Friday, 22 February 2008

Victorian Domestic Architecture: Dappeto, built 1885. Girls' Home, Retirement Village

171 Wollongong Road, Arncliffe. A very interesting history associated with this building...including playing its part in the institutional care of girls, with the chequered legacy that left...but first:

One of the finest examples of High Victorian architecture. Built 1885 by oyster merchant Frederick Gibbins (1841 - 1917). Constructed of sandstock face bricks mixed with whale oil to protect against dampness. Patterned Welsh slate roof, surmounted by ornate Captain's Walk.

Gibbins made a fortune as an oyster merchant with leases on nearly all the rivers of northern NSW. He built his own ships to transfer the oysters to Sydney where he had his head office and depot. In 1907, Gibbins' daughter, Ada married naturalist David Stead. Gibbins bought another local house, Lydham Hall, for Ada and Stead. Ada was Stead's second wife; he and his first wife, Ellen Butters, who died in 1904, were parents of Christina Stead (b 1902), who became a noted author. Her works included The Seven Poor Men of Sydney, Letty Fox Her Luck, The Man Who Loved Children. Stead lived most of her life outside of Australia, and was probably most known in the USA. (Lydham Hall was bought by Rockdale Council in 1970. They operate it as a museum. Though close by, it is in Postcode 2216 - Rockdale so out of the scope of this blog!)

Stead wrote of her stepmother, Ada Gibbins: " My stepmother did not like me, very natural, as I was the kind of child only a mother could love and then probably with doubts: her treatment of me was dubious. Sometimes servants thought I was my father’s illegitimate child, at other times, they fancied I was an orphan on my stepmother’s side: friends who came to the house took me aside and told me what I owed the kind people who had taken me in." Here's a fascinating piece about Christina Stead.

When Gibbins died in 1917, the property was bought by the Salvation Army.

From 1917 to 1965 they operated it as a girls' home. In 1916 it was called Arncliffe Girls' Industrial Home; in 1930 it became The Nest - Children's Home and between 1941 and 1969 The Nest - Girls Home. (Information from Senate Inquiry into Children in Institutional Care 2004). Part of the land was subdivided and sold.

In 1969 the Salvos turned it into an aged care home and retirement village. One of the conditions imposed by Council ws that the original building had to be restored. It is still serving that function, and is called "Macquarie Lodge".

Information from: A Village Called Arncliffe by R. W. Rathbone, 1997 and

*David George STEAD was born 6 MAR 1877 in Mount Street, North Sydney, NSW, and died 2 AUG 1957 in Watson's Bay, NSW. Son of Christina McLaren and Samuel Stead. He married Ellen "Nellie" BUTTERS 17 AUG 1901 in Sydney, NSW, daughter of Richard Cameron BUTTERS and Mary BOOTE. She was born 1876 in Sofala, NSW, and died 9 DEC 1904in Camperdown, NSW. He married Ada "Tot" GIBBINS 1 JAN 1907 in "Dappeto", Bexley, NSW, daughter of Frederick GIBBINS and Catherine PICKETT. She was born 12 JUL 1878 in Clarence Street, Sydney, NSW, and died 2 JUN 1951 in Mortdale, NSW. He married Thistle Yolette HARRIS 13 JUN 1951 in Bondi, NSW, daughter of Charles Thomas HARRIS and Ilma Richardson ROKES. She was born 29 JUL 1902 in Mosman, NSW, and died 5 JUL 1990 in Summer Hill,NSW.


CaBaCuRl said...

As a student at Athelstane primary school from 1958-1964, many of the 'Home girls' as they were known were at school with me. I'm ashamed to say other students (myself included) were very unkind to them. They used to have their lunches wrapped in linen cloths,like serviettes, and often had things like beetroot or jam on their sandwiches, and pieces of stale cake too.They wore a school uniform that was different from what the rest of us wore. I can still remeber the names of some of the girls and they were generally socially isolated at school.

Anonymous said...

I was one of those "home girls" and school was pretty miserable. I was pretty bright but still had to sit up the back of the classroom. I will never forget the beetroot sandwiches.

Anonymous said...

I also was a home girl for 4 years in the 60s. The kids at Athelstane kids used to call us Gutter girls. We were isolated not only at the school, except for a couple of wonderful teachers and we were isolated in the home away from family support other kids take for granted. Glad some people realise it was unkind.
Remember the cold mashed potato scoop placed next to the beetroot and the horrible weevil porridge? The poor little kids who wet their beds and had to take their own mattress out to dry in the sun just because we weren't allowed to go to the bathroom during the night. Can't believe the places were called 'charitable' institutions.

Lert said...

I went to Athelstane from day 1 (after walking down from the old Wilson Rd school) to end 1955 and well remember the 'home' girls and the beetroot sandwiches. It was also during this time that the original Athelstane house was demolished. Also remember the warm milk under the big Magnolia tree..