Sydney Architecture Images- Gone but not forgotten

Craigend, Darlinghurst




Darlinghurst ( in the area of present day Surrey and Caldwell Streets).


Built-  1829-31 Demolished- 1921


Old Colonial Georgian


Rendered brick Stone


Summary Craigend, Darlinghurst. Built 1829 by Thomas Mitchell, Surveyor-General of NSW. Demolished 1922 for a residential subdivision.
Pechey family, Craigend, Darlinghurst, ca. 1882-1885 / photographer unkown
Just after her husband Alfred Pechey, a Member of Parliament, died aged 42 in 1882, his wife was the owner of this beautiful Georgian house. The house extends to the right of this photograph
Plan of the allotments at Craig End Darlinghurst the property of Sir T.L. Mitchell SC & [cartographic material] : for sale by Mr Stubbs.
1841. MAP F 597.
[Craigend, Darlinghurst] / C. Bayliss Photo
Bayliss, Charles, 1850-1897
Craigend, Darlinghurst

Sir Thomas Livingstone, Mitchell was surveyor-general of New South Wales between 1828 and his death in 1855 . He was an explorer as well as an administrator, and one of his more important expeditions resulted in the opening up of what later became Victoria. He estimated that he had surveyed the sites of almost two hundred towns and villages in the colony of New South Wales. As Australia's population swelled and the pressure to prepare areas for settlement threatened to crush the severely understaffed Surveyor General's Department, the fact that Mitchell achieved so much is remarkable. Despite long absences from Australia and a series of extended disputes with higher authority, his official duties were beyond reproach. In his private life, Mitchell found time to build three of the finest private residences to be seen in the colony in the early nineteenth century. Two- Carthona at Darling Point and Parkhall (later renamed St Mary's Towers) south of Sydney at Appin- still stand. The third, Craigend, was his earliest residence.

Built in 1829-31, it stood on 4 hectares on the Darlinghurst Ridge east of Sydney Town, a rambling Neoclassical structure with the frontage of a Greek temple, flanked by rolling lawn and vineyards . It was home to Mitchell for less than a decade, then passed through a number of owners while subdivisions stalked closer to its walls. By the turn of the century many of the magnificent mansions that shared the Darlinghurst Ridge in the early years of the colony had been demolished or suffered humiliating transformations. Craigend was allowed to decay and by the time it was demolished in 1921 and the site swallowed by the terrace houses of the inner-city speculators, its demise caused little comment.

Thomas Mitchell was born at Craigend, in Stirlingshire, Scotland, in 1792, the eldest son of John Mitchell. His father died when Mitchell was quite young and he grew up in the care of his uncle, Thomas Livingston, of Parkhall. He decided on a military career and in 1811 volunteered to join the Peninsular Campaign. His early career was a successful one; he attained the rank of lieutenant in 1813, was wounded in action in the battle of Badajoz and when the British forces returned home in 1814, remained to complete plans of the principal battlefields. ·

This task took five years and during that time he married Mary Thomson, daughter of a General Richard Blunt. After his return to England, Mitchell was attached to the Royal Military College at Sandhurst and in 1822 was promoted to brevet captain.

Official moves were afoot to obtain a post for Mitchell in New South Wales. In 1826 he accepted a position as deputy surveyor general of the colony and entered a department that was understaffed and in considerable difficulties. Major surveys, including those of grants made by Governor Macquarie, were outstanding and Governor Darling's instructions included their urgent completion . The Mitchells left England in June 1827 aboard the Prince Regent.

Darling had sought the appointment of his brother-in-law, William Dumaresq, to the post, but the request was overlooked and the circumstance of his appointment was not lost on Mitchell; it marked the first of many occasions when his presence would antagonise the colonial authorities. In October 1828 he wrote to his brother, John Mitchell, at Shelbourne Lodge, Newhaven, Edinburgh. He had arrived in Sydney the previous month and of his reception he remarked: "What I mean to complain of is, the circumstance of my having been appointed by the British Government in opposition to the Governor here who recommended his brother-in-law for the same appointment-You may easily imagine how pleasant they must make it tome here".

Mitchell became surveyor general following the death of John Oxley in May 1828 and, although organising the department took considerable time, especially as he also took control of the surveying for roads and bridges the following year, he was eager for the opportunity to begin exploring. The first of Mitchell's four expeditions began in November 1831 when he left Sydney in search of a major inland river rumoured to flow to the northwest. His party of fifteen travelled to the region near Tamworth, then the limit of known country, and continued on to the Namoi, the Gwydir and, in February 1832, a deep river which Mitchell called the Karaula. (It was later renamed the Macintyre and found to be a tributary of the Darling.) By this time Mitchell's hopes of finding the legendary northwest watercourse were frustrated and, after having his stores plundered by Aboriginals and a number of men bringing back-up supplies killed, he returned to Sydney.

There were battles with English authorities over the slow progress of the general surveys and it was not until 1835 that Mitchell could organise another expedition. His task was to trace the Darling River from the point where Sturt had terminated his own 1828 expedition. The party formed near the present site of Molong, west of Orange, and proceeded down the Bogan to Nyngan and hence to the Darling. This expedition was only a partial success for, apart from charting the Bogan, only 480 kilometres of the Darling were opened up. A confrontation with hostile Aboriginals convinced Mitchell it was time to retrace his steps and he arrived in Sydney in late September. The third expedition set out down the Lachlan River in March 1836 and was intended to complete the charting of the Darling. By May the Darling was reached but, in a loose translation of his orders, Mitchell turned his attention to an examination of the fertile land along the Murray.

This led him to push south into what is now western Victoria, through country so well grassed and watered that he named it "Australia Felix". Emerging near the present site of Portland, Mitchell found the Henty brothers well established. His journals for this period enthusiastically described the land and the opportunities for successful colonisation. By the time he returned to Sydney in October 1836 he was certain that he had found a new direction for the expansion of the colony. The thousands of settlers who followed his tracks south, or crossed Bass Strait from Van Diemen's Land to stake their claims, were in full agreement.

Mitchell's final expedition, begun in December 1845,opened up much of Queensland. He discovered the Warrego and Salvation rivers and the Fitzroy Downs. He named the Victoria River, later the Barcoo, described much of the country and returned home just over one year later. Mitchell is rightly regarded as an explorer of major note. If he did not achieve the celebrity he sought, it was in noway a reflection on his abilities and, coupled with his duties as surveyor general, he made the most of his opportunities, often in the face of unsympathetic government officials in both New South Wales and England.

The home secretaries during his term of office underestimated the duties before him and there was continuous pressure, which would have broken the spirit of a less determined man. His talent was better appreciated by Governor Darling's successor, Sir Richard Bourke, under whom the organised settlement of the Port Phillip district was undertaken. When in1833, the Home Office expressed the "King's surprise and disappointment that the progress made in the survey of the colony should have been so disproportionate to the means provided", it was Bourke who rushed Mitchell's map of the Nineteen Counties back to England. The county boundaries on this map, which has been described as the foundation of Australian cartography, have been retained to the present day. But for Mitchell, arriving in a strange town in 1828,all this was ahead of him. He was originally quartered in Sussex Street, but his appointment to a high government position gave him, apart from a salary of £500 per annum, several lucrative bonuses. One was the promise of a land grant. He reported to his brother that "I have got the most picturesque hill about Sydney, with ten acres [four hectares] of ground round it-for the purpose of building a mansion- which as it will stand on a rock, I am thinking of calling Craigend".

The grant was on the Darlinghurst Ridge, also known as the Woolloomooloo Hill, which was part of the area then called Henrietta Town. Measuring "9 acres 3 roods and 27 perches"(about 4 hectares), it was an early grant on what would become a very fashionable part of Sydney. The grants in this area made the usual hopeful provisions of reserving all mines of "gold, of silver and of coals" for the Crown, but other conditions clearly outlined Darling's wish to make the area a showplace in the colony. Within three years buildings "of not less value and cost than one thousand pounds sterling" had to be erected on the land and the residences were to face across the settlement to Government House. A better position in early Sydney town could not be imagined. It was a short carriage drive to the business houses and government departments and commanded fine views of the harbour and the surrounding countryside.

By the time the grant was formalised in October 1831,Mitchell had erected his mansion. The principal road east from George Street was still little more than a track and in later years Mitchell personally supervised the creation of a road, called William Street, to service the ridge and continue further east past Rushcutters Bay. The drive wound up to the front of the residence and visitors alighted at an impressive copy of a Greek temple set on massive Ionic pillars. Walter G. Bethel, writing for the Sun newspaper in 1931, contended that Mitchell himself had carved the pillars as no stonemason capable of doing the job could be found.

Unlike Captain Piper's Henrietta Villa, there are few contemporary accounts of Mitchell's home. He held an extremely prominent position in the colony, but his duties kept him from his family and he had little of the flair for publicity displayed by Piper. The finest description of Craigend was published by the Australian on 9 December 1836 to mark the proposed sale of the estate. Written by James & Co., the auctioneers (whose spelling and punctuation have been retained), it presents a richly detailed description of the property, of an eloquence that matched the importance of the sale of one of the most beautiful properties of Sydney.

James & Co. have been honoured with instructions from Major Mitchell, the Surveyor General of New South Wales, to bring to the hammer without the least reserve. . . All that splendid Roman Villa and spacious Pleasure Grounds on Woolloomoolloo Hill, called Craigend, built entirely under the superintendence, and for the last ten years the residence of Thomas Livingstone Mitchell,Esquire, Surveyor General of New South Wales, whose well known taste in Architecture and Landscape Gardening, is only inferior to those rarer and higher qualifications which have already immortalised his name as one of the most intrepid and successful Discoverers of the present age.

The Property of Craigend . . . is worth of course £10,000 even in a state of nature; but, as a Mansion has been raised upon it, fit for the residence of the highest functionary, ornamented and protected by Noble Colonnades, the Property can hardly be estimated at less than £15,000 or £16,000, especially as the Shrubberies, Vineyard and Gardens have been laid out with the most recherce taste, and apparently, the most prodigal and unsparing expense ...

Woolloomoolloo was the spot which His Excellency General Sir Ralph Darling, when Governor of this Colony, originally pointed out as the most eligible spot for the new Government House; and this very eminence, now for sale, the property of Major Mitchell, was pronounced as the fittest situation for it, as it overlooks the whole Town, and since the Traveller Proprietor has introduced an exact copy of the Parthenon for the portico of Craigend, it may almost be considered the Acropolis of Sydney.

From its elevated position, the air of Woolloomoolloois well known to be purer and cooler than that of any other suburb of Sydney; and however intense the sun, there is always a refreshing breeze and shady walk on the long and classical colonnades and Tessellated Pavements of Craigend.

The scenery and views from Major Mitchell's Grounds, as every one knows, are grand beyond description, resembling another Naples. They have furnished some of the finest subjects of Mr. Martin's pencil, many of which, taken from the north and west fronts of the house, are now decorating the windows of some of the first-rate print shops in London. Craigend is remarkable as being perhaps the only Villa, among the rich specimens of architecture near Sydney, that may be said to be decidedly adapted to the country and climate of New South Wales. Protected on the two principal facades by a spacious colonnade in the chastest style of Doric architecture, and an exquisite tessellated pavement, 'copied from the Ruins of Herculaneum, unrivalled in this Colony.

The interior consists of thirteen apartments, the dining and drawing rooms being thirty feet by twenty feet, and the best bed room twenty feet by sixteen feet, whilst the others are all of the usual convenient size, and most judicially arranged with a view to comfort and good taste. The detached offices are numerous and well disposed; kitchen, wash-house, bakery, fowl-yard, coach house, and stabling for four horses, harness-room, hay and corn loft, &c. &c. &c., with a noble approach and drive from the main road of Woolloomoolloo.The Vineyard is large and productive, andc ontains the best varieties of the Constantia, Muscat, Madeira and Frontignac Grapes; whilst the Garden and Orchard present the singular contrast not to be witnessed in any other than the splendid climate of Sydney, of goosberries and cherries growing and bearing fruit within a few feet of the sugar cane and bamboo. It would be tedious to mention the catalogue of fruits in Major Mitchell's Garden, though they are of the greatest variety and value; among the list are the French Olive and the true Bitter Orange of Seville, in great perfection. And adjoining is one of those native curiosities, unfortunately so rare, where the attainment of the age of puberty among the black natives was celebrated by knocking outa tooth, a "Native Baptismal Font," and a never failing well of the purest water supplies the house and offices. If we should ever have an observatory in Sydney, for the registration of the celestial phenomena of the Southern Hemisphere, this will be the spot.

It was here, on the Plateau, in front of the Colonnade, from which Major Mitchell, many years ago, commenced his Trigonometrical Survey of New South Wales; and to lovers of science, such a spot will be ever interesting, as the first Meridian perhaps, of a future independent naval power, calculating their longitudes from Woolloomoolloo instead of Greenwich. It is well known that a Plan has been submitted, to His Excellency Governor Bourke and approved of, by which the New Jail and Court House will not be so distant from the business parts of the Town as was first supposed. Already have streets been named by His Excellency, covering the whole of Woolloomoolloo and Victoria-street, Forbes-street, Dowling-street, Burton-street, M'Leay-street, Thomson-street, and many others too numerous to mention, will be the natural extension of the Town of Sydney. Land, therefore, like this of Major Mitchell's now to be obtained by the acre, will shortly have to be purchased by the foot, and to persons who wish for a sure and eligible investment, in addition to a splendid residence, Craigend offers the finest opportunity for profitable speculation

TERMS OF SALE.- Ten per cent. Cash deposit in the fall of the hammer, and a further ten percent. in signing the conveyance. The residue, viz.eighty percent may remain on Mortgage for ten years if required, with liberty of paying any sum, not less than £500, by giving six months notice.

It seems strange that Mitchell would be prepared to dispose of this Arcadian retreat less than eight years after he first obtained the land. But he had other things on his mind. He wanted time to prepare the journals of his first three expeditions and to travel to England to oversee their publication. In 1836 he secured eighteen months' leave, although he did not, in the event, return to Australia until 1841.

Mitchell was hoping for a private sale, offering the estate as a whole. This was the arrangement advertised in December 1836. Within a few weeks, however, this had changed. A plan arranged for the same sale of 2 January by J. G. Austin of Bridge Street, showed the property divided into twenty-seven allotments. Lot One comprised Craigend mansion with a surrounding area of "3 acres and 20 perches" (a little over one hectare). Thirteen allotments ran along the northern boundary of the property, fronting on to an "intended street", which later became Upper William Street. Another eight allotments extended along the southeastern boundary.

To put the property in a modern perspective, Craigend estate at the time of Mitchell's sale took in the area currently bounded by Kings Cross Street to the north (along the top of the Kings Cross underpass), Surrey Street to the south and southeast, and Victoria Street to the west.

By the late 1830s the Darlinghurst Ridge was well settled. The northern extremity, from Craigend down to the harbour shore, was a showplace, a proud display of wealth and position. To the south the new gaol, built over the years 1822-41, underlined the social ranking of the majority of Sydney's inhabitants, as did a new courthouse, which was designed by Mortimer Lewis and built from 1836. There were also a number of windmills along the ridge, the largest of which, close to Surrey Street, was known in the 1830s as Craigend Mill. Close to another windmill that rose from a hill near the gaol, was a natural spring. For a number of years residents in the area supplemented their drinking water, obtained from rainwater tanks, with the sweet-tasting spring water. The paddocks near the gaol were known by the name Limekilns, for the deposits of loam (composed chiefly of clay and sand) that abounded there and were often used by building contractors as a cheaper, and inferior, substitute for lime in their mortar.

The sale advertised for January 1837 did not eventuate and Mitchell's departure from the colony was rapidly approaching. But at 11 o'clock on 9 March James & Co. began the auction of Craigend's contents, which included: All the Splendid Household Furniture, Mirrors, Plate, Grand Piano, Carriage and Horses, large sized Brussels Carpets, Grecian Bronze (very fashionable), Antique Lamps in Bronze, Pair Molu Candelabras, Chintz Curtains, Plate Chest , Salvers, rich double plated Wine Filters, Silver Tea Service, &c, &c, &c, suitable to a first rate Establishment, the Property of Major Mitchell, Surveyor-General of New South Wales, proceeding to England in the ship Duchess of Northumberland.

At one o'clock on the same day the house and its remaining land went to auction. It was eventually sold for £4000 and the allotments, sold separately, went for between £96 and £300 each. Mitchell returned from leave and, between 1841 and 1843, built Carthona on waterfront land at Darling Point. In 1844 he built Parkhall, a Tudor-Gothic villa, at Appin. Both were supervised by James Hume, who designed the original St Andrew's Cathedral and oversaw the construction of Burdekin House in Macquarie Street. Until his death from pneumoniain 1855, Mitchell maintained a city and a country residence.

The eventual owner of Craigend has been difficult to trace. In 1841 when further subdivisions were made, the mansion was the property of F. W. Unwin. An 1845 map of Sydney identifies a Mr Floods as the owner of Craigend, although the closest reference to a Flood or Floods in a later City of Sydney Directory refers to "Flood, Joseph- Landholder, East of Bourke Street, Surrey Hills". In 1841 subdivision saw the twenty-six allotments broken up into over seventy properties. By that time the northern road had already been officially named Upper William Street and Surrey Street carved a path through the southeastern boundary. With the enclosure of Craigend from the main roads, a short drive, lined with building allotments,gave access to Upper William Street, near the junction of Victoria Street.

The rate book of the City of Sydney provides a valuable insight to the management of Craigend during the later nineteenth century. The earliest book, undated but probably from either 1856 or 1857, shows the mansion to be owned by one Rogus, a misspelling of G. J. Rogers, a prominent Sydney solicitor. Rogers was identified as owner of Craigend as early as 1854 in Woolcott and Clarke's subdivision map of the City of Sydney, held in the Mitchell Library.

The occupier of Craigend in the late 1850s was Henry Prince, merchant and partner in the firm of Prince, Bray andOgg of 223 George Street, which financed pastoral endeavours and made handsome returns exporting wool. Prince was a successful businessman who became a Justice of the Peace, a director of the English, Scottish and Australian Chartered Bank and served on the committee of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce. In 1858 he accepted a seat on the Legislative Council of New South Wales, although he retired in May 1861.

The 1858 City of Sydney rate assessment book for the Fitzroy Ward described Craigend as having two floors with thirteen rooms, and a further six rooms detached, including a kitchen, coach-house and stable. The value of the property was assessed at £3300 .

Worthy of note was Prince's neighbour in an unremarkable, if not altogether pedestrian terrace at 2 Upper William Street. It was Sir Thomas Mitchell's widow, Mary, who lived with a number of her children in humble circumstances owing to her late husband's imprudent axrangement of his will. For an unspecified reason, Mitchell left all his property to his children. Campbell Mitchell inherited all the allotments left unsold on the original Craigend estate. Thomas Octavius Mitchell inherited Parkhall with 1620 hectares . Richard Blunt Mitchell was bequeathed 140 hectares at Woronora but was unable to take possession as he had acted as one of the witnesses to the will. Mitchell's naivety in legal matters left his wife in an uncomfortable economic position and unintentionally disinherited at least one child.

By 1880 Prince had purchased the house from the widow of G. J. Rogers, but was to die soon afterwards as the1882 assessment shows the property to be under the care of the "trustees late Henry Prince". By this time the nett value had risen to only £405. Prince's death marked the downward slide of noble Craigend, which remained in the hands of the trustees well into the twentieth century. It ceased to be a private residence and was leased to a variety of people for a variety of purposes. In the mid-1880s it was Royston College. In 1901 it was a private hospital with Miss A. M. Pyrie as resident matron. By 1906 it was a boarding house, initially under the care of Miss M. Edwards, then managed by Miss Emily Machen. About 1921, after many years as a boarding house, the property was purchased for £4000 by William Thomas Anderson. Craigend was demolished and the property realised eleven lots which attracted prices of between £1000 and £1500each. A cul-de-sac named Royston Street was carved into the property. It became a street of brick flats with names like Royston Court, Aron Hall, Inglethorpe, Waybourne and Cambrae.

The inner city suburbs of Kings Cross and Potts Point have swallowed up much of the Darlinghurst Ridge and of the many colonial mansions in the area only one, Elizabeth Bay House, designed by John Verge and built in the 1830s, has been restored to its original splendour. Two other Verge houses, Rockwall in Rockwall Cresent and Tusculum in Manning Street, have lain derelict for decades. The latter, built for merchant Alexander Brodie Spark in 1831 - 35, was the first property to be resumed by the New South Wales Government under the Heritage Act in 1983. In 1985 plans were approved for the building's restoration by the Royal Australian Institute of Architects, for use as their new headquarters. The fate of Rockwall , designed for viticulturalist James Busby and built in 1831-37, remains unknown (since restored- ed.) .

Lost Glories: A Memorial to Forgotten Australian Buildings
David Latta, Angus & Robertson, 1986