The Abbey, Annandale

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The Abbey
Johnstonstreet1 thumb.jpg
The Abbey, c. 1880s
General information
Architectural styleVictorian Free Gothic
Location272 Johnston Street, Annandale, Inner West Council, New South Wales
Coordinates33°52′28″S 151°10′25″E / 33.8744°S 151.1735°E / -33.8744; 151.1735Coordinates: 33°52′28″S 151°10′25″E / 33.8744°S 151.1735°E / -33.8744; 151.1735
Completed1882; 139 years ago (1882)
ClientJohn Young
Renovating team
ArchitectAlan Croker
New South Wales Heritage Database
(Local Government Register)
Official name"The Abbey", house
TypeInner West Council local heritage (built)
Designated23 December 2013
Part of“The Witches’ Houses”
Reference no.I65
CategoryResidential buildings (private)

The Abbey is an historic house located at 272 Johnston Street in the Sydney suburb of Annandale, New South Wales, Australia. The house is listed on the (now defunct) Register of the National Estate, the local government register in the New South Wales Heritage Database, and on the non-statutory register of the National Trust of Australia.[1][2][3]


The Abbey was built by John Young, a builder who had migrated from England to Australia. After working for some time as a builder in Melbourne, Young moved to Sydney and continued a successful career. In 1877, he bought land in what is now the suburb of Annandale, where he had visions of creating a garden suburb that would rival exclusive harbourside suburbs like Darling Point. He proceeded to build an extraordinary group of eight homes along a ridge near Rozelle Bay: The Abbey, Oybin, Kenilworth, Rozelle (since demolished), Greba, Hockindon, Highroyd and Claremont (since demolished).

The Abbey was the most outstanding of these homes, an "imaginative, romantic house loosely modelled on a Scottish manor".[4]:p.83 It was designed in a variation of the Victorian Free Gothic style[4]:p.83 and incorporated stencil work, hand-painted panels, timber architraves, a Gothic vault and a tower with gargoyles. Young was the principal builder of St Mary's Cathedral, and it was rumoured that he had stolen gargoyles from the cathedral to use on his Annandale homes.[citation needed] He also used reinforced concrete, quite an innovation at the time.[3]:p.2/35 Young was a Freemason and the house was decorated with Masonic symbols. It was completed in 1882. Young built the home to impress his wife and encourage her to return from England. She did not return and they never lived in it. The Abbey was occupied by housekeepers while Young lived in a house called Kentville, near Rozelle Bay, since demolished. From 1887, the ballroom and stables of The Abbey were used as a boarding house for private schools.[5]

In 1924, the house was subdivided and converted to flats—the beginning of a long period of decline. In 1959 it was acquired by radio engineer Lancelot Davis for the sum of £4,500 for his son, Sydney surgeon Dr Geoffrey L. R. Davis. Dr Davis, an associate of the bohemian Sydney Push,[6] continued to lease out some of the original separate units for two decades while proceeding with a long-term restoration of the house. The Davis family occupied The Abbey for fifty years. Dr Davis died in 2008. In May 2009 the contents of the house were auctioned.[7][8] The house itself was sold in November 2009, for $4.86 million. Although a record for Annandale at the time, it fell short of the $5 million the vendors had expected. It surpassed the $3.35 million paid for Kenilworth in 2007.[9]

Gervase Davis believed the house was haunted. He claimed to have felt various presences from time to time, and a lady in white has been seen occasionally.[10] Ghost hunters with "ectoplasmic machines" investigated the house in the 1970s. Francesca Davis believed that cats could sense the presence of spirits and her hackles would rise when such a presence came into the room.[5]

The new owners, Michael Hogan and Ann Sherry, restored the house over four years to 2015,[11] working with heritage architect Alan Croker. The renovation won a National Trust Heritage Award in May 2015.[12] The Abbey is listed on the (now defunct) Register of the National Estate[1] on the local government register of the New South Wales Heritage Database,[2] and on the non-statutory register of the National Trust of Australia.[3]:p.2/35


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Place ID 1688". Australian Heritage Database. Department of the Environment.
  2. ^ a b "The Abbey". New South Wales Heritage Database. Office of Environment and Heritage. Retrieved 24 February 2019.
  3. ^ a b c The Heritage of Australia: the illustrated register of the National Estate. Macmillan. 1981. ISBN 0-333-33750-6.
  4. ^ a b Apperly, Richard; Irving, Robert (1994). A Pictorial Guide to Identifying Australian Architecture: Styles and Terms from 1788 to the Present. Angus and Robertson. ISBN 0-207-18562-X.
  5. ^ a b "Sydney haunted house The Abbey in Annandale for sale". Daily Telegraph. Sydney. 23 May 2009.
  6. ^ Tovey, Josephine (7 November 2009). "Fifty rooms and a tower: just the place for a party". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  7. ^ "Domain supplement". The Sydney Morning Herald. 3 October 2009. p. 1.
  8. ^ Gillies, Fiona (24 May 2009). "The magic touch in inner Sydney". Property section. Daily Telegraph. Sydney.
  9. ^ Day, Samantha (8 November 2009). "Unholy row at Abbey as hammer falls for $4.86m". The Sun-Herald.
  10. ^ The Glebe, 21 May 2009, p.11
  11. ^ Carey, Alexis (22 October 2013). "The iconic Annandale Abbey is in the midst of a makeover to restore its former glory". Inner West Courier; Daily Telegraph. Sydney.
  12. ^ Kembrey, Melanie (15 May 2015). "A tour of the refurbished Annandale Abbey". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 31 May 2017.


  • Municipality of Leichhardt (23 December 2013). Local Environmental Plan. I65.
  • Burton, Craig; Thorp, Wendy (1990). Leichhardt Municipality Heritage Study. McDonald McPhee Pty Ltd.
  • Annandale Group (1973). An Introduction to Annandale.
  • Solling, Max; Reynolds, Peter (1997). Leichhardt on the Margins of the City.
  • Irving, Robert; Kinstler, John; Dupain, Max (1982). Fine Houses of Sydney.

External links[edit]