WHAT TO SEE

WITCHES HOUSES

The Witches Houses are the most prominent and remarkable buildings in Annandale. In the 1880s, builder John Young, constructed eight extraordinary homes along Johnston Street near Rozelle Bay. Six of them remain. The most outstanding is The Abbey. It is listed on the NSW Register of the National Estate. The stone mansion, modelled on a Scottish manor, incorporates gables, arches, gargoyles, lions, chimneys, a cloister and a copper-clad tower.

The Abbey was completed in 1882 and in 1924 the house was subdivided and converted into flats. In 1959, a Sydney surgeon, Dr Geoffrey Davis, bought the house for £4,500 and continued to lease some of the building while undertaking The Abbey’s long-term restoration. After Dr Davis’s death in 2008, the house was sold for $4.86 million in November 2009 to local resident, Michael Hogan, who continues the building’s comprehensive restoration.

Another of the Witches Houses (so-called because their spires resemble witches hats) is Kenilworth. It was once the home of Sir Henry Parkes, the ‘father’ of Australian federation and Premier of NSW for 13 years. He died there in 1896 aged 81. Kenilworth was sold for $3.35 million in 2007 and has undergone extensive restoration.

THE AQUEDUCT

One of the earliest structures built in Annandale is the imposing sewage aqueduct across Johnston and White’s creeks. Completed in 1897, the elevated aqueduct was one of the first structures in Australia to incorporate reinforced concrete. This aqueduct – which is still in use today – was the first of three major ocean outfall sewers to serve Sydney. It was built to carry sewage from Annandale as well as from the densely populated neighbouring suburbs of Balmain and Glebe. The Johnston Creek aqueduct crosses Nelson Street and the White’s Street aqueduct runs parallel to Piper Street. It is listed on the Register of the National Estate.

HUNTER BAILLIE CHURCH

This Presbyterian Church in Johnston Street is famous for two things: it was commissioned and paid for by a widow in memory of her husband, and for 111 years its spire was the tallest in NSW.

John Hunter Baillie was just 35 when he died in 1854. He was Secretary and Inspector of the Bank of NSW. As a memorial to him, his wife, Helen, donated land on the corner of Johnston and Collins Streets and spent £35,000 to construct the church that took three years to complete. It was opened in 1889. The English Gothic-style church is renowned for its 56-metre spire. It was the tallest in NSW until 2000 when the 70-metre twin spires of St Mary’s Church in Sydney were completed.

The Church’s interior features include pillars of Scottish granite, bases and capitals made from Melbourne bluestone, a baptismal font and pulpit carved from New Zealand Oamaru stone and green marble, and a 19th century organ by William & Son of London. Helen Hunter Baillie was 78 when she died in 1897, 43 years after her husband’s death.

THE PIANO FACTORY

For 82 years, the Beale Piano Factory on Trafalgar Street was Annandale’s premier manufacturer. At its peak, the 10-building, one-hectare industrial complex employed 300 people and became the biggest piano manufacturer in the British Empire, producing 95,000 pianos from 1893 to 1975. Britain’s Queen Mary purchased a Beale piano in 1932 for use in Buckingham Palace.

During World War 11, the complex was closed to allow de Havilland aircraft parts to be produced. The factory manufactured Mosquito fuselages, tailplanes, flaps, wing leading edges and ailerons that were transported to Bankstown for assembly. In 1998, the Piano Factory buildings were extensively refurbished and converted to a residential complex.

ANNANDALE HOUSE GATES

The imposing sandstone gates in the grounds of Annandale Public School in Johnston Street are the sole remaining artefacts of Annandale House, the former residence of Captain George Johnston. He built the house on more than 400 acres of land in 1799. The gates once stood near Parramatta Road and an avenue of Norfolk Pines lead to the convict-built residence, described as one of the colony’s finest. The nine-room ‘genteel’ residence included offices, a cellar and a detached kitchen. Nearby were coach houses, stables, granaries, a blacksmith’s forge, a dairy, a brickyard, gardens, an orchard, a stone quarry and a kiln. In 1882, Annandale Farm was described as “one of the most complete farms in the neighbourhood of Sydney”.

Annandale House was demolished in 1905 and Annandale Farm subdivided into residential blocks. In 1976, the convict-built gates were erected on the grounds of Annandale Public School that was built in 1886.

HERITAGE LISTED BUILDINGS

Other Annandale buildings listed on the Register of the National Estate are:

  • Annandale Council Chambers (1899) 79 Johnston Street
  • Uniting Church (1891) 81 Johnston Street
  • Annandale Public School (1886) 25 Johnston Street
  • North Annandale Public School (1907) 206 Johnston Street
  • Annandale Post Office (1896) 115 Booth Street
  • Goodman’s Building (1890) 2-12 Johnston Street


 

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