The Annery enjoys a reputation as one of Darling Point’s more architecturally significant homes.
It also has a tragic connection to World War I.
Originally one grand home, 3-5 Marathon Avenue, Darling Point, was converted to apartments. Over time, townhouses and apartments have been added to the complex. We take a look at the story behind the historic home.
Change of plans: George Montague Merivale
Born in Surrey, England, in 1855, George Montague Merivale had his future in the UK mapped out. He studied at Oxford University, where he excelled in running and rowing, and planned a career in law after graduation. But after landing a job with Gibbs, Bright and Co., his cousin’s shipping company, he travelled to Australia as the firm’s representative. In Sydney he met Emily Laidley, and the couple married.
Although he shifted continents, Merivale stuck with the law but also enjoyed being involved in business as a company director. After establishing himself in Sydney, he decided to build a substantial home for his growing family, which would eventually include two sons and four daughters.
Building the Annery
For his home Merivale chose land that was part of the Marathon Estate. This was a subdivision from the land grant to Elizabeth Pike, part of the original 1833 release of land known as “Mrs Darling’s villa allotments”.
Constructed between 1884 and 1886, the Annery was built in a “restrained” Queen Anne style and was named after Merivale’s ancestral home in Devon. It is believed the Canadian-born, US-trained architect John Horbury Hunt designed the house, which bears similar features to nearby Cloncorrick, another home of Hunt’s design built around the same time.
The two-storey red brick building was one of the most significant Darling Point homes at the time and remains an important example of Sydney’s late 19th-century architecture. The land the Annery is built on was earlier the site of a guard house for soldiers overseeing convicts during the colonial era. A series of arches within the Annery are said to have been built from stones from this guard house, further adding to the building’s historical importance.
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The NSW Heritage listing for the Annery notes it is also historically significant for its “largely intact exterior which is a fine example of the colour and restraint typical of the style”. You can still see many of those original features today: the segmental arch window heads, decorated brick chimney stacks, leadlight feature windows and the distinctive band of diamond-pattern red and black tiles around the middle of the building. Later additions include the red roof tiles, which replaced original wooden shingles.
War comes to the Annery
While the Annery served as a family home, the Merivale’s time at the house was also marked by grief.
John Laidley Merivale was the oldest of the Merivale children. A lieutenant in the Australian Army, he served during World War I, fought at Gallipoli and was killed at the Battle of Lone Pine in August 1915. A portrait of him is held at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. Poignantly, the War Memorial collection also includes letters written by Lieutenant Merivale to his mother, at the Annery.
Extending the Annery
J. Burcham Clamp & Finch designed extensions to the home, which took place in 1928. This included a two-storey bay extension where an original full-width verandah once stood. A crenellated parapet at the home’s entry was also added and two garages were built.
The Merivale family owned the home until the early 1970s. It was eventually converted into apartments and, in 1974, approval was granted for the development of 21 townhouses in the grounds.
Today, the Annery is a much sought-after address. Residents enjoy a gorgeous private sanctuary with lush communal gardens, with some properties taking in water and neighbourhood views.
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