Gladswood House

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Gladswood House

Gladswood House is a two-storey Gothic Revival heritage-listed house in Gladswood Gardens, a residential cul-de-sac in the Sydney suburb of Double Bay. The house is now divided into flats as part of an apartment block.


Gladswood House is listed on the Australian Register of the National Estate. The Australian Heritage Commission's Statement of Significance cites it as a "Picturesque and historic home which has first class fittings and detail. Base of the original structure remains almost intact."[1] Over the years it has also been known as Glenyarrah and Seaford House.

The site was originally part of the Point Piper Estate, a parcel of 190 acres granted to Captain John Piper by Governor Lachlan Macquarie in 1820. Piper later had severe financial problems, as a result of which he sold his property in 1826 to the merchant Daniel Cooper, of Cooper and Levy. Over the years, the property has been associated with a number of notable people, including William Walker, Samuel Gordon, Thomas Hussey Kelly, Thomas Herbert Kelly, John Spencer Brunton, and Howard Joseland.

The house was built between 1862 and 1864.[2] The architect's identity is uncertain, but it was most likely either William Munro or Hilly. It was definitely Munro who built the gate pillars as there was an advertisement placed by Munro for stonemasons to build these at this house in 1864.[3] Constructed of sandstone, it features two wings, a verandah with three bays, a slate roof, Tudor chimneys and a fireplace that is thought to go back to 14th century England. Further extensions and alterations were carried out after 1901.[4]

The house and private jetty have a state heritage listing as well as the federal listing.[5]

Samuel Deane Gordon[edit]

Samuel Deane Gordon

Samuel Deane Gordon (1811-1882) built Gladswood House, then called Glenyarrah in about 1863. Samuel Deane Gordon was born in 1811 at Ballynahinch, County Down, Ireland. His father David Gordon was a farmer. His mother’s name was Mary Deane.[6] He came to Sydney in 1830 at the age of 19 and worked in several mercantile houses before becoming a successful merchant. He then turned to pastoral pursuits and leased Banandra run of over 50,000 acres on the Murrumbidgee River. He moved to Sydney and established a wine and spirit business and became the Director of several important companies.

Gladswood House circa 1870

In 1839 he married Eliza Dickson in East Maitland and the couple had several children. Unfortunately she died in 1856. He remarried in 1863 in Ireland. His new bride was Emily Fielding, daughter of Joshua Fielding esq. of Belfast.

During the 1860s he acquired more pastoral properties and became very wealthy. He was a prominent Presbyterian became a founder of St Andrew's College, Sydney, and member of its council. He was also a vice-president of the Highland Society and a member of the Victoria Club and the Linnean Society of New South Wales. He joined the committee of the Chamber of Commerce in 1867 and in the 1870s served on the committees of the Benevolent Asylum, the Sydney Infirmary and Dispensary and the Hospital for Sick Children, and was a vice-president of the Young Men's Christian Association and the Horticultural Society of New South Wales.

He died in 1882 and having been predeceased by his second wife he left his fortune to his surviving three daughters. Jessie Maria Gordon inherited Gladswood House but as she had married and lived in England she leased the house to Francis Bothamley Lark[7] for two years and then to Thomas Hussey Kelly who subsequently bought the house.

The Kelly family[edit]

Thomas Hussey Kelly

Thomas Hussey Kelly (1830-1901) bought Gladswood House in 1887. Thomas was born in 1830 in Ireland. He came to Australia at the age of 30 and found employment as a clerk and later as a wool broker for Gilchrist, Watt & Co. He established his own wool broking firm in 1874 and became very wealthy. He was the Director of numerous companies and by 1901 he was a shareholder in no fewer than twenty gold and copper mining companies. For many years he was managing director of the Sydney Smelting Co.[8]

In 1864 he married Mary Ann Dick and the couple had four sons and two daughters. One of his sons was Frederick Septimus Kelly (1881-1916) who was a gifted musician and whose diary has recently been published.[9] He lived mostly in England and in the diary he refers to his return visit to Gladswood House in 1911 to see his family. He describes his walking the beaches, body surfing at Bondi Beach, visiting on foot and by boat the haunts of his childhood, practicing the piano, playing for guests and making contact with Sydney society as he prepared for his musical debut.[10] Several years later he joined the Royal Naval Division to fight in the War and became a personal friend of Rupert Brooke, the famous English poet. When Rupert died in 1915 he carried his coffin for burial on the Island of Skyros and later composed a musical elegy in Brook’s honour.[11] Frederick also was killed in the War a year later and was buried on the Somme.

Ethel Knight Mollison, wife of Thomas Herbert Kelly (called Bertie)

Thomas Hussey Kelly died in 1901 and his son Thomas Herbert Kelly (1875-1948) inherited Gladswood House. Thomas (called Bertie) was born in 1875 in Sydney. He was educated at Eton in England and returned to Australia in 1898. When his father died he became director of the family firm the Sydney Smelting Company.[12]

House Party at Gladswood House in 1911. Ethel is seated in the centre and Bertie is third from the left.

In 1903 he married Ethel Knight Mollison (1875-1949).[13] Ethel was a Canadian born actress who had been invited by the theatre company J. C. Williamson to perform on the stage. She met Bertie while she was here and married him in Melbourne. The couple lived at Gladswood House from 1903 until 1913 and during that time they had many house parties. A newspaper of 1908 carried the following description of their social activities.

“At her charming house at Double Bay, Mrs. Kelly's artistic taste is displayed in the arrangement of her home, and beautiful things abound everywhere. Both she and her husband are art lovers, being devoted to music and painting, Mr. Kelly being one of our best amateur violinists.”

Being lovers of music they frequently invited opera singers to their home. In 1911 this house party was photographed by Arthur Wigram Allen, a notable amateur Sydney photographer and is shown on the left. The opera stars are Maria Ranzenberg[14] (far left), Signor Zeni[15] (fourth from right) Madame Wayda (third from right) and the most famous star Eleonora de Cisneros (far right). Ethel is seated in the centre and Bertie is third from the left.

In 1913 the Kellys sold Gladswood House to John Spencer Brunton.

John Spencer Brunton[edit]

John Spencer Brunton

John Spencer Brunton (1861-1937) was born in 1861 in Melbourne. His father was Thomas Brunton who had foundered the prominent firm Australian Flour Mills. John was educated at Scotch College in Melbourne and then entered his father’s business. In 1887 his father opened a branch of his company at Granville near Sydney and John eventually became a senior partner.[16] He was a member of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce and in 1900 became the President. He was a racehorse owner, yachtsman and golfer. In 1886, he built Brunyarra at Strathfield which still exists today.

John married twice. His first wife died in 1890 and he remarried in 1898 to Eleanor Thorne. She was known for her charitable works and was the first honorary treasurer of the New South Wales division of the Red Cross Society and a life-governor of the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children, Camperdown.

When John bought Gladswood House in 1913 he commissioned the prominent architect Richard George Howard Joseland (called Howard Joseland) to make additions to the house. His daughter later married one of John’s sons and the reception was held at Gladswood House.[17] This was widely reported in the newspapers of the time.

John died in 1937 and the property was sold to Rose Bay builder Frederick Louis Perini who modified the building to become a guest house. In the 1990s it was converted to luxury apartments.


  1. ^ "Place ID 2487". Australian Heritage Database. Department of the Environment. 
  2. ^ State Heritage Website
  3. ^ Sydney Morning Herald, 20 August 1864, p. 16. Online reference
  4. ^ The Heritage of Australia, Macmillan Company (1981), p.2/133
  5. ^ State Heritage Website
  6. ^ Australian Dictionary of Biography, “Samuel Deane Gordon”. Online reference
  7. ^ New South Wales Heritage List. Online reference
  8. ^ Australian Dictionary of Biography, “Thomas Hussey Kelly”. Online reference
  9. ^ Frederick Septimus Kelly, “Race Against Time”. Online reference
  10. ^ Frederick Septimus Kelly, “Race Against Time”, p. 23-4.
  11. ^ Militarian website. Online reference
  12. ^ Australian Dictionary of Biography, Thomas Herbert Kelly. Online reference
  13. ^ Australian Dictionary of Biography, Ethel Knight Mollison. Online reference
  14. ^ Evening News (Sydney), 1 September 1911, p. 12. Online reference
  15. ^ The World’s News (Sydney), 30 September 1911, p. 4. Online reference
  16. ^ City of Sydney “John Spencer Brunton”. Online reference
  17. ^ The Sun (Sydney), 6 June 1923, p. 8. Online reference

Coordinates: 33°52′21″S 151°14′47″E / 33.8726°S 151.2463°E / -33.8726; 151.2463