Sydney Architecture Images- Glebe

Tranby Aboriginal College




Mansfield Road




Old Colonial Georgian


rendered Sandstone


  Around the back....
Tranby cottage was built about 1840 prior to the subdivision of the Toxteth Estate. Since 1958 it has been the home of the Tranby Aboriginal Cooperative College, the oldest independent adult Aboriginal education centre in Australia. With an average of 150 students,it seeks to provide self-determination for Indigenous Australians. Courses include Australian Aboriginal cultures and history, development studies, and indigenous legal advocacy. The Co-operative has also developed affiliate organisations such as Blackbooks, the Aboriginal Development Unit and the Aboriginal Homeless Persons Hostel.

The sandstone cottage named “Tranby”, from which the College derives its name, dates back to the 1830s although the exact date is unknown. Originally called Toxteth Cottage, it was most likely renamed “Tranby” by the Reverend William Binnington Boyce who bought Tranby in 1887. Tranby is a place name in the Hull-Beverley area of Northern England where he grew up. ‘The Tranby' was also the Yorkshire ship bringing the first Methodist group settlers to Western Australia, and Boyce was a devout Methodist. Tranby is a Norwegian word meaning ‘village of cranes'.

Tranby is situated in the Glebe area, which is the home of the Cadigal ancestors. The original terrain was full of eucalypt, figs, geebungs, yams and burrawang nuts, while Blackwattle Bay provided plenty of fish and rock oysters. Governor Phillip named the area Glebe and gave it to his chaplain Reverend Richard Johnson to clear and farm land. In the 1830s the Cadigal bushland was divided up and this part of Glebe became the Toxeth Estate.

[The word 'glebe' comes from the Latin 'gleba' meaning a clod of earth. In England and the British colonies, the term 'glebe' meant a plot of land granted to a clergyman to support his income through rental or farming. See The Macquarie Dictonary, 2nd Rev., 1990 (1981).]

George Allen, an influential solicitor and Wesleyan Methodist who became Mayor of Sydney bought the Toxteth Estate and built Toxteth Park in 1831, a grand mansion for his family. He cleared bushland to make gardens, orchards, a stone chapel and huts for his servants. Toxteth Park is now St. Scholastica's College.

Allen's daughter married a prominent Sydney architect George Allen Mansfield, also a devout Methodist, and they lived in a sandstone cottage on the Toxteth Estate, which is now known as Tranby. The exact date of building is not known. It had a timber fence and was surrounded by bush to the Glebe Road. Tranby's four rooms in the 1850s were bedroom, parlour, dinning and lounge room, each with a fireplace. The rear sandstone walls, now the Interpretive Walk, once formed the servants rooms, later a lecture room and Warden's room, then teachers office and photocopy room.

In the early 1880s the Toxteth Estate was subdivided and sold by Allen's son, Sir George Wigram Allen, Glebe's first Mayor. The Glebe Streets were formed and lined with terrace houses. Minumurra was built next door and Tranby lost its bush setting. A new room was built in brick on the north-east corner of Tranby and the dining room was enlarged to its present size. The small room at the south of the front verandah was also added and the whole of the building was rendered and painted. Another son-in-law, Reverend William Binnington Boyce who bought Tranby in 1887, built extra bedrooms and a bathroom in 1910 for his family. This addition is the present kitchen wing.

The Reverend John Hope of Christchurch St Laurence and the other trustees had purchased the cottage from the Allen family in 1946, and used it as a hostel for students from the University of Sydney. In 1957 they donated Tranby to Alf Clint and what was to become the Co-operatives for Aborigines Ltd.

‘Minumurra' was purchased by the Co-operative in 1987. It was built in 1882 at the same time as a number of other houses in Mansfield St. The name, which is etched into the glass cornice above the front door, is likely derived from the Illawarra region.

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The beginning of Tranby dates back to 1952 when the Australian Board of Missions (ABM) employed the Reverend Alf Clint as Director of Co-operatives in Australia and New Guinea. Alf’s background was in trade unions, the Australian Labor Party, Christian Socialism and co-operatives. Since his early years growing up in Balmain, he had been involved in all four areas wherever he lived. Alf joined the Bush Brotherhood in Dubbo as a young man and worked with the shearers and the miners in places like Brewarrina and Weston. He was a passionate advocate of the rights of the workers and the importance of unions.

In the late 1940s Alf was working in Papua and New Guinea and was involved in the successful set up of co-operatives in the cocoa and coffee industries. He suffered a major illness, however, and returned to Sydney on a stretcher in 1950. While regaining his health, Alf began to think about extending his New Guinea work to Australia, influenced by the teachings of the Antigonish Movement in Canada. At the same time, the ABM was seeking to establish an independent, undenominational Co-operative Department to work with Aboriginal people.

For Alf, then, the question was one of economic independence and improving the welfare of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. He saw co-operatives as the most compatible business structure for Indigenous peoples. His work in New Guinea convinced him that co-operatives were suited to the traditional tribal structures and way of doing things. He believed that co-operatives could also make a difference to the lives of Aboriginal people in Australia. In the May 1956 Co-operative News-Sheet Alf wrote, “Which do YOU think is better – for Missions or Governments to own plantations, cattle stations and luggers or for the native peoples to own them themselves?”

In 1957 the ABM Christian Community Co-operative Ltd was formed, funded by the ABM, and with Alf Clint as General Secretary. In 1962 it was renamed the Co-operative for Aborigines Ltd and since then, it has been an independent, non-profit benevolent society. In 1980 Alf Clint died and Kevin Cook became the first Aboriginal General Secretary of the Co-operative. The co-operative principles of communal ownership and self-management, and the philosophy of shared working and learning environments, remain fundamental to the organisation. Today, the majority of the staff and Board of Directors are Indigenous.

In September 1998, forty years after its establishment, Tranby inaugurated the new “Buildings out the Back”, a major redevelopment. The Buildings were a joint design between architects Cracknell and Lonergan, and Tranby. Together, they created a site, which reflects the nature of the College as an Aboriginal learning centre available to all Indigenous communities. The whole complex was designed in sympathy with both the Victorian feel of the suburb and a holistic approach to Aboriginal education. The round learning areas were built to reflect Indigenous learning circle practices.

The outside space is central to the design. It links the old and the new, the European Heritage and the Aboriginal Living Heritage, the square and the circle. There is a bridge from the old section, the courtyard, to the new Buildings that symbolizes interaction and reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal. The annual Graduations and special events like NAIDOC Open Days are held in the amphitheatre.