ESTATE AND GROUNDS:
Tempe house covers twelve (12) acres, subdivided into twelve (12) lots, and is confined on all sides by a rail line, the Cooks River, the Princes Highway and an industrial area, the building remains largely intact and is constructed from traditional bearing walls, timber floors and roof framing. The house is symmetrically detailed utilizing classic motifs. [Tanner & Associates, 2001: p.61]. Tempe house stands amongst a scenic garden setting depicted as an ideal 'Arcadian' landscape, with a long looped carriageway.
The grounds are of exceptional importance for their ability to demonstrate close adherence to early nineteenth century design principles, including the modified natural element Mt Olympus - an unusual example of a detached shrubbery, and for surviving early fabric - walling, gateposts and sundial. They are important for their association for one hundred years with the Sisters of the Good Samaritan and for their framework of mature plantings, particularly the early Olea europaea subsp. europaea. The group of eucalypts on Mount Olympus has value in providing evidence of the natural vegetation on the site. Mount Olympus and the group of eucalypts which, as a group, are rare on a local level. These are an identifiable natural landmark on the Princes Highway.
Mt.Olympus is a small hill on the eastern side of Tempe House, adjoining (on the south side of) the Cook's River. Immediately east of Mt.Olympus is the Princes Highway. Immediately south of it is an access road and high rise blocks of flats built since 2002.
The Northeast elevation boasts bull nose edged verandahs and principally retains the form of the original verandah. There are two pairs of cedar French doors with fanlights above. The windows are symmetrically positioned on the faade, as are the semi circular verandahs with Tuscan timber columns situated either side of the central stairway. The entrance has a wide eight (8) paneled door. [Tanner & Associates, 2001: pp.62-63].
The Southeast elevation incorporates a courtyard with simple detailing and one entry, that is the original six (6) paneled wide cedar door. The original hipped roof is visible from the courtyard as is a small portion of the original verandah, however, the roof has been modified [Tanner & Associates, 2001: p.64].
The interior of the house has many of the rooms retaining French doors and there are early fireplaces, and six (6) paneled doors throughout most of the common areas. Every room has views out to the trees, and the house revolves around a central hallway. The cedar joinery is finely molded, and is of a similar design throughout the intact areas of the house. The parlour and dining room both feature colonial marble fireplaces and French windows with large areas of glazing for optimal views of the river. There is evidence of the original floorboards in the rear rooms of the house [Tanner & Associates, 2001: p.76-80].
ST MAGDALENE'S CHAPEL
The chapel was built approximately fifty (50) years after Tempe House and is constructed from good quality red brick with cream brick and sandstone detailing. The Chapel, like the house, represents the period of architectural style in which it was built. The Chapel is an example of Victorian Gothic architecture and measures approximately twenty (20) metres long, by ten (10) metres wide, and is a tall single story structure with a steeply sloping roof.
The northeast elevation has stained glass windows with carved sandstone windowsills and simply detailed gables capped with corbelled sandstone eaves, copper guttering and circular down pipes. The southeast elevation has a simple rose window high on the gable end [Tanner & Associates, 2001: p.72-74].
The interior of the chapel is plainly finished, and the detail of religious scenes in the stained glass windows is evident. The most striking feature is the vaulted cedar boarded ceiling supported by a series of arched ribs. The interior of the Chapel consists of mainly one large room, with the altar stretching the width of the building, and has an ornate balustrade of wrought iron and timber [Tanner & Associates, 2001: p.81-82].
6/2001: The results of the archeological assessment indicate that if any archaeological deposits relating to the early nineteenth century use of the site survive, then they are likely to be of high historical and archaeological significance.
Tempe estate was named after the 'Vale of Tempe' in Ancient Greece, due to its extensive gardens, designed to enhance the view of the Cooks River. The house was commissioned in 1831 by renowned architect John Verge and is a rare example of his architectural style. The Land was first released in 1809 as a series of three land grants, the largest portion awarded to Sergeant William Packer and the remaining two grants were reissued in 1810 by Governor Macquarie. Sergeant Packer sold his land to the original owner of Tempe House, Alexander Brodie Spark in 1826 for 100 pounds. Records from the 1828 census indicate that there were six (6) people living and working on the estate at the time, and by the 1836 census, there were thirty-one (31) people recorded as living and working on the estate. [Tanner & Associates, Conservation Management Plan, 2001: pp.7-11].
Tempe Estate formed a deliberately modified natural element, identified as 'Mt Olympus', which included Australian shrubbery, and created a suitable backdrop for a house in a picturesque setting [Tanner & Associates, 2001: p.131]. The riverbanks were developed to lay extensive lawns, and as the property was only accessible by boat at the time, a wharf was constructed to accommodate guests, however, it was not completed until 1838 [Tanner & Associates, 2001: p.11]. The house after completion was used extensively for entertainment purposes and the scenic gardens included up to fifty (50) differing varieties of grape vines from France, which also attracted horticultural awards [Tanner & Associates, 2001: p.26].
The construction of a dam between 1839 and 1841 was built from quarried stone in the surrounding cliffs by convict labour, and served to enhance the Estate's already splendid views. The dam allowed the area to be linked to the city by road, leading Spark, in 1841, to construct a carriage drive, a new coach house, stables and grooms quarters [Tanner & Associates, 2001: pp.16-17]. The stables burnt down in 1844, and were replaced, where they then remained until 1960 [Anglin and Associates, Conservation Plan: Tempe Estate, 1988: p.13].
1840 saw A.B.Spark begin to face extensive business problems, with his personal borrowings seemingly insurmountable. He attempted to rectify his position by planting saleable crops, however, was eventually overcome and his insolvency was listed on the 23rd August 1843. He remained at Tempe Estate with his wife and children and attempted to sell twice, however, at the time of his death in 1856 his estate failed to meet his debts [Tanner & Associates, 2001: pp.18-19].
A.B. Spark was one of the original trustees of St. Peter's Anglican Church, St.Peters. When Spark died he was buried in St. Peter's graveyard. The location of the grave is uncertain (St.Peter's parish, interpretive sign from graveyard).
Tempe Estate was subdivided, and the house was auctioned to brothers Patrick and Thomas Maguire on the 24th August 1859 for 2000 pounds. The brothers never resided at Tempe Estate in their twenty years of ownership, however, leased the property out, most notably to Caroline Chisholm. In the years 1863 to 1865, Caroline Chisholm, seen as one of Australia's greatest philanthropists, ran an educational establishment for young ladies in Tempe House [Tanner & Associates, 2001: p.22].
In 1876, Tempe House was leased as a private residence to Mr C.T.Richardson [Tanner & Associates, 2001: p.23].
On November 23rd 1884, Tempe Estate was sold at Auction to Frederick Gannon for 4000 pounds who then sold it five (5) months later for the sizable sum of 6,750 pounds to the Trustees of the Good Samaritan Order, Mary Anne Adamson, otherwise known as Superior General Magdalene and Margaret Mary Byrne [Tanner & Associates, 2001: p.23].
The Good Samaritan Order focused on unmarried mothers and women who were seen to be at risk of sin. By 1887, the sisters had raised enough money to build a penitentiary, laundries and accommodation. The new buildings accommodated forty (40) penitents and were renamed St Magdalene's refuge, also known as The Retreat. A new Chapel was constructed in 1888, adjacent to the house, and by 1900, over one hundred (100) people worked a daily routine in the laundry operations and an inquiry into the refuge over unpaid wages was settled in favour of the Order [Tanner & Associates, 2001: pp.24-25].
Renowned architects Sheerin and Hennessy were the principal architects employed to design the new penitentiary, laundries and accommodation for St Magdalene's Retreat. It is unclear who designed the Chapel, however, as it has a similar architectural style as the new buildings, the indication was that Sherrin and Hennessy were employed once again. Whilst further additions were made, the house remained largely unaltered until 1944-1945 [Tanner & Associates, 2001: pp.28-29].
By 1944, the Retreat began to develop more into a training centre for the rehabilitation of delinquent girls, who had ended up in the court system, and in the 1940's, there were 55 girls housed at the Estate [Tanner & Associates, 2001: p.32]. Facilities to aid education were added in 1954, a swimming pool in 1959 and a chaplains residence in 1972. External conservation work was undertaken to repair deterioration on the verandah bays that was completed by Hurst and Kennedy architects in 1977 [Tanner & Associates, 2001: p.41].
The Good Samaritan Order remained in ownership of Tempe Estate for over 100 years and in 1989 sold it to Qantek, a branch of Qantas [Tanner & Associates, 2001: p.37].
1990 saw a permanent Conservation order established for Tempe Estate, including the house and surrounding grounds to the riverfront. The landscape was deemed to be of greater significance than the buildings associated with the Good Samaritan Order and subsequently, they were demolished with the exception of the Chapel and the iron fencing [Tanner & Associates, 2001: p.37].
The property passed possession from Qantek to Interciti Arncliffe Developments Pty. Ltd in 2000 [Tanner & Associates, 2001: p.42], who have carried out staged high density development over the southern part of the former estate around a new railway station.