by Cathy Jones
‘Darenth’ 32-34 Albyn Road Strathfield was designed in 1895 by architect George Sydney Jones as a private residence for the Reverend George Littlemore, Minister of the Strathfield Trinity Congregational Church.
The building was financed and owned by the architect’s father Dr Phillip Sydney Jones, a close friend of Rev. George Littlemore. Jones died in 1918 and the house was sold to F L Rolin, but it continued to be leased to the Rev. Littlemore until his death in 1929.
The Jones family were devout members of the Congregational Church. Retailer David Jones was a foundation member of the Camden Congregational College at Newtown and his son Phillip Sydney Jones also served on the College Council. Phillip Sydney Jones was a deeply religious man and married the daughter of the Rev. George Charter.
The Rev. George Littlemore immigrated to Australia from England and was appointed minister of the Burwood Congregational Church, of which the Jones family were members.
After a split in the Burwood Congregation, Jones and his brother-in-law stockbroker Thomas Thompson (1830-1917) partly financed the building of a new Congregational Church in Strathfield on the corner of Morwick St and The Boulevarde Strathfield. The Church was designed in 1889 in an honorary capacity by George Sydney Jones and his cousin architect Harry Thompson. The Trinity Congregational Church was gazetted on the State Heritage Register in 2003.
In the manuscript The Thompson Story , Margaret Hay describes the split in the Burwood Congregational Church and establishment of the Trinity Congregational Church in Strathfield:
‘It was early in 1889 that Thomas James’ son Harry, now a fully fledged architect collaborated with George Sydney Jones, both honorary architects to design the beautiful little two-coloured brick Trinity Congregational Church at Strathfield. Its building was the result of a split among the worshippers at the Burwood Congregational Church. Harold [Thompson] in a letter mentioned ‘the greatest excitement in our circle now is the unfortunate row at Burwood Church – half the members want to get the parson to resign but the other are determined he shall not leave.’
Eventually the Rev. George Littlemore much beloved by at least half the congregation left Burwood to become the minister at the new Church.
The establishment of the Trinity Congregational Church was detailed in the Congregational Year Book of 1977:
“Trinity Church arose from a division of theological opinion within the Burwood Congregational Church. On Sunday May 5 1889 a number of church members, together with the Rev. George Littlemore, Burwood’s former pastor, met for worship in the Burwood School of Arts and subsequently 48 persons enrolled as members of what is now known as Trinity Church.
Development occurred rapidly with the purchase of a block of land on the corner of The Boulevarde and Morwick Street. The foundation stone of the present building was laid on November 2 1889 and the Church was dedicated on January 26 1890, the preachers being Rev. George Littlemore and the Principal of Camden College, the Rev. J G Frazer. Mr Littlemore ministered to Trinity Church members and children for 34 years. He combined great learning with, for that time, advanced theological ideas and marked power to convey the Christian message. The fellowship had 77 members by the mid-1890’s and several vigorous organisations were established, including a Sunday school, Foreign Missions and Hospital Visitation groups and Dorcas Society.’
The Register of the National Estate listing describes the house as:
“‘Darenth’ is a single storey house of face brick in stretcher bond, tuck pointed and colour washed. The roof of unglazed Marseille tiles is broken into a number of hipped and gabled forms, and there is a prominent corner tower with a tall pyramidal roof of flat terra cotta shingles. The front verandah has turned timber posts and timber brackets. The architectural style is mainly Federation period Arts and Crafts style, shown in features such as the long runs of roof and exposed eaves; the use of timber shingles for fascias and over the entrance porch; the variety of window shapes including bulls eye and horseshoe; and the tones of face brick and tiles using decorative moulded bricks for string courses and hood moulds. At the same time there are a number of unconventional features including the split level plan, banded brick chimneys and curious corner brick buttresses which extend above the eaves line to form square topped pilasters, a typical Federation Free style motif. There are unsympathetic modern openings in the front wall. A mature front garden conceals the house from the street. There is a brick and timber picket front fence. The rear garden has been altered to accommodate and elevated patio and swimming pool.”
Darenth is listed as a Heritage Item on Strathfield Council LEP and as an indicative place on the Register of National Estate. It has been classified by the National Trust and is an item on the Royal Australian Institute of Architects [RAIA] List of Significant Twentieth Century Buildings.