Next time you are in Melbourne, you might like to take a detour via the Travancore suburb, traverse through Baroda street, Cashmere street, Delhi Court, Lucknow street etc. and maybe relax at Delhi Reserve.
You’ll be surprised to learn how this area was named as ‘Travancore’.
There was a lawyer and a horse breeder named Henry Madden, who bought a mansion here in this area of Melbourne in around 1906-7 (few mention, it was in the year 1910).
In a news article titled ‘Early History of Travancore’, in “The Argus” (Dated: Saturday, June 4th, 1932) F W Hosken reports, “The name Travancore was bestowed upon it by Mr Madden, who with his partner, Mr Kerouse, was for many years actively engaged in the exportation of army remounts to India.”
No wonder being fond of India due to his business ties, especially with Kerala state, Henry lovingly named his mansion ‘Travancore mansion’.
Interestingly, Travancore suburb has been listed as a heritage site by the Australian Government and is also called as Travancore Conservation Area.
Melbourne based Architects - Andrew Fedorowicz and Amanda Richmond on their official website have written an interesting piece on ‘Melbourne’s Lost Heritage’, in which they focus on the history of Travancore Mansion.
Fedorowicz and Richmond point out: “Travancore Mansion and Estate was such a building and prominent property. Known in its heyday as Flemington House, it was surrounded by 25 acres of gardens, orchards and plantations. It was situated on the Flemington Hill.
"At its Northern boundary was Boroda St. Its Western and Southern boundary was Mt Alexander Rd and the Eastern boundary was the Moonee Ponds Creek.
"The whole area must have been close to 200 acres minimum.
"The original residence was built in 1852. This house was replaced by its new owner Hugh Glass. Fittings and furniture were selected and purchased in London and shipped to Melbourne for the grand new home.
"Mr Glass had just married and this was to become his ancestral estate. … [Later] The house was purchased by Sir Henry Madden in 1907. Over the years Sir Henry subdivided much of the estate retaining the stately home and a mere 60 acres.”
In 1924, the government of Victoria purchased the Travancore mansion and a school was founded for special children.
With time, the mansion was taken down and now a Mental Health Service Centre has been set up there.
But, a lot of old houses in this area are designed as per old English architecture with its own history."
No wonder, Travancore suburb is a declared heritage site.
Deputy Mayor of Moonee Ponds (Myrnong ward), Councillor Cam Nation told SBS Hindi, “When they divided the property up on the hill, they started to create smaller lots. In the 1940s and 50s, it actually became a suburb of Melbourne, when Melbourne was starting to really expand.
"So when they divided the property, going with the similar Travancore name with its Indian lineage and Indian links, they named the streets along Indian lines.
"I think we have got Cashmere street, Mangalore, Delhi court and of course Delhi reserve as well. A lot of those names did carry that Indian link which follow the naming of the homestead as Travancore homestead.”
Albeit, one should keep in mind at that time, it was British India and therefore, one finds a street named Mooltan as well.
A resident of Travancore suburb, Rekha Senthil Kumar says, “We came to Australia four months back. So, this is our first residential area in Australia and it is a beautiful suburb really.
"Even in the name, it appears like India. After coming to Australia this suburb seems to be very interesting, more friendly to us, it is a good suburb.”
She further adds, “Travancore suburb is only about 5 kilometres away from Melbourne CBD, which makes the suburb much more accessible and an attractive place to be in.”
While much has been written about the Australian connection with other European countries (during the late 19th and early 20th century), one hardly gets to read much about Australian-Indian connection with a historical perspective.
Henry Madden’s India connection does provide a long-standing relationship of Melbournians with India, which is celebrated in its distinctive Indian named streets scattered across the suburb.
The Travancore heritage suburb today is quite quaint and beautiful, with a typical British colonial-era architecture and streets and lanes that bring alive memories of India.