Dame Eadith Walker Estate | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Dame Eadith Walker Estate

Item details

Name of item: Dame Eadith Walker Estate
Other name/s: Convalescent Hospital
Type of item: Built
Primary address: The Drive, Concord, NSW 2050
Local govt. area: Canada Bay
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
The DriveConcordCanada BayCONCORDCUMBERLANDPrimary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
NSW Department of HealthState Government20 Jul 05

Statement of significance:

The Dame Eadith Walker Estate is of outstanding cultural significance for NSW. It comprises a unique complex of 19th and early 20th century buildings in an essentially rural setting and is an exceptionally rare example of a large Edwardian private residential estate in Australia. The estate has direct historical links with the early days of the colony of NSW and is strongly associated with an important mercantile and philanthropic family.
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: Edward Thomas Blacket, additions - John Sulman
Construction years: 1857-1859
Physical description: The Dame Eadith Walker Estate comprises approximately 37 hectares of land fronting the Parramatta River at Concord. The Estate is made up of a number of buildings and structures. Major buildings on the site include:- YARALLA - A Victorian Italiantate two storey house with verandahs and projecting bay windows at corners. The verandahs, court and tower at entry are heavily modified. JONQUIL - Cottage - Single storey Californian Bungalow style dwelling with a series of gabled roofs and prominent entry porch and tall chimneys. The exterior walls are brick with continuous roughcast above window leve and to gables, porch and verandah piers. The roof tiles are terracotta and the chimneys brick. HYACINTH - Cottage - A single storey dwelling of Californian Bungalow style. The exterior walls are brick with roughcast above window head height, terracotta roof tiles and timber framed windows. The inteior walls are cement rendered with timber floors and fibrous plaster ceilings. BORONIA - cottage - A single storey cottage with a dominanat hipped and gabled roof. The exterior has a tiled roof, brick walls, timber shingles to the gables and timber framed windows. The interior contains plasterboard ceilings, rendered and plastered walls and carpet. WOODBINE (AZALEA) - Cottage - Timber framed cottage with simple hipped roof and verandah at front and lean-to with skillion roof and verandah at rear. The exterior features and corrigated iron roof, timber weatherboards to walls, timber framed windows and brick chimneys. Floors inside are timber and lath and plaster walls and ceilings are found in the front portion of the house. ANNEX TO WOODBINE - A simple cottage forming an addition to Woodbine with a hipped and flat roof configuration. It contains a living area, two smaller rooms and a bathroom. The exterior has a corrugated asbestos cement roof, timber weatherboard wallling and timber framed windows. Asbestos cement wall linings, fibrous plaster ceiling linings, timber floor sand tiles to bathroom floor are found inside. MAGNOLIA - Cottage - A single storey cottage with dominant hipped and gabled roof and distionctive verandah. The exterior features brick walls, terracotta roof tiles, timber shingles to the gables and timber framed windows. The interior has timber floors, cement render and set plaster to walls and a fibrous plaster ceiling. STABLES COMPLEX - A group of buildings arranged around a central court with a rich assortment of decorative elements - towers, lanterns, a clock and dormer windows - and includes a horse enclusure and two flates. The roof tiles are terracotta and the walls brick with cement render and timber to the gables. The windows are framed with timber and stone flagging leads to the court. LAUNDRY & SUBSTATION BLOCK - Two storey structure with gabled roof, chimneys and decorative fretted bargeboards and belfry on the eastern wall. The roof has terracotta tiles with a metal ridge and the brick walls are rendered and coured to resemble stone. The inside walls are rendered and the ceilings and floors are constructed with timber. The floor over the substation area is timber. SQUASH COURT - A rectilinear building with hipped roof featuring patent glazed roof lights and gablets and an observation area accessed by an external stair. The outside walls are brick with timber framed windows and timber shingles to the observation area. The roof is constructed of terracotta tiles with glazed panels. The interior walls are cement rendered. The roof trusses are exposed timber with timber weatherboard ceiling lining. HIGH STONE WALL - Random coursed high sandstone wall with brick coursing and dressed sandstone copings at its apex. It is covered with thick vegetation on the western side. SEA WALL - Sandstone wall of random sized stones at the edge of athe tidal zone, with some rough cement bonding and integrated with the naturally occurring rock. Sheds and animal enclosures are generally roofed with terracotta tiles and have walls of timber or brick construction (R Howard & D White 1995:27).
Modifications and dates: Pre 1833 - Woodbine (Azalea) - cottage constructed. c1890 - The Grotto is constructed 1893-99 - Alterations to Yaralla and construction of Stable Complex - John Sulman. c1890-1900 - Bathing House constructed c1893-1900 - Main jetty constructed. 19th century - Laundry and Substation block constructed c1901 - Swimming Pool constructed 1907 - Indian Room built and garage construced 1912 - Norwegian Cottage erected. 1917 - Portion of estate transferred to Concord Golf Club Ltd. 1919 - Outer part of estate transferred to Charles King and Frederick Humphrey. 1920 - First Subdivision offered by auction. c1920 - Cottages Hyacinth and Jonquil, and Squash court constructed 1927 - Sunken Garden constructed. c1941-51 - Annex to Woodbine added c1951-70 - Jetty and boathouse demolished 1970-80 - Demoliation of various buildings and structures, including:- Norwegian Cottage, India Room, Gatelodge (Camelia), swimming pool and Dahlia, Fuschia, Gardenia and Lavender cottages. (R Howard & D White 1995: 6-7, 27).
Current use: Hospital
Former use: Residence, Convalescent Hospital, Rehabilitation Unit


Historical notes: The Dame Eadith Walker Estate is the largest community bequest of its era to survive in an intact form in NSW. Isaac Nichols, a newly freed convict, was granted a parcel of 50 acres of land with Parramatta River frontage at Concord on 20 December 1797. This would later become the site of Yaralla. Keenly aware of the value of land, Nichols gradually purchased the surrounding lands. Nichols died in 1819 leaving the land in trust for his son George Robert Nichols. George Nichols interests lay elsewhere and In May 1836 he conveyed his interest in the estate to his brother Issac David Nichols. The Nichols used the land for farming. During the late 1830s the brothers need for cash encouraged them to mortgage the property several times. In January 1840 George Robert Nichols mortgaged the land to Thomas Walker for 3500 pounds at 15%. In May 1942 he borrowed a further 900 pounds on the security of the property. None of that money was repaid to Walker. In the meantime the remaining title the mortgager had over the land was conveyed to James Holt, a Sydney merchant. Walker initaited an Equity Court case against GR Nichols and James Holt in May 1843 after he was unable to gain repayment of the loan or obtain possession of the land which constituted the security for the loan. In August 1848 the court awarded title to the land to Walker when neither Nichols or Holt could repay the land. Walker was a strong critic of the Land Acts of the 1860s which established the principle of free selection before survey. He was a substantial stock owner and had also invested heavily in the pastoral industry. He spent a period as the representative for Port Philip on theNSW Legislative Council and as the President of the Board of the Bank of NSW. Walker was also an active philanthropist. However, despite his commitment to relieving the poor, he had a hatred of the democratic element in society and was firmly aligned with the view of keeping the poor in their place. Initially Walker did not move to Concord. However, he ensured the estate was carefully maintained although the gardens and orchards had already fallen into ruins. This was possibly in the 1840s when the Nichols family may have seen little need to maintain an asset which they were in danger of losing particularly while his residence was being planned and built in the 1850s. Around 1856 Edward Thomas Blacket drew up a set of plans for a cottage at Concord for Thomas Walker, cottage meaning a small country residence. Construction of this cottage, to be known as Yaralla, began Although the date of completion is not certain, it is probably around 1858-59. This is also probably the time that Walker moved onto the property permanently. Thomas Walker married Jane Hart in 1860 and their only daughter was Eadith Campbell Walker. Jane died in 1870 and Thomas Walker did not remarry. He arranged for his sister Joanna Walker to come to Australia and care for Eadith. Joanna adopted Anne Masefield to serve as a companion to Eadith. Walker left his estate to his daughter when he died in September 1886 but a portion was left to set up the Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital. In 1890 Joanna Walker also died, leaving Eadith, who never married, to live the life of a wealthy spinster. Eadith took the opportunity to enjoy herself, but her activities were tempered with a strong streak of benevolence. She contributed financially to the Thomas Walker Convalescent Home and was an active member and contributor to many charitable institutions including further finance for the Thomas Walker Convalescent Home. During the First World War she assisted sick and wounded servicement through the Red Cross and eventually established and maintained a recuperative facility for tubercular veterans in the grounds of Yaralla from 1917 until January 1920. However, she did not restrict herself to these philanthropic activities and regularly held parties for Sydney society members at the estate. (Kass 1995: Appendix 1) Others simply came to visit, including the powerful and wealthy, regal and vice-regal personages and political figures. Among these were the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII and subsequently the Duke of Windsor who spent a week in Yaralla in 1921. Knowing his liking for squash, Eadith had a court built for his visit, possibly the first in NSW (R Howard & D White 1995: 4) The Norwegian Cottage was a product of Eadith's fondness for travel. She brought it back from one trip and had it reassembled on the grounds. The India Room was built to house all the artefacts she brought back after a trip to India.
This was not the only building to take place during her life at Yaralla. Extensive renovations were made to the Yaralla Estate during the 1890s. The plans for these additions and alterations were designed by architect John Sulman. He was married to Eadith's childhood friends, Anne Masefield. (Kass 1995: Appendix 1) The alterations at the main house included a new marbled floor entrance hall overlooked by a balcony, a panelled dining hall with a marble and bronze fireplace, an upper storey on the back and extensive balconies on the front. A set of brick and tile stables adorned with square towers, ranging rooflines, gables and a cupola with weathervane were also built. (R Howard & D White 1995: 5) During Eadith's life the property operated in the manner of a feudal estate. Workers lived in cottages and were employed in various tasks. These included gardening and maintaing the dairy herd. However, it was a shrinking estate. The Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital took over a whole peninsula in the 1890s and in 1917, a sizeable piece of the estate at the head of Major's Bay was transferred to the Concord Gold Club Ltd. In 1919 the outer part of hte estate closest to Concord Road was transferred to the real estate firm King and Humphrey. King and Humphrey offered the first sub-division of Yaralla Estate in June 1920. A large crowd bid for all lots offered until dusk, necessitating a further auction later. Eadith Walker's benefactions, donations to the Thomas Walker Convalescent Home and construction work at Yaralla took a toll on her finances. (Kass 1995: Appendix 1). The grounds were extraordinary a lot of time and money had gone into establishing large areas of lawn with native and European trees, rockeries, walks, fountains, ornamental urns and statues, grottos, hot houses, a conservatory, rose gardens and more than a dozen cottages. A power plant the size of a small factory was bulit, reputedly Sydney's first private generating plant and the Sulman alterations undertaken. ( R Howard & D White 1995: 5) When her father died his estate was valued at 937 984 pounds. At her death in 1937 it totalled 265 345 pounds, less than a third of what her father left behind. Eadith lived in a suite at The Savoy Residential Apartments in Darlinghurst in her later years before returning to Yaralla to die. She died on 8 October 1937. Soon after much of the furniture, fittings, cars, art works and books were sold at a giant auction conducted by james L Lawson, leading aucioneers in association with Fracis de Groot. Eadith Walker made several generous bequests in her will and left half of the residue of her estate to trustees for charitable puposes. The Walker Estates Act (No 31, Geo VI, 1938) enabled trustees to purchase Yaralla and its grounds to establish a convalescent home for men, which was vested in the state government. Royal Prince Alfred Hospital was given control of the hospital, to become known as the Dame Eadith Walker Convalescent Hospital, and it was transformed into a Sub-acute Diseases Hospital where patients from the main hospital at Camperdown were sent to recuperate. It was officially opened on 29 June 1940. During the 1970s many of the buidings were demolished and the swimming pool filled in. As late as 1970 the estate was still in the form in which it appeared in the 1930s. In November 1988 the Dame Eadith Walker Convalescent Hospital was closed. (Kass 1995: Appendix 1).

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 (none)-

Recommended management:

Refer to Conservation and Open Space Management Plan for Dame Eadith Walker Estate (1994)


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage registerDep. Of Health s.170 Register    

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenRod Howard & David White Architects, Schwager Broo Study

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

Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: State Government
Database number: 3540520

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.