By Cathy Jones
Harry Chambers Kent was a prolific Sydney based architect in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He lived in Strathfield for most of his adult life and even served as an Alderman on Strathfield Council. Some of his designs have been identified, however this article seeks information on other houses that may be associated with Kent. Please respond in comments or email: email@example.com. Any information is appreciated. Many thanks to Scott Brandon Smith for his contributions to the preparation of this article.
Harry Chambers Kent [1852-1938] was a notable Sydney based architect of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century with significant links to the Strathfield district. Kent practiced for forty-eight years and designed or in partnerships was associated over his career with over 670 buildings. He was very prolific and his designs included a wide range of building types including hospitals [eg Carrington Centennial Hospital at Camden 1890], private residences, commercial offices and banks, schools, extensions to Randwick Racecourse, churches and woolstores.
He was known to have designed the following buildings in the Strathfield area:
- ‘Mount Royal” (1887) [now the Australian Catholic University]
- ‘Agincourt’ (1890) (now Jesmond Nursing Home in Albert Road) in 1890
- Institute for Blind Women (1891) (Albert Rd, now the Catholic Institute of Sydney)
- ‘Woodstock’ (1886) Redmyre Road Strathfield (Kent’s home originally called ‘Kelmswood’)
- Strathfield Town Hall (1923)
- Alterations to the Strathfield Council building including First floor extensions to the Council Chambers [1921-23].
- ‘Inglenook’ 17 Margaret St for merchant George Bird in 1893 [demolished 2003]
- ‘Swanton’ Victoria St for grazier Stanley Vickery [demolished early 1970’s].
It is speculated that Kent may be the architect of other buildings in the Strathfield District. Kent lived in Strathfield for most of his adult life. He was educated at Camden Congregational College, where his father was principal. His future partners in architecture, Henry Budden and Carlyle Greenwell were also Congregationalists, attended Newington College with members of Crago, Hardy, Hoskins and Loveridge families, who lived and/or built large homes in the Strathfield area.
‘Lanreath’ The Boulevarde, Strathfield (built 1902 and demolished in 1935) was the home of Mary Anne and Francis Arthur Crago. The Crago family were involved in flour milling and like Kent, active members of the Congregational Church. There are some style similarities to another Strathfield property ‘Wynola’ Chalmers Road Strathfield (later known as the White House and demolished in the 2000’s). While some have speculated that ‘Lanreath’ may be the work of architect Alfred Gambier Newman, Newman did not move to Sydney until 1906 from his home in South Australia which is after the house was built.
‘Wynola’ was built in the late 1890s by the Keep family. The Keeps were in hardware, were Protestant and were educated at The Kings School. In the generation that Wynola was built the Keeps married into the Hardy family. The Hardy family were Methodist jewellers and the sons attended Newington College. They lived in Strathfield and Burwood.
Despite the grandeur of Lanreath, it lifespan was not long only surviving until 1935, when it was demolished. Eventually the former house and grounds were subdivided and 23 houses were built on this estate. Wynola by comparison lasted much longer. Part of its grounds were subdivided in 1924 and in 1942, became the Sydney Bible And Training Institute. The house was radically altered and with the addition of render white surfaces was christened ‘The White House’ before being demolished in the 2000s.
Fortunately Wynola was often photographed during its time as a Bible College and its history has been very well recorded by Anthony C. Brammall in his publication “Out of darkness – 100 Years of Sydney Missionary and Bible College”.
‘Woodstock’ in Redmyre Road, Strathfield is a two storey house built in 1886 by Kent as his private residence. The house was originally face brick but it has since been rendered and converted into apartments. Stylistically it shows where Kent designs were heading at the turn of the century. He wasn’t, before being joined by Budden and Greenwell, an adventurous architect.
Another possible demolished Strathfield house that Kent may have designed was ‘Waitakerei’ on the corner of Chalmers and Newton Road (now the site of Chalmers Road Public School). There are few photos surviving but it appears to have been stylistically very much like Kent houses of the era.