Tuesday, 19 August 2014

The Abbotsford Convent

It was a winter weekday, and impulsively we decided that we ought to check out the Abbotsford Convent.   Of course, we knew of its existence, but it's out-of-the-way for us and a little tricky to get to (choice of the horrors of Hoddle Street or a circular route through Kew).   The closest I had ever been to it was when I worked on for the tramways during university vacations, when there was a bus yard (long since gone) on the other side of St Heliers Street, which was a meal break location for the tramway buses.

I read that the Abbotsford Convent Foundation celebrated its 10th anniversary this year.   The Good Shepherd nuns sold the site in 1975, although the Good Shepherd Foundation still has a presence at the neighbouring Church and hostel, and the farmland became the Collingwood Children's farm.

The convent itself became part of the Lincoln Institute and subsequently La Trobe University.  The University sold the site in the late 1990s, and a residential development was proposed.    However, with State Government assistance it was returned to public ownership, and the Abbotsford Convent Foundation was established to own and manage it, with a focus on arts, culture and learning.

Convent bakery
There are now numerous studio and office spaces, and what is described as an extensive program of events. We enjoyed poking around the buildings and extensive gardens.   And, of particular interest to us (!), there are a number of eating and drinking venues, at least one of which appeared to the patronised by (may I say?) "artistic" types.    We had a pleasant lunch at the Convent Bakery, and were happy with everything.   But of course, we were there at a quiet time.  I can understand that it must get very busy at times, particularly weekends, which no doubt explains the rather ordinary reviews.

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