‘Napoli Villa’ 86 Redmyre Road

By Cathy Jones

‘Napoli Villa’ 86 Redmyre Road was built in 1914. Council minutes of 14 September 1914 record approval to build a cottage for applicant Mary Kent, wife of architect Harry C. Kent. The likely architect of the house was Kent, who named this house ‘Kelmswood’.

Kent (1852-1938) was a notable Sydney based architect of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. He was President of the Institute of Architects in 1906-7 and during his forty-eight years of practice, he designed or was associated with over 670 buildings. He was a prolific architect and his designs span a wide range of building types including hospitals (eg Carrington Centennial Hospital at Camden 1890), private residences, commercial offices and banks, schools, extensions to Randwick Racecourse, churches and woolstores.

Kent designed many buildings in Strathfield including “Mount Royal” in 1887 (now the Australian Catholic University), ‘Agincourt’ Albert Road (1890), Catholic Institute of Sydney Building in Albert Road in 1891, Strathfield Town Hall (1923) and alterations to Strathfield Council building (1913) and first floor extensions to the Council Chambers (1921-23).

Harry Kent was also actively involved in community and civic activities in Strathfield. He served as an Alderman on Strathfield Council from 1903 until 1905 and was active in the Strathfield-Homebush Congregational Church (now Uniting Church – Korean Parish). Kent lived at Kelmswood (now known as Woodstock at 88 Redmyre Road Strathfield) from 1886 to 1914. Kent also owned the land on the eastern corner of Redmyre and Florence St opposite Woodstock and used the land as horse stables. In 1914, a new house was built and Kent moved from the older larger home to the smaller new home, which he also named Kelmswood. He resided there until 1921. The original house was renamed Woodstock at this time. In total, Kent resided for twenty-nine years in Strathfield, before moving to Rose Bay where he died in 1938 at age 86.

The next owner was wealthy pastoralist William George Matchett (1863-1932). Matchett renamed the house ‘Borambil’, the name of one of his large properties in NSW. Matchett was born at Kilmore Victoria in 1863. He purchased Budgery near Nyngan and at various times owned Wirlong (Cobar) Gewroo, Mullengudgery, Nara, and Murrawombie (Nyngan district). At the time of his death he owned Budgery, Borambil and Merriwee (Condobolin), and Greendale. Borambil was considered one of the finest and best known properties on the Lachlan. He also established a stud farm at Borambil. Matchett was the first in the Nyngan district to insure the lives of soldiers and their dependents during the Great War.

In 1895 he married Miss Sarah (Lilla) Dent, whose family also resided in the Strathfield area. He had two daughters May (Mrs William E Hopkins of Strathfield) and Willa (Mrs G Sutherland of Gordon). Matchett was one of Australia’s wealthiest men. Probate for his estate in 1932 was £356,831 net (£580,000 gross).

Matchett was the grandfather of Sonia Hopkins, who later married Sir William McMahon, Prime Minister of Australia. She was later styled as Lady Sonia McMahon. Sonia Hopkins was born in this house in 1932. After Matchett’s death, the Hopkins family moved from 1 Florence Street Strathfield into ‘Borambil’.

In 1943, the house was sold by Richard John Matchett, Arthur Sutherland and Willa Scoulter and George Clark, Gentlemen to Ernest Hawthorne Price for £3640. In October 1948, the estate of Ernest Hawthorne Price sold the house to Mrs Doris Emmett, a married woman for £4,000. In May 1953, Emmett sold the house to Marie Gibson, physician & surgeon, and Charles Gibson, domestic duties for £9500.

Subdivision of grounds on the eastern boundary occurred in the early 1960s, which created a separate residential lot at 84 Redmyre Road.

Author:  Cathy Jones 2010

(c) Cathy Jones

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