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Nellie Melba's 100 year-old billiards table finds a new village home

Written by John Walker
on August 19, 2022

For more than a century, Dame Nellie Melba’s billiards table sat frozen in time inside Coombe Cottage, the 19th century homestead in Coldstream the Australian operatic icon called home.

Now, the custom-made table has been lovingly refurbished and given a new lease on life at the Ryman Healthcare retirement village named in the great diva’s honour.

Ryman purchased the table from Coombe Cottage so residents at its Nellie Melba village in Melbourne would have a piece of Melba history to call their own.


Video: The story of Nellie Melba's billiard table arriving at her retirement village.


Village pool sharks Peter Waterworth and Robert Stubberfield played a central role in bringing the table to its new home, travelling to Coombe Cottage to inspect the table and ensure it met their exacting standards.

"It was really exciting to be involved in attaining the table and I’m glad I was," said Robert.

"I thought it would be marvellous if we could get her billiards table. They’d be putting some history and heritage in our village."

Peter said he is "so appreciative" to have a direct connection to Melba in their village.

"Nellie Melba epitomised the values and the character of the people we hope come into our village and to have an actual item of hers is just remarkable," said Peter.

"We play [billiards] three times a week now. It’s something to really look forward to, the camaraderie between the guys is just great."

Nellie Melba Pool Table - Village-8 (Large)The table being dismantled at Coombe Cottage before its refurbishment and eventual relocation to Nellie Melba Retirement Village.


Alcocks, the company that originally built the table for Dame Nellie around 1920, took on the challenge to completely refurbish it before it was moved to its new home.

Factory Manager Tim Lowe said Nellie’s table is one-of-a-kind.

"Everything in there is Queensland maple, which makes it unique." Tim said.

"It also has a very special kit of accessories; very high-end pool cues and cue rack all made from Queensland maple to match the table.

"It's a great facility for the residents there and a real opportunity to play on a piece of history." 

Nellie Melba Pool Table - Village-3 (Large)Nellie Melba residents Peter Waterworth (left) and Robert Stubberfield played a key role in acquiring the table for the village.


Ryman Healthcare names all its retirement villages after outstanding people, and Dame Nellie’s great-grandson, the late Lord Vestey, travelled from the UK to officially open the village in 2018.

Ryman’s Communications and External Relations Manager Michael Cummings said the decision to name a village after a great Australian came with a responsibility to honour their life and help keep their legacy alive.

"The village really becomes an homage to the contribution that person made to the world, so we’re always looking for ways we can connect with their history and honour it." 

Michael said when he was approached by Coombe about the possibility of buying the table, "it just felt like the perfect fit".

"Not only do our residents now have a magnificent billiards table, but they can also say ‘This was Dame Nellie’s, she played on it with her friends, and now we have a small piece of her history to enjoy and share with others’."

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