Swifts | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage

Heritage

Swifts

Item details

Name of item: Swifts
Type of item: Complex / Group
Group/Collection: Landscape - Cultural
Category: Other - Landscape - Cultural
Location: Lat: -33.8694648590 Long: 151.2382683470
Primary address: 68 Darling Point Road, Darling Point, NSW 2027
Parish: Alexandria
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Woollahra
Local Aboriginal Land Council: La Perouse
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT2 DP221605
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Thornton StreetDarling PointWoollahra   
68 Darling Point RoadDarling PointWoollahraAlexandriaCumberlandPrimary Address

Owner/s

Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Masolage Holdings Pty LimitedPrivate25 Mar 99

Statement of significance:

Swifts is of State significance as, apart from Government House in Sydney, it is the largest remaining Victorian Gothic Revival house in Australia. Swifts remains on its original grounds and still consists of the original landscape, statuary, terrace wall, stairs and paths. It is a prime example of how the upper class people lived in the 19th century in Australia. Swifts is also of cultural significance as it was home of two well known Sydney business families, the Lucas-Tooth and Resch families. Swifts connection with the Roman Catholic Church is also of social significance as it was home to three cardinals; Gilroy, Freeman and Clancy. The building is also significant because it is an example of the work of Gustauus Alphose Morell, a prominent Sydney architect in the late 19th century (Lucas, 1994, 128).

The western section of the garden of Swifts formed an integral part of the original design of the grounds. The special relationship of the grounds to the mansion is a significant factor in determining the status of the grounds as an item of environmental heritage. The building together with its site is an item of environmental heritage (excerpt from 'Findings' of Commissioner of Inquiry, 1983, p.55).
Date significance updated: 10 Mar 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.

Description

Designer/Maker: G.A.Morrell
Construction years: 1876-1883
Physical description: Garden:
Swifts is located at 68 Darling Point Road Darling Point. It was originally set in four acres of landscaped gardens.

The garden is divided into three precincts - the eastern, northern and western (Evans, 1983, 12-14). Some of the original garden design is still evident such as the carriage drive which sweeps north, west and south up to the porte cochere, and return / service drive to the property's south-eastern corner (Stuart Read, pers.comm., visit 19/11/2011). Original garden bed design is still evident through the placement of terracotta edging tiles (Evans, 1983, 12-14).

The Eastern garden is introduced from the enclosed terrace, which leads out to the carriage drive and flower beds. The northern perspective of the house is framed by huge Moreton Bay figs(Ficus macrophylla) and camphor laurels (Cinnamomum camphora), while the northern garden is scattered with Illawarra plum / brown pine (Podocarpus elatus), a bull bay / evergreen magnolia (M.grandiflora) from the United States and a bay laurel (Laurus nobilis) tree from the Mediterranean. The gardens are scattered with statues to add interest. The north eastern corner is dominated by shrubs. The western garden originally would have been for kitchen use (ibid, 1983, 12-14).

A rough line of Moreton Bay figs along the eastern Darling Point Road side form a screen from later subdivisions and housing. More Moreton Bay figs line the southern boundary, again masking later subdivisions (and current high rise flats).

A range of choice trees in the eastern border include Queensland lacebark (Brachychiton discolor)(there are a number of these on the western boundary of Swifts and another specimen on the north-east Darling Point Road edge), Illawarra flame tree (B.acerifolius), a very rare Burj / shingle oak from the Himalayas (Quercus leucotrichophora)(possibly one of only a handful in Australia) and an equally rare palo alto tree (Picconia excelsa), an endangered rainforest tree from the Canary Islands, related to the olive. There are only some 12 specimens of this tree in Australia, many in Botanic Gardens and few in private collections. Also in the eastern border is an evergreen oak (Quercus ilex) (Stuart Read, pers.comm., visit, 19/11/2011).

The Northern garden includes a huge Moreton Bay fig (Ficus macrophylla) north-west of the house near its terrace, shading that corner. Below and north of it are a range of smaller trees and shrubs arrayed on grassed lawns sloping down from the mansion to Thornton Avenue. Two young Queensland kauri (Agathis robusta) have been planted near an electricity substation facing Thornton Avenue and are now some 8m tall (Stuart Read, pers.comm., 5/2017).

The Western garden is broadly the service area part of the house, outbuildings and garden, with remnant terracing, grassed today where elements such as orchard and kitchen garden would have been originally (ibid, pers.comm., 5/2017).

Mansion (1875-1882):
The new Swifts, described as Castellated Gothic in style, with 42 rooms, resembled Government House, but had a larger ballroom, deliberately so (Kehagias, 2016 quoting Dr Shane Moran). It is a two storey sandstone Victorian Gothic Revival mansion with three storey tower, castellated parapets. Swifts resembles Government House, but had a larger ballroom before it was converted into a chapel-of-ease by the Catholic church. The majority of the house is made from either sandstone or rendered brick (Lucas, 1993, p 106). The eastern facing front entrance is marked by a porte cochere that is flanked by projecting bays. The verandah on the north is crenulated and flagged with sandstone. The windows have carved valances and external timber shutters, an unusual form of climate control for the period.

Swifts is comprised of 42 rooms arranged in a U-shape and including drawing room, morning room, smoking room, dinning room, study, billiard room, ball room, numerous bedrooms, fitted dressing room, service room, kitchen, scullery, pantry, butlers rooms, silver safe, store, wine cellar and servants quarters. Service buildings include dairy, laundry, four stall stable, double carriage house and a tack room (Lucas, 1994, p 118).

Officially there are 52 rooms - Dr (Shane) Moran said it was hard to know how many bedrooms the property had, because the rooms could be used for any purposes (Kehagias, 2016).
Smoking Room, the remains of an old opium den, which traces back to when opium was legal (ibid, 2016).
The original staff quarters were broken up into small rooms. 'We kept the 1870s layout, which split the house into a male and female side. The male side features lots of wood and there's a billiard room. The female side is brighter' (Dr Shane Moran, in ibid, 2016).
Modifications and dates: 1875-82 - first house built (G.A.Morrell)
1880s - Sir Robert Tooth had the mansion remodelled after his family home, the Great Swifts Manor, Cranbrook, Kent

1963 property left to the Catholic Church - alterations ensued

1998-9 restoration of roofing, stone work; commencement of interior restoration (ongoing, 2012).
Further information: The western section of the garden of Swifts formed an integral part of the original design of the grounds. The special relationship of the grounds to the mansion is a significant factor in determining the status of the grounds as an item of environmental heritage. The building together with its site is an item of environmental heritage (from Findings of Commissioner of Inquiry, 1983, p.55).
Current use: residence
Former use: Aboriginal land, farm estate, suburban mansion estate, Catholic Archbishop's home

History

Historical notes: The land where Swifts is located was originally a crown grant made to Thomas Barker in 1833. In 1835 it was conveyed to Thomas Icely and it was known as the Delamere Estate. During the 1840s the land ownership changed several times but no record of the names of the owners is found but in 1869 it was mortgaged to Francis Mitchell. A Torrens Title was than issued to Robert Lucas-Tooth in December 1875 (Lucas, 1994, p98).

Robert Lucas- Tooth was born in Sydney in 1844 and was the eldest son of Edwin Tooth, the owner of Sydney brewing firm R&F. Tooth & Co. Apart from his association with brewing, Robert Lucas Tooth was a prominent breeder of Jersey dairy cows. In 1880 he laid the foundation of the Kameruka herd.

Robert Lucas-Tooth began on Swifts on the 18th of March 1876 where the foundations were laid by his daughter. The rate assessments for 1878 and 1879 included a house, grounds and out buildings that were owned and occupied by Robert Lucas-Tooth. The rate assessment for 1880 included the name Swifts (Lucas, 1994, pp 98-99). It was a simple two-storey red brick Georgian style house duplicating the family home in Kent, England (Swifts Sydney, 2012).

In 1882 Robert Lucas-Tooth employed French architect G A Morell to rebuild Swifts in a style similar to Government House in Sydney known as Castellated Gothic. The original house was built to please his father as it was similar to his house in Kent. Robert Lucas-Tooth believed his father had had his own way for long enough and it was now time for his way (Lucas, 1994, 99-100).

Beer barons in the second half of the nineteenth century were building larger and more elaborate houses to show off their vast wealth. Tooth's only recorded instructions to Morell were to retain the original Georgian porch, hence a second port-cochere fronts the house. His second directive was that the ball room be larger than that at Government House. He wanted seating only to be in the two alcoves to allow more room for dancing and more dancers. Swifts was a light and sunny house in contrast to the dark and heavy Victorian look of the day. The decor followed the new fashionable 'Arts & Crafts' style, created by William Morris in England (Swifts Sydney, 2012).

Scottish gardener Alexander Grant was born in 1845 at Cullen, Scotland and served an apprenticeship in the gardens of Cullen House in Banffshire. Before migrating to Australia in 1878 he followed his profession in several Scottish gardens, including the Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh. Grant arrived in the colony in 1878 and worked first at Yaralla, Concord for the Walkers for some considerable time, then at Rosemont, Woollahra for Alexander Campbell MLC, then for Mr Tooth at Swifts, Darling Point, which he planned and laid out. There is no record of where Grant was living while working at Yaralla and Rosemont, though from 1881 he lived at 'Willow Cottage in Point Piper Road - west side (later Ocean Street), Paddington' until he moved to quarters in the Botanic Gardens, Sydney in 1882 for work there. It is likely that the positions at Yaralla and Rosemont both included quarters for a single man and that only after he married Margaret Stevenson in January 1880 was he obliged to find alternative accomodation (Willow Cottage). The 1995 report 'Swifts, Conservation Analaysis & Guidelines' by Clive Lucas Stapleton & Partners notes "the gardens are undoubtedly contemporary with the rebuilding of the house by Morell c.1882. These are extensively landscaped, providing an elaborate setting for the house. The designer of the grounds is not known but there probably was one." (Grant, 1997).

In 1889 Robert Lucas- Tooth went to England to live (Lucas, 1994, 99-100) taking his family. He was made a Baronet and proudly sat in the House of Lords. His three sons were killed in World War 1 (Swifts Sydney, 2012). Between 1893 and 1897 Henry Harris lived at Swifts and the land title in April 1900 was transferred to Edmund Resch (Lucas, 1994, 99-100).

Tooth sold Swifts in 1900 to Edmund Resch, another beer baron (Swifts Sydney, 2012). Resch occupied Swifts from 1900 to 1923. During this time he redecorated the interior and made some alterations to the services. He was a very wealthy man who bought a Cordial and aerated water factory at Wilcannia in 1877, opened Lion Brewery in 1879, bought Waverly Brewery in 1899 and NSW Lager Bier Company in 1900. Edmund Resch died in 1923 and the title of the land was than transferred to his two sons, Edmund and Arnold in April 1924. Family problems lead to Swifts going to public auction and it was bought by Edmund Resch junior for (Pounds) 50 000 in January 1929 (Lucas, 1994, 101-102).

Edmund Resch (junior) married Florence Mabel Bennett and they made Swifts their home until they died, Florence in 1959 and Edmund 1963. The known alterations to Swifts during this time were the additions of two manure bins, an incinerator and a laundry. Alterations to the garages were made; concrete was placed over the carriage drive, garden paths and the gardener's compound.

Edmund Resch left Swifts to the Roman Catholic Church in 1863 (Bastians, 2017, 7) and the land title was transferred into their name in June 1964, and it was at this stage that the land was subdivided into 2 lots. Lot 1, 22 perches and the Bungalow and lot 2, 3 acres 1 road 15 perches which included the Swifts and its grounds and out buildings (Lucas, 1994, 102-103).

In 1964 the Roman Catholic Church changed the Ballroom to a Chapel-of-ease that seated 200 and had standing room for 50-60 people. Swifts was also used to house the Cardinals as it was the home for Cardinal Gilroy, Freeman and Clancy, and Pope Paul IV and Pope John Paul II also stayed there on their visits to Sydney. (Lucas, 1994, 103). Gilroy was proud to be a prince of the church and entertained visiting dignitaries in style, including at least one Pope (Swifts Sydney, 2012). During Swifts ownership by the Roman Catholic Church a Permanent Conservation order was placed on it. Swifts was sold for $9 million in 1986 to Minjar Holdings Pty Ltd (Lucas, 1994, 103) and fell into serious disrepair (Swifts Sydney, 2012).

Carl Spies and his family used Swifts as their place of residency for four years. In 1990 the Spies were evicted because of a $2.69 million debt. An auction of 450 pieces of furniture was sold in October of 1992 (Lucas, 1994, 105).

In 1997 Swifts was bought by the Moran family (Chancellor, 2008; Swifts Sydney, 2012). Heritage architect Clive Lucas, Stapleton & Partners took on the mammoth job of restoring the derelict castle. This involved extensive stone and roofing reconstruction and the interior paintwork required restoration. Swifts is considered one of the most detailed Victorian interiors in Sydney and the Moorish smoking room is believed to be unique in Australia. Half way through the restoration works in 1998 a tornado swept along the Darling Point ridge destroying much of the restored roofing and decorative painting which had to be redone. Interior work continues today under Clive Lucas' direction. A current programme for the grounds is underway with Dr James Broadbent advising (Swifts Sydney, 2012).

Gardener Myles Baldwin is working at Swifts, finding a home for 1000 plants and building 20m deep garden beds with the help of his staff. 'Some of the beds will be 100m long...Next winter we have to plant several thousand bulbs. (The garden) will take at least four years.' (Gora, in The Daily Telegraph, 23/10/2011).

In 2013 the property was bought out wholly from the family by Shane and Penelope Moran and has been restoring it for a number of years. 'My family goes right back to the original land grant in 1833. We saw it as wanting it to stay in the family, one way or another and to continue to maintain it' Dr Moran said (Kehagias, 2016). Shane Moran notes he is related to the estate's original owner, Thomas Barker, who bought the allotment in 1833 on which the property was built (Bastians, 2017, 7).

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
1. Environment-Tracing the evolution of a continent's special environments Environment - naturally evolved-Activities associated with the physical surroundings that support human life and influence or shape human cultures. Cultural - Coasts and coastal features supporting human activities-
1. Environment-Tracing the evolution of a continent's special environments Environment - naturally evolved-Activities associated with the physical surroundings that support human life and influence or shape human cultures. Changing the environment-
1. Environment-Tracing the evolution of a continent's special environments Environment - naturally evolved-Activities associated with the physical surroundings that support human life and influence or shape human cultures. Gardens-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Commerce-Activities relating to buying, selling and exchanging goods and services Brewing-
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 demonstrating styles in landscape design-
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 Significant tree(s) providing urban amenity-
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 of urban amenity-
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-
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 the prosperous - mansions in town and 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 for industrial managers and owners-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Land tenure-Activities and processes for identifying forms of ownership and occupancy of land and water, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Fencing boundaries - retaining walls and embankments-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Land tenure-Activities and processes for identifying forms of ownership and occupancy of land and water, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Changing land uses - from rural to suburban-
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-
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 Creating landmark structures and places in urban settings-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Religion-Activities associated with particular systems of faith and worship Practising Catholicism-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Robert Lucas Tooth, brewer and pastoralist-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with G.A.Morrell, French-Australian civil engineer-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Edmond Resch, brewer-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Alexander Grant, Scottish-trained gardener-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
Swifts is of State significance for its associations with two brewing families - the Tooth's who built the house and the Resch's who subsequently lived in it.

Swifts is of State significance as the official residence of three cardinals: Gilroy, Freeman and Clancy.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Swifts is of State significance as a unique ensemble of late-Victorian house and extensive landscaped ground, complete with statuary, balustrade terrace wall, stairs, paths, mature trees that, in their picturesque setting within the foreshores of Sydney harbour, epitomises the development of 'taste' in nineteenth century colonial New South Wales (Lucas, Stapleton & Partners 1994:128).
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
Swifts is of signficance as a rare example of the work of architect Gustavus Alphose Morell.
SHR Criteria g)
[Representativeness]
Swifts is of State significance as Sydney's largest and most intact late Victorian mansion. With the exception of Government House, it illustrates the complex planning and detail thought necessary for an upper class family at the endof the nineteenth century. this includes the total ensemble of house, service rooms, outhouses and grounds.
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:

Recommendations

Management CategoryDescriptionDate Updated
Recommended ManagementReview a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) 
Recommended ManagementPrepare a maintenance schedule or guidelines 
Recommended ManagementCarry out interpretation, promotion and/or education 

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
HERITAGE ACT 1977
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.

FRANK SARTOR
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

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0014602 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - Permanent Conservation Order - former 0014619 Apr 84 582172
Local Environmental PlanLEP 1995 10 Mar 95 28 
National Trust of Australia register  10059   
Register of the National Estate 257721 Oct 80   

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenAustral Archaeology199714 Hampden Avenue, Darling Point - Archaeological Monitoring of Excavation at the Former Gardener's Compound, Swifts Estate
WrittenBastians, Kate2017'Moran legacy will shape generations'
WrittenChancellor, Jonathan2008Coe takes the prize with Ritossa Sale' in "Title Deeds" in Sydney Morning Herald
WrittenChong, Oi1983A report on the Garden and Grounds and their Significance
WrittenClive Lucas, Stapleton & Partners1994Swifts, Darling Point Road, Darling Point, Sydney, Conservation Analysis and Conservation Guidelines Final Report
WrittenElizabeth Evans1983Swifts: Conservation Plan
WrittenGora, Bronwen2011'Meet our hottest green thumb Myles Baldwin' View detail
WrittenGrant, Jim1997The Gardener of Swifts
WrittenImages for Business2016Photographic Report for Arcival Recording of Swifts, 68 Darling Point Road, Darling Point, 15th November 2016
WrittenKehagias, Melissa2016'Sneak peak of life inside a 56-room Gothic mansion'
WrittenNational Trust of Australia (NSW)1983Swifts, 68 Darling Point Road, Darling Point : submission to Commission of Inquiry pursuant to section 41 of the Heritage Act 1977 / National Trust of Australia (NSW)
WrittenSwifts Sydney2012'History', in "Swifts Soirees 2012" - Artistic Director David Rowden - The Grand Ballroom, 68 Darling Point Road, Darling Point - Inaugural Concert series in support of the Opera Foundation Australia View detail

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

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

Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5045530
File number: 10/18984; S90/05711 & HC 32581


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