can be seen HERE.



One Comment leave one →
  1. Lynton permalink
    February 12, 2013 4:15 pm

    Grand building, just wonder how good the connection is with another such Grand building Banyule. Hepburn and Hawdon of Banyule were overlanders together both homes miles appart have survived. Is it possible that John Gill architect was the designer of each Grand home? Not so lucky was Viewbank, it was first settled and named Viewbank by James Williamson (1839) also a overlander at about the same time and located next property to Banyule homestead. Hepburn and Williamson both arrived from Scotland and had ships. Livestock were the main interests. So many early pioneers created so much in such short time and likely to have known each other.

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