by Cathy Jones 2021
‘Darenth’ 32-34 Albyn Road Strathfield was built in 1896. The house was designed by architect George Sydney Jones, son of Dr (later Sir) Phillip Sydney Jones (1836-1918), who owned and financed the building of the house. The house, while owned by Dr Jones, was designed to be the private residence of the Reverend George Littlemore, Minister of the Burwood and later Strathfield Congregational Church. The Trinity Congregational Church was gazetted on the State Heritage Register in 2003.
The Register of the National Estate listing describes the house as:
“‘Darenth’ is a single storey house of face brick in stretcher bond, tuck pointed and colour washed. The roof of unglazed Marseille tiles is broken into a number of hipped and gabled forms, and there is a prominent corner tower with a tall pyramidal roof of flat terra cotta shingles. The front verandah has turned timber posts and timber brackets. The architectural style is mainly Federation period Arts and Crafts style, shown in features such as the long runs of roof and exposed eaves; the use of timber shingles for fascias and over the entrance porch; the variety of window shapes including bulls eye and horseshoe; and the tones of face brick and tiles using decorative moulded bricks for string courses and hood moulds. At the same time there are a number of unconventional features including the split level plan, banded brick chimneys and curious corner brick buttresses which extend above the eaves line to form square topped pilasters, a typical Federation Free style motif. There are unsympathetic modern openings in the front wall. A mature front garden conceals the house from the street. There is a brick and timber picket front fence. The rear garden has been altered to accommodate and elevated patio and swimming pool.”
The Jones family were prominent and devout members of the Congregational Church. Retailer David Jones, Dr Jones’ father, was a foundation member of the Camden Congregational College at Newtown. Dr Phillip Sydney Jones himself was deeply religious and married Hannah, the daughter of the Rev. George Charter. He also served on the Camden College Council. Though born in Sydney, he was educated at the University College London. He returned to Sydney in 1861 and commenced his practice in College St Sydney. He was appointed honorary surgeon to the Sydney Hospital and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, also acting as an examiner in medicine at the University of Sydney. He was particularly noted for his work with tuberculosis, establishing the Queen Victoria Homes for Consumptives at King’s Tableland in Wentworth Falls and a similar home in Thirlmere. He was knighted for his work in 1905. He served on several Royal Commissions and was President of the NSW Medical Board. He served as vice-chancellor of Sydney University (1904-1906).
Sir Phillip Sydney Jones was considered the most eminent of Strathfield’s early residents, building ‘Llandilo’ The Boulevarde Strathfield (c.1878). He advocated improving public health measures by establishing homes in open and clean air environments away from overcrowded cities, believing this caused the spread infectious and deadly diseases such as consumption. He was the first physician to establish residence in the suburbs outside of Sydney city. In Oasis in the West (1985), Michael Jones states that Dr Phillip Sydney Jones ‘helped make Strathfield respectable for professional men rather than just an area in which newly wealthy merchants and real estate agents could flaunt their wealth’.
The Jones’ in Strathfield were part of a large extended family including the Thompsons, Wilshires, Notts, related by birth and/or marriage, who lived in the Strathfield and Burwood areas in the late 19th century and early 20th century. The families were members of the Burwood Congregational Church, where the Rev. George Littlemore had been appointed as Minister in xx. It was during this period that the house ‘Darenth’ was built and Littlemore commenced his lifetime occupation of the house.
In 1889, Rev. Littlemore and a number of church members, including the Jones extended family, left the Burwood Congregational Church due to a division of theological opinion within the church community. On Sunday May 5 1889 a number of church members, together with the Rev. George Littlemore, Burwood’s former pastor, met for worship in the Burwood School of Arts and subsequently 48 persons enrolled as members of the church that became the Trinity Congregational Church on The Boulevarde (Congregational Year Book 1977). Margaret Hay recalled (1962) that
‘Harold (Thompson) in a letter mentioned ‘the greatest excitement in our circle now is the unfortunate row at Burwood Church – half the members want to get the parson to resign but the other are determined he shall not leave.’ Eventually the Rev. George Littlemore much beloved by at least half the congregation left Burwood to become the minister at the new Church’.
Given the support, including financial support, provided to Rev. Littlemore by Dr Jones and his extended family and friends, including provision of a home residence at ‘Darenth’, the move to breakaway from the Burwood Church and establish a new Church was viable. In 1889, the Strathfield Trinity Congregational Church on The Boulevarde was built and opened, partly funded by Dr Jones and his brother-in-law stockbroker Thomas James Thompson (1830-1917). The architects of the Trinity Church were George Sydney Jones and his cousin architect Harry Thompson, acting in an honorary capacity (Hay 1962).
George Sydney Jones (1868-1927) was the architect of the two buildings associated with his father, Dr Phillip Sydney Jones and the Rev. George Littlemore. Jones was a prominent and much respected and influential Sydney based architect in the late 19th and early 20th century. He spent his youth and early adult years in Strathfield, notably in his father’s residence ‘Llandilo’ The Boulevarde Strathfield (now Trinity Grammar Preparatory School). He was educated in architecture in London, qualifying for the diploma of Associate in the Royal Institute of British Architects (ARIBA) in 1890. Upon returning to Australia in 1891 and started his own architectural practice. He was elected a Fellow of the NSW Institute 1896-1901, Editor of Art & Architecture 1909-1912 and President of the NSW Institute of Architects (1912-1914 & 1920-21). He is also credited for organising the first conference of Australian architects in 1901. As he wrote frequently on architecture and was editor of Art & Architecture (1909-1912), his views had considerable influence on other architects of this period.
The design of ‘Darenth’ followed his design of ‘Springfort’, 108 Redmyre Road Strathfield in 1894. Jones has been described as an Australian nationalist, who advanced theories that architecture must reflect its own culture (Hannan 1979). Jones’s designs strongly incorporated the view, no doubt influenced by his father, that building and architecture should incorporate sound health practices, such integration of buildings with natural surroundings and access to open air and ventilation. Hamann (1979) notes that Jones developed a social theory of architecture and saw ‘architecture as a means of developing and shaping public morality’. These principles are evident in the design of ‘Darenth’.
Dr Phillip Sydney Jones died in November 1918. On 21 June 1919, an advertisement featured in the Sydney Morning Herald advertising the sale of a number of properties owned by Jones, including his residence ‘Llandilo’ (The Boulevarde) and ‘Darenth’ Albyn-street. The advertisement stated:
‘Cottage residence of brick, shingle roof, contains 8 rooms, kitchen, pantry, storeroom, bathroom and laundry. Land 100 x 200. Torrens Title. Occupied by Rev. Littlemore on a monthly tenancy’
The Rev. George Littlemore continued to lease ‘Darenth’ until his death in 1929, despite change of ownership after Dr Jones’ death in 1918.
‘Darenth’ was sold to F L Rolin around 1919. By 1927, ownership transferred to Clarence Charles Moore Brennand. By 1939, ownership transferred to the Brennand estate and then to the Maitland family, who are likely relatives of Brenand. In the 1950’s, the house was sold to Richard Van Dyke.
‘Darenth’ is listed as a Heritage Item on Strathfield Council LEP and as an indicative place on the Register of National Estate. It has been classified by the National Trust and is an item on the Royal Australian Institute of Architects [RAIA] List of Significant Twentieth Century Buildings.
Advertising, 1919, June 21, The Sydney Morning Herald, p. 17.
Department of Valuer-General, Valuation Lists, Municipality of Strathfield
Fox & Associates, Strathfield Heritage Study, 1986.
Garrett, John, ‘Sir Phillip Sydney Jones’, Australian Dictionary of Biography 1851-1890 Vol.4, Douglas Pike (ed), Melbourne University Press, 1972.
Hannan, Conrad, 1979, ‘Forgotten Reformer: the architecture of George Sydney Jones 1865-1927’, Architecture Australia, Oct/Nov, page 40
Hay, M Dalrymple, 1962, The Thompson Story, (unpublished manuscript held by National Library).
Jones, Michael, 1985, Oasis in the West, Allen & Unwin
Kemp, C. 1994, ‘Architects of Flat-roofed houses in the early 20th century Sydney’, Essay for Master of the Built Environment (Conservation), UNSW, 1994.
Kennedy, Reg, 1987, Trinity (Congregational) Church Strathfield, Strathfield District Historical Society Newsletter, Vol.9 No.5 January 1987.
Littlemore, George, 1894, In Memoriam Edward Lloyd Jones and Harry Berry, S T Leigh & Co Printers Sydney.
Strathfield Council Valuation Lists 1894-1920
Photo of ‘Darenth’ 2021 by Cathy Jones
‘Darenth’ sketch by George Sydney Jones. Featured in Art & Architecture 1979.
Jones, Cathy (2021), ‘Darenth’ 32-34 Albyn Road Strathfield, Strathfield Heritage, https://strathfieldheritage.com/streetnames/albyn-road-strathfield/darenth-albyn-rd-strathfield/
(c) Cathy Jones 2021