by Cathy Jones
‘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’ is a Victorian Italianate styled building. The house was built in 1886 for John Spencer Brunton, a member of the prominent Brunton flour milling family of NSW and Victoria. The name of the house is likely derived from owner’s surname ‘Brunton’ and the Aboriginal word ‘Yarra’ meaning ‘ever flowing’.
Brunyarra is representative of the grand homes of Strathfield built in late 19th century by prominent business and professional men. Other Victorian period homes on The Boulevarde included ‘Llandilo’; the home of Sir Phillip Sydney Jones and ‘Glen Luna’ home of prominent solicitor George Sly. ‘Brunyarra’ is a heritage listed item on Strathfield Council’s Local Environmental Plan.
Brunyarra is built in a Victorian Italianate style. According to its heritage statement of significance: ‘Brunyarra’ 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 1896 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 rewards 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 Company 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, updated 2023)
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