By Virginia Simpson-Young, Bulletin 4/2023, June 2023
Glebe Guided Walks – Report on the Toxteth Park historic house and Toxteth Estate with Max Solling and Dorothy Davis
Max Solling’s unsurpassed knowledge of the history of the Toxteth Estate combined with the personal and professional experience of the archivists and librarian at St Scholastica’s College made for a wonderfully informative visit to the historic villa on Tuesday 18 April.
Around 30 Glebe Society participants enjoyed a rare viewing of the interior of Toxteth Park built for George Allen in 1831. Allen commissioned John Verge, the well known architect, to build an elegant country house in spacious gardens. The visit to Toxteth Park illustrated the transition from the original two-storey house with its single storey wings to a three storey house, including a tower, which was commissioned by George Allen’s son, Sir George Wigram Allen, from architect George Allan Mansfield and built between 1881 and 1883. In 1901 the property was purchased by the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, whose convent in Pitt Street had been resumed for Central Station. The gates on Avenue Road were relocated from Pitt Street. Many of the early details of the house survive including the ceiling of the original dining room, the floor tiles, example of wallpaper and decorative paintwork and the sash and pulley windows.
A highlight was walking around the wide first floor verandah which extends from the front of the house to the western side with an entrance into the ballroom added by Sir George Wigram Allen. We also visited St Scholastica’s Chapel which was built in 1931 and contains an impressive baldacchino and fine mosaics.
We were most impressed with the historical records about the house and the Toxteth Estate kept in the archives: a great resource for the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, historians and all those interested in the heritage of our suburb.
Max Solling, in his inimitable way, described the history and development of the Toxteth Estate, his talk filled with scholarship, anecdotes, great detail and wit.
Thank you to Max for leading the Walk and for the knowledge he imparted to us with such enthusiasm. We are also very appreciative of the welcome extended by the Good Samaritan sisters and staff, for the fascinating tour through Toxteth Park and an introduction to its rich archive.