By Cathy Jones
‘Ellesmere’ 59 Mackenzie St Strathfield was built c.1884-1885. The house ‘Ellesmere’ was located on the corner of Coventry Road (now Mackenzie St) and Elsie Street (now Shortland Rd).
The land on which ‘Ellesmere’ was situated was purchased from the trustees of the Potts Estate, Francis Howard Potts and Donald Fraser, by Julia Rowe Bellingham, widow and Marianne Sinclair, widow, tenants in common, in September 1884.
The house ‘Ellesmere’ was built shortly after in late 1884 or early 1885 for Mrs Julia Bellingham and Mrs Marianne Sinclair (nee Bellingham). Julia Bellingham ( – 1897) was the mother of Marianne Sinclair (1840 – 1925), and widow of Francis Bellingham of Hunters Hill. Marianne Sinclair was the widow of Charles Alan Sinclair, who she married in 1872 but died in 1876.
Mrs Bellingham lived in the house until c.1892, following it was occupied by tenants until it was next sold in 1917. From c.1903-1925, Marianne Sinclair and Miss Frances Bellingham, likely a relation, occupied a house next to ‘Ellesmere’ on Elsie St (now Shortland Avenue) called ‘Cren-Dah’.
From 1896-1897, the house was occupied by artist and ornithologist Gracius Broinowski (1837-1913) (Sands). Broinowski was born in Poland and migrated to Australia c.1857, to avoid conscription into the Russian Imperial Army, as deckhand on a boat bound for Victoria (Bright Sparks). For the next fifteen years, he painted landscapes and scenes of various towns often using the pseudonym Gracius C Brown or Gracius J Browne. He taught painting privately in schools and lectured on art and exhibited at various showings of the Royal Art Society.
In the 1880’s Broinowski was commissioned by the Department of Public Instruction in New South Wales to supply them with pictures of Australian Birds and Mammals. He published the book ‘The Birds and Mammals of Australia’ (1884) and the ‘The Cockatoos and Nestors of Australia and New Zealand’ (1888). His greatest and most lasting work was ‘The Birds of Australia’ in six volumes 1887-1891. Broinowski died in 1913 at the age of 76 at Mosman and was survived by his wife and six sons.
Another tenant of ‘Ellesmere’ from c.1899 to 1904 was John Johns and his family, who resided at ‘Ellesmere’ from c.1899 to 1904. The Johns family operated for many generations a City based footwear business, specialising in boots and orthopaedic footwear. The Johns family were prominent in Homebush and were parishioners of the Homebush Methodist Church [now Uniting Church], cnr Burlington Rd and Meredith St. There were a number of branches of the Johns family residing in Homebush in Burlington and Abbotsford Rd. A number of references to the Johns family exist in the interior of the Homebush Uniting Church such as inscriptions, stained glass windows and tablets.
Following Mrs Bellingham’s death, ‘Ellesmere’s’ ownership transferred [by transmission] to Marianne Sinclair of Homebush, widow and Arthur Bellingham of Sydney, on 29 October 1909. In 1917, Lars Christofferson, a gas stoker, purchased ‘Ellesmere’ and resided there until 1935.
During his Chrisofferson’s ownership, the grounds of ‘Ellesmere’ were subdivided from the house. In January 1929, lots 1 & 2 of the new deposit plan DP15741 were sold to William Freeborn, while ‘Ellesmere’ property remained on lots 3 & 4 of DP15741.
In November 1935, ‘Ellesmere’ was sold to Charles Walter Spencer of Glebe, builder. In 1936, Spencer further sub-divided these lots and a new DP 157841 was issued. Part lot 4 was sold to Arthur Lovel Jordan, builder, in 1938. Spencer remained the owner of Corner Lot B, on which ‘Ellemere’ was located.
‘Enchanting Ellesmere, graceful Victorian’, Western Suburbs Courier, August 17 1993, p.23
‘Gracius Broinowski’, Bright Sparcs Biographical Entry, Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre at http://www.asap.unimelb.edu.au
Jones, C, 2004, ‘Ellesmere’, Strathfield District Historical Society Newsletter
Land Title Search, 2004, NSW Land Titles Office
Malcolm, S. ‘Joseph Hyde Potts’ Crown Grant – a sidelight’, Strathfield District Historical Society Newsletter vol. 3 no. 4 Nov-Dec 1980
Death Notice, 1897 20 September, Sydney Morning Herald (Julia Bellingham)
NSW Register of Births, Deaths and Marriages.
Sands Sydney Directory published by John Sands until 1932/3