Ludovic Blackwood was born in England of Scottish and German ancestry. He came to the Colony as an infant in 1863 with his parents when they emigrated with their three children, Agnes, Ludovic and Susan. Another son, James junior, was born in Sydney. Ludovic worked in his father’s business, James Blackwood and Sons, a large firm importing heavy materials for shipwrights and engineers. On his father’s death in 1916, Ludovic and his brother James became Joint Managing Directors.
Ludovic and his wife Mary (née Gatherer) had five children: James (born 1896), Peter (died in infancy), George (born 1903), Mary (born 1905) and Elizabeth.
In 1904 and 1907 Ludovic made two purchases of land, totalling ten acres, on the western side of Beecroft Road near Observatory Park. In 1908 he built his home ‘Marabar’, a splendid two-storeyed structure of red brick, arched verandas, large bull’s-eye windows and a marble entrance walkway. The ground floor was planned for social life with a large central octagonal area with a parquetry floor, from which rose a curving staircase, the whole being covered by a glass-domed roof. Opening from this grand space was a visitor’s bathroom, fitted out with floral Doulton sanitary ware. The house seems inappropriate to the owner’s needs, as Ludovic and his wife did not entertain often and in later life were rarely seen in Beecroft. A large kitchen down narrow stairs at the rear of the house and cellar rooms cut into the sandstone foundations all made a most unusual residence.1
James Blackwood attended Sydney Church of England Grammar School (‘Shore’) and whilst a student at Sydney University enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. He was wounded in France, was withdrawn until he recovered and returned to the front where he was wounded a second time and died in December 1916. He was 20 years of age. An obituary in the local newspaper was headed ‘Beecroft Hero Killed’ and described James as ‘a fine, popular young fellow’.2
George Blackwood’s main interest was the stage. He played in a School of Arts performance when he was 12 years old and as a young man spent a brief and happy time with a touring company in Melbourne. He had to return to Sydney to work in the family business, ‘the stage’ being seen by his parents as not respectable. His sisters attended Miss Long’s school and did not marry. While young they lived a fairly lonely life in the large house, reputedly being somewhat eccentric, ruled by a difficult and domineering mother.3
Ludovic Blackwood died in 1939 and his wife in 1954. Mary died in 1958 and George in 1966, after which the house was sold. Elizabeth died in a local nursing home in 1968.
1. LTO 939/17-18
2. Cumberland Argus, 30 December 1916.
3. Cumberland Argus, 31 July 1915.