Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Darlinghurst Blog: Villas of Darlinghurst: Grantham

Grantham, photographer unknown, circa 1880.
Built on five acres of land purchased by Felix Caleb Wilson in 1836.

Potts Point was originally named Point Campbell by Governor Arthur Phillip, during his survey in 1772, and was kept as a reserve for the Aboriginal peoples who were "allowed" to occupy the foreshore area - which they called Carragheen - "without molestation" for a number of years. 
But during Governor Darling's reign, this all changed when he decided to claim the land, which stretched from the headland back along Woolloomoloo Hill, for important government officials. 
The first of these grants was in 1822 when 11 acres were given to Judge John Wylde, the last Judge Advocate and a Justice of the NSW Supreme Court. 
But by 1828, Judge Wylde had done nothing with the land and Governor Darling was considering resuming it unless improvements were made. 
This issue probably informed his decision that year - when allotting the land that later formed Darlinghurst - to impose certain "villa conditions" to allotments, such as the size and grandeur of the home and the landscaping of the gardens.
Governor Darling didn't have to force the issue with Judge Wylde, who soon sold a substantial chunk of his allotment - just over six acres - to Joseph Hyde Potts. 
Potts didn't build on the land either, but he did rename the area Potts Point, ensuring he would be remembered to this day.
Felix Caleb Wilson, a settler in the Hawksbury region, north of Sydney, purchased the remaining five acres of Judge Wylde's allotment in 1836, and set about building the point's very first home, on the site where St Neot Avenue is today.

Photograph: Potts Point from Mrs Macquarie's Road, State Library of NSW.

Wilson's home was not subject to Governor Darling's strict "villa conditions", so the wealthy merchant and ironmonger went all-out in the design of his house, which he named Caleb Castle. You can see some of its turrets if you look closely in the photograph above.
According to the Villas book, the house later came to be known as Grantham and was designed by an unknown architect in the "same Gothic Revival style as the new Government House (1837-1845) across the bay". 
"Grantham was considered a rather pretentious building, and became known locally as 'The Pepper Pot' on account of its turrets, or 'Frying Pan Castle' (referring to Wilson's occupation)."

Wealthy merchant and wharf proprietor Frederick Parbury bought the the home in the early 1840s and renamed it Granthamville. Another owner was Donald Larnach who purchased the house and property for 5000 Pounds - a considerable increase on Wilson's 405 Pounds for the land alone.
The land was then subdivided and in 1853, the section with the home was purchased by surveyor and pastoralist Henry Dangar for 6000 Pounds and the residence became known as Dangar's Castle.
(Dangar was born at St Neot, in Cornwall, England, which is probably what the avenue was named for.)
After Dangar's death in 1861, his wife stayed on in the castle until she died in 1869 and it was inherited by one of their sons, Henry Cary Dangar.

Henry Dangar Junior rebuilt the home to his own design in 1870, following the Norman style of architecture.
According to a 1937 article from The Sydney Morning Herald, "the palatial home . . . was built of solid dimension stone quarried on the waterfront".
"Mr Dangar brought into his design the battlemented walls and the old fashioned stone fence. The entrance porch was tiled and led into a vestibule, in which a fine mahogany staircase was built with an overhead balustraded gallery.
"Upon the rebuilding of the home in 1870, Mr Dangar renamed the house Grantham."
Mr Dangar Junior stayed at Grantham until 1917, after which it had a succession of owners.

In the mid-1930s, the 22-bedroom, five bathroom house with cedar fittings was listed for sale and in 1937 was sold for demolition. A little bit of history vanished.

The new owner developed the site, building two blocks of three-storey flats over the original footprint of Grantham.

The only trace that remains is in the name of this apartment building (above), Grantham, and a little street and laneway that run behind St Neot Avenue.



Anonymous said...

Thought you might be interested to know that the Channel Seven TV show 'Packed To The Rafters' will be filming in Darlinghurst on Tuesday 21st Feb. It will be inside and outside 'Diederic The Cat' shop, as well on Farrell Avenue Darlinghurst.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this wonderfully informative blog. I'm into family history and one of our ancestors lived in Grantham in the early 1930s (according to the Electoral Rolls) - you have given us a little piece of the jigsaw of their lives....

Erik said...