Busy Mum who enjoys discovering new places with a special interest in finding fun and appropriate experiences for a child with Autism.
Published May 20th 2012
It's well worth a drive out to Yaralla Estate, Nullawarra Ave, Concord West. This estate was the family home of the Walkers, a family that made a significant impact on the area and can still be seen today around Concord with many streets, clubs and parks named in the family's memory.
Around 1840 the land was acquired by Thomas Walker from Isaac Nichols, a pardoned convict who was given a land grant and had built this land up into a prosperous farm & orchard which supplied the fledgling colony at Sydney Cove. Nichols was also Australia's first postmaster and is pictured on the first stamp issued. The Walkers occupied this property for almost one hundred years until (Dame) Eadith Walker, Thomas' only daughter passed away in 1937. During her lifetime she was, like her father, a great philanthropist, donating the funds for many projects in Concord.
Royalty have also been entertained on the estate by Eadith. In 1920, The Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) stayed, prior to his arrival she commissioned a squash court to be built. Unfortunately, as the floor was constructed of concrete the prince did not play on it. Later, in 1927 she entertained the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth).
Although the mansion itself is not open to the public during the week (Mon-Fri) as it's used by RPA Hospital for out-patient services, the grounds are always open for the public to visit and enjoy.
The long, wide, tree lined driveway leads you past the last remaining paddocks in Concord, complete with horses grazing, enjoying their uninterrupted view across the Parramatta River. Young children may recognise this driveway as it was used in "The Wiggles Movie", where Wally the magician, is seen riding down the driveway on his bike.
Cars are not permitted past the wrought iron inner gates, so the rest of our journey is done on foot. This is a great place for children to ride scooters and bikes as it's very safe and has many winding paths. Do not forget your camera, as this is a photographer's paradise and many weddings are photographed in the extensive formal gardens. A.B. Patterson's daughter was married on the estate."Banjo" married into the Walker family in 1903, when he wed Alice Walker, a daughter of Mr.W.H.Walker (Tenterfield) who was a relative of Thomas Walker.
Just beyond the wrought iron gates is the original coachhouse/stables and a few metres further on is a beautiful and extensive rose garden, populated with many heritage roses. Yaralla garden is an English formal garden and has many exotic plants. Photographic buffs will love the mangrove stands surrounding the point and the many old trees that are dotted about the estate. (Mature pines, palms, fig trees and cypresses.)
As with all formal gardens, there's a grotto, a fairyland filled with many succulents, cycads and palms. Stonemasons from Italy were employed to build the grotto, sunken garden and an Italianate terrace.
Although the house needs some TLC, it's not hard to imagine what Yaralla must have been like in its heyday one hundred years ago. The house, a Victorian Italianate mansion, is of significant national interest as it was designed and built around 1861-1870 by Edmund Blacket, a prominent architect in the colony who also designed St James Church(CBD), St Andrew's Cathedral (CBD) and St Thomas Church (Nth. Sydney). Later other additions to the structure, designed by Eadith's architect and brother-in-law, Sir John Sulman. He also designed several outbuildings on the property, including the stables and dairy, and was also responsible for the design of The Armidale School and The Women's College at The University of Sydney. Without doubt, his most important work was the Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital on the next point, (also part of the Walker Estate) which can be seen clearly from the Parramatta River.
The Walker Estate grounds make up part of the Kokoda Track Memorial Walkway which follows the foreshore of the Parramatta River. Spending the day discovering this hidden gem in suburbia is well worth the time.
Concord Heritage Society, holds open days for the upkeep and restoration of the estate. (Check Website for times)
Pictorial History, City of Canada Bay, Drummoyne to Concord. By Gregory Blaxell.
Concord: A Centenary History. By Sheena Coupe
City of Canada Bay Council Website. www.canadabay.nsw.gov.au
The Concord Heritage Society website www.concordheritage.asn.au