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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Elmhurst - Demise

The recent bushfires in the Blue Mountains wreaked havoc on a great many properties and tragically, many residents lost both homes and personal possessions. It is with sadness that I also report on the loss of 'Elmhurst,' which was built and was the one time home of the Ipendanz family prior to purchase by the Catholic Church.  The property was left to fall into a state of decay unfortunately when it was abandoned as the administration block for St Columba's High School.

The property was listed on Blue Mountains City Council Heritage List and a report carried out by Professsor Ian Jack attests to its historic importance.  It is sad that properties like this are not utilised to avoid their demise. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Springwood Church of England Grammar School for Girls

Normanhurst which became the Springwood
Church of England Girls Grammar School

Miss Rhoda Griffin was the eldest child of Alexander and Harriet Griffin and her siblings were Harriet, Alexander and Charles.  She established a private venture (non government) girl’s school in ‘Normanhurst’ Springwood around the turn of the century.[1]  Although the foundation date of the original school is purely speculative, local newspapers do imply it was operational by 1903/4.  In fact the Nepean Times reported a serious incident that occurred in 1904 whereby a student avoided a nasty accident when her hair almost caught fire.[2]  More bad luck followed several years later when the entire college burnt down as a result of a fire suspected of originating in the kitchen.[3] Rebuilding obviously proceeded smoothly because the school was back in business by December 1909, when the local tome announced a recital and the annual distribution of prizes.  The school suffered a close call again in 1915 when it was threatened by bush fires raging in the area at the time.

Additional accommodation for the school, located on Bathurst Road (now the Great Western Highway) was provided when Rhoda purchased ‘Woodneck’ in 1907.  She was the owner of both properties when she died at St. Peters in 1920.  After she passed away the property passed to her sister-in-law, May/Marie Louisa (nee Sampson) who had married Miss Griffin’s brother Alexander.[4]
One of Miss Griffin’s pupils was Janet Keats (nee le Brun Brown) who went on to become a noted soprano and actress using the name Barbara Russell. She was the daughter of grazier Walterus le Brun and Emmeline Hanniford (nee Fletcher).  After the death of her mother Janet was sent to and attended the Springwood school for only for a short time c1912/13.  She was not impressed with the school and left due to suffering, amongst other deprivations, the physical discomforts of cold showers which, for obvious reasons, were the bane of many children attending schools in the Blue Mountains at that time.  Janet was removed and sent to board at Gosford Girls School which, in later years, she related was a much happier place.  Janet married composer Horace Keats, one of the founders of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and – in 1946 -  Hugh MaCrae the poet.[5]

Little else is known about the school but it would seem that Miss Griffin may have retired due to ill health because her sister-in-law was in charge of the school by 1918.  However, by 1923 the school was operated by Miss Florence Hutchinson Bradford.

According to information supplied by Ku-ring-gai Council, Florence Bradford founded ‘Willandra College’ in William Street, Hornsby in 1910.  In 1913 the college moved to the corner of Duff Street and Lane Cove Road (now the Pacific Highway) Turramurra where it remained until it closed in 1916.[6]  Miss Bradford relocated to ‘Silva Plana’ in Springwood – the one-time home of John Frazer – but found the home too small for her requirements.  When she took over Miss Griffin’s school she changed the name of the house to ‘Willandra.’
Miss Bradford was the eldest child of Alfred and Lucy (nee Barrett) Bradford and her siblings were Ernest Alfred, Elizabeth and Walter.  Ernest went on to become the Mayor of Hurstville Council 1916-17.[7]

Rate records note the school was known variously as ‘Florence Bradford’s Ladies College’ or ‘Willandra Girls Grammar School’ until it was changed to Springwood Church of England Grammar School sometime before 1938.[8]  A photograph that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald in 1926 suggests the name change may have occurred around that time as the caption stated the property was under the jurisdiction of the Church of England Anglican Synod.[9]  The Sydney Morning Herald in June reported that the Rev. H. Dempster, rector of Springwood,  resigned as chair of the school council - due to ill health – and even though he remained on the committee his place had been filled by Mr. F.A. Bland, MA, LLB who was a lecturer at the University.[10]

Advertisements appearing in the Sydney papers illustrate the school was well equipped with its own dairy, vegetable gardens and playing fields.  In 1932 Miss E Lance was the senior mistress assisting Miss Bradford who was listed as the Principal.[11] Prior to that, a Miss Ethel St. John Clarke was appointed as senior mistress in 1927.  Although nothing is known about Miss Lance, Miss Clarke was well suited to take on the responsibilities because she had a BA from Melbourne University, had taught overseas and was a member of Oxford University.[12] Miss Clarke retired at the end of 1927.[13]

A former pupil from Miss Bradford’s time was artist, printmaker, designer and teacher, Thea Waddell (nee Hogg).  Thea completed her primary education in the Springwood school until successfully winning a scholarship to attend Kambala at Rose Bay where she received her Intermediate Certificate in 1940.[14]  In adult life Thea (1925-2008) was a patron of the arts in Sydney.
Joan Harris, another student, went on to have a career of some note when she became the youngest person to pass the conveyance-at-law in 1930.[15] Miss Bradford’s obituary implied that her long successful scholastic career had been responsible for placing some of her students - like Thea and Joan -  into useful positions in public, social and philanthropic circles because her devoted training supported high ideals.  The obituary went on to state how the school was founded in ‘Willandra’ at Turramurra before moving to ‘Silva Plana’ and then into Miss Griffin’s former school which was altered extensively before being taken over by the Church of England.[16] 

Newspapers attest to students taking part in inter school sports and various fund raising activities like raising money for Christ Church.[17] An Old Girls Reunion was held at the ‘Feminist Club’ in 1926 where Dorothy Taylor acted as secretary, Grace Hazeldene and Rae McIlivride were treasurers while the committee consisted of Muriel Fleming, Nancy Fleming, Elsa Seaward and Thelma Lansdowne.[18]  In 1928, ex-pupils held an annual event at the ‘Waldorf’ and the proceeds of the event went to the reference library of their former school.[19]  Ex students held a reunion dance at Ambassadors in 1927.  The committee members wore wristlets showing the school colours of navy and red.  Miss Bradford (absent on the evening) was president, Dorothy Taylor treasurer and Rae McIIvride secretary, while other ex students comprised Doris Pryor, Nancy Flemming, Freda Tatham, Nancy Deane, Stella and Freda Deaton, B. Stuckgold Elsa Seaward, Kathleen and Nell Lord, Mavis Pink, May Nancarrow, Lorna Hoddle, Joan Molyneaux, Nancy Armitage, Jean Clarke, Lois Thorpe and Nell Tatham.  The girls were gowns of black lace and taffeta,  olive green romaine, mist blue taffeta, blue beaded georgette and tomato georgette.[20] Events like the foregoing suggest a strong connection existed between students and private venture schools long after their formal education ended.

The death of Miss Bradford was announced in the Sydney Morning Herald on 11th April 1941.  She was cremated at Rookwood.

Prize winners as per SMH 17.12.1923
Joyce Goodley, Wenda Sweet, Barbara Allen, Mary Allen, Agnes Courtney, Celia Goldstein, Gwen Sinclair, Betty Broad, Nancy Fleming, Freida Tatham, Marie Simonsens, Jean Scott, Norma Spencer, Jean Scott, Blessing Stuckgold, Joyce Evans, Kathleen Lord, Dorothy Taylor, Enid Douglas, Kate Percival, Letty Lambert & Enid Douglas who was Dux for that year.

Prize winners as per SMH 15.12.1926, p. 12
Maisie Pike etc.

Prize winners as per SMH 17.12.1927, p. 12
Lillian Turner, Joyce Ting, Nancy Cook (Dux), Margot Mason, Gertrude Taylor, Violet Gilmour, Alma Cull, Molly Reilly, Heather Johnson, Joan Mason, Nance Speedie, May Kenny, Dorothy Pile, Joyce Day, Wilma Williams, Roberta Garnett, Jean Humphries, Eileen Pike, Elizabeth Ribbert, Hester Stokes, Marie Simonsens, Beryl Neve, May Wiltshire, Adeline Cull, Anne Penny (Dux of School), Winifred Corke & Edna Scott.

Prize winners as per SMH 14.12.1935, p. 23.
Joan Bostock, Valerie Deane, Thorpe Richards, Dawn Reeve, Peggy Bax, Catherine Engisch, Bettine Bostock, Betty Duly, Patricia Plunket, Clive Hodgson, Barbara Cameron, Thea Hogg, Marie Borchard, Jill Sherman, June Peters, Hope Richards, Olive Hodgson, Arthur Pringle, Barbara Crane. (* Boys appear)

Even though some girls won more than one prize their name only appears once in these lists. Furthermore, these are lists of prize winners only therefore they do not reflect enrolment numbers at the school.
Prizes were presented for the usual subjects like maths, French, music and music appreciation, sewing, drawing, sport, religious studies (divinity) and elocution other prizes were given out for obscure subjects like mythology and the general appreciation of art.

It would seem the school may have gone into decline roughly around the time of Miss Bradford’s demise and closed its doors during the latter part of the 1940s.


[1] Bruce Jackson’s notes, vertical files, BMCC local studies collection, Springwood.
[2] Nepean Times 27.8.1904.
[3] Nepean Times, 31.11.1908.
[4] NSW Births Deaths and Marriages.
[5] Australian Composers, Wirripang, Janet Keats: The Early Years,
[6] Joan Rowland, Kr-ring-gai Council Local Studies Librarian, email correspondence with Pamela Smith 28.10.2008.
[7] Hurstville Council Past Mayors,
[8] Sydney Morning Herald, 10.4.1920, p. 7; BMCC Local Studies Collection, rate records ‘Willandra.’
[9] Sydney Morning Herald, 12.5.1926, p. 18.
[10] Sydney Morning Herald, 8.6.1926, p. 8.
[11] Sydney Morning Herald, 21.5.1932, p. 22.
[12] Sydney Morning Herald, 13.1.1927, p. 4.
[13] Sydney Morning Herald, 17.12.1927, p. 12.
[14] Sydney Morning Herald, From a brush with blindness evolved a life dedicate to art, 19.8.2008.
[15] Sydney Morning Herald, 26.6.1930, p. 15.
[16] Nepean Times, 10.4.1941, p. 2.
[17] Nepean Times, 24.10.1940, p. 6.
[18] Sydney Morning Herald, 5.6.1926, p. 9.
[19] Sydney Morning Herald, 24.7.1928, p. 5.
[20] Sydney Morning Herald, 3.9.1927, p. 10.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Passing of Lindsay Paish - Local Historian

Even though we posted the passing of Lindsay on our profile page, we felt that his death deserved to be noted.  Lindsay was born, educated and spent the early part of his life in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains before moving to Springwood with his wife.

He enlisted with the RAAF in the Second World War  and served in the south west Pacific.  Lindsay was a cartographer and in 1963 joined the staff of the Blue Mountains City Council.  Lindsay was instrumental in the first Heritage studies carried out in the Blue Mountains and eventually retired some years later.  He was a keen gardener and was a one-time member of the Springwood Rifle Club and North Springwood Development League.  We will miss Lindsay's dry wit and humour.

Springwood Historians  

Friday, November 30, 2012

Euroka Clearing Glenbrook

Sir Francis Forbes, according to information supplied by Doug Knowles (Glenbrook Historical Society) applied for a grant of land that would have included - what today is known as – Euroka Clearing at Glenbrook.  However, Forbes was unsuccessful in gaining the 500 acres he required for grazing and instead received some 355 acres that encompassed - the present day – Lapstone estate.  Euroka remained Crown Land until 1954 when the NPWS incorporated the property into the Blue Mountains National Park.
Nevertheless, Forbes was granted a lease over the property in 1835, paying an annual rent of £10.  After Forbes relinquished the lease in 1865 the following were subsequent leaseholders.

                                                          Date   Term

2. Edward Wrench                                1870  6 months

3. John Rayner & William Tindale           1870    

4. William & Lucy Wagstaff & John Harris1876    

5. Charles Edwards                              1881  3 months

6. David Barnett                                   1881  2 years

7. Edward Jones                                  1883  7 years

 8. John Smith                                     1890  18 years

9. Herbert Jones                                  1908  14 years

10. James Venn                                   1922  2 years

11. Albert Bennett                                1924  30 years

Wheat was grown on the property in the time of John Rayner who had a mill at Emu Plains.
It would seem that mining exploration took place on the property at various times because the Nepean Times reported 27.9.1884 (page 2) - when Edward Jones was the lessee - that exploration of the land hoped to find coal, shale oil. 

Albert Bennett, the last lessee, was the son and one of a large brood of children born to Henry and Elizabeth (nee Clatworthy).  The Bennett family operated a boating business on the Nepean River and owned 'Riverside', the one-time 'Riverside Hotel' previously owned by the Wilson family of hotelkeepers.(Nepean Times 1.1.1910)  Henry, who died in 1910, was the brother of James and William Bennett of St Marys. Henry was born in England.(Nepean Times 4.6.1910)  Elizabeth died at 'Riverside' in 1921. (Nepean Times 17.12.1921)
On the 20th August 1898 the Nepean Times newspaper reported that hundreds of people who lined the banks of the Nepean River, anxious to witness the launch of Henry Bennett's steam launch "Warragamba,"  were disappointed because a log - a relict of the old punt road - delayed the launching until the following day. (Nepean Times 20.8.1898)  It was also reported that according to the wishes of the Temperance section of the community, water rather than champagne, was used for the christening of the launch.
Various newspaper reports attest to the fact that Bennett - in order to cope with the increasing river traffic - added pleasure boats to his large fleet and that the boats were locally made in his boat shed premises.  The boats were made from locally grown timber - like cedar grown at Monkey Creek - and water gum procured from the banks of the Nepean River. (Nepean Times 18.12.1897)  
When Albert Bennett took up the lease of Euroka it is thought  he built a residence and orchard in the vicinity of what was called Apple Tree Flat. He kept on the family business and is said to have used the river to move timber and produce down river to Penrith.  Picnic parties were held at his farm where visiting guests imbibed spirits distilled by their host while playing games of two-up.  Over indulgence at one of these parties may have caused the drowning of Thomas Hemsworth - reported in the Nepean Times 1.12.1914 (page10) – when he was swimming in the river with two other men.  Albert Bennett went to his rescue but failed in his attempt to resuscitate the man.
This was not an isolated event however because several other drownings were reported by the Nepean Times newspaper.  Albert Bennett took part in the magisterial enquiry held into the drowning of William Everleigh Terrill reported in the Nepean Times 30.12.1898.  It may have been these unfortunate deaths that had caused Albert Bennett to start up a swimming class for boys and youths. (Nepean Times 4.12.1897)
Bennett also grew strawberries and grain crops like sorghum and maize. In fact a football picnic held in 1898 collected ferns and flowers and tasted the "lovely strawberries" from Mr. Bennett's plantation at the Basin and danced on board the new launch as they made their homeward journey. (Nepean Times 17.9.1898) 

Nepean River

It seems the Bennett family provided both commercial and tourist steam boat service on the Nepean well into the 20th Century. Albert Bennett also ran a cargo business that moved men and materials to and from the first site of Warragamba Dam. (Was the dam named for Henry Bennett's steam launch?)  Use of supply boats was greatly improved when Bennett blasted a cart track along Euroka Creek to the junction of the river.  

                                             Warragamba Catchment

Albert Bennett, who died in 1954, is known to have been involved with the Blue Mountains Old Guard paramilitary movement and the Whitney Pastoral Company (an division of Cobb and Co.) 

Penrith City Council local studies hold biographical information about Henry Bennett and family.

Pamela Smith
Information supplied by Doug Knowles (Glenbrook Historical Society)
Various issues of the Nepean Times
Andrew Moore, Superintendent Mackay And The Curious Case Of The Vanishing Scret Army, a response to Richard Evans, History Australia, Vol. 6, no. 3, 2009, p. 72.3.
Research by the author into Blue Mountains branch of the Old Guard paramilatary
BMCC image collection



Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Blue Mountains Association of Cultural Heritage Organisations Inc.

The Blue Mountains Association of Cultural Heritage Organisations Inc. have recently launched their new/revamped website. Available are digital newsletters and journals that provide a veritable wealth of information about the history of the Blue Mountains area as well as points of contact, links and various news and events. The site is well worth a visit.

The website address is

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

World War One - Photography

A story related to Springwood Historians recently suggested that soldiers serving overseas in World War One were deprived of recording their experiences in photographs.  However, an advertisement in a newspaper and subsequent research has revealed that Australian and indeed British soldiers were entitled to take a 'small personal camera' with them on active service.(1)

An article in the Photographic Collection of The First World War Poetry Digital Archive confirmed three main categories of photographers during World War One; official, press and amateur.  Official photographers - like Charles Bean - were given commissioned status and documented the conflict at home and on the Western fronts.  However, even though photographs were distributed broadly in newspapers and in propaganda material and provided official military records they were still subject to military and civilian censorship. 

Press photographers had a degree of freedom in Egypt and Mesopotamia but rigorously restricted in places like the Western Front.(2) While restricted, these photographs provide evidence of the growing participation of civilians - especially women - and are a valued social history and military resource.

The photographs of the amateur photographer are no less valuable because they provide other visualisations of military life, however, how much or little they portrayed depended on the where they were stationed and the view of their commanding officers.(3) It would appear that Australian soldiers may have taken the Kodak Vest Pocket camera and an advertisement of the day implied that it was simple to use and required no skill or prior knowledge of photography. (4)  The advert suggested it weighed 9 ounces, was made for rough use and most importantly would not rust.

Limitations of the equipment then available limited the quality of the photographs.  Nevertheless, they are an important and extraordinary birds eye account of the conflict and the individual experience.
Pamela Smith
1. Oxford University, The First World War Poetry Archive, The Photographic Collection,, accessed 23.10.2012.
2. ibid.
3. Unidentified article, What Every Soldier Needs - the Vest Pocket Kodak.
4. ibid.
Other resources
Camerapedia, Vest Pocket Kodak,, accessed 23.10.2012.
Photographs: Google Images


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Early Residents - John Rae

Rae, who was born in Scotland in 1813, was the son of a banker. He had been educated at Aberdeen Grammar School and later went on to study at the University of Aberdeen. Articled to a solicitor, he later continued his literary interests and law studies in Edinburgh. After deciding to migrate to Australia he joined the firm of North British Australasian Loan and Investment Co. He arrived in 1843 aboard the Kinnear. Unfortunately for Rae the firm was almost broke by the time he arrived.
He married Elizabeth Thompson in 1854 and the couple made a home at Darlinghurst. Rae was the Town Clerk of Sydney in 1851, and together with Charles Cowper, he sought an investigation into the state of the Council. He supported the setting up of a select committee that appointed three commissioners: G. Eliot, F.O. Darvall and Rae himself. However charges of mismanagement and neglect saw the Legislative Assembly dismiss the commissioners and restore the Council to a corporation in 1857.
John Rae watercolour of George Street Sydney
Rae travelled overseas and was a noted educationalist, photographer, and amateur artist, painting for his own pleasure. Rae was also a director of the Australian Gaslight Co. and owner of the People’s Palace. The 1875 Sands Directory refers to Mr John Rae as being the Under Secretary of Public Works and Railways, while the 1882 Gibbs and Shallard directory mentions the residence of J. Rae at Valley Heights. This may very well have been the cottage Tusculum, as the index mentions that it was one of the principal residences then existing in Valley Heights. Other residences mentioned were those of I. Brennand, W. Deane, W. Dawson (Upton), and Mrs Berne.
The Valley Heights property had first been acquired by Mr T.R. Smith under conditional purchase, but in later years was bought by Rae. Clarence Radford Chapman, a civil servant, together with Lancelot Percival Brennand, whose address was care of the Treasury, purchased the property when Rae died in 1900.
In 1882 the Nepean Times reported that a discovery of silver had been found in the mountains. The article went on to say that the peculiar discovery had been made on the property of Mr John Rae by a pig rooting around in a paddock close to the homestead. A search of the area revealed Spanish dollars dated as old as 1804, bearing the heads of Ferdinand and Carolus. Amongst the hoard of coins was also a ‘colonial holey dollar’, a five-shilling Bank of England and four lion shillings dated 1826. The paper stated that the mystery was unlikely to be solved, since judging by the dates on the coins they had probably been buried for some fifty years.
Article from Biographical Dictionary of the Springwood District
Pamela Smith