by Cathy Jones
‘Virginia’ was built in 1906 to a design by architect Charles Slatyer. The house was built for and owned by Charles Ingram Todman (1881-1958).
Todman was born in Strathfield and was the son of George Todman (d.1924), a wealthy tobacco merchant and philanthropist, of ‘Milroy’ Albert Road Strathfield. Charles Todman was a successful businessman. He began his career in the tobacco industry at W D and H O Wills but later moved into paper production and media. Todman was the managing director of Sydney Paper Mills ltd (1909-1920), Australiasian Paper and Pulp Company (1920-1940), Chairman of Cumberland Paper Bd. Mills (1936-1940) and Director Australian Paper Manufacturers Ltd (1926-1940). He was the director of Associated Newspapers Ltd (1941-1953). Associated Newspapers Ltd, publishers of ‘The Sun’ (Sydney) was taken over by John Fairfax Pty Ltd in 1955. Charles Todman served as Alderman on Strathfield Council from 1914 to 1917.
The architect Slayter was the brother-in-law of Charles Todman. Slatyer and George Todman developed the Kensington Estate in 1906, which comprises most of the Sydney suburb of Kensington today. Many streets on this estate are named for the Todman family and reference the name of their homes in Strathfield including Virginia Street and Ingram Street (reference to Charles Ingram Todman and his Strathfield home), Milroy Avenue, Todman Avenue, Winkurra Street (brother-in-law’s Walter Buzacott’s home “Winkurra”, 15 Florence Street Strathfield) and Carminya Street (Charles Slatyer’s home “Carminya” 25 Homebush Rd Strathfield).
Todman married Nellie B Gray, youngest daughter of the late Andrew Gray of Richmond, Virginia, USA in March 1907. The marriage took place in Richmond and the couple returned to Strathfield, moving into the completed home ‘Virginia’. The name of the house ‘Virginia’ is an obvious reference to Mrs Todman’s birthplace. The Todman’s lived at ‘Virginia’ until c.1921. Court reports record dissolution of the marriage and a divorce in 1922. The house was briefly rented to Frederick King but c.1923, the house was sold to warehouseman and merchant Robert Henderson-Smith. Todman moved from Strathfield to Bellevue Hill and married Phyllis Stuart in 1928.
In 1928, Henderson-Smith transferred ownership for a nominal fee to his sisters Elizabeth Moran Henderson-Smith and Edith Margaret Henderson-Smith. The Certificate of Title also records that the house and grounds were over 2 acres in area.
In March 1937, the Henderson-Smith sisters sold ‘Virginia’ to Mrs Veronica Catherine Forde, wife of Frank Forde, Member of the House of Representatives (MHR) for £2500. During Forde’s ownership, ‘Virginia’s grounds were substantially reduced. In late 1937, Frank Forde submitted a subdivision plan which was approved. The plan created two lots (Lots A and B) facing Oxford Street and Lot C contained the house ‘Virginia’. Forde remained the owner of the property until the 1970s.
Ford was Federal Member for the Queensland electorate of Capricornia, but lived at ‘Virginia’ at Strathfield from 1937 to 1946. Forde served as Prime Minister for eight days in 1945, following the death of John Curtin. He served as Deputy Prime Minister from 1941-49 under Prime Ministers Curtin and Chifley, Minister for Defence during WWII and also lead the Australian delegation to establish the United Nations in 1945. Forde lost office in the general election of 1946 but was appointed High Commissioner to Canada from 1946-1953 and was elected to the Queensland State Parliament from 1955-57. Forde died in 1983 at the age of 92.
Forde moved back to Queensland in 1946 and leased ‘Virginia’. The house later operated as registered boarding house in the 1960’s.
In the early 1970’s, ‘Virginia’ was purchased by solicitor Geoff Edwards. Edwards served as an Alderman on Strathfield Council from 1970-1974.
Charles Ingram Todman, Who’s Who in Australia, Herald & Weekly Times, 1955
Fox & Associates, Strathfield Heritage Study, 1986
‘Death of George Todman’, Sydney Morning Herald, page 6, 9 June 1924
Forde, Frank, 1950s correspondence to Strathfield Council re: subdivision of ‘Virginia’, Council file G/5 566 and G/5 899.
Gorman, Michael., ‘The life and work of Charles H. Slatyer FIA’, BArch Thesis UNSW, 1983.
‘In Divorce’, Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday 27 May 1922
‘Marriage Notices’, Sydney Morning Herald, 22 May 1907
Strathfield Council building register, valuation lists and notices of land transfer.
Author: Cathy Jones (2011)
(c) Cathy Jones 2011. Pursuant to the provisions of the Copyright Act 1968, no permission is given to any person to reproduce any work. Existing publications do not assign or imply any ownership by any other person by the author. No permission is given by the author for any commercial advantage to any person or organisation.