Monday, May 31, 2010

A childhood residence - "Pine Ridge" a.k.a. No 32 Alice St, Harris Park



The "old house" at No 32 Alice Sreet in the late 1950's, taken from the northern end of the tennis court
& looking in a west sou'westerly direction, from a point somewhere in or very near the present day
swimming pool for No 34 (the units on the battle-axed block north of the units on No 32).

The house once known as "Pine Ridge" no longer exists, falling victim to the developer's demolition team, about 1970; although they were thoughtful enough to retrieve the old bricks, clean them up, and enable their re-use, in the balconies of the block of units which were built on the site.

As my family grew up in the house we knew as 32 Alice Street, we formed an opinion that it was built many years ago, imagining the convict hands that made the sandstock bricks, and the long drive that went from the front door, through a wind-break of sentinel pines which gave it it's earlier name, down to Alfred Street, not far from Elizabeth Farmhouse, the original Rose Hill home to the family of John MacARTHUR.
But the bricks were not convict made, although possibly "replicas" of full size, and the house itself appears to have been built around the year 1888, and almost certainly by and/or for the Rev J.R. BLOMFIELD, Rector of All Saints (C.of E.), Parramatta.
And it appears that the "driveway" could only ever have existed in our imaginations.
Although why the architect chose to site the house "sideways" to Alice Street, rather than facing it, remains unknown - perhaps the view to the north, across Claycliff Creek and the unseen head-waters of the Parramatta River, to the horizon hill-crest that is Pennant Hills Road and the complex of buildings we knew as the Burnside Homes, was too good to consign entirely to the back yard.

John Roe BLOMFIELD was born in Maitland in October 1827, 3rd son of Thomas Valentine BLOMFIELD (of Dagwell, Suffolk; 48th Regiment; arrived N.S.W. 1817) and Christiana BROOKS, the heir to her father's estate at Denham Court.
John was ordained into the Church of England at Newcastle, and served as Rector at Morpeth, Raymond Terrace, Burwood and then Mulgoa, before arriving in Parramatta in 1868. He lived firstly at "Endrim," Marsfield, Parramatta, then at Granville. By his first wife, Mary Rachel WOOD, he had issue two sons, Valentine & Harold, both Civil Engineers & Surveyors.
John married twice more, and both wives, Margaret Caroline THORBURN and Frances Harriet CLARKSON, were dead by 1878.

Within a year of BLOMFIELD's father having arrived in N.S.W. with the 48th Regiment, John MacARTHUR, Agricultural and wool-growing pioneer, received his 1,110 acre Crown Grant at Rose Hill near Parramatta, dated 13 January 1818.
By the time his son Edward MacARTHUR had died in 1872, and the estate had passed into the hands of his executors, the MacARTHUR family & their agents had built substantial brick dwellings which comprised the Elizabeth Farmhouse & outbuildings, now a heritage precinct in Alice Street (between Alfred and Arthur Streets), as well as "MacARTHUR's Cottage" on Hassall Street (which we knew in our time there as "Hambledon Cottage"), and NEALE's Cottage, between MacARTHUR's Cottage and Claycliff Creek (which had become a concrete lined drain we knew as "the canal" and which we, as youngsters, would explore at our peril, entirely contrary to parental orders).

In 1882, the executors sold the whole MacARTHUR estate for £50,000 to Septimus Alfred STEPHENS, a Sydney Solicitor and Public Notary. It was his intention to sub-divide the property and sell the portions, which he began with a sale "on the ground" on Sat 17 February 1883, in accordance with a subdivision which was lodged with the Land Titles Office as Deposited Plan (D.P.) 1249.


Part of the MILLS & PILE poster advertising the sale of blocks on Alice St, 1883 -
"Pine Ridgewould be built 5 years later, across Lots 1 & 2,
the two Lots on the left-hand side of the four highlighted in red.

It is apparent that John Roe BLOMFIELD purchased four alotments, probably at this first sale, or at one of the two subsequent sales later in the same year - these were Lots 1 to 4 inclusive, Section A, being the four lots on the western boundary of the MacARTHUR Estate, on the north side of the proposed Alice Street alignment, and on the south side of Claycliff Creek, with an area of 2 acres, 1 rood and 21.75 perches.
The remaining Lots to the east were purchased by Alexander GRAY (Lots 5-8), Claudius Beresford CAIRNES (Lots 9-11), and Archibald SAYERS (Lot 12, on the corner of Alice & Alfred Streets). The subdivision was made in accordance with the "Parramatta Rood" which determined that all Lots were 66 feet wide or more, & over 165 feet deep; it is apparent that the final building blocks did not all conform to that plan, as there was one additional alotment, & several existing blocks are less than 66 feet wide.

Evidence of this 1883 transaction is contained in Parramatta Council Rate Assessment Books for Anderson Ward [Parramatta City Library], where J.R. BLOOMFIELD was assessed for Unenclosed (or Vacant) Land, from 1883 (valued at £20 per annum & rated at £1) to 1888 (£45 - at £2 5 shillings p.a.); in 1889, he was assessed for the first time for property now described as "Brick House," valued at £75 p.a. (council rate of £3 7/6, with a water rate of 2 pounds 10/8, and a gas rate of 16/10).
"Pine Ridge" had arrived.

Formal proof of the transaction was not registered until 6 March 1888, as Instrument of Transfer No. 132271, Register Book Volume 696, Folio 242 [Lands Titles Office, Sydney].

John Roe BLOMFIELD was in residence at Pine Ridge when he wrote to his elder son, Valentine, on 15 April 1888; he died in the house a fortnight later, on 1 May, leaving his two sons as executors of his estate.
The elder son, Valentine BLOMFIELD, was assessed for rates on the property in 1891 (1890 Rate Book not available) as the occupant; his younger brother Harold was likewise assessed for the years 1892 and 1893, also as occupant; and in 1894, 1895 and 1896, Harold was recorded as the non-resident owner.

During his time in residence, Harold Arthur BLOMFIELD had, by his wife Ada Elfreda KIDSER, a 2nd daughter, Beatrice, who was born at Pine Ridge on 28 February 1890; it is highly likely that the next three children, Mildred (1891), Cecil (1892) and Vera (1893), were also born there, prior to the family moving to Moss Vale, where son Bernard,was born in 1894.

After they had moved on, Edward EBSWORTH, a fellow Surveyor, took up residence there, with his wife, Emily Ada BEATTY, and a daughter who had been born in neighbouring Weston Street in June 1889 (it is possible that before Alice Street was laid out, access to "Pine Ridge" was from Weston Street, and that may also have been an earlier postal address). EBSWORTH was assessed for rates as occupant in 1894, 1895 and 1896; his 2nd daughter Elsie was probably born there in 1894.

Part of the Lands Department Parramatta Detail Map of 1895, showing "Pine Ridge
as it was originally built, before the dining room was added & the verandahs altered & enlarged
[Frame 5, Series 4, 811/1301/1, Mitchell Library].

Valentine and Harold BLOMFIELD, officially possessed of their late father's Pine Ridge property in January 1897 [Instrument of Transfer No B 411037, Land Titles Office], sold it to Mary Jane LITTLE, wife of Thomas Davies LITTLE of Parramatta, on 9 February 1897 "...for her own separate use" [Instrument of Transfer No 261248, Lands Title Office].

Thomas Davies LITTLE was a Parramatta local who worked his way up the journalistic ladder to become joint-proprietor of the Cumberland Argus, from its inception in 1893. He was born on the north-western corner of the MACARTHUR Estate, probably at BYRNES' Mill near Queen's Wharf, on the Parramatta River near George Street, in 1857, shortly after his parents, Eleazar and Margaret, had arrived from England via India. His career path took him briefly to Sydney, then Newcastle (working on the "Pilot" newspaper), and a short spell in the N.Z. Government Printer's office in Wellington.
In 1894, his wife, Mary Jane, was executrix to the estate of Margaret LITTLE of Parramatta, Widow, who was undoubtedly her husband's mother, and it was perhaps money from this source that eventually enabled "Pine Ridge" to be purchased, and but it is a bit of a mystery why Mary Jane had it "...for her separate use." It is likely that Max LITTLE was born and died there in November 1897, & that their youngest son, Jack, was born there in 1898. It is almost certain that his wife's "sole use" expired with her in 1916, again almost certainly at "Pine Ridge."
And it is also possible that it was during LITTLE's occupancy that some alterations were made to enlarge the living quarters of the house.

By the time we had taken occupancy in 1953, a large dining room had been constructed at the western end of the hall, evidently by the erection of a wall across the centre of the rear courtyard, in which wall there was built a fireplace between two sets of french doors which now opened onto a much reduced rear courtyard. There had also been two alterations to the external verandahs - the centre section of the eastern verandah was enlarged, just outside the front door, and the whole of the northern verandah was doubled in width. In addition, a weatherboard room was constructed at the western end of the widened northern verandah, and the western end of that verandah was glazed above the handrails.

A "side" view of No 32 Alice St, taken from Good Street, looking due north.

Thomas Davies LITTLE died at "Pine Ridge" in August 1923. His children Millie Weedon LITTLE and Jack LITTLE were confirmed in possession, probably as the executors, by 13 February 1924, and; on 20 June of the same year, had disposed of it to their brother Allan Weedon LITTLE, who was, like his father, a Journalist.
On 23 December 1925, Alan Weedon LITTLE sold "Pine Ridge" to Linus Joseph EGAN, of Katoomba, Builder.
It may well instead have been EGAN the Builder who made the alterations, but he appears not to have lived in the house.

EGAN sold the property to Frederick William TODHUNTER, Solicitor, by Instrument of Transfer No B 411037, dated 24 February 1927 [Register Book Vol. 3973, Fol. 44, Land Titles Office], although the size of it had decreased, now comprising Lot 2 and majority parts only of Lots 1 and 3, measuring 1 acre, 2 roods and; 28.5 perches.

His grandfather, William TODHUNTER, was convicted in London of embezzlement, & transported to N.S.W on the ship Morley in Apr 1817; he prospered, and in 1828 he was employed as a Commercial Clerk; by 1845, he was a freeholder in Bent Street, Sydney, having married into the influential COX family (his sister-in-law was the wife of William Charles WENTWORTH).
His seconnd son was Henry Marron TODHUNTER, born 1840; he became Manager of the Parramatta Branch of the A.J.S. Bank (and with whom Rev Henry Robert PIGOTT did banking business); died at Ashfield, 1921; married at Wagga Wagga, 1863, Emily Clara THOMSON, with issue 9 children all born Mudgee, including a second but elder surviving son Frederick William TODHUNTER, born 1871.

Frederick TODHUNTER practised as a Solicitor in Sydney, until he opened his own business in Parramatta in 1904; he was Solicitor for the subdivision of the old HARRIS Estate, including Experiment Farm Cottage (James RUSE's subdivision), all to the west of Good Street and "Pine Ridge", which was first billed for sale on 13 August 1921. This subdivision did appear to proceed exactly in accordance with the deposited plan.
And it was not until after this later subdivision had been established that the Postal authorities settled upon the number 32 Alice Street for the "Pine Ridge" residence - it first appeared as such in Sand's Postal Directory of 1930.
Frederick married in Parramatta, 1905, Bessie PURCHASE; after her early death in 1912, he married her sister Mona Marie; he had issue by both sisters, and both families were recorded as residing at "Pine Ridge" in Electoral Rolls for 1930 and; 1938.

Frederick died at "Pine Ridge" on 4 November 1942; the property was transferred to his executors by Application by Transmision No D 40702 dated 30 August 1945; there was a caveat, withdrawn 20 February 1953, probably associated with his granting his widow life use of the property; she died in Parramatta in 1952, probably also at "Pine Ridge."

On 23 January 1953, Henry Robert PIGOTT, Schoolmaster, purchased No 32 Alice Street from Frederick Stuart TODHUNTER and the Union Trustee Company of Aust Limited, executors of the late Frederick William TODHUNTER.

I was aged not quite 4 when I arrived at "Pine Ridge." My earliest memory is being "walked" down the path between the hedges near the "front" gate close to the tennis court; I was probably being carried, as I recall seeing the verandah corner over the hedge top, with a number of collapsed trestle tables leaning against the outside wall of what, for us, became the sitting room.
It was home for the next 15 years, and holds many memories. A new sister arrived in 1954, to make up the gang of seven. We had the luxury of space, and rather tended to keep to ourselves, although we did have a somewhat "spiky" relationship with the FOGGs in Number 40, just across the SAAD's paddock; but we were rounded up once a week and ferried into the Presbyterian Community that was Saint Andrew's Church (Sunday School, Fellowships and Congregation, in that order), beside Parramatta Hospital and backing onto the occasionally submerged weir across the Parramatta River which led to The King's School.
And for us 5 boys, that became, when old enough, our school - it was where our father "retired" to after relinquishing, for health reasons, the Headmastership of Brisbane Grammar School, shortly before we moved to Parramatta; for him it was a return to the scene of his first teaching position, between 1923 and 1936.

No vital events actually took place in the house during our time there; but it was the last residence of our grandmother, Maggie PIGOTT, who died in Parramatta Hospital in 1960.

Few improvements were made to the house during our time, which suggests that Dad had never intended living there for ever, and; that plans for re-development may have been in his mind from early on; and several of the exterior "improvements" he may even have actively resisted.
In the kitchen, the old cast-iron Metter's "Kooka" gas stove was replaced by a much more modern version, although the thick brick chimney brest of an even earlier version was left untouched; and a new double bowl stainless steel sink replaced the old pink terrazzo slab over the enamelled cast-iron. The original green paling front fence was eventually replaced with a lower ranch style railing one; and the verandah balustrades, at least on those sides that did not have too great a drop, were removed to show cleaner lines to the Alice Street frontage.
And at some point in time, we acquired a brand new "Hill's Hoist" rotary clothes line, to replace the old lines on post and see-saw cross-pieces. But these were before the days of modern washing machines, and Mum had to make do with the gas-fired copper boiler, and the mangle wringer washing machine (well, at least it was electric).

For many years, waste product from the Camellia plant of Hardie's Asbestos Products was used to fill in the "hill" at the back of No 32 and of neighbouring No 30 (owned and occupied by Marge BERRY and her two adult sons, Dick and Tony and their wives and families) down to Claycliff Creek; the trucks delivered it all up Ruse Street for many years, to the residents' evident unhappiness. Dad's recreation was to top dress it all when completed.

The only other major development was the construction of a block of 6 flats on the tennis court, to designs of local Architect Jonathan ERBY, and which were built about 1960-61. In gray brick, with natural timber trim, black bathrooms, a flat roof and an innovative external concrete circular staircase to the 1st floor, they may have been intended to provide an independent income for mum after dad died. But they have not survived, and were demolished to make way for the present school building associated with the Maronite Catholic Church (adorned with a statue of the B.V. Mary) which stands on the adjoining property, which was in our time a market garden farmed by a Lebanese migrant family named SAAD.

THIS BLOG IS A WORK-IN-PROGRESS. TO BE CONTINUED.

I lived in this house from February 1953 through to August 1968.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the info.
My father was Frederick Stuart Todhunter.
I have very few recollectoins of Alice St.
Regards,
Barbara Quinn.