teeped in Swiss-Italian heritage, the area previously known as Spring Creek (now Hepburn Springs) is the site of a significant landmark of the district, Villa Parma. From 1864 to the present day, what was once named Parma House has realised eight known changes of proprietary, and a compelling history.
1864 The Beginning
With an abundance of resources such as mineral springs, gold fields and viticulture, Italian immigrant Fabrizzio Crippa was lured to the Hepburn Springs/Daylesford region of Victoria, Australia in 1855. After departing his native home of Monza, Lombardy, he became one of the notable, hard-working Swiss-Italian pioneers to settle in what is now referred to as “Spa Country”.
Crippa quickly established himself as a butcher, and ultimately a viticulturalist with the purchase of a parcel of land from William Pratt Snr. Amidst the vine plantings, it was in 1864 that Crippa built his gracious residence on the coach road to Castlemaine. The Lucini Brothers, Pietro and Giacomo, who built the distinctive Macaroni Factory on the same road in 1859, aided Crippa with the construction of the two-storey rendered brick building with dark stone trim. So prominent was Parma House that The Daylesford Express ran an article in 1864, referring to it as “an ornament to the road”.
Constructed on what was believed to be around three hectares predominantly under vines, the craftsmanship of Parma House reflected that of a palazzo of the Italian renaissance (although some early articles state Swiss), bearing similarities with northern Italian farmhouses. The gardens were artistically and strategically designed so as not to impede the grape vines. This comprised vines on trellis; fruit, vegetable, and tobacco plantings, including mulberry, pear and chestnut trees. Crippa also purchased additional allotments over time in the area, but none would be so highly regarded as Parma House (Villa Parma).
When Fabrizzio Crippa constructed his characteristic two-storey rendered home, it comprised three bedrooms downstairs with another three upstairs. According to the Register of the National Estate – Australian Heritage Database, the cement – rendered brick and bluestone building featured local sandstone edgings with distinctive dark stone trim quoining around the front ground floor windows, along the sidewalls and the main front door. The latter feature incorporated a central French window-style with margin glazing and a rectangular light above it.
On either side of the door were two timber-paned casement windows, with four similar but smaller crafted windows above on the first floor. Plain timber casement windows were also located on the back and the sides of the building. Solid, louvered wooden shutters encased the ground floor windows. The slated roof appeared hipped and there were a number of tall rendered chimneys.
The cellar boasted a deep natural spring well, with brick arches supporting the building. The design of the well not only provided an abundance of water but also maintained effective drainage.
The interior design of Villa Parma was regarded as unusual for its period. Particularly with the front door opening into a central room rather than a hallway, the spacing of the first floor windows across its façade and the large, full windows in the entrance room.
Stencil designs on the ceiling and oxide walls also featured as part of the interior design.
It was from his carefully laid out vineyard of over 15,000 vines and the purpose-built cellar with a deep well at Parma House that Fabrizzo Crippa produced his award-winning wine, Parma House Red. Amongst his awards, he received a bronze medal in London in 1873 as well as hon. mentions at the Vienna Exhibition. Crippa was instrumental in establishing one of Victoria’s earliest vineyards. He was also a member of the first Hepburn Springs Committee formed to protect the mineral water from the effects of mining.
In the 19th century, Fabrizzo Crippa was frequently referred to as a “Count”. Despite the lack of historical evidence to support this, it is thought that the ‘noble’ title was derived from owning and residing in the all-imposing Parma House.
Unbeknown to Crippa at the time, was that Parma House (Villa Parma) would become a significant example of the architectural heritage that the Italians and Swiss brought to the Hepburn Springs region during the 1800s. It is one of the few buildings from Hepburn Springs that predominantly remained intact.
In 1879, Fabrizzio Crippa sold Parma Villa to Ticinese miner Domenico Giovanoni, and moved to Melbourne. Even though Giovanoni only owned the property for a handful of years, he remained in the area until his untimely death during the destructive bushfires of January 1906. He is reported to have lost his life after being burnt in his hut. But it was his former property, Parma House that withstood the devastation and was one of the few remaining houses in the area to survive the fire.
1883 – mid 1900 The Rolleris
Giuseppe and Kate Rolleri
Giuseppe and Kate Rolleri took over the Hepburn Mineral Springs Family Hotel, Spring Creek, in November of 1883. The hotel was adjacent to Parma House. It is believed the Rolleri’s may have created a tunnel between Parma House and the Mineral Springs Hotel, based on a newspaper article in 1985.
In 1915, Kate Rolleri, by now a widow, was operating both Parma House and the Mineral Springs Hotel. At this time, Parma House was being operated as a guesthouse and featured a welcoming vine walk. Kate died in 1920, with the property remaining in the Rolleri family for many years.
The photo above is of the Triumph Motorcycle Club out side “Parma House” in 1910.
1975 October 11 – Parma House Auction
1977 Geoffrey Ingram, Parma House Restaurant
The one-time administrator of the Australian Ballet, Geoffrey Ingram purchased the derelict Parma House after a visit to the Hepburn Springs region with the intention of opening a restaurant. At the time of purchase, the house had become overgrown with trees and had been nicknamed the “ghost house” by the locals. It was suggested that the building be bulldozed. Instead, Ingram applied to register Parma House with Heritage Victoria. However, the Classification Committee did not consider it at this time.
9 April, 1977. The first meal at Geoffrey Ingram’s Parma House restaurant was served.
Kerry & Colin Walker acquired ownership of Parma House
1980-90s and heritage recognition
Les McDonald purchased Parma House
1984: May 20 – Parma House damaged by fire
The roof and ceiling of Parma House were damaged extensively in the fire, as was part of the lounge floor. The exact cause of the fire is not known at this time.
1984 – 1985: Parma House’s destiny determined
Although no longer the owner of Parma House, Colin Walker applied to Heritage Victoria to have the house listed on the register.
Although damaged by the fire, Parma House was under consideration for listing with Heritage Victoria. The Daylesford Council had submitted a repair order under the Victorian Building Regulations. The Victorian Ministry of Housing considered it for demolition.
1985: May 7 – Villa Parma is Heritage Victoria listed
c 1985/6: Richard Rigby & Franchek Kasek
Richard Rigby and Franchek Kasek purchased the damaged Parma House and renamed it as Villa Parma. When they acquired the property, the roof was partly missing and skirtings and framings had been pilfered. During their ownership, restorations took place that included scraping interior paint back to the original and then reinstating former colours, replacing the roof, planting a garden with the grape leaf designed parterre and restoration of the renowned Vine Walk. During this time, Villa Parma was operated as a bed and breakfast.
2000 to the present
2000: May 26 – 28 – Film Festival at Villa Parma
A film festival is held at Villa Parma as part of the Hepburn Springs Swiss-Italian Festa. The festa is an annual event that celebrates and acknowledges the Swiss-Italian heritage and influence in the region.
Wayne Cross and Chris Malden of Malcross Investments P/L purchase Villa Parma.
The establishment is once again owned in conjunction with the Mineral Springs Hotel, now known as Peppers Mineral Springs Hotel.
Naming of Parma House and Villa Parma
The actual derivation for the naming of Parma House to this day remains unknown. The Rolleri family referred to it as “Parma House” in advertisements.
However, it was Richard Rigby and Franchek Kasek, who took ownership around 1985 – 1986, that first used the name Villa Parma.