Dr Eileen Chanin | Australian Author

Australian award-winning author and research associate of Australian Studies Institute, Eileen Chanin has released her new book Capital Designs: Australia House and Visions of an Imperial London (2018). Dr Chanin holds a PHD from University New South Wales Australia and is a Sydney-based historian. Her latest book Capital Designs: Australia House and Visions of an Imperial London is the untold story of how Australia’s first diplomatic mission was conceived, designed and built.  

Australia House Celebrates its 100th Birthday in 2018

London Landmark Building

The Australian Government purchased the vacant triangular-shaped block in 1912 which was formerly the site of Victoria House. Victoria House was built in 1907 on the corner of Aldwych and the Strand and west of Melbourne Place. The land was abandoned and unkept for many years before the Australian Government acquired the freehold in the heart of London. The land cost the Australian people £379, 756 and the overall cost of the building and other associated expenses tallied to approximately £1 million. Although, an Official Secretary had been appointed to London as early as 1906, the Australian High Commission to London was the first Australian diplomatic mission and one of the most prominent in London.

War Time Construction

Building Australia House commenced during World War 1 however completion was delayed due to the rigors of the Great War. Home grown timbers and stone were shipped from Australia to London. The first foundation stone was laid by King George V on 24 July 1913. Queen Mary and Princess Mary accompanied the King. A large crowd of mostly enthusiastic Australians gathered for the event and shouted the Australian bush call ‘Coo-ee’ at the end of the ceremony. His majesty officially opened the purpose-built dominion embassy ‘Australia House’ on 3 August 1918. Australian Prime Minister William Morris Hughes and former Prime Minister Andrew Fisher were among the official party. The famous building celebrated its 100th birthday in 2018. 

Design | Build | Preserve

Scottish architects designed the Australia House building after winning an architectural competition. Alexander Marshal Mackenzie and Son were awarded the project by leading Australian artists – Arthur Streeton, John Longstaff, Fred Leist, George Lambert and Bertram Mackennal. Mackennal, an Australian sculptor and medallist, famous for designing the coinage and stamps bearing the likeness of George V, was also a judge for the architectural competition.

John Smith Murdoch, a chief architect of the Commonwealth of Australia worked together with the Mackenzie company throughout the construction of the building. Islington builders, Dove Brothers began construction in 1913 however much of the construction was delayed due to shipping problems related to the Great War.

London Spring Water | Good Enough to Drink

A rectangular-shaped well in the basement of the Australia diplomatic mission is thought to be over 900 years old. The spring runs under Australia House and is still accessible. The centuries old spring is just one of 20, covered by buildings and roads throughout London. It is one of the few natural springs still reachable in the UK. Scientists have confirmed the water is safe to drink and better than tap water. The spring comes from the River Fleet, a subterranean London River. 

Australian High Commission | Harry Potter Filming Locations

Where was Harry Potter filmed in London? The movie Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone were partially filmed inside Australia House. The interior of Australia House in London was the set for Gringotts Wizarding Bank and Gringotts Grand Entrance Hall. In more recent times, the Australian Consulate was used as a backdrop for the 2017 Wonder Woman superhero movie. Australia House is not open to the public, but it can be viewed for Free from outside. The nearest tube station is Temple, which is a 5-minute walk.

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Author’s Bookshelf

Capital Designs: Australia House and Visions of an Imperial London demonstrates the global, imperial, local and personal achievements and ambitions that surrounded this project.

Books written by Dr Eileen Chanin include:

Beautiful London UK


London is a city enriched by history, tradition and its people. It’s a magnificent holiday destination and one of the most vibrant and most important cities in the world. A place that caters for everyone. No matter what you are interested in, there is plenty to see and do in the capital of England. The hardest part may be deciding on what to see and do in London in a short time. Just remember, you can’t do it all! Click on this link for some of London’s best attractions and skip the lines. 

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