Abbotsford Convent Melbourne Wedding Photo Locations

Best Wedding Photo Location Abbotsford Convent

Just four kilometres from Melbourne’s CBD and spread over 16 acres, the Abbotsford Convent – with its 11 historic buildings and gardens – is Australia’s largest multi-arts precinct. The former Convent of the Good Shepherd, this ex-monastic site is now owned by the Abbotsford Convent Foundation (ACF) – a not-for-profit organisation that operates the Abbotsford Convent on behalf of the public. 

Today, the Convent is home to over 100 studios, two galleries, cafes, a radio station, a school, and an abundance of green open space. Each year the Convent welcomes a diverse range of art projects, rehearsals, workshops, exhibitions, markets, events and festivals. 

uring the 19th and part of the 20th century, the 6.8 hectare site was occupied by one of the largest convents in Victoria. For more than 100 years, the Abbotsford Convent provided shelter, food, education and work for tens of thousands of women and children who experienced poverty, neglect and social disadvantage.

Recognised as a place of outstanding historic value to Australia and the Commonwealth, because of the site's strong capacity to demonstrate the course and pattern of welfare provision in Australia, the convent was added to the National Heritage List on 31 August 2017.

Today the site and its buildings are used as an arts, educational and cultural hub, the grounds, historic buildings and gardens are occupied by and host artisans; community and cultural events and cultural institutions, a community classical music radio station (3MBS), a Steiner School (Sophia Mundi), live music performances, a gallery, theater, markets, bakery, bar, cafe and an organic pay-as-you-feel restaurant.

There are 11 buildings on the site; the Convent, Convent Annexe, St Euphrasia, Providence, Rosina, St Mary's, Mercator, Magdalen Laundries, Sacred Heart, Industrial School and St Anne's.

The surrounding river valley was enjoyed for thousands of years by the traditional owners of the land, the Wurundjeri, for whom the nearby junction of the Yarra River and Merri Creek was an important meeting point.

The precinct surrounding the convent is the most intact site associated with the first documented European inland contact in Victoria. In 1803 Charles Grimes, Surveyor General of New South Wales, explored the Yarra by boat as far as Dights Falls. This bend of the river has been subject to less change than any other section of the river and the valley has changed little since early days of settlement.

Land at this bend of the river has been used for farming since the first formal land sales occurred in 1838, although anecdotal evidence indicates squatters were present before this date. The Abbotsford Precinct Heritage Farmlands, upon which the former convent is sited, are the oldest continually farmed lands in Victoria. The entire site is unique in that it is the only example of a working inner-city convent farm in a major city, anywhere in the world. The Collingwood Children's Farm (established in 1979) continues this farming tradition. Motivated by his passion for the Yarra, Charles La Trobe set aside land for parklands, now Yarra Bend Park, and for Government House (a concept abandoned in 1842), opposite what later became the Abbotsford Convent precinct.

Edward Curr lived on the site from 1842–1850 at his estate St Heliers. A news report of 1884 noted that restaurant owner and hotelier, Samuel Moss, 'made a fortune' in goldfields era Melbourne and 'sank some of it in building what is now the convent at Abbotsford'. In 1863, 'four Irish sisters from the Good Shepherd's mother house in Angers, France' bought the 'two large 1840s villa estates, St Heliers and Abbotsford House' to establish their Order.

The former Convent of the Good Shepherd, the most important Catholic institutional complex constructed in Victoria, is notable for its scale and extent, the architectural qualities of the buildings and its range of building types. Some outstanding features are the medieval French ecclesiastic architectural character, the historical importance of the Industrial School and the Magdalen Asylum, the scale and grandeur of the main convent building and formal gardens, the survival of many of these elements and the aesthetic qualities of the surrounding farmland and rural setting.

The Gardens of the convent are one of the mose popular places for exquisite wedding photos.

The National Trust Australia (Vic) has deemed both the formal gardens and the buildings of the Abbotsford Convent to be of national heritage significance due to their historic landscape and architectural values. Both are recorded on the Register of the National Estate and the Victorian Heritage Register. When the Abbotsford Convent Foundation took possession of the precinct in 2004, the gardens were totally overgrown with weeds and blackberries. A team of dedicated volunteers and a Green Corp program helped to transform the gardens, which date back to 1902. 

The most structured part of the garden is the heritage-listed formal garden, dating from around 1902. The garden still retains elements from an even earlier Abbotsford House garden, including two oaks – Quercus ilex (Holm Oak) and Quercus robur (English Oak). The garden structure has survived almost intact with the rotunda, rock edging to the beds, many fine old trees and encircling edges still evident. Volunteers are now helping to restore the garden as it would have been around 1963.

The design of the formal garden is reminiscent of the naturalistic style popular at the time in England and Australia and seen in Guilfoyle's layout of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne. The perimeter path provides a series of controlled views and surprise vistas. Early photographs show the presence of many upright conifers such as the Italian Cypress as well as a large number of Radiata Pine, Chinese Fan Pines and Canary Island Palms. There are a number of trees of cultural significance, including a Silky Oak, a Common Alder, a White Poplar and a Honey Locust.

An English Oak is thought to have been planted by Edward Curr, known as 'The Father of Separation', as early as 1850 in the garden of the original St Heliers House. This tree could be regarded as Victoria's Separation Tree and is included on the National Trust's Register of Significant Trees. In a protected environment, it has retained its natural form of low sweeping branches. The area south of the Convent, down to the Yarra River (Birrarung), was originally used by the Sisters as extensive market gardens and vegetable plots.

Check out all of Melbourne's Best Wedding Photo Locations

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