‘Brunyarra’ The Boulevarde Strathfield

“Brunyarrra” c.early 1900s

‘Brunyarra’ is located within the grounds of Santa Maria Del Monte, the junior campus of Santa Sabina Catholic College Strathfield.  The former house is situated near the corner of The Boulevarde and Carrington Avenue Strathfield.

‘Brunyarra’, a Victorian Italianate styled building, was built in 1886 for John Spencer Brunton, of a prominent Brunton flour milling family of NSW and Victoria.  The name of the house is obviously derived from owner’s surname ‘Brunton’ and the Aboriginal word ‘Yarra’ meaning ‘ever flowing’.

Brunyarra is a significant heritage property and representative of the grand homes of Strathfield built in late 19th century by prominent business and professional men along The Boulevarde. Other homes such as ‘Llandilo’; the home of Sir Phillip Sydney Jones and ‘Glen Luna’ home of prominent solicitor George Sly are examples of other grand homes built during the Victorian period. ‘Brunyarra’ is a heritage listed item on Strathfield Council’s Local Environmental Plan.

'Brunyarra' The Boulevarde Strathfield. Photo Cathy Jones 2016.
‘Brunyarra’ The Boulevarde Strathfield. Photo Cathy Jones 2016.

Brunyarra is built in the styling of the Victorian Italianate mode and exhibits a very solid and sedate façade. Characteristics contributing to this include attractive verandahs and balconies achieved by an agreeable blending of moulded balustrades, sturdy columns with large bases, ornate capitals and string brackets, round-headed windows in recessed arch surrounds; an obtrusive low pitched roof; and a six-panel entrance door flanked by sidelights and topped by a fanlight, each with art nouveau motifs. An annexe was later built on the northern side, as was the enclosure of the side balcony and some additions at the rear.

John Spencer Brunton (1861-1937) was a prominent flour miller and racehorse owner.  Bruton was the son of Thomas Brunton MLC (1831-1908), who founded Australian Flour Mills in Victoria in 1868.  Brunton was educated at Scotch College Melbourne and upon leaving, he entered the flourmilling business which was founded in 1868 by his father. In 1881, a branch of the business was established in the Sydney suburb of Granville. The company’s business rapidly grew and the brands of its products became as well known in London and in the East as they were in Sydney and Melbourne.  Brunton became a senior partner of the company. He was a member of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce for a long period and held the position of president in 1898-1899. He also served on Sydney City Council as an Alderman for Lang Ward from 1914 to 1917.

Brunton married twice.  His first wife died in 1890 and he remarried in 1898 to Eleanor Thorne.  Mrs Brunton was known in charitable circles and was the first honorary treasurer of the New South Wales division of the Red Cross Society and a life-governor of the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children, Camperdown.   Brunton’s son John married the Jocelyn, daughter of architect Howard Joseland in 1923.

Brunton was an influential member of local Strathfield community.  He was a member of the prestigious and influential Strathfield Recreation Club and served as President in 1896.  Brunton also lent support to the early boulevarding and street planting programs in Strathfield Municipality, where street planting costs were shared between Strathfield Council and residents. Brunton personally posted reward for the capture of the person(s) responsible for stealing the newly planted street trees on The Boulevarde.

Brunton was also widely known as an owner of racing horses. He began to race his own horses in the early part of the 1900s and rarely missed a race meeting.  His best known horses were “Jocelyn” whose wins included the Metropolitan, a race also won by her dam, “Maltine”; “Homer”, who dead-heated with Allunga in the Derby, “Carry On” who won the Australian Cup.

In 1908, Brunton sold ‘Brunyarra’ and moved to the Eastern Suburbs.  He was later the owner of “Gladswood House”, Edgecliff, a baronial style mansion which is heritage listed item.  He left an estate valued for £56,715 and directed that his executors should erect a fountain at the mill of Brunton and Com- pany Ltd. and place on it an urn containing his ashes with the inscription   “The mill will never grind, with water that has passed.”

Edward Scholes purchased “Brunyarra” for £3,900 in 1908.  Scholes (1858-1933) was a barrister and then Judge of the District Court and Acting President of the New South Wales Industrial Court.  Scholes had long involvement in local government, serving as an Alderman on Burwood Council for twelve years, Mayor (1891) and member of the Committee of the Municipal Association of New South Wales.

By 1918, ‘Brunyarra’ was sold to Albert Grace, who with his brother Joseph Neal Grace, founded Grace Brothers stores in 1885. The house was sold to Mrs Mary Bailey in 1928, who changed the name of the house to ‘Del Monte’ and established a prominent function and wedding reception centre.  In her later years and with deteriorating health, Mrs Bailey lived in her private quarters and was attended by the Dominican Sisters. Mrs Bailey died in May 1950 leaving the property to the Dominican Sisters.

With the increased numbers of primary aged enrolments and difficulties in accommodating students at Santa Sabina, in 1951 the Dominican Sisters opted to relocate the primary school to the ‘Del Monte’ property which is situated almost directly opposite Santa Sabina on The Boulevarde.  The new junior school was renamed ‘Santa Maria Del Monte’, maintaining Mrs Bailey’s ‘Del Monte’ as part of the new name of the school.

In 1998, the Dominican Sisters established the Mary Bailey Early Education Centre at Santa Maria Del Monte in remembrance of Mrs Bailey’s bequest.


Jones, C (2011), John Spencer Brunton biography

Jones, C (2010), “Federation Tour of Strathfield”.

Author:  Cathy Jones (2011)

(c) Cathy Jones 2011.  Pursuant to the provisions of the Copyright Act 1968, no permission is given to any person to reproduce any work.  Existing publications do not assign or imply any ownership by any other person by the author.  No permission is given by the author for any commercial advantage to any person or organisation.

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