By Cathy Jones
‘Steephurst’ was built c.1882 for stockbroker George Thompson [1854 -1925].
Thompson was the son of Thomas James Thompson [1830-1917], co-founder of the Sydney Stock Exchange and owner of ‘Malvern’ (then located on The Boulevarde Strathfield). Thompson was the grandson of David Jones and nephew of Sir Phillip Sydney Jones of ‘Llandilo’ (now Trinity Grammar Preparatory School). He married Sophie Mate and eventually relocated to Albury to manage his father-in-law’s business, T E Mate & Co, one of the largest retailers in the Riverina. He was twice elected Mayor of Albury. Thompson was an Alderman of Strathfield Council from 1885-87.
Thompson was one of the original petitioners to establish the Municipality of Strathfield in 1884 (Supplement to NSW Government Gazette no. 488 25th September 1884). He was presumably one of the organisers of the petition, authorising the signatures, as his name appears ‘George Arthur Thompson, of Sydney and Redmyre, broker’.
On the proclamation declaring Strathfield to be a municipality (Supplement to Government Gazette no. 292 20th July 1885), the first meeting of Strathfield Council was notified:
‘I, Lord Augustus William Frederick Loftus, the Governor aforesaid, in pursuance of the provisions of the said Act, and with the advice of the Executive Council, do, by this my Proclamation, nominated James Inglis, Esquire, of Cargo [sic], Redmyre, to be the first Returning Officer of the said Municipality: And I do hereby notify that the said first election shall take place in a Cottage, the property of G. N.[sic] Thompson, Esquire, situate at the corner of Railway-street and Kingsland Road, Strathfield at noon, on Wednesday, the nineteenth day of August’
The Government Gazette (no.292 Monday 20 July 1885) reports that the election was held on 19th August 1885 and the Alderman of the first Council of Strathfield Municipality was elected, including George Arthur Thompson, ‘sharebroker, Railway-street’. A further meeting was held on 31st August 1885 at James Inglis’ home ‘Craigo’ to elect the first Mayor George Hardie and appoint the first Town Clerk, Frederick George Bennett.
Until the current Strathfield Council Chambers [cnr Homebush and Redmyre Rds] were opened in October 1887, Strathfield Council Chambers operated from the homes rented by the Town Clerk, Fred Bennett. For a few months in 1886, Bennett rented rooms at ‘Llanelly’ at 5/- per week. The 1886 Sands Sydney Directory notes the following on Railway-street: ‘Thompson G A ‘Llanelly’; Bennett, F G, council clerk; Council Chambers – F G Bennett, council clerk’ [Sands 1886].
George Arthur Thompson served as an Alderman on Strathfield Council until 1887 and he appears to have left Strathfield around this time. ‘Llanelly’ was then rented prior to its sale in 1890 to George Alexander Wilson of Sydney, Esquire.
The house was leased to a number of occupants listed between 1890 and 1906 including William Piggott (MLC), C. Bowen; G B Owen; W C Willis, Frank Bligh. Little is known of most of the occupants, but William Piggott was a prominent local identity who primarily lived in Burwood Municipality. It was around this time that Wilson changed the name to ‘Auchendouwe’.
The property was sold to Walter Herbert Friend of Strathfield, Gentleman on 4th May 1906. Walter Friend, of Hardware merchants W H Friend & Co, was a prominent Sydney merchant. In December 1917 Walter Friend sold the property to Charles Carey Lance (1859-1934), who occupied the property until 1922.
Charles Lance was born in Newcastle-on-Tyne and trained as an engineer. He migrated to South Africa in 1879 and established a food produce business in Burghersdorp, a district of Cape Colony. In 1890, he moved to NSW and bought Euroa flour mills. Lance pioneered dairy manufacture in Victoria and in 1894 was appointed general manager NSW Creamery Butter Co. and Fresh Food and Ice Co in 1901. Lance was appointed commission agent for NSW in London 1902-06 and appointed commissioner Sydney Harbour Trust 1907, president 1913.
Lance’s daughter Sylvia, was a tennis champion. She won the Australian Women’s Open Championship in 1924 and was runner-up to the title in 1927 and 1930. She married Robert Harper in 1924, a colonel in the army but continued her career in tennis. Her aunt, Florence Fuller painted her portrait and her husband, which is held at PLC in Melbourne.
In April 1922, Charles Carey Lance sold the property to Alexander Faulkner Waters of Sydney, Merchant. Waters & Co was a famous Sydney shop located in Pitt St. Waters was a prominent social and sporting identify, particularly known as a golfer.
In 1954, the property was sold to the Stiel family of Homebush, who further sub-divided the property by dividing a further portion of land fronting Kingsland Rd. The Stiel family, who continued to occupy Steephurst until January 2002, when the property was sold.
Digby E, George Arthur Thompson JP, Men of Mark, 1889
Fox & Associates, Strathfield Heritage Study, 1986
Gibbney & Smith, ‘Charles Lance’, Australian Dictionary of Biography: Biographical Register 1788-1939, AustralianNationalUniversity, 1987
Gibbney & Smith, ‘Thomas James Thompson’, Australian Dictionary of Biography: Biographical Register 1788-1939, AustralianNationalUniversity, 1987
Historical Members Firms, Australian Stock Exchange, Centenary of Federation Research 1901-2001
Jones, C ‘Steephurst’, Strathfield District Historical Society Newsletters Vol.25 no. 10 October 2002 and vol.26. no.11 November 2002
Kemp, Chery., Heritage Assessment of ‘Steephurst’ 22-24 Albyn Rd Strathfield, 2002
Kemp & Johnson, Strathfield Heritage Review, 2003
Malcolm C S., ‘Strathfield Council Chambers’, SDHS vol.2 no.3 October 1979
NSW Government Gazette 1885
‘Oral History of Strathfield: An interview with Mrs J R Farncomb’, SDHS vol.7 no.9 May 1985
Sands Sydney Directory [1885-1932]
State Records of NSW – Sydney Harbour Trust
Strathfield Council rates and valuation books
Sydney Morning Herald