Burnham Beeches is a three-story art deco streamline-moderne style mansion built for Alfred Nicholas, co-founder of the Aspro empire. Located in Sherbrooke, approximately 47 km from Melbourne, it was named after the English National Forest of Beech trees in the county of Buckinghamshire, near the location of Nicholas’s United Kingdom Aspro factory.
Alfred’s brother, George Nicholas developed the aspirin painkiller formula, becoming the first person to officially patent the formula after it was lost from general use after the First World War. Alfred Nicholas amassed his fortune producing and marketing the Aspro (aspirin) brand and the two were later joined by George Davies. Alfred purchased the land in 1929 and proceeded to acquire land around it. He lived there for only a few years before he died in 1937.
The three storey home was designed by architect Harry Norris with the brief that it was to have “fresh air, sunshine and an outlook of command, yet under control”. The exterior of the house, also known as the Norris building, was built of reinforced concrete and decorated with Australian motifs of koalas and possums in moulded relief panels and completed in 1933.
The original mansion has two newer buildings (1980’s) adjoining it. The two wings incorporate 58 hotel rooms/suites that are now stripped of fittings and fixtures In addition, there are numerous outbuildings, greenhouses, an old piggery, a mill and four cottages, streams, natural springs and an adjacent rainforest.
The estate contains extensive established gardens and a rolling rural landscape totalling 22.72 hectares (56.142 acres) containing a mix of indigenous and exotic plants, rockeries and extensive terraces as imagined by Alfred Nicholas, his landscape designer Hugh Linaker and gardener Percy Trevaskis. In 1965, thirty two acres of the landscape, including the lake, was donated to the Shire of Sherbrooke and is currently known as the Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens and managed by Parks Victoria.
The property has a long history of patronage and has gone through many phases and changes of ownership, including being a hotel, a 50 bed children’s hospital in the early 1940s, a medical & veterinary research facility in the 1950s, with new extensions added to it in both the 1950s and 1980s.
The property fell into a state of disrepair and became unused from the early 1990’s. In May 2010 the current owners, property investor Adam Garrison along with restaurateur Shannon Bennett, purchased the site with the plan to develop a 6-Star hotel complex. The proposed development plans continue in negotiation with the Yarra Ranges Shire Council Planning Scheme. As the property was formerly added to the Victoria Heritage Register on 27 March 1991 a permit will also be required from Heritage Victoria.
Burnham Beeches & Alfred Nicholas Gardens
1 Sherbrooke Road