Historical information

Following military service in the second world war, Clifton Pugh studied under artist Sir William Dargie at the National Gallery School in Melbourne as well as Justus Jorgensen, founder of Montsalvat. For a while he lived on the dole but also worked packing eggs for the Belot family saving sufficient to purchase six acres (2.4 ha) of land at Barreenong Road, Cottles Bridge. He accumulated more land and persuaded several other artists and friends to buy land nearby, resulting in a property of approximately 200 acres, stablishing it as one of the first artistic communes in Australia alongside Montsalvat in Eltham.

It was around 1951 that Pugh felt he had '"done moochin' around" and so the name of the property evolved. He bought timber from Alistair Knox to build his house on the crest of a hill. Inspired by local goldminer's huts, it was a one room wattle-and-daub structure with dirt floor. Over the years it expanded with thick adobe walls made from local clay, high ceilings and stone floors. All materials other than the local earth were sourced from second hand materials, most found at wreckers' yards.

Artists from across the nation were drawn to Dunmoochin, with several setting up houses and shacks on the property, maintaining their independence but sharing their artistic zeal. Artists who worked or resided at Dunmoochin included Mirka Mora, John Perceval, Albert Tucker, Fred Williams, Charles Blackman, Arthur Boyd and John Olsen.

In 2002, Pugh's house along with its treasure trove of art and a library of some 20,000 books was destroyed by fire. Traces of Pugh's home remain with the presence of the Victorian doorframe archway with leadlight of intricate design, procured from a demolished Melbourne mansion; and two bronze life-sized female statues created by Pugh and cast by Matcham Skipper. In place of Pugh's house rose two double-storey mud-brick artists' studios topped with corrugated iron rooves curved like the wings of a bird with accommodation for seven. The original studios, gallery and other buildings survived the fire.

Covered under Heritage Overlay, Nillumbik Planning Scheme.

Published: Nillumbik Now and Then /​ Marguerite Marshall 2008; photographs Alan King with Marguerite Marshall.; p155


This collection of almost 130 photos about places and people within the Shire of Nillumbik, an urban and rural municipality in Melbourne's north, contributes to an understanding of the history of the Shire. Published in 2008 immediately prior to the Black Saturday bushfires of February 7, 2009, it documents sites that were impacted, and in some cases destroyed by the fires. It includes photographs taken especially for the publication, creating a unique time capsule representing the Shire in the early 21st century. It remains the most recent comprehenesive publication devoted to the Shire's history connecting local residents to the past.

Physical description

Born digital image file