Priory and Grounds | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Priory and Grounds

Item details

Name of item: Priory and Grounds
Other name/s: The Priory & Grounds
Type of item: Complex / Group
Group/Collection: Residential buildings (private)
Category: Mansion
Location: Lat: -33.8833731191 Long: 151.1018520010
Primary address: 213 Burwood Road, Burwood, NSW 2134
Parish: Concord
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Burwood
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Metropolitan
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT22 DP634433
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
213 Burwood RoadBurwoodBurwoodConcordCumberlandPrimary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated


Construction years: 1877-1877
Physical description: The Priory is representative of mansions that were built to house the wealthy families of the late nineteenth century. It is a two storey Victorian mansion dating from 1877, one of the first on Burwood Road. It features a three storey elaborately decorated tower, a two storey verandah with cast iron balustrades and an attractive bay window. It has an expansive garden. (LEP).

An excellent example of the great Victorian mansions and a reminder that Burwood was one of Sydney's fashionable suburbs for the well to do. The house has fine external applied detailing and has retained its landscaping. It is a good example of its period and a rare survival in condition and setting. Two storey Victorian mansion with three storey tower. Built of brick, cement and stone foundations. Walls are cemented and painted, the tower is richly ornamented. Front projecting wing and two storey decorative cast iron verandahs. Front projecting wing has decorated bay window on ground floor and forms open verandah to first floor with edging of decorative iron well landscaped gardens, lawns and driveway. (RNE, 1982).

It has an expansive garden - a rare survivor and evidence of Burwood's onetime prominence among Sydney's fashionable suburbs. The mansion is well set back from Burwood Road with a semi-circular sweep of carriage loop in gravel, edged with recently replanted box hedges (Buxus sempervirens). To the mansion's north-west and rear is a fenced tennis court.

The front garden's detailed plantings have recently been reinstated (gravel drive, box hedges, cast iron fountain).
A number of mature large trees line the front iron fence facing Burwood Road between the two drive entry gates:a Queensland /macadamia nut (M.integrifolia), lemon-scented gums (Corymbia citriodora)(2), Port Jackson figs (Ficus rubiginosa)(2), a Canary Island date palm (Phoenix canariensis), camphor laurel (Cinnamomum camphora), brush box (Lophostemon confertus) and another species of fig (Ficus ?microphylla). To the south on Minna Avenue are more mature figs which indicate the extent of The Priory's land prior to subdivision on this side. (Read, Stuart, pers.comm., 17/5/2008)
Modifications and dates: The front garden's detailed plantings have recently been reinstated (gravel drive, box hedges, cast iron fountain).(Read, S., pers.comm., 17/5/2008)
Current use: residence
Former use: residence


Historical notes: Burwood:
Parramatta Road was first created in 1791, a vital land (cf water) artery between Sydney Cove and Rose Hill's settlement and crops. Liverpool Road opened in 1814 as Governor Macquarie's Great South Road. Its winding route reflects pre-existing land grant boundaries. To Burwood's north over Parramatta Rd. was Longbottom Government Farm, staffed by convicts. This grew to over 700 acres on heavily timbered flat, sloping to swamps on Hen & Chicken Bay. Commissioner Bigge recorded how valuable timber (ironbark) was cut and sawn on the spot, conveyed to Sydney in boats by the river. 'Charcoal for the forges and foundries is likewise prepared here' he noted.

2 grants were critical on Burwood's clay: Captain Thomas Rowley's Burwood Farm estate and William Faithful's 1000 acre grant to its south in Enfield covered most of modern Burwood. Rowley, adjutant of the NSW Corps, named it after the farm he'd lived on in Cornwall. 1799 and subsequent grants brought it to 750 acres but he continued to live at Kingston Farm in Newtown until his death in 1806. He'd bought some of the first Spanish merinos brought from the Cape Colony in 1797, others being sold to Macarthur, Marsden & Cox. The southern boundary of his farm was approximately Woodside Avenue & Fitzroy Street.

Under Rowley's will the estate passed to his 3 underage children- executors Dr Harris & Major Johnstone were both involved in the 1808 Bligh rebellion and returned to England for the court martial. Governor Macquarie appointed Thomas Moore as guardian and executor. In 1812 he wrongfully auctioned the estate. It was bought by Sydney businessman Alexander Riley. He's believed to have built Burwood Villa in 1814 (perhaps on older (1797) foundations of Rowley's shepherd's cottage) and lived here until departing for England in 1817. In 1824 Joseph Lycett described the estate. 500 acres had been cleared for pasture. Lycett in Views of Australia described 'a garden of 4 acres in full cultivation, containing upwards of three hundred Trees, bearing the following choice fruits, viz. The Orange, Citron, Lemon, Pomegranate, Loquat, Guava, Peaches, Nectarines, Apricots, Apples, Pears, the Cherry, Plums, Figs, Chestnuts, Almonds, Medlars, Quinces; with abundance of Raspberries, Strawberries, and the finest Melons. &c'.

Until the 1830s Burwood consisted of a few inns along the highways and 2 or 3 huge, undeveloped estates within the next 20 years these began to break up, attracting settlers and encouraging the growth of embryo villages at Burwood & Enfield. Riley died in 1833 and Rowley's children, now of age, started legal proceedings and regained possession of the 750 acre estate. It was divided between Thomas jnr., John, John Lucas* and Henry Biggs. Almost at once they subdivided into lots of 4-20 acres for country homes and small farms. In 1834 Burwood estate was held by John Lucas, husband of Thomas's daughter Mary Rowley), who divided 113 of his 213 acres into small allotments for sale. Streets such as Webb, Lucas Rd., Wentworth Rd. & Strathfield's The Boulevarde reflect the boundaries of these subdivisions/estates.

To the south (including the land later the Appian Way) was William Faithful's grant of 1000 acres (1808) at 'Liberty Plains'. Faithful was a private in the NSW Corps: discharged in 1799 he became Captain Foveaux's farm manager, and this connection got him the grant. Apart from 15 acres of Sarah Nelson's on Malvern Hill (Croydon), Faithful's Farm extended from Rowley's farm to Cooks River and west to Punchbowl Rd. The government retained a right to build a road through it (doing so in 1815: Liverpool or the Great South Road), and to cut 'such timber as may be deemed fit for naval purposes' - the area was thick with tall ironbark. Faithful exchanged it in 1815. Alexander Riley bought his 200 acres north of the new road incorporating it into his Burwood estate. This was jointly owned by the Rowley family after 1833 and had no streets across it, only a few tracks.

Despite opening up of the Rowley estate there was little settlement in Burwood between the 2 highways before 1860. Sydney Railway Company opened the first rail to Parramatta in 1855. Burwood 'station' (just west of Ashfield station, one of the first stations) was a wooden platform near a level crossing over the grassy track that was Neich's Lane* (later Burwood Rd). This was beside 'the newly laid out township of Cheltenham'. Speedy transport meant subdivision and consolidation followed, filling out the area. Burwood's biggest growth spurt was between 1874 & 1900 (Burwood's population was, respectively: 1200-7400, an increase not matched since. *1835 maps show this as the only track between Parramatta / Liverpool Roads in Burwood.

Burwood's first public school was c.1838. In 1843 land on Burwood Rd. was granted to the Anglican Church for a school. St. Mary's Catholic Church opened in 1846, a Presbyterian Church in 1857 and St. Paul's Anglican in 1871. Mansions of the 1870s+ such as The Priory were due to a firm belief in its health-giving climate, compared to the smog and crowding of the city suburbs. They were built as quasi-ancestral estates, perhaps in blissful ignorance of how quickly suburbs can evolve. Living was primitive: no street lighting (1883+), home lighting by candle or lamp (oil, kerosene after 1860), no gas (1882+), no piped water (1886+), home wells/tanks, few bathrooms, no indoor toilets, with pans (1880+) replacing outdoor cess pits.

The 1880s+ was the era of the debates that led to Australia's fractious states combining into a single Federation, declared at Sydney's Centennial Park, in 1901. Skilled tradesmen and materials were plentiful and comparatively cheap, and combined with the improvement in building techniques associated with cavity walls, damp-courses and terracotta tiled rooves, provided the means for an era of intense building activity. Unlike the Victorian era's large commercial and Government building, the main thrust of the Federation era was constructing new suburbs around Sydney harbour with shops for the middle classes.

Between 1889 and 1918 Australia's population swelled from 3 to 5 million triggering an urgent need for housing. Suburban spread was greatly assisted by expansion of the public transport system of trams, ferries and trams, which formed a well-integrated pre-car transport system. Rapid suburban growth brought increased interest in town planning and the British concept (Ebenezer Howard's 'Garden City') of the Garden Suburb, spurred on by the Federal Capital Competition of 1912. 1913's arrival from North America of winners, Walter Burley & Marion Mahony Griffin, saw formation of the Town Planning Association of NSW, with architect John Sulman as president. Founding members Sulman and J.P.Fitzgerald were among witnesses at the 1900 Royal Commission into the Improvement of the City of Sydney and suburbs. This made the first attempt at a comprehensive review of Sydney's problems, gathering many reform ideas. It recognised the relationship between planning and local government and advocated introduction of a town planning bill along the lines of John Burns' 1900 English Bill. Some recommendations, such as introducing building regulations for the whole metropolitan area 'to prevent the straggling of suburbs and to ensure development along harmonious lines' went into 1919's Local Government Act.

The 'Garden Suburb' came to mean a suburb with special areas zoned for different uses, e.g.: residential and commercial; an absence of attached terraces with free-standing houses, wide tree-lined streets, 'nature strips' on footpaths, parks reserves and gardens. Much-derided rear lanes and rights-of-way became redundant with sewerage and the provision of side access between houses. Verandas and bay windows were means of integrating house & garden.

Tree-lined streets such as Burwood Rd., The Appian Way or The Boulevard in Strathfield were in marked contrast to most development in Australian cities of the late 19th century. (Fraser, Hugh, in Heritage Council of NSW, 1981-4, amended and added to by Stuart Read, 17/5/2008 with excerpts from Eric Dunlop (1975)).

The Priory:
The Priory was built by grazier Mowbray Forrest, in 1877 on land purchased from C.H.Humphrey. Forrest was a prominent citizen and trustee of the Burwood School of Arts. (Dunlop, 1974).

It is representative of the mansions that were built to house the wealthy families of the late nineteenth century, dating from 1877 and being one of the first mansions on Burwood Road, with an expansive garden. It is a reminder that Burwood was one of Sydney's fashionable suburbs for the well to do. (LEP, modified Read, S., 17/5/2008).

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Environment - cultural landscape-Activities associated with the interactions between humans, human societies and the shaping of their physical surroundings Landscapes and gardens of domestic accommodation-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Environment - cultural landscape-Activities associated with the interactions between humans, human societies and the shaping of their physical surroundings Gardens and landscapes reminiscent of an 'old country'-
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. Gentlemens Mansions-
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. Housing professional people-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages Developing suburbia-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Mowbray Forrest, grazier-

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 5 2008

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0028702 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - Permanent Conservation Order - former 0028722 Aug 86 1344126
Local Environmental Plan 001921 Jul 89 0844570
National Trust of Australia register  10496   
Register of the National Estate 339028 Sep 82   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Burwood Heritage Study19892.97Fox and Associates  No
National Trust Suburban Register198610496National Trust of Australia (NSW)  No

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenDunlop, Eric1975Harvest of the Years: the history of Burwood 1874-1975
WrittenHugh Fraser, Phillip Clements & Helen Powell, for the Heritage Council of NSW1984Conservation of the Federation House, a series of one-day seminars, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984

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: Heritage Office
Database number: 5045324
File number: S90/05455 & HC 32761

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.

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