by Cathy Jones
‘Bellevue’ is a two storey Federation house constructed of rendered brick with feature stone. The house is set well back from Victoria Street and features extensive front gardens. This is one of Strathfield’s finest homes and best examples of the country estate style estate which Strathfield was known for.
The land on which “Bellevue” was built formed part of a crown grant of 570 acres to James Wilshire in 1810, which was later subdivided in 1867 as the “Redmire Estate”. The first recorded residence in Strathfield was Thomas Henderson’s ‘Seven Oaks Farm’. Title was transferred to his son Charles Alfred Henderson and in 1913, the land was subdivided into residential lots and sold as the ‘Hatherley Estate’. Lots 12 & 13 were purchased by Ernest Laurence. Each lot on the southern side of Victoria Street was 100 feet wide and over 300 feet in length. The huge land lots encouraged the building of large houses with substantial gardens. In the 1910s and early 1920s, a number of large mansions were built on the southern side of Victoria Street including ‘Belclutha’, ‘Swanton’, ‘Cheppen’, “Girraween’, ‘Bellevue’ and ‘Brockby Lodge’. ‘Swanton’ ‘Girraween’ and ‘Cheppen’ were demolished in the late 1960s and the cul-de-sac Summit Place was developed.
The house ‘Bellevue’ was built in 1914 for Ernest Laurence (1876-1963), a solicitor. Strathfield Council meeting minutes record approval for the erection of a brick house in Victoria Street on April 14 1914 for applicant Ernest Laurence. It is likely the architects were H E Ross & Rowe, Equitable Chambers, City. A tender issued in January 1914 for builders from these architects to build a house on Homebush Road and Victoria Street Strathfield. At this time the described location was vacant land and no other construction fits the location and timeframe.
Ernest Laurence was the son of solicitor Charles Laurence, who served as Mayor of Manly Council and as an Alderman of Ashfield Council. Laurence achieved fame at age 10 as the ‘Little Boy from Manly’, after writing to NSW Premier W B Dalley in 1895 offering contents of his moneybox to patriotic funds for Sudan Contingent. Using this incident as inspiration, cartoonist Livingston Hopkins developed the cartoon the ‘Little Boy from Manly’ to symbolise New South Wales in the period before Federation. An article published in The Argus in 1948 discussing national symbols referred to the enduring appeal of the Little Boy from Manly and stated:
“Here, in his own words, is the story as told by “Hop”: “In the early days, whenever we had occasion for a goddess or other personification of Australia, we found Minerva rather difficult to acclimatise. There was, therefore, a vacancy in the Bulletin office for some mythological figure to make itself generally useful. When the Soudan Contingent was under marching orders, a generous and patriotic public showered money and gifts on the enterprise. In the published list of contributors was a donation of a penny from ‘A Little Boy at Manly.’ He typified the well-meant impetuosity of a young colony, and eventually represented the State of New South Wales, and then Australia, in many Bulletin cartoons.” The original of the “Little Boy” was the son of the senior partner, now deceased, in a well-known Sydney legal firm, of which he, himself, is a leading member today.”
This cartoon featured for many years in The Bulletin magazine. Laurence, described as the ‘original of Hop’s “little boy from Manly” attended Livingstone’s funeral in 1927.
Laurence was admitted to practice as a solicitor in 1901 and in 1902, he married Isabelle Spiers Brown. Laurence served as Alderman on Strathfield Council from 1915-20 and as Mayor in 1917-18. Laurence died in 1963.
During Laurence’s ownership, the property time included the site of No. 6 Victoria Street, which was a tennis court. Laurence lived at ‘Bellevue’ until 1935.
In June 1935, ownership of the house was transferred to Alfred Heine of Heine Engineering for £6450. In 1952, Heine subdivided the grounds of “Bellevue” at the eastern boundary on the former tennis court. This subdivision created 6 Victoria Street. Heine built a brick dwelling of seven rooms, offices, servants quarters and garage at the cost of £18,000.
In 1952 ‘Bellevue’ was transferred to the NSW Department of Community Services and renamed Winbin, which, in the local, Aboriginal dialect, means “children’s home”. The Department expanded the west wing, to create a children’s dormitory.
In 1992, the property was sold by the NSW Government at auction. The house is currently in private ownership.
Gibbney & Smith (1987), A Biographical register 1788-1939: notes from name index of the Australian Dictionary of Biography Vol II L-Z, National Library of Australia.
“Origin of a Symbol.” The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956) 2 Oct 1948: 10 Supplement: The Argus WEEK-END MAGAZINE. Web. 6 Apr 2012 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article22676177>.
‘Funeral Mr L Livingstone’, Sydney Morning Herald, 23 August 1927
Sands Sydney Suburban Directory 1914-1932
Strathfield Council Notices of Land Transfer
Strathfield Council Valuation Records
Strathfield Council Building Registers and Council minutes
- TENDERS. (1914, January 27). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 5. Retrieved August 28, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15491847
Williams, L ‘How a little boy stirs up big trouble with the neighbours’, Sydney Morning Herald June 25 2005 downloaded from http://www.smh.com.au/news/world/how-a-little-boy-stirs-up-big-trouble-with-the-neighbours/2005/06/24/1119321905362.html on 7 December 2010
(c) Cathy Jones 2012.