House Group "Doctor's Houses" Including Interiors, Front Fencing and Front Garde | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

Culture and heritage


House Group "Doctor's Houses" Including Interiors, Front Fencing and Front Garde

Item details

Name of item: House Group "Doctor's Houses" Including Interiors, Front Fencing and Front Garde
Other name/s: The "Doctors'" Houses
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Residential buildings (private)
Category: House
Primary address: 216-224 Glebe Point Road, Glebe, NSW 2037
Local govt. area: Sydney
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
216-224 Glebe Point RoadGlebeSydney  Primary Address

Statement of significance:

An outstanding group of Victorian grand residences in the neo-classical Italianate style, with garden settings in a Victorian streetscape. The buildings are an unusual group of Victorian terrace houses designed to appear as a row of villas.The group has historical associations with the architect/builder David Elphinstone.The site and buildings provide evidence of the early subdivision and development of theToxteth Estate.
Date significance updated: 18 Jul 06
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: David Elphinstone
Construction years: 1881-1881
Physical description: A row of two–storey attached grand residences that are part of a group that date from the Victorian period within the key period of significance, set on a wide site that has retained its context.The buildings are setback from the street. The site has an appropriate front fence of iron palisade on a low stone plinth approximately 1.3 metres high. The front garden is large and formally (no.'s 216/222) and informally landscaped and features a central tessellated tiled path and steps, mature trees, hedging and provides an appropriate setting for the house.The façade presents a complex double-fronted asymmetrical elevation and is constructed of rendered masonry on a rendered masonry base course. The roof is hipped with a medium pitch, and has boxed eaves. The roof is clad in slate, terracotta tiles and concrete tiles and features corbelled chimneys, terracotta chimney pots, eaves and brackets. The veranda is offset and has a double curve profile. It is clad in corrugated sheet metal and features cast iron columns, fringe and balustrade and tessellated tiles. The façade features a classical three bay loggia with moulded decorative parapet, label moulds and rosettes. . The front door is centrally located and is 2-panelled with semicircular fanlights. Fenestration comprises vertically proportioned arched double-hung timber windows.The building appears to be in excellent/good condition and is highly intact except no. 222 which has been altered. Alterations include glazed veranda infill at 220, detracting verandah infills and bay window extensions at no. 222 (reversible).
Further information: Unity of group should be sought with change.

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.
Current use: Predominantly residential


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. There is no written record of the name of the language spoken and currently there are debates as whether the coastal peoples spoke a separate language "Eora" or whether this was actually a dialect of the Dharug language. Remnant bushland in places like Blackwattle Bay retain elements of traditional plant, bird and animal life, including fish and rock oysters.

With the invasion of the Sydney region, the Cadigal and Wangal people were decimated but there are descendants still living in Sydney today. All cities include many immigrants in their population. Aboriginal people from across the state have been attracted to suburbs such as Pyrmont, Balmain, Rozelle, Glebe and Redfern since the 1930s. Changes in government legislation in the 1960s provided freedom of movement enabling more Aboriginal people to choose to live in Sydney.

(Information sourced from Anita Heiss, "Aboriginal People and Place", Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City )

The Sydney Glebe lands were granted to the Church of England in 1789, and in 1828 “to relieve the pressing needs of clergy”, Glebe was subdivided into 28 allotments and all but three lots (numbers 7,8 and 28) were offered for sale. The Toxteth Estate comprises 4 lots from the 1828 subdivision of the Glebe. Lot 21 was acquired by AB Spark, and lots 22-24 were acquired by George Allen.Toxteth Park was built for George Allen in 1831, to the design of John Verge. Toxteth Park house consisted of a rectangular two-storey block with single-storey wings and a stone-flagged verandah which was laid around two sides of the house. Set at right angles, behind the main building, and facing a large paved courtyard, were the kitchen and servants’ quarters. Shortly after the completion of the house the Sydney Gazette described its ‘spacious garden, containing some hundreds of the choicest trees- and a tract of forest land capable of being converted into the most romantic pleasure grounds’. On George Allen’s death in 1877, George Wigram Allen, his son, moved into “Toxteth House” but not before making extensive alterations to the principal buildings of the estate under the superintendence of G.A. Mansfield somewhere between 1877 and 1881. This action must have had a large impact on the popular builders of the adjacent estates, for, the greater part of the Allen estate seems to have been sub-divided and built up from the early 1880s to the early 1900s employing the Italianate and elaborate variations of it during the 1880s and 1890s, while the late 1890s and 1900s came under the influence of a “Federation” style. George Allen, in his will, decreed that only private dwelling houses be built on the future subdivision of the estate, and that they be constructed out of either brick or stone. Being a devout Wesleyan, Allens covenant prevented alcohol being brought on to the estate in the form of Hotel or Inn development. As a consequence of the covenants, the Glebe Point end as it became known was a very desirable and fashionable part of Sydney to live in, with some large houses being built along the Glebe Point Road around the turn of the century. These mainly belonged to a higher socio-economic group than would be found in the Church lands or other speculative pockets of the Glebe. George Wigram Allen died in 1885. Subdivision of Toxteth Park had commenced in earnest in 1884 with 88 building sites offered for sale. In 1886, Mills & Pile offered forty-five allotments for sale in Wigram Road, measuring for the most part, twenty-five feet to thirty feet. One hundred and thirty-four ‘choice villa sites’ were offered in Boyce Street, Ross Street and Toxteth Road. The 1828 subdivision made allowance for in roads into the Glebe; Bay Road and Glebe Road (Glebe Point Road) were created by cutting through bush, pulling out stumps and ‘filling in the largest of the holes’. Glebe Point Rd, or alternatively known as the Glebe Rd, opened up in 1829 as the initial exploitive action in the form of a tract with fence either side. This basic line of communication cut into the then dense forest covering the Glebe with only bush tracks made by drays penetrating off the Glebe Rd to the individual estates. A main influencing factor on the character of the subdivided areas of Toxteth Park Estate was the covenant, issued on the death of George Allen, in that being a devout Wesleyan no alcohol was to be brought on to the estate in the form of Hotel or Inn development, no commercial development, and that any building be constructed out of brick of stone or both. As a consequence of the covenants, the Glebe Point end as it became known was a very desirable and fashionable part of Sydney to live in, with some large houses being built along the Glebe Point Road around the turn of the century. These mainly belonged to a higher socio-economic group than would be found in the Church lands or other speculative pockets of the Glebe.

216-224 Glebe Point Road was built by architect-builder, David Elphinstone (son of Alexander Elphinstone), the fine run of five semi-detached houses, once known as the Doctors' Houses, that in 1880-81 between Boyce Street and Toxteth Road following an early subdivision of the Allen Estate. The buildings are visible on the Glebe 1888 Map and on 1886 subdivision plans of the Toxteth Park Estate. The flat, shallow bay windows, the regular arcade-like placement of each window and their lack of ornamental enframent give these villas a neo-classical air. For here the Italianate is used with great restraint and a good feeling for proportion. Decorative elements such as keystones, eaves brackets, and the running-circle frieze on the bay parapet are used lightly and with a certain grace. The houses are set well back from the road and provide a screen of gardens to the Glebe Point shopping centre.

The rectangular projecting front, as used by Elphinstone at Ramelton House, was taken up by Walker the "Doctors' Houses". These were most probably an extension of the idea of the Children's Hospital – built in 1879 by Walker not far from the "Doctors' Houses" at the corner of Wigram Road and Glebe Point Road. A similar massing has been used as at "Ramelton" and although this is one building it is expressed separately as if to appear as a row of Villa housing. Windows are grouped into three of equal size and are of a similar proportion in both building developments. Brackets are still paired but used sparingly. The Children's Hospital which was originally built as a school, may have influenced the design of John Kirkpatrick's row of housing between Walker's "Doctor's Houses" and the hospital. These were built in 1880-81 and like Walker's, are expressed to look like individual villas. They are built as pairs, divided into 12 houses with alternating projecting bays of a faceted bay and rectangular bay with open balconies above. The cast iron balcony balustrading is interesting in the way in which it bows out in the middle. Walker seems to have a preference for the round-headed window, as did many architects and builders up until about 1890 when rectangular openings and segmental arches begin to appear in all forms of dwellings.

Joseph Walker started off as a joiner in St. Phillips in Glebe Road in the 1850’s and was to work through to the 1890s seeing the main build-up of all areas in the Glebe. From building in St. Phillips he went on to Bishopthorpe (city view cottages plus many others) and then moving along Glebe Point Road in the late 1870’s to build the Children’s Hospital in 1879 in which he utilises the use of the projecting bay to form an asymmetrical front and follows this through in the run of houses, known as the doctors’ houses in Glebe Point echoing some of his earlier asymmetrical fronted cottages of Bishopthorpe in the late 1860s. He eventually built on property at the Glebe Point and so completed a distinct social movement along Glebe Point Road, as well as contributing to the streetscape of that road. (p.59) He was particularly active in the 1880s and 90s with the later subdivisions of the Allen estates including Toxteth Park, where along with another Scotsman, Thomas Collunder Sinclair, he proceeded to build a large number of residences fronting Boyce and Mansfield Streets, Ferry Glebe and Toxteth Roads utilising similar design elements for either a two storey villa or terrace or single storey semi-detached. It is interesting to note that Walker transcends all of the major stylistic notes of the Italianate with the exception of the Federation along the major areas of the Glebe as a developing suburb and as a speculative builder he probably was reflecting the values of the real market and not just carrying out a particular style. Walker moved from Cowper Street to Glebe Street in 1867 where he is listed in Sands Directory as a carpenter, however in 1870 he calls himself a builder with his business address as 253 Riley Street. Also it is noted that he was a director of the Starr-Bowkett Building Society. In 1875 he moved to the Glebe Road and later in 1880 to Cook Street, Glebe Point and finally to Toxteth Road in 1892 until 1895. Walker was a lay preacher of the Presbyterian Church in Glebe and it is undoubtedly this connection with the Church that caused him to call for tenders in 1884: “A first class villa residence at Glebe Point for the Rev. Andrew Gardiner, MAJ.P. Walker Valuator & Building Surveyor199 George Street, Sydney.”This was situated at Glebe Point Road.The Rev. Gardiner was brought out to Australia in 1873 from Scotland to be minister of the Glebe Presbyterian Church and held the first service in Glebe (18 October, 1874) at the University Hotel, on the corner of Glebe and Parramatta Roads – opposite the site of the Church School of 1876-79.

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-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups David Elphinstone, Architect-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The site and buildings provide evidence of the early subdivision and development of theToxteth Estate.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The group has historical associations with the architect/builder David Elphinstone.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
An outstanding group of Victorian grand residences in the neo-classical Italianate style, with garden settings in a Victorian streetscape.
SHR Criteria f)
An unusual group of Victorian terrace houses designed to appear as a row of villas.
SHR Criteria g)
This item is representative of the high quality residential development of the early subdivisions of the Toxteth Park Estate.
Integrity/Intactness: High
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 buildings should be included in the Heritage Schedule of the LEP and should be protected. Subdivision should not occur. Consolidation of sites should not occur. The original use of the site has changed and suitable uses include residential or professional. Additions could occur at the rear of the building. A reversal of the alteration to no. 222 should be encouraged through the provision of incentives.Any building works undertaken to residences in this frontage should be in the spirit of restoration with reinstatement of original missing elements seen as a high priority. Improvements undertaken to number 216 provide a model of careful restoration and upgrading, notably the attention to detail in the garden with reinstatement of original entrance paving tiles, careful landscaping plans (incorporating use of formally planted box hedges, gardenias, sassanqua camellias, etc).


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanSydney LEP 2012I74114 Dec 12   
Heritage study     

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Statement of Heritage Significance & Statement of Heritage Impact2019 Nigel Parsons & Associates Architects  No

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenAnita Heiss Aboriginal People and Place, Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City
WrittenBerchervaise & Associates1991 Main Street Study
WrittenCraig Burton1979Housing the Glebe
WrittenSmith, Bernard and Kate1989The Architectural Character of Glebe, Sydney,

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: 2427829

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