Dalton House- Federation Free Classical style building (former hospital) | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

Culture and heritage


Dalton House- Federation Free Classical style building (former hospital)

Item details

Name of item: Dalton House- Federation Free Classical style building (former hospital)
Other name/s: Dalton Gardens Retirement Village, part of former Mount Saint Margaret Hospital,
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Residential buildings (private)
Category: House
Primary address: 642-678 Victoria Road, Ryde, NSW 2112
Parish: Hunters Hill
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Ryde
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
642-678 Victoria RoadRydeRydeHunters HillCumberlandPrimary Address

Statement of significance:

Dalton House, named after important businessman and Catholic philanthropist Thomas Dalton, is of historical significance as the only remaining building from the history of the site from the 1890s-1992 as the Mount St. Margaret psychiatric hospital for women which operated on the site from 1891 till 1992, run by the Catholic order the Little Company of Mary. The site and the Dalton House building have historical association with Thomas Dalton (1829-1901),MLA, MLC, and Catholic philanthropist, and with the Little Company of Mary. The 1891 Dalton House building designed by architect D.W. Ryan and extended in 1904 by architect J.T. McCarthy, is of aesthetic significance as a fine representative example of a large institutional Federation Free Classical style building.
Date significance updated: 26 Feb 13
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Designer/Maker: D.W. Ryan, architect (1891); Herbert E. Wardell (1895 extensions); J.T. McCarthy (1904 extensions)
Construction years: 1891-1904
Physical description: Of the buildings constructed on the site for Mount St Margaret Hospital between 1891 and 1978, only the original Dalton House building designed by architect D.W. Ryan, and the extensions of 1904 designed by J.T. McCarthy, remain, along with the 1923 brick perimeter wall.

The Dalton House building is a substantial example of a Federation Free Classical style institutional building, with massive stone arches at ground floor level. Characteristic elements seen in this building include the use of face brick and stone externally, detailing of window joinery, massing and the plan form of the building. The building comprises a two storey structure with brick and stone walls externally, a complex hipped roof clad in terracotta tiles, and brick walls with timber flooring internally. The roof has retained its 1904 form that was originally covered in slate, the roof is now covered in terracotta tiles. The 1904 cupola remains. Some chimneys have been removed.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Date condition updated:11 Jan 12
Modifications and dates: 1895: extensions by architect Herbert E. Wardell
1904: extensions by architect J.T. McCarthy
1992: Former hospital site redeveloped as the Dalton Gardens Retirement Village, with adaptive reuse of Dalton House.
Current use: Retirement Village
Former use: Hospital


Historical notes: AREA HISTORY
Aboriginal people inhabited the Sydney basin for thousands of years prior to the arrival of Europeans. The northern coastal area of Sydney was home to the Guringai people, western Sydney was home to the Dharug clans, and southern Sydney was inhabited by the Dharawal clans. The Guringai lived primarily along the foreshores of the harbour, and fished and hunted in the waters and hinterlands of the area. All clans harvested food from their surrounding bush. Self-sufficient and harmonious, they had no need to travel far from their lands, since the resources around them were so abundant, and trade with other tribal groups was well established. The British arrival in 1788 had a dramatic impact on all of the Sydney clans. Food resources were quickly diminished by the invaders, who had little understanding of the local environment. As a result, the Aboriginal people throughout the Sydney Basin were soon close to starvation. The Sydney clans fought back against the invaders, but the introduction of diseases from Europe and Asia, most notably smallpox, destroyed over half the population. The clearing of land for settlements and farms displaced local tribes and reduced the availability of natural food resources, leaving Aboriginal people reliant on white food and clothing. The French surgeon and pharmacist Rene Primavere Lesson, who visited Sydney in 1824, wrote: "the tribes today are reduced to fragments scattered all around Port Jackson, on the land where their ancestors lived and which they do not wish to leave." (Information taken from City of Ryde Aboriginal Site Management Report, Aboriginal Heritage Office, 2011).

In the early years of European settlement of Sydney, the Ryde area was found to be highly suitable for farming and orchards, and early colonial land grants to marines were given to encourage agriculture. In January 1792 land in the area which extended from Dundas to the Lane Cove River along the northern bank of the river, was granted to eight marines. The area was named by Governor Phillip the “Field of Mars”, Mars being the ancient Roman God of war, named to reflect the military associations of the land grantees. Two of these land grants were made in the modern area of the suburb of Ryde. Isaac Archer and John Colethread each received 80 acres of land on the site of the present Ryde-Parramatta Golf Links (now in West Ryde).

These grants were followed soon after by grants to ten emancipated convicts in February 1792, the land being further to the east of the marine’s grants, in the area now central to Ryde. Most of the grants were small, from 30 to 100 acres. This area was called Eastern Farms or the Eastern Boundary. By 1794 the name Eastern Farms had given way to Kissing Point, a name believed to have originated from the way in which heavily laden boats passing up the Parramatta River bumped or ‘kissed’ the rocky outcrop which extends into the river at today’s Kissing Point. Further grants were issued in 1794 and 1795, gradually occupying most of the foreshores between Meadowbank and Gladesville. Some of the grants were at North Brush, north of the Field of Mars settlement, in the area of Brush Farm and Eastwood.

Much later these were bought by John Macarthur, Gregory Blaxland and the Reverend Samuel Marsden. The district remained an important orcharding area throughout the 19th century.

The land on which Ryde House (now Willandra) was built was part of the emancipist John Small's 1794 grant and was acquired by James Devlin in 1828 from Thomas Small, James' step-father. James Devlin (1808-1875) was born in NSW, the son of Irish exile Arthur Devlin and his colonial-born wife Priscilla Squire. Devlin was originally a wheelwright, and later became a successful developer and contractor. James Devlin was a warden of St Anne's Church, Ryde and also a trustee for many years, and a Trustee of the Field of Mars Common, Devlin was instrumental in advocating for the proclamation of Ryde as a municipality and was one of the first Ryde aldermen in 1871. Devlin's Creek and Devlin Street are named after James Devlin. (Pollen, 1996).

About 1840 the name Ryde began to be used in the locality, with Devlin's 1841 subdivision being the earliest documented use of this name. Megan Martin has shown that the names Ryde and Turner Street were both chosen by James Devlin to honour the new Anglican Minister, Rev. George Turner, whose wife was a native of the English Ryde. Devlin and his neighbour, James Shepherd, had some 40 lots surveyed in a subdivision they named the Village of Ryde, with Devlin's 'East Ryde' facing St. Anne's Church and Shepherd's 'West Ryde' facing the road to Parramatta.

Devlin designed and began building the house now known as "Willandra" in 1841 on the old Small's farm and the Devlin family moved into the house in 1845. At that time it was called Ryde House.

The land on which Mt St Margaret Hospital is situated was originally part of an early land grant of thirty acres which was made to Thomas Chaddock. Thomas Chaddock (also known as Chadwick) was a sailor from the West Indies who had been transported to New South Wales in 1788 for seven years. Notwithstanding the terms of the grant, the next year the land passed into the hands of Charles Peat and subsequently underwent several changes of ownership. John O'Donnell then in 1848 by Andrew Lindsay; 1871 Manuel Josephson and James Hart; 1872 John Richmond; 1875 Catherine Richmond.

In 1889 Thomas Dalton acquired the land. Thomas Dalton (25 April 1829 - 26 June 1901) was born at Duntryleague, Ireland, and arrived in NSW Australia in 1858 to join his brother James Dalton in a business James had started in Orange, NSW named Dalton Bros. In 1861 Thomas Dalton married Elizabeth Fahy, and the couple subsequently had seven children, with Elizabeth dying in 1877 at the age of 34. In 1880 Thomas married Mary Anne Josephine Ahern. There were no children from this second marriage. Thomas Dalton was Mayor of Orange in 1877, and served as the Member for Orange in the NSW Parliament between 1882 and 1891, and also served as an MLC from 1892 to 1901. He died at North Sydney on 26 June 1901. The Dalton Bros. business begun in Orange, subsequently moved to Sydney. Thomas Dalton was a prominent businessman and a prominent benefactor of the Catholic Church, He was renowned for his philanthropy towards the Catholic Church and was made a Knight Commander of the Order of St Gregory by Cardinal Moran (Obituary, Thomas Dalton 1829-1901, Sydney Morning Herald, 27 June 1901, page 5).

As one of Thomas Dalton's daughters was mentally disordered, he offered the donation of the land at Ryde and the erection of a two storey building and training in psychiatric nursing in England, via Cardinal Moran, to the Little Company of Mary to operate a psychiatric hospital for women. The Order founded in Nottingham in 1877 arrived in Sydney in 1885 and moved into their convent at Lewisham in 1886. In 1891 in November the new convent, Mt St Margaret opened at Ryde. The architect was D.W. Ryan. The two trained Sisters arrived in 1893. The licence was issued in September 1893. Extensions were constructed in 1895 to a design by architect Herbert E. Wardell.

In 1904 the further additions at Mount Saint Margaret were constructed to designs by the architect J.T. McCarthy. In 1914 a new block was constructed, designed by architect J.T. McCarthy.

Between 1915 and 1922 a programme of renovations was carried out.

In 1923 a brick wall facing Victoria Road was built. In 1931 a chapel was built to a design by architects Moore and Dowling. In 1931 the Hospital was registered as a school for psychiatric nurses. In 1938 a new convent was built to a design by architects Wardell Moore and Dowling. Domestic quarters were erected in 1952. In 1959 the Marian Wing was blessed. The Marian Wing was eventually extended in 1972. In 1965 Mother Mary Potter Nurse's Home and the building named the Tutorial of Psychiatric Nursing were built.

Of the buildings constructed at Mount St Margaret between 1891 and 1978, only the original building and extension works of 1904 designed by J.T. McCarthy, now known as Dalton House, remain, along with the 1923 brick perimeter wall.

The Mount Saint Margaret hospital provided psychiatric care from the 1890s till 1992, when it closed.

After 1992 the former Mount Saint Margaret Hospital site was redeveloped for the Catholic-run Dalton Gardens Retirement Village, retaining only Dalton House.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Health-Activities associated with preparing and providing medical assistance and/or promoting or maintaining the well being of humans Psychiatric hospitals-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Religion-Activities associated with particular systems of faith and worship (none)-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Social institutions-Activities and organisational arrangements for the provision of social activities Community Development-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with prominent local persons-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Dalton House, named after important businessman and Catholic philanthropist Thomas Dalton, is of historical significance as the only remaining building from the history of the site from the 1890s-1992 as the Mount St. Margaret psychiatric hospital for women which operated on the site from 1891 till 1992, run by the Catholic order the Little Company of Mary.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The site and the Dalton House building have historical association with Thomas Dalton (1829-1901), MLA, MLC and Catholic philanthropist, and with the Little Company of Mary.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The 1891 Dalton House building designed by architect D.W. Ryan and extended in 1904 by architect J.T. McCarthy, is of aesthetic significance as a fine representative example of a large institutional Federation Free Classical style building.
SHR Criteria g)
Dalton House is a representative large institutional Federation Free Classical style building.
Integrity/Intactness: Relatively intact.
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Recommended management:

DOCUMENTATION: A Heritage Impact Statement is required by Council to accompany any Development Application for non-minor work. The Conservation Plan for Dalton House prepared in 1995 (see references) should be referred to for management guidelines for this item. This document should be reviewed and updated to a Conservation Management Plan for this item (2012). Please consult Council staff about your proposal and the level of documentation that will be required as early as possible in the process. Note that Council has adopted planning provisions to assist in the making of minor changes that will not have any impact on the significance of properties without the need to prepare a formal application or Heritage Impact Statement. In this case Council must be consulted in writing to confirm the nature of the works. APPROACHES TO MANAGING THE HERITAGE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE PROPERTY: (Note: the detailed requirements for each property will be determined on a case-by-case basis. The following advice provides general principles that should be respected by all development.) Further subdivision of the land is discouraged. The overall form of the building should be retained and conserved and new uses should be restricted to those that are historically consistent and/or able to be accommodated within the existing fabric with minimal physical impact. All significant exterior fabric should be retained and conserved. The setting of Dalton House should be preserved and significant plantings, walls, paths and other landscape elements should be retained in a manner that will not threaten the viability of significant gardens, landscapes or views. The external surfaces and materials of significant facades (generally, but not limited to, those visible from the street or a public place including the water) should be retained, and painted surfaces painted in appropriate colours. Sandstone and face brickwork should not be painted or coated. Significant door and window openings should not be enlarged or enclosed. OPPORTUNITIES FOR CHANGE: All development should respect the principle of ‘do as much as necessary but as little as possible’. In most instances, new work should not attempt to replicate historic forms. A ‘contemporary neutral’ design that sits quietly on the site, and enhances the quality of the item, will be a more sympathetic outcome than a ‘fake’ historic building. Respecting the scale and overall forms, proportions and rhythms of the historic fabric is critical. As a general principle, all major alterations and additions should NOT: - result in demolition of significant fabric - result in excessive site cover; - be visually prominent or overwhelm the existing buildings. - intrude into any views of the property from the public domain, including the water; and should be: - located behind the historic building/s on the site; - visually subservient and have minimal impact on heritage significance including that of views over the property. Single storey extensions will generally be preferred over two-storey forms unless there is a sound heritage reason to do otherwise. Attic rooms must be accommodated in the original roof form.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanRyde LEP 2010148   
Local Environmental Plan1158462I148   
Local Environmental Plan - LapsedLEP No. 10517417 Jan 03 14357
Heritage study     

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Ryde Heritage Study1988174Jonathan Falk Planning Consutants P/L Assoc with Rodney Jensen and Assoc P/L  No
Review of 1988 Ryde Heritage Study.2002 Hill Thalis Architecture and Urban Projects.  Yes
Ryde SHI Review Stage 12012 Paul Davies Pty Ltd  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written 2012Australian psychiatric care website: Mount Saint Margaret's Hospital 1890s-1992.
Written 1901Obituary, Thomas Dalton (1829-1901), Sydney Morning Herald, 27 June 1901, page 5
WrittenAngela Phippen2008Ryde suburb history, Dictionary of Sydney online
WrittenRod Howard Heritage Conservation Pty Ltd1995Dalton House, Mount St Margaret Hospital site, Ryde: conservation plan

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Local Government
Database number: 2340114

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