Snaking its way around the eastern tip of Darling Point, Carthona Avenue has long been home to some of the most prestigious and significant real estate in the suburb, and indeed the city.
In the early 19th century, land for homes became increasingly scarce as the fledgling city of Sydney grew. While initially considered too rugged, the area is known today as Darling Point eventually opened up for settlement thanks to the construction of new roads.
Subsequent land grants in the early 1830s saw the city’s wealthy flock to the area to build grand new homes. One of those was Lindesay.
The National Trust-listed Lindesay, on the corner of Carthona Avenue, is a quintessentially Georgian house. The first home built in Darling Point – known at the time as Mrs Darling’s Point – Lindesay is a well-proportioned, understated home with gardens once stretching down to the foreshore.
Lindesay was constructed between 1834 and 1836 for Campbell Drummond Riddell, a Scotsman who’d moved to Sydney to take up the post of Colonial Treasurer. Other notable residents of Lindesay included Sir Thomas Mitchell, explorer and Surveyor-General, the politician Sir Charles Nicholson (after whom the Nicholson Museum at the University of Sydney is named), and the pastoralist Pye family, who gifted Lindesay to the National Trust in 1963.
Lindesay is the oldest surviving residence in Darling Point and is now a sought-after venue for weddings, garden parties, community events and the popular Lindesay Christmas Fair.
While living at Lindesay, Thomas Mitchell expanded his property portfolio in the area. With Lindesay at lot 1, he also secured lots 7, 12, 13 and 14. On this last lot he built Carthona House, in 1841.
Carthona House’s waterfront location – unique when it was built – is reflected in its name, which means “the murmur of the waves”. But whether viewed from water or land, the iconic Gothic home makes a grand impression. Its sandstone exterior features castellated parapets with Tudor-style chimneys protruding from gabled slate rooftops. Carved stone heads add to the building’s uniqueness and depict knights, medieval kings, the Duke of Wellington and Queen Victoria. It’s believed some of the windows and keystones may have been carved by Mitchell himself.
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After Mitchell’s death at Carthona House in 1855, the property was initially rented to two sisters before passing through a number of owners. One such owner was renowned vaudeville performer Harry Rickards, who later built Canonbury on the land where McKell Park now stands.
Today, art dealer Roslyn Oxley and her husband own Carthona House, and the home is occasionally open for tours. The mansion and its grounds have also been used as an opulent backdrop to fashion launches by the likes of Romance Was Born and Kit Willow.
Shrinking estates, smaller homes
Between World Wars I and II, the large land grants and estates that had dominated Darling Point’s early days were increasingly subdivided, with new homes built on these smaller parcels of land.
Neidpath represents this important era in the suburb’s development. Built in 1923, the “inter-war Gothic” mansion stands on the ground once belonging to its neighbour, Lindesay.
And while the prestige of Carthona Ave continued, land size continued to shrink. In the 1980s one newly built home in the street would claim a rather unique title: Sydney’s narrowest waterfront property. The four-level home sits on a sliver of land just 6 metres wide. Sandwiched between Neidpath and Carthona House, the home once belonged to Lady Susan Renouf. Despite its size, the well-appointed house boasts the same enviable views and position as Carthona Avenue’s older, grander properties and similarly enjoys access to a private beach.
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