by Cathy Jones 2010
Charles Henry Slatyer (1856-1919) was a prolific and prominent Sydney based architect in the late 19th century and early 20th century, with close associations with the Strathfield area. Slatyer was a long-term resident and active in local affairs, especially those of the Homebush-Strathfield Congregational Church. However, it is as architect of many local buildings that he is best remembered. Many of his designs are still standing and are important contributions to Strathfield’s built heritage, particularly of the Federation period. Of particular interest are the homes built for members of the Todman family, of which Slatyer was a member through his marriage to Elsie Todman, daughter of merchant George Todman.
Slatyer was the son of the Rev. William Slatyer (d.1884) of the Redfern Congregational Church. At age 17 in 1873, he commenced his career as a draftsman in the Colonial Architects Office under architect James Barnet. He resigned from the Colonial Architect’s Office in 1882 and moved to private practice as an architect. Slatyer formed and worked in the following architectural partnerships: Ellis & Slatyer (1882-1889) with John Ellis, Slatyer & Cosh (1893-1904) with Thomas Cosh and finally as Slatyer & Shiels (1909-1912) with Nico Shiels. He worked independently from 1912 to 1919. Slatyer was a Fellow of the Institute of Architects (NSW Branch) and in 1919 was elected as the Institute’s President.
Though this article focuses on Slatyer’s work in the Strathfield district, Slatyer was a well established and respected Sydney architect and responsible for many significant works in Sydney. According to the NSW Heritage Inventory register, the following (but not limited to) are examples of the work of Slatyer and are heritage listed:
- Former YMCA Building, Pitt Street Sydney
- Frazer Memorial Presbyterian Church, 158 Macquarie Road, Springwood, NSW (Slatyer & Cosh design).
- Mosman Uniting Church and Hall, 38A Belmont Road, Mosman, NSW 2088
- The facade of Museum Towers, 267-277 Castlereagh Street, Sydney
Slatyer also designed many churches, manses, church halls, residential homes, shops, factories. Slatyer was extremely prolific over his career, as Gorman notes (p62), designing one hundred and forty two houses, sixty one shops and factories and seven churches.
Slatyer family in Strathfield
Following the death of the Rev. Slatyer, the Slatyer family moved to Strathfield. The family included Charles Slatyer, his mother Eliza, his sisters and brother. They rented the house ‘Woodbine’ in Broughton Road for a short time in 1884. Mrs Eliza Slatyer purchased land in Broughton Road and built the house ‘Ridgemount’. Charles Slatyer himself purchased adjoining lots which were later sold to Thomas Dickson, who built the home ‘Ethelstone’ (60-70 Broughton Road Strathfield).
‘Ridgemount’ was home to the family but was also the site of a school conducted by Slatyer’s sisters Mary Louisa (d.1934), Eliza Jane (d.1943) and Annie (d.1950). The school was advertised as Misses Slatyer’s school at ‘Ridgemount’, Broughton Road Homebush. Annie was the last surviving sister and died in 1950 leaving an estate valued at over £57,000. ‘Ridgemount’ has since been demolished.
According to electoral rolls, Slatyer’s brother Hampton Slatyer (d.1853-1934) was an agent by occupation but was involved, seemingly controversially, in local politics. Hampton served as an Alderman (Homebush Ward) on Strathfield Council from 1893-97 and stood unsuccessfully as an independent candidate for the federal electorate of Parkes in 1903 and 1906 and NSW electorate of Canterbury in 1901. Slatyer made national news when he successfully sued the Daily Telegraph for libel in 1907 in the District Court for calling him a socialist. Slatyer maintained that labelling him a socialist damaged his chances of success at the election. The Daily Telegraph appealed the decision to the High Court in May 1908, which reversed the District Court decision. As reported in the Hobart Mercury 19 May 1908 under the title “What is a Socialist?”:
“Judgement was given by the High Court today in the appeal from the decision of the Supreme Court reversing the verdict given by Judge Backhouse in the District Court to Hampton Slatyer in an action against the Sydney “Daily Telegraph” for an alleged libel.
Slatyer was a candidate for Parkes at the last federal election and was placed by the ‘Daily Telegraph’ as a socialist. The newspaper had previously published articles in which Socialists were referred to as in favour of the confiscation of property, and Slatyer contended that classing him as a Socialist had mitigated against his chances of success.
The real point in dispute was ‘Can a responsible person reasonably say that publication concerning an individual under the circumstances stating that he was in favour of the confiscation of property, held him up to hatred or contempt?’
The Chief Justice in delivering judgement, said that confiscation might mean confiscation in the sense of plunder, of it might have a much milder meaning; and really in the case before the Court it would be idle to pretend not to know that the word was used in hyperbolic sense very often. he quite agreed with the supreme Court Judges that upon the documents in evidence there were no grounds upon which reasonable persons could attribute to the plaintiff the meaning alleged. Plaintiff in his opening had failed to provide the case set up, and the other Judges concurred.
Mr Justice Issacs, in the course of his judgement, said it was quite true that the plaintiff was called a Socialist candidate. It was quite true that nationalisation was referred to as confiscation, and that the articles referred to an attempt on the part of the party to bring about nationalisation by means of a progressive land tax as a policy of spoliation, but in a community such as this it was impossible to regard these as anything more than strong expressions of opinion regarding policy, and not as imputing, when taken in conjunction with facts upon which the case was based, any moral turpitude”.
Hampton Slatyer died in 1934. An advertisement for probate in the Sydney Morning Herald in 1934 of the estate of Hampton Slatyer, late of ‘Ridgemount’ Homebush indicates that his estate transferred to his sister Annie as his named executor, Charles Slatyer predeceased the estate. Slatyer did not appear to have married or left descendents.
Slatyer and the Todman family
Charles Slatyer lived at ‘Ridgemount’ until his marriage in 1899 at age forty-four to Elsie Todman. Elsie was the daughter of George Todman, founder of the British-American Tobacco Company, director of the Australian Pulp and Paper Company and Director Australia Bank of Commerce. Todman lived at ‘Milroy’ Albert Rd Strathfield and like Slatyer, was a prominent member of the Congregational Church. Todman made significant donations to the Congregational Church and instrumental in the building of the Homebush-Strathfield Congregational Church in 1884.
For many years, Slatyer was the Honorary Secretary of the Homebush-Strathfield Congregational Church and his obituary notes that he also was once Secretary of Camden Congregational College at Newtown. In 1900, the firm of Slatyer and Cosh was commissioned to design the Homebush Congregational Church School (now Korean Parish) which stands aside the church and is located on the corner of Albert Road and Stewart Place Strathfield.
After his marriage, Slatyer often worked on projects associated with the Todman family. In 1906, Slatyer and George Todman, who were only five years apart in age, developed the Kensington Estate, which includes a large part of the Sydney suburb of Kensington. Many streets on this estate are named for the Todman family and their houses in Strathfield including Virginia Street (‘Virginia’ was brother-in-law Charles Todman’s house), Ingram Street (‘Ingram’ is Charles Todman’s middle name), Milroy Avenue (‘Milroy’ is George Todman’s house), Todman Avenue, Winkurra Street (‘Winkurra’ is the home of Walter Buzacott, Slayter’s brother-in-law) and Carminya Street (‘Carminya’ is Slatyer’s home in Strathfield).
As shown below, Slatyer’s architectural firms undertook design of many Todman family homes. Slatyer also undertook the remodelling of George Todman’s mansion ‘Milroy’ which is the subject of a lengthy article with photographs in The Salon magazine (1913).
Charles Slatyer died on 5th June 1919 at his home in Strathfield. He had been suffering from ill-health for about a year prior to his death. Slatyer’s death occurred one week after his election as President of the Institute of Architects. Slatyer was buried at Rookwood Cemetery. After Slatyer’s death, Mrs Elsie Slatyer continued to live at ‘Carminya’ for many years with their children George William (born 1906) and Joyce (born 1911).
Slatyer’s designs in Strathfield
This is a list of known architectural designs by Charles Slatyer in the Strathfield district, which are still in existence.
|Date of construction||Building, architect(s), address, owners|
|1889||‘Glen Luna’ 2-4 Carrington Avenue was designed by Ellis & Slatyer for solicitor Dr George Sly. This is a heritage item on Strathfield Council Local Environmental Plan.|
|1898||Slatyer & Cosh designed ‘Halsbury’ 12-14 Albyn Rd in 1899 for solicitor Dr George Sly. This is a heritage item on Strathfield Council Local Environmental Plan.|
|1893||‘Helikon’ 33 Roberts Street Strathfield designed by Slatyer and Cosh. This item is heritage listed by Burwood Council.|
|1898||Slatyer & Cosh designed extensive additions to ‘Glen Luna’ Carrington Avenue for Dr Sly.|
|1899||‘Carminya’ 25 Homebush Road Strathfield. Designed by Slatyer and Cosh. Home of Charles Slatyer. This is a heritage item on Strathfield Council Local Environmental Plan.|
|1900||Homebush Congregational Church School (now Korean Parish) as Slatyer and Cosh, E H Clarke, builder. This is a heritage item on Strathfield Council Local Environmental Plan.|
|1902||Corfu 113 Albert Road Strathfield. Architects Slatyer & Cosh. Residence of Frank Gaxieu.|
|1906||’Virginia’ Redmyre Road Strathfield for Charles Todman. This is a heritage item on Strathfield Council Local Environmental Plan.|
|1906||‘Winkurra’ Florence Street Strathfield, designed by Slatyer and Shiels. This is a draft heritage item on Strathfield Council Local Environmental Plan.|
|1908||Arnott’s Biscuit Factory, George Street Homebush.|
|1911||Homebush Council Chambers. C H Slatyer, architect and H T Seymour, builder.|
|1912||‘Eurona’ 27 Redmyre Road Strathfield for the Hunter family. This is located in a heritage conservation area.|
|1913||Additions and alterations to ‘Milroy’, George Todman’s house in Albert Road Strathfield.|
|1916||‘Inglethorpe’ Redmyre Road Strathfield. This is a heritage item on Strathfield Council Local Environmental Plan.|
Slatyer also designed ‘Salve’ Albert Road for Joseph Barling, the Undersecretary of NSW Public Works. It was later known as ‘Merley’ when owned by Henry Gorman. This has since been demolished.
Slatyer remodelled ‘Milroy’ Albert Road in 1913 for George Todman. ‘Milroy’ was demolished in the early 1930s.
Gorman, M, The Life and Work of Charles H. Slatyer FIA, UNSW Thesis, 1983.
“Woman’s gifts to charities” (will of Annie Slatyer), Sydney Morning Herald, 15 April 1950
Legal Notices (probate Hampton Slatyer), Sydney Morning Herald, 17 September 1934, p2
“What is a Socialist”, Hobart Mercury, 19 May 1908, page 5
NSW Heritage Office Inventory Register from http://www.heritage.nsw.gov.au
Electorate of Canterbury election results downloaded from http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/resources/nswelectionsanalysis/1901/Canterbury.htm
Sands Sydney Directory for suburbs of Strathfield and Homebush
Gorman (1983), p5
 He first appears in the Sands Sydney Directory of Strathfield in 1886 as the occupant of ‘Woodbine’ in Broughton Rd and from 1887-1899 at ‘Ridgemont’ in Broughton Rd.
 Sydney Morning Herald, 15 April 1950.
 NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.
 Legal Notices, Sydney Morning Herald, 17 September 1934, p2