“You’re eating my peaches, young man!”
Sitting down with a bounty of fruit he had raided from an orchard in lush New Zealand countryside, Bob Galvin looked up to the source of the English accent and found a woman pointing a walking stick at him.
“I was 12-years-old and an English woman caught me raiding her orchard in Christchurch,” says Bob.
“My jumper was full of peaches and I was sitting there eating them. She told me off and I said, ‘they were just on the ground – I thought I would pick them up’.
“She asked me what I was doing there, and I told her I had come up to ask for a job. I said, ‘I love gardening’.
“She said, ‘come and see me next weekend’.
“I think she liked me because I was cheeky. So, I went there, and she had six servants: a butler, a driver, three gardeners and a chef, and we had tea on her patio.
“Just talking about it now, I can see myself sitting on that patio with her butler dressed in black with a bowtie serving Devonshire tea.
“That was the biggest and most beautiful house I had ever seen and that gave me an insight to where I could be one day.
“I worked there on weekends for four years under the gardeners, learnt about plants and trees, and soaked up a wealth of knowledge at a very young age.”
That experience planted a seed in Bob’s mind that developed into a deep appreciation and love for gardens, landscapes, and property – eventually going on to form the Galvin Group’s successful suite of South Australian businesses.
It also inspired his purchase of the grand, sprawling estate on 1880sqm at 519 Torrens Road, Woodville.
Forty-five years ago, Bob was presented with an opportunity to purchase the beautiful Queen Anne-style villa off-market.
“When I saw it, I loved it, and in some way, it took me back to that property at Christchurch,” Bob says.
Built in about 1900, the Queen Anne-style villa is a former home of the Dom Polski Centre, now on Angas Street.
When Bob purchased the property, the building was a big open L-shape that catered for dinners, dancing, and live music.
“It’s changed dramatically since then. I’ve re-done everything you see in the house – the garden, front walls, everything,” says Bob.
Inspired by an ornate timber-clad room he had seen at the home in Christchurch, Bob constructed a games room which has more recently been used as a boardroom.
“I remember a big room in the old house where the woman had given me a job, and it was panelled completely in English oak,” he says.
“So, in a similar way, I had the whole room panelled in oak. I used it as a games room with a billiard table and a bar and we had a lot of fun with friends playing pool and having a few drinks.”
While a front room has been maintained to its original state, the rest of the house has been recreated to meet Bob’s vision of how a classic home should be.
He also planted all of the property’s trees himself, drawing on his extensive landscaping and gardening experience.
The large pin oaks turn golden in autumn, while the largest tree – a London plane tree – shades the entire garden and driveway in summer. “It is a beautiful tree,” says Bob.
At 540sqm, the home itself is much larger than modern home blocks.
It features an ornate turret, in typical Queen Anne-style.
Bob’s ornate library is appointed with luxurious decorative cornices and has direct stairway access into the cellar.
“You don’t see this level of detail even in mansions in the eastern suburbs. It’s just detail, detail, detail. You’ve really got to see it in person to get the feel of it,” he says.
“I was very lucky to find really good tradespeople and I’ve kept working with them for years.”
Given Bob’s active interest in property and love for gardens, the fact that he has kept this home for 45 years speaks volumes about it.
“I’ve been to England several times visiting gardens and houses there. I would just write to them and ask if I could visit,” he says.
“On three occasions, I spent a month each time just touring gardens and houses.”
Bob says after 45 years, and with the property being so large with four bedrooms and its expansive gardens, now is the right time to sell.
“I’m 67 and I thought, well, I’ve got to slow down some time. Why not now?”
The property is being sold by Sharyn Yelland and Grant Giordano of Giordano & Partners.