Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"Birch Grove House" - The dark history of Australia's 2nd oldest home

Having just aided a sale on Louisa Road and working on a new listing on the same street, I thought I'd talk about an important home that once stood on the prized street.

"Birch Grove House" was at the time of it's demolition in 1967, the second oldest home in Australia (after "Elizabeth Farm" in Parramatta). It was built by Lieutenant John Birch in 1810 and used locally quarried stone from Long Nose Point to aid its construction. He later sold the home for 480 pounds to merchant Walpole Loane who tenanted the home after a long period of vacancy where the glass and materials had been pilfered from the home. The tenants, Mr & Mrs. Bradley were later murdered in the home by thieves. Loane, himself, was know to be a man of unscrupulous character and after a series of renovations, place "Birch Grove House" for sale claiming the property possessed more land that he had rightful claim to.

In 1853, Birch Grove House came under the ownership of Henry Watson Parker for eight months, he married John Macarthur's young daughter Emmeline Emily and sold it again in 1954 to Didier Joubert for 6000 pounds. It was Joubert who is credited with founding the suburb of Birchgrove by subdividing the land around "Birch Grove House" for smaller residential housing.

As the suburb of Birchgrove grew, "Birch Grove House" fell into disrepute. In the 1870's, always giving up secrets, a enormous painting of Ceres, the goddess of nature and regeneration, was discovered beneath some wallpaper. It was believed to have been painted by a French convict.

In 1915, "Birch Grove House," sitting on considerably less land than in the days of John Birch, was sold to its final owner Mrs Lillian MacDonald for 1,150 pounds. Mrs MacDonald live in the home until her death in 1962. Leichhardt Council later sold the home to a development company who campaigned successfully for it's demolition in 1967. On Christmas 1967, despite much protest, "Birch Grove House" was demolished and a three storey unit block was built on its site taking the name "Birchgrove House."
"Birch Grove House" had been an icon in early Australian history. A place of murder, history and secrets, it is a shame that it no longer stands today. The original position of "Birch Grove House" on Louisa Road is where the unit block continues to stand at 67 Louisa Road.

ps. I apologise that I have not included any photos of Birch Grove House, the sad realisation is that there aren't any publishable photos on the property.


  1. According to the book “Perry Soldier & Surveyor” by his descendent Jillian Oppenheimer, Our Deputy Surveyor General Mr Samuel Augustus Perry lived in the house for a few years from early 1830 together with his wife and 6 children.
    My distant convict grandmother was assigned to him at Birchgrove where she gave birth.

  2. Hi Old Bonez.
    That home has such a deep history, I could have written all day about it! Thank you for your input.