By Cathy Jones
Coventry Road Strathfield is situated on land originally granted in 1793 by the NSW Colonial Government to a group of free settlers, including Frederick Meredith, Edward Powell and Thomas Rose, in an area known as Liberty Plains. The intention of the land grants was to establish farms and food supply for the growing colony. The land proved difficult to farm and the settlers abandoned farming activity and moved from their land. Eventually, this land and other land located in the current day Homebush West and Homebush (both sides of the railway line) came under the ownership of James Underwood, Edward Powell’s son-in-law. The land became known as the ‘Underwood Estate’.
By 1878 when the section of the ‘Underwood Estate’ known as the ‘Village of Homebush’ was subdivided, residential development of the suburbs of Strathfield (then Redmire) had already commenced. The large ‘Redmire Estate’ commenced residential subdivision in 1867 and by the late 1870s, large homes for wealthy merchants and businessmen were being built in Strathfield. In 1877, a rail halt and later a station was established at Redmire.
A railway halt and later a station was established at Homebush in 1855, which was intended to service the Homebush Racecourse, sited north of the current railway line. There is little evidence of development on the south side of the Homebush Railway until the development of the ‘Village of Homebush’ estate from 1878 onwards.
‘The Village of Homebush’ estate is a section, measuring 306 acres, of the ‘Underwood Estate’. it is located south of the railway. The land was purchased by a group who intended to subdivide the land for residential development. The group included: William George Pennington, William Henry Mackenzie Snr, John Piper Mackenzie, Robert John King, and Charles Wye Weekes.
The ‘estate’ created Burlington Rd, Beresford Road, Abbotsford Rd, Bridge St, Coventry Rd, Meredith St, Homebush Crescent and Bellevue Street. Parts of Coventry Road have been renamed. In July 1918, the section of Coventry Road from Elsie Street (now Shortland Avenue) to The Crescent was renamed Mackenzie Street. Bellevue Street was renamed Homebush Road and Homebush Crescent was renamed The Crescent.
‘Verona’ was built during 1886-1887 for its owner Andrew Arndell (d.1936) and wife, Amelia (d.1935). This was the first house built on the north side of Coventry Road and one of the oldest surviving houses on the 1878 Village of Homebush Estate.
Arndell was the great-grandson of Surgeon Thomas Arndell, R.N., one of the medical officers who arrived in Sydney on the First Fleet in January 1788. Arndell joined the Postal Department in 1872, and he became appointment clerk in 1896, and chief clerk in 1904. Later he held the position of head of the appointments branch and upon his retirement was Deputy Postmaster General.
Their son, Leslie Reading Arndell, was killed in action in 1917 serving in the AIF during WWI. Details of his service are available here.
Arndell was the owner of ‘Verona’ until c.1918, when ownership of the house transferred to Thomas Weymark. Weymark sold this house to Douglas James Gibbons, a builder, in February 1927 for a purchase price of £1500. Around 1936, Gibbons sold the house to Hilda Myrtle Fulton, who lived at ‘Verona’ until c.1942, when the house was transferred to Florence Grennan. By 1951, the house was owned by Theo Richard Rossi, a company director and his wife, Mary. Mary Rossi was one of Australia’s first female compares on TV but established Mary Rossi travel. She received an OBE in 1979. Theo passed away at Strathfield in 2010 and Mary died in 2021 at age 95.
‘MR. ANDREW JOHNSTON ARNDELL’. (1936 August 28). Windsor and Richmond Gazette (NSW : 1888 – 1961), p. 4. , viewed 12 Jul 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article86044692
‘OBITUARY’ (Mrs Amelia Arndell), (1935 April 19). 0Windsor and Richmond Gazette (NSW : 1888 – 1961), 19 April, p. 12. , viewed 12 Jul 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article85798090
‘Family Notices’, The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), (1889 29 June), p. 1. , viewed 12 Jul 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article28337841
Department of the Valuer General NSW – Valuation List – Valuation District of Strathfield
Mary Rossi obituary, 2021, viewed at https://www.smh.com.au/national/tv-presenter-was-also-leading-travel-agent-and-mother-of-10-20210531-p57wqg.html
Sands Sydney and Suburban Directory
Strathfield Council Building Register
Strathfield Council Valuation Lists