Houses by Street – Beecroft Rd Cheltenham – Odd Numbers

Beecroft Road Cheltenham Eastern (or odd numbers) side

157, Mosbrae. The house is listed on the Hornsby Shire Council Heritage Register which comprises Schedule 5 (Environmental Heritage) of the Hornsby Local Environment Plan 2013.

Cheltenham Girls High School [1]

This land was formerly home of the Vicars, Yallambee, built in 1916. The Vicars family [2] business primarily comprised the Sydney and Darling Woollen Mills. This business had grown rapidly after it had first won the tender to supply cloth for the citizen military forces and then won another tender to supply the cloth for the uniforms of the First Australian Imperial Force during World War 1. Robert Vicars was the family member who managed the Darling Mills at Northmead (up until recently the site of a Bunnings hardware store) and so was looking to live closer to where he worked.

The house was designed by a nephew James Vicars.

The family was large with five daughters and two sons. The children slept on the deep upstairs open verandahs – boys at one end and girls at the other. One of the girls went on to marry the architect designer of the Beecroft War Memorial (William Laurie who became the President of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects) who grew up in Beecroft and another married Sir Victor Windeyer (a judge of the High Court) whose cousins lived in Beecroft.

The house had an orchard for plums and peaches, a tennis court, poultry yards, vegetable gardens and lawns dotted with rhododendrons, azaleas, jacarandas, magnolias and a giant bougainvillea growing over the front verandah. As you look into the school grounds you can still see exotic trees planted by the Vicars. Mr Forsythe, a Scot, lived in a cottage on the property and headed a team of gardeners who tended the superb gardens. The home even had its own electric generator as electricity did not come to Beecroft until 1924.

The house was demolished in 1972. Two leadlight windows from the Vicars home were re-installed inside the school and the front entryway reflects the entry to the house.

[1]      For a history of this school see elsewhere on this web site under Schools.

[2]      For more information on the Vicars see elsewhere on this web site under People.

The corner with The Promenade

There is a small park and the Cheltenham Memorial Kindergarten. The kindergarten was started by Mrs Spiers in her home at 7 The Boulevard. This land in The Promenade was gifted by Mrs (Violet) Vicars as a World War 2 memorial and run as part of the kindergarten Union (now KU Children’s Services). The building was designed by the architect William Laurie and opened by the Governor, Sir John Northcott. Many fundraising events for this kindergarten were held by the Harris family at Edensor.

179, Former Congregational Church [1]. This building was built on land donated by the Chorley family in 1927. Neither the architect nor the builder are presently known. The church closed in 1970. Following closure of the church it became an educational facility and then the home of the Golden Kangaroos, a well known band of local musicians who now practice in the Community Centre. It is now used as a child care centre. The site still contains some significant mature trees: a tallowwood planted when the church was built, a radiate pine, a camphor laurel and an ironbark.

The building and garden are listed on the Hornsby Shire Council Heritage Register which comprises Schedule 5 (Environmental Heritage) of the Hornsby Local Environment Plan 2013.

[1]      For a history of the Congregational Church see elsewhere on this web site.

181-183 [1].

 This property formed part of the Mount Pleasant Estate of William and Lilly Chorley [2]. This site was part of a parcel of land that subdivided into 4 lots and auctioned in 1918. The first of the lots that sold was the first one off Beecroft Road facing Cheltenham Road. It was sold to Frank Grainger Spurway a manufacturer. The two blocks on the corner of Beecroft and Cheltenham Roads were then sold to Walter George Norton a tanner. All three lots were then sold in 1920 to John Brown Surgeon, a grazier. Lot 82, between these lots and the Congregational Church, remained owned as part of the Mount Pleasant Estate.

Surgeon was the son of John and Harriett of Charters Towers Queensland. The father (who died in 1910) was a grazier and butcher and John Brown developed these interests resulting in him owning abattoirs and pastoral holdings around Charters Towers.

John Brown married Minnie, but Minnie found it difficult living in the heat and humidity of Charters Towers and so they relocated to Sydney searching for a home in a cooler climate. They initially leased a house in Denistone (corner Terry and Pennant Parade) and then, while building on this land, leased a house on Beecroft Road. As with a number of other local residents they chose this site because of its climate and for their health.

They built a substantial home. In 1922 the local architect William Nixon was the only architect advertising for a builder to tender for a house in Cheltenham. It is therefore presumed that the house was designed by William Nixon [3].  The house was built with expansive, park-like grounds well set back from both street frontages but with very little space to the rear fence with lot 82. With the Surgeon sons away at War, their daughter-in-law and grandsons lived in the property from 1941 until its sale. The grandsons of Mr & Mrs Surgeon remember their grandparents keeping their horses and buggies on lot 82 [4] and that it was separated from the home lands by a post and wire fence. The Department of Main Roads acquired the splayed corner of the land in 1942.

Shoodnov4411028h

Surgeon died in 1943 and the property was sold in 1945 to Loris Harley Hassall a skin and hide merchant of Potts Point. In 1947 Loris’ wife, Elizabeth, purchased lot 82 and so consolidated the ownership of the site to match its use. The noted Sydney photographer Sam Hood took a number of photographs of the house in 1944, presumably in anticipation of the forthcoming sale.  These photographs are in the State Library and can be accessed on-line.

In 1981 Dr Patrick and Irene Kevin (initially through a private company) purchased the property and lived there until they sold it in 2017. The Kevins built a tennis court on the horse paddock with tennis not only being common in Cheltenham but because Dr Kevin’s uncle (Harry’s sister Marie having married Ralph Kevin in 1938) was the legendary Australian tennis player and coach Harry Hopman [5].

In 2020 the owners applied to use the property for a childcare centre and this application was met with much public opposition.

181183BeecroftRd6

The garden is listed on the Hornsby Shire Council Heritage Register which comprises Schedule 5 (Environmental Heritage) of the Hornsby Local Environment Plan 2013. 

[1]      Unless stated otherwise the information derives from GBA Heritage Pty Ltd Statement of Heritage Impact March 2020.

[2]      For more information on the Chorley Family and Mount Pleasant see elsewhere on this website.

[3]      For more information on Nixon see elsewhere on this website under People.

[4]      Conversation between Mr Ted Surgeon and Roderick Best, 2020.

[5]      Northern District Times 1 November 2017 p 5.

  1. The land was purchased by William James Wilson, Gentleman, in 1893 and he sold to William Chorley, Tailor in 1899. The house was built in 1906. The property was then sold to George Redshaw, teacher, in 1911. It was then sold to Thomas Whitehouse, engineer, in 1942 and following his death it was sold in 1957 to Sydney Ronald Quick who subdivided and sold this house block, also in 1957 to Edward Bernard Morgan and Marjorie Olive Martin. They sold to Anthony Scott Denham and Vanessa Szypica-Denham in 1998 and they sold to Colin Ian Robinson in 2003.

201.    This was the site of St Andrews, Church of England (now Anglican). The land was given by William Harris to permit the building of the church, which opened in 1924. It was closed in 1972 and the congregation and a number of memorials consolidated with St Johns Anglican Church, Beecroft. The building was demolished and a home erected in its place [1].

[1]      For more information on this church see a separate article elsewhere on this web site.

203, Edensor

Upon the subdivision of the Field of Mars Common this land was purchased in 1889 by Charles William Holloway (1854-1943). He was a landscape gardener employed at the Gladesville Asylum and was active in the Horticultural Society in Sydney. Subsequently he became a nurseryman in Manly [1]. He sold this land in 1892 to Catherine Rattray (1848-1939) wife of George Allan Rattray (1844-1919), a bank official. They also purchase in the following year another smaller block fronting Beecroft Road which gave this property a broader frontage around the curve of that road.

A substantial six room home was built on the land by Mr & Mrs Rattray before 1895 as their daughter stated at the time of her marriage in 1895 that she was living at home in Beecroft and, indeed, she was marrying Alfred Edward Midson of the well known local Midson family of Carlingford. This confirms local connections [2].

Mrs Rattray also built another five room cottage on The Crescent in 1897 and leased it the next year [3]. It is possible that this house may appear in a 1943 aerial photograph that includes this site. If this is the case then it was located like a gate house at the entry to the Edensor drive off The Crescent. It is therefore likely that it was used by the Harris family for some of their live-in staff.

The Rattays sold the property in 1907 to William Harris [4]. The Harris family said that William Harris sent two men to buy the property in notes and gold coin, but it being a Sunday, Mrs Rattray declined to do business. Harris went himself during the following week and Mrs Rattray accepted his payment.                        

A team of men was employed to work on the house and grounds over the years from 1907 to about 1920. The house was much enlarged around a wide central passageway and deep verandas were added to all sides. This new home was named Edensor after the Harris estate at Cabramatta – Liverpool. Formal gardens and gravel paths were laid out including rare ornamental trees and some 3000 rose bushes in several large rose beds. A bowling green was constructed on the southern side of the house and much used by William Harris and his friends. A wall of Pyrmont sandstone blocks was built along the Beecroft Road and Lyne Road boundaries. Pyrmont stone was also used in veranda foundations and the trellised walk. Pyrmont, rather than local, stone is a relevant reminder of the history of the Harris family in Sydney.

The stable building, a large timber construction with clerestory roof, housed the groom’s quarters as well as various bays for feed, harnesses and the horses. William Harris kept trotting horses, as a hobby, as well as riding horses – which he was especially fond of riding daily around Cheltenham and Beecroft. Often he rode to Marabar (Blackwood House) and joined the Blackwood girls in a ride around the district. He was remembered by local people for his love of horses, his daily riding and the fact that he was never seen with his coat off. He also spent much of his time supervising the running of the small farm on his property.

The stables were connected to the house by an elegant stone pergola in an Edna Walling style design.

Most of the extensive alterations to the house took place in 1914-15. They were designed by William Mark Nixon and the work was undertaken by A L Doust.

Mr Harris generously donated a corner of his land to the Anglican Church. More significantly he donated over 1.2 hectares from around his house to the Cheltenham Recreation Club [5].

Following his death in 1953 this property passed to his third (and surviving) wife. Mary (Mollie) was a keen gardener and the gardens were well known for both their beauty and as the scene for many charitable events. Large fetes, with a Scottish band playing as it marched up from the station, were very popular with visitors. Mrs Harris created a number of residential subdivisions which were sold. These subdivisions were designed to retain the house in its grounds. Following Mollie’s death in 1990 their daughter (Julie Harris Harris) remained in the property until 1995 when it was sold to the current owners who have considerably renovated the property while maintaining the extensive gardens. The gardens remain magnificent and redolent of the mid twentieth century. The scent from the grove of lemon centred gums near Beecroft Road just after rain is amazing. Inside the property the earlier gardens radiate from the old main drive, interspersed with paths.

The garden, stable and wall are listed on the Hornsby Shire Council Heritage Register which comprises Schedule 5 (Environmental Heritage) of the Hornsby Local Environment Plan 2013.

[1]      Sunday Times, 6 August 1922, p6; Evening News, 15 August 1889 p6.

[2]      A Willingham, “A suitable ground for bowls, croquet and tennis” A cultural history of the place in preparation of a Statement of Heritage Impact (September 2020) pp11-13

[3]      Daily Telegraph, 20 January 1898 p3

[4]      For more information on William Harris see a separate article on him elsewhere on this web site under People.

[5]      For more information on the Anglican Church and the Recreation Club see separate articles on this web site.

213    was the home of the Lesley Smith family from 1917 until at least 1936. The home is a Federation bungalow and once had a vista to the railway line and beyond. Lesley Smith on the Electoral Roll was described as a clerk and otherwise was described as ‘an Englishman and a gentleman.’ His wife (Ada Maude) arranged placements to help with the house and children with the Aborigines Protection Board and the graphic details of the 1919 placement of Margaret Tucker was described in Mrs Tucker’s subsequent memoirs as one of the terrible blights of our child welfare and as a tragic example of the life of the Stolen Generation [1]. In the 1940s the Smiths lived at 27 McLaren Street, North Sydney.

[1]      Margaret Tucker MBE, If Everyone Cared (Grosvenor, 1977).