Monday, May 23, 2011

Darlinghurst Blog: Villas of Darlinghurst: Barham

Detail from 1845 painting by George Edwards Peacock.
Barham: allotment of over 6 acres granted to Edward Deas Thomson in 1831.
Register of the National Estate, City of Sydney Heritage List.

I had been meaning to write about Barham as part of my Register of the National Estate series and then the building also popped up in the Villas of Darlinghurst book that I am writing an occasional series about too. So I can kill two blog posts with one. 
Barham was built in 1833 and is the oldest residential building in Darlinghurst. Iona, for example, was built in 1888, while Potts Point's Tusculum - another remaining old villa - was completed in 1836. Elizabeth Bay House was completed in 1839. 
That makes Barham (pronounced Burrum) rather special and one of the reasons that it remains when others villas were demolished, is because it was purchased by SCEGGS in 1900 and has been a part of the school since then.
The grand villa was built for Sir Edward Deas Thomson, who was granted over six acres in the new Darlinghurst estate in 1831. Thomson was born in Edinburgh and migrated to Australia in 1828-29 when he was appointed the dual role of clerk to the Executive and Legislative Councils in NSW on a salary of 600 Pounds a year.
The then Governor Sir Ralph Darling was very happy with Thomson's hard work and competence and granted him the land in Darlinghurst. Architect John Verge was employed to design Barham, which was initially leased to Colonel Kenneth Snodgrass, before Thomson moved in with his wife, Anna-Maria, the daughter of Governor Richard Bourke.
When Thomson left public office he was elected vice-chancellor of the University of Sydney in 1863 and chancellor in 1865, retaining the post until he was forced to resign due to ill health in 1878.
The couple raised their two sons and five daughters at Barham and remained there for 40 years until Thomson's death in July 1879. Thomson was buried at St Jude's Church of England, in Randwick, in Sydney's eastern suburbs.
Thomson's daughter, Susan, married William John Macleay, who was Colonial Secretary Alexander Macleay's oldest son. Alexander was granted 54 acres at Elizabeth Bay and he also employed John Verge to design his villa. William moved into Elizabeth Bay House in 1839 and lived there until his death in 1865. 
It was Thomson's influence, as chancellor of the University of Sydney, which led William to donate his father's important natural history collection to the institution in 1873. The collection remains at the university's Macleay Museum today.
After Thomson's death in 1879, Barham was purchased by members of the Ogilvie pastoralist family who then sold it to SCEGGS in 1900.
Barham is today located just off Forbes Street within the grounds of SCEGGS and can not be viewed from the street. 
But I didn't let that stop me from seeing such an historic building and slipped into the school one day when the gates were open:

The two-storey mansion is built in the Colonial Georgian style from rendered masonry and timber, with a sandstone basement and tiled roof. Alterations were made between 1900 and 1910, which included the addition of the boarders's dining room, kitchen and laundry and the Headmistress's or Head of School's office, which was built onto one corner. In 1836, the shutters on the top floor windows were removed. 

Today it is still used for the administration offices and I believe the boarders's facilities still remain. According to heritage reports, the original configuration and structure of the house is intact and generally in good condition, while original joinery survives in the meeting room, dining room, corridors and main door.

The school's alumni include actress Claudia Karvan, comedians Julie McCrossin and Pamela Stephenson and authors Blanche d'Apulget and Ursula Dubosarsky.

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