Sydney Architecture Images- Glebe

Hereford House




53 Hereford Street, Glebe, NSW 2037




Victorian Filigree


ashlar rendered brick


The building is single fronted. It has a simple hipped slate roof with terracotta ridge and hip capping, and boxed eaves. There is pair symmetrically arranged chimneys behind the main ridge, which are moulded and rendered. The building has a skillion and gabled corrugated iron roof above a single storey section at the rear. 
The walls are generally ashlar rendered. There is a double storey verandah on the symmetrical street facade. It has a hipped corrugated iron roof. The verandah roof and first floor are supported on cast iron posts. The first floor verandah has a cast iron balustrade and there is a cast iron valance on both levels. 
The windows are generally double-hung, with projecting sandstone sills and single pane sashes. There are two pairs of French windows on the first floor level of the street facade. 

The building has a central hallway on both levels which provides access to a pair of rooms on each side. The hallway has a central archway and a timber stair with turned balusters. 
The original kitchen would originally have been located in rooms at the rear. There is a large proportion of surviving original fabric in the main part of the house, including plaster ceilings, roses and cornices, marble fireplaces and timber skirtings, picture rails, doors and architraves. 
(Perumal M Wu Pty Ltd, March 2000)


Glebe is now much altered from the environment which was home to Aboriginal people of the Guringai tribe for thousands of years and which Europeans first saw soon after the settlement was established at Sydney Cove in 1788. Blackwattle Creek and Blackwattle Bay were discovered and named in 1789. 

Almost half of the Aboriginal population was killed by disease within the first few years of white occupation and survivors, with their traditional life shattered and increasing pressure put on their resources, retreated away from the principal settlement. It is likely that the relatively untouched area of Glebe provided some shelter but there are no known Aboriginal sites on or near the study area. 

The area is based on a geology of sandstone with Wianamatta shale caps. The shallow sandy soil supported, on the ridge tops, robust forests of tall eucalypts and angophoras. Below was a shrubby under-storey that included acacias and banksias. The study area would have supported an environment of this type. Further down the ridges were black wattles, tea-trees and swamp oaks and these gave way at the marshy and muddy intertidal zone to mangroves. Blackwattle Bay extended in a rivulet to Parramatta Road, Wentworth Park occupies the reclaimed headwaters of this bay. 

Governor Phillip made the observation that this land was, 
"in general so rocky that it is surprising that such large trees should find sufficient nourishment but the soil between the rocks is good and the summits of the rocks ... with few exceptions are covered with trees most of which are so large that the removing them off the ground after they are cut down is the greatest part of the labour" 

The land was not suited to farming because of its topography and soils and the first European associated with it, the Reverend Richard Johnson, famously described his land as "four hundred acres not worth four pence". Despite its limited use for agriculatural purposes the timber was a valuable raw material and by the 1820s at least a substantial portion of the land in the vicinity of the study area had been cleared and fenced ready for sale. 

In 1790 Governor Phillip reserved approximately 400 acres of land to the south and west of Blackwattle Creek as a Glebe devoted to supporting the Church. The Reverend Richard Johnson set about clearing it. He had few convicts to do so and considered the land poorly suited to agriculatural purposes. In 1974 he exchanged his rights to this land for a separate grant. The Glebe land appears to have remained relatively untouched from this time until the 1820's. 

In 1826 a Corporation was formed to administer all the lands reserved for clerical and educational use and income. This was the Clergy and School Lands Corporation. The Glebe land came under their authorisation as part of a Crown Grant made to the Corporation. The latter, being in a parlous financial situation, made the decision to sell this estate to generate income. 

The land was sold as two subdivisons at two separate auctions the second being on 7 May 1828. At that time Mr A K Mackenzie purchased thirty-seven acres at fifteen pounds and six shillings per acre being portion 15 of the second subdivision. The study area is contained within it. The full extent of his holding is shown on an updated plan of the Glebe lands. During the following year he subdivided his purchase and submitted it for public action in July 1829. It was reported in the Australian of 22 July 1829 

Frederick Unwin purchased most of this land, including the study area, for a little over 564 pounds. In January 1831, an indenture was made between Unwin and John Wood for the sale of the portion of the property for 168 pounds. It included the study area. In 1834 Woods' son, John William, paid his father three hundred pounds and an annuity for life of 208 pounds for the property. 

Because of a complicated arrangement of deposit and repayments of principal and interest between the original purchaser and the Clergy and School Lands Corporation which had been passed on to each new owner Williams did not come into full title of the property until he paid the agent of the corporation (which had been dissolved in 1833) a balance of 175 pounds on his land. He was then granted title to a little over four acres. The title was issued on 31 March 1856. 

Woods retained ownership of this property until the 1870's. Council rate valuations of the 1860's record that he had a house, grounds, cottage and orchard very close to the study area closer to Glebe Point Road. It is likely that the study area was part of a garden or the orchard being this close to the main residence. Woods made a will in 1874 and appointed Trustees for his estate. He died in February 1875. 
The trustees subdivided the property and it was actioned as the Glenwood Estate. On 27 November 1875 William Bull paid 320 pounds for lots 4 and 5 of the Glenwood Estate. This encompassed both the present-day 53 and 55 Hereford Street. 

William Bull was born in 1819 in Liverpool the son of a First Fleeter. In Glebe Bull is said to have worked as a local wheelwright. By the time he built and occupied Hereford House he was listed in city directories as a Justice of the Peace or solictor. 

Bull appears to have used part of his land (the present No 53) almost immediately to build a new, two-storey residence he called Hereford House. He is listed in occupation by the mid-1870's in city directories and council rate assessments which simply describe his property as "house". By 1889 it was home to six people. 

The earliest survey plan of the property dates from 1888. It shows Hereford House fenced off from the vacant block of 55 Hereford Street. It is fenced from its other neighbour, a very large residence called "Lask" (now demolished). Between the two, from Hereford Street, was a passage running the full depth of Hereford House. The house is shown to a have a full width verandah both front and back with a small brick extension at one end of the back verandah. Behind the house, some distance from it on the boundary fence with 55 Hereford Street, was a large brick-built stables. This had a brick WC at one end and galvanised iron shed at the other. No evidence of landscape is recorded on this plan. 

William Bull died in the new early years of the new century and the executors of this estate sold Hereford House to Alice Goldmsith and her husband William in 1909. William Goldsmith was a butcher. The improved capital value of their property was rated in 1919 as 1700 pounds. 

The Goldsmiths sold Hereford House to Alexander Levi in 1924. Mr Levi leased the house to Ernest Arnold. A survey plan of the property in 1926 shows that the out-buildings on the boundary with Kerribree had been extended by this date to the back fence. The galvanised iron shed had been more than doubled size and abutting it and extending to the lane was another brick building. The water closets had been transferred to a block that occupied almost all of the back fence leaving a small gate between them and the brick shed on the boundary. Some extensions and changes are also shown to have been made to the back of Hereford House. 

Levi sold Hereford House in 1928 to Louise and Phillip Leonard. Sands directory listings show that Mr Arnold continued to lease the property at least until the early 1930's. In 1951 the Leonards sold Hereford House to the McCormacks. 

It has been claimed the McCormack, a Mayor of Glebe occupied this house since the 1920's and used the premises as a transport depot in his capacity as a growers agent. The stables at the rear of the property are claimed to have accommodated draught horses which were used to transport produce from the railway at Darling Harbour to the city markets. While the property may have been used in this way there is no primary evidence to show an association between it and the McCormacks before the 1950's. Similarly the claim that there were two tennis courts at the rear of the property on which the champion Lew Hoad learnt to play may well be true but cannot find support in any primary evidence. 

The property was still in the ownership of Stephen Patrick McCormack and Sons Pty Ltd when it was sold to the NSW College of Nursing in 1981. 

(Perumal M Wu Pty Ltd, March 2000)

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