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Heritage Victoria, police launch investigation into Brighton house fires

“Spurling House was the architectural innovation that introduced the iconic North American shingle style home to Melbourne back in 1888.’’

Spurling House before it was damaged in a fire in October 2015.

Spurling House before it was damaged in a fire in October 2015.

The heritage listed home was built for Phillis Spurling by the Canadian architect John Horbury Hunt, one of the first important North American architects to practise in Australia. Spurling House is his only known work in Victoria.

Spurling House was then included in the Victorian Heritage Register in 1974 for its architectural and historical significance to the State of Victoria.

The design is notable for being the first Victorian house to be built in the Shingle style, a North American technique that used organic materials in a way that elevated their natural qualities.

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In January, the owner of the historic 131-year-old house lost their battle with the Heritage Council to demolish the property after arguing the 2015 fire had left the property uninhabitable because it is infested with mould.

At the time, Heritage Victoria said the demolition would result in the complete loss of the cultural heritage significance of the place.

Heritage Victoria subsequently issued two repair orders to the house’s owner, which required works to be carried out to prevent the further deterioration of the building.

This prompted the owner to launch an appeal against the repair orders in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Spurling House has since been demolished in compliance with an emergency order issued by the City of Bayside, following the most recent fire.

Heritage Victoria said there were about 2300 places included on the Victorian Heritage Register including Flinders Street Railway Station, Parliament House, the Murtoa Stick Shed and the Brighton Bathing Boxes.

Spurling House in Brighton in January 2020 before the second blaze.

Spurling House in Brighton in January 2020 before the second blaze.Credit:Eddie Jim

It is an offence under the Heritage Act 2017 to demolish, damage or despoil a place on the Victorian Heritage Register. Anyone convicted faces fines of up to $793,056 and, or five years’ jail.

Moorabbin Crime Investigation Unit detectives are investigating whether both attacks are linked.

A police spokeswoman said a person previously contacted Crime Stoppers regarding this matter with investigators believing there are others who may also have information.

Police are urging these people, or anyone with information to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or online at crimestoppersvic.com.au.

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