House "Iona" including interior, front fence and grounds | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

About us

House "Iona" including interior, front fence and grounds

Item details

Name of item: House "Iona" including interior, front fence and grounds
Other name/s: Woolton, Winchester Private Hospital, Hughlings Private Hospital
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Residential buildings (private)
Category: Semi-Detached House
Primary address: 2 Darley Street, Darlinghurst, NSW 2010
Parish: Alexandria
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Sydney
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
2 Darley StreetDarlinghurstSydneyAlexandriaCumberlandPrimary Address

Statement of significance:

Iona, constructed c.1888, is significant for its high aesthetic quality as a late Victorian Italianate villa demonstrating the transition into Federation period styles of residential architecture. Its form, use of materials and detailing, particularly the highly ornate cornices provide the building with its high aesthetic value with such cornices being relatively rare due to their excellent quality. Iona is associated with prominent businessmen and public figures of the time. Historically the place was also adapted for use as a private hospital for many years. The original dwelling is largely intact although much of the original detailing and joinery has been reconstructed following its institutional use. It retains substantial grounds. It is one of the few substantial surviving late 19th century gentleman's villas of Darlinghurst, one of the significant early period development layers for the area.
Date significance updated: 23 Nov 09
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.


Physical description: The site contains a large two storey Victorian Italianate style mansion with extensive grounds.

The existing dwelling is located towards the southern end of the site. It is two storeys in height, with basement level and contains 30 rooms. Constructed of stuccoed brickwork it has an elaborate cast iron verandah and balcony balustrading and a hipped slate roof. The interior contains cedar joinery, including a staircase, and highly ornate cornices. The building also features a fine stained glass window to the stair landing depicting Australian flora and fauna. The house has been added to a number of times.

Iona retains a remnant garden of reduced area ( 2600sqm) on the western side of the house, bounded in the south by tall gates to Darley Street and a tall fence to Tewkesbury Avenue in the north.

The site is irregular in shape and is located at the end of Darley Street with a second frontage to Tewkesbury Avenue; towards which the principal elevation or northern facade is oriented. The site is oriented north south with the east and west boundaries adjoining the neighbouring properties. The existing dwelling is located towards the southern end of the site. The site is bounded by a high sandstone fence. The main entry is through cast iron palisade gates from Darley Street with a second access point from Tewkesbury Avenue on the boundary through recently constructed large solid iron gates. The northern and western portions of the site are not built upon and feature the grassed front yard and paved circular driveway respectively. The front yard features large mature trees along the boundaries and is predominantly grassed with some garden beds and some low sandstone walling around the edges. A grotto style garden with sandstone walls and a circular centre feature is located in the north eastern corner of the site. Between the rear southern elevation of the dwelling and the boundary fence is recently landscaped yard featuring stone paving, garden beds and a fountain [City Plan Heritage 2005].
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Date condition updated:04 Jan 10
Modifications and dates: Pre 1888 early single storey cottage, also called. Existing house replaced the earlier cottage. Early 20th century dwelling was converted for use as a private hospital. This use continued through to 1977, and numerous alternations and additions were undertaken as part of this use. 1970s the site and a number of surrounding sites were acquired for redevelopment with Iona retained. The development never proceeded 1980s the place was restored with a proposal to convert it to a boutique hotel, which did not proceed.

Glazed security screen behind existing Darley Street fence approved December 2006. D2006/01385. Works included repairs to original sandstone walls and iron palisade and gates.
Further information: Heritage Inventory sheets are often not comprehensive, and should be regarded as a general guide only. Inventory sheets are based on information available, and often do not include the social history of sites and buildings. Inventory sheets are constantly updated by the City as further information becomes available. An inventory sheet with little information may simply indicate that there has been no building work done to the item recently: it does not mean that items are not significant. Further research is always recommended as part of preparation of development proposals for heritage items, and is necessary in preparation of Heritage Impact Assessments and Conservation Management Plans, so that the significance of heritage items can be fully assessed prior to submitting development applications.


Historical notes: The "Eora people" was the name given to the coastal Aborigines around Sydney. Central Sydney is therefore often referred to as "Eora Country". Within the City of Sydney local government area, the traditional owners are the Cadigal and Wangal bands of the Eora.

With the invasion of the Sydney region, the Cadigal and Wangal people were decimated but there are descendants still living in Sydney today.

Iona is on land which was once part of a grant of just over five acres to William Long in August 1835. James Wright leased the land from Long in early 1836 and when the land was subdivided in 1845, part of it was purchased by Elizabeth Grose. Mrs Grose's property was one of several in the very fashionable Darlinghurst Heights.

From 1866 until 1869 Mrs Grose's house was occupied by Richard Jones and from 1872 the occupant of the house was Robert Carter. That year was also the first listing of the name of the house - "Iona Cottage". Mrs Grose sold her property in 1879 and the land was subdivided into 9 lots.

Robert Carter extended the house, replaced the shingled roof with iron and continued to live at Iona Cottage until 1884. At the time he financed the sale, Iona was described as a five bedroom gentleman's residence.

Edward Chisholm, a wealthy Sydney merchant and pastoralist, purchased the property in October 1888. Edward built a new home on the site, also called "Iona". Edward Chisholm and his family resided in the house until his death in 1898, and the property was transmitted to the Perpetual Trustee Company.

In 1906 the name of the street was changed to Darley Street, possibly named after Sir Frederick Darley who at that time was the Chief Justice and Lieutenant Governor of NSW. The site became known as 2 Darley Street.

Adela Taylor, the wife of Allen Taylor, purchased the property in March 1908 and renamed the house "Wootton". Allen Taylor founded his firm of timber growers, merchants and sawmill proprietors. Taylor was at one time Sydney Mayor Sir Allan Taylor, after whom Taylor Square, Darlinghurst, is named.

They sold the property in December 1912 to Eliza Hyem, wife of Alexander Hyem. Mrs Hyem leased the site to Jessie Robertson, Elizabeth Robertson and Annie Ellie McAndrew, spinsters, who converted the house to "Wootten Private Hospital", a psychiatric facility. Jessie Robertson became the owner of the property in 1918. Before 1919 an operating theatre block was added on the southern side of the house. Jessie leased the hospital to Florence Inglis, Elizabeth Fraser and Annie Paton, spinsters and nurses, in February 1920. They then purchased the property in June 1927.

In 1935 an additional two storey wing was built next to the operating theatre. In 1936 there were some minor alterations and additions to the 1935 rear wing and a seven bedroom nurses' residence was built in the grounds to the north of the house. In 1939 the hospital had 27 bedrooms. The hospital was purchased in early 1948 by Mrs Lillian Ross West, the Matron, who lived at Randwick, and it was then purchased by Winchester Hospital in 1949 and they operated "Winchester Private Hospital" on the site. Hugo Holdings purchased the site in 1968 and operated "Hughlings Private Hospital" until 1977. Major alterations were made in 1969, including the enclosure of the verandahs, and the modification of most internal and external doors to comply with Board of Health requirements.

Many mansions were demolished in Darlinghurst between 1920 and 1940 and replaced by terraced houses and flats. The use of Iona as a hospital saved it from this fate. In 1973 the site was purchased by developers, Cascais, Westport Holdings and Inciti Developments, who also purchased many surrounding houses. They sought approval for three 60 storey tower block home units in the area. Consent was granted in May 1977 which included a lesser scale development and the conversion of Iona into 13 strata units. The developers suffered financial problems and each property was sold to individual owners. The National Trust was against the loss of Iona and the property development of the area and in 1976 the National Trust listed Iona as part of the Darley Street Group. The Darley Street Group was also listed on the Register of the National Estate.

The subject site was purchased by Jesseme P/L in December 1979. The company was owned by John Rutherford who renamed the building Iona, and he asked his architect to prepare plans for the conversion of the building into 15 flats. The proposal did not proceed, and in October 1980 South Sydney Council approved an application for the restoration of the building as a single dwelling. Mr Rutherford applied to the Heritage Council for funding assistance for restoration works to the property, and $20,000 was granted. Rutherford himself became owner of the site in 1983 and continued restoration works. To enhance the setting of the house, the former nurses' quarters building to the north of the house was demolished in 1984 [City Plan Heritage 2006A:10-16].

In 1980 it was bought from Home Units of Australia by John and Gae Rutherford, who then lived there. Sold in 1994 after 3 years of marketing in which prospective buyers planning a boutique hotel use dropped out, to the Gowrie-Smith family.

Sold in February 2006 to current tenants, Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin. (SMH Domain, 18-19/2/6).

The site was sold to Samboroo P/L in June 1999, and is currently owned by Bazmark Inq. P/L. [City Plan Heritage 2006A:10-16].

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Accommodation-Activities associated with the provision of accommodation, and particular types of accommodation – does not include architectural styles – use the theme of Creative Endeavour for such activities. Residential-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Historically significant as one of the few substantial surviving late 19th century gentleman's villas of Darlinghurst, one of the significant early period layers for the area.
The site was used as a private hospital from 1913 to 1977.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
Associated with Sir Allen Taylor, former Lord Mayor of Sydney who owned and resided in the place from 18909-1905. Other notable people include the wealthy timber merchant Edward Chisholm, the owner at the time of construction, and John Garland MLA who was a member of state parliament.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Aesthetically significant as an imposing example of a Victorian Italianate mansion, retaining substantial grounds. It has a high degree of aesthetic values in its form, detailing and use of materials. Of particular note ate the high intricate cornices located in many of the original rooms as well as other original features such as this stained glass, fire places and external mouldings. Additionally the restrained art nouveau motifs in the stained glass and cornices demonstrate the stylistic changes made in residential architecture of the period. A large portion of the fabric has been reconstructed as part of the later 20th century restoration works.
SHR Criteria f)
Iona is rare due to the high quality of tis internal detailing and in particular the cornices and stained glass windows in the original portion of the dwelling. It also demonstrates some degree of rarity in that it has retained its original curtilage and garden space.
SHR Criteria g)
Iona is a fine representative example of a late Victorian Italianate villa demonstrating the key characteristics of tis style.
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:

The building should be retained and conserved. A Conservation Management Plan, should be prepared for the site. A Heritage Impact Statement, should be prepared prior to any new development or works affecting significant fabric and spaces, being undertaken. Any additions that may replace or later the existing rear additions, should be designed so that they may be easily adapted for a different future use with no impact to the original dwelling or significant fabric. Should any demolition in the hospital additions occur the extent of original verandah fabric should be investigated during the removal of fabric. Original fabric in the original dwelling is to be retained and maintained, and restored where necessary, The extensive surrounding gardens, together with the stone and iron palisade fence to Darley Street, should be conserved. Any new structures above the ground into the northern and western yards should be sympathetic to the significance of the gardens. New additions should aim to restore the external form of the rear wings and reveal the rear elevation of the original dwelling. Any new or adapted structure to the rear should be 2 storeys or lower, and secondary in height and bulk to the original dwelling. Above ground car parking may occur to the west or north yards but underground parking may be possible in other areas provided there is no detrimental impact to the setting of the place and the archaeological resource. The site may not be subdivided or have a significant increase in floor space.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanSydney LEP 2012I27314 Dec 12   
Heritage study     

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
South Sydney Heritage Study1993 Tropman & Tropman Architects  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenAnita Heiss Aboriginal People and Place, Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City View detail
WrittenBINNS, Fiona2006"Iona" 2 Darley Street, Darlinghurst - Heritage Impact Statement
WrittenCity Plan Heritage2005Iona , 2 Darley Street, Darlinghurst - Heritage Assessment

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

rez rez
(Click on thumbnail for full size image and image details)

Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Local Government
Database number: 2420149
File number: HC 32506, S90/05797

Every effort has been made to ensure that information contained in the State Heritage Inventory is correct. If you find any errors or omissions please send your comments to the Database Manager.

All information and pictures on this page are the copyright of the Heritage Division or respective copyright owners.