1904 ad for Benjamin Stone’s popular stove

Benjamin Stone lived at 294 Glebe Point Rd from the time the house was built until two years before his death. Both his home and the stove he manufactured were christened Waratah. He himself inherited the name of his father and grandfather, and was at least the third in a line of Benjamins.

He was born in England on 7 October 1869, the oldest child of Birmingham-born gunsmith Benjamin Stone (1837-1904) and Hannah née Allsobrook (1843-1907) who married in London and migrated in 1875 with Benjamin and his sisters Clara Jane (died 1953) and Phoebe Elizabeth (died 1947) aboard the Gauntlet which was quarantined in Brisbane due to an outbreak of typhoid. The family was in Sydney by the time Lilly (1877-1957) was born, followed by Sydney (1879-89), Kate Maude (1882-1958) and William Stretton (1884-1958). Nine-year-old Sydney, who could not swim, drowned in a waterhole at J. H. Geddes’ woolwashing plant at Waterloo while skylarking with fellow truants from Blackfriars School. Because the other boys remained silent, his parents were unaware of his fate until two days had passed.

Benjamin senr (son of Benjamin Stone and Mary née Green) began manufacturing colonial ovens in 1878 in a small city shop in Sussex St, while the family lived in Erskine St. By 1880 they had moved house to Catherine St Glebe, and soon transferred B Stone & Son Stovemakers to the same suburb. The factory on the corner of Phillip St and Cowper Lane was next door to the Bird & Lucas Foundry which provided panels for the Waratah Stove, first manufactured in 1894. The Stone family home and office relocated to 69 Glebe Point Rd. Benjamin senr died on 27 September 1904 (his funeral notice advertised his trade – ‘maker of the Waratah Stoves’) and his widow on 15 October 1907. They were buried with their son Sydney in the C of E section at Rookwood.

By age 13, when his foot was fractured by a falling anvil, Benjamin jnr was apprenticed to the family business. At age 16 he made two stoves which were exhibited at a Juvenile Good Templars Bazaar in Sydney Town Hall. In 1895 Ben married Alice Colliver (1876-1958). Their children were Edith May (1898-1994), Herbert Victor (1901-75), Reginald Benjamin (1903-76), Lillian Mildred (1907-75) and Alice Irene Brazier (1909-43).

In 1906 the Waratah stove won a first prize at the Royal Show. By then the cooker was a best seller, reputed to be fuel efficient with a firebox which could take both wood and coal, and with an even baking temperature because of its steel oven (in contrast to imports which were made totally of cast iron). Models ranged in price and capacity, suitable for premises from big hotels to two-roomed cottages, and were popular in both city and country. A large number were installed in Glebe houses.

A detail from the entranceway of Waratah. (image: Jude Paul)

The land on which no. 294 stands was bought in July 1905, part of the final subdivision of the Toxteth Estate, a condition of sale that no weatherboard or commercial structure be built. By 1906 the Stone family had moved into Waratah, their immediate neighbour was Floraville on Eglinton Rd. By 1908 their uphill neighbours were Lymington and Chelveston, and downhill Tennyson, Kipling, Ilancourt, Hazeldene, Stoneleigh, Clifford, Rockley and Glenrock. Number 292A Glebe Point Rd first appears as a street address in 1915. A two-storey building at Waratah’s rear is believed to have had a billiard room downstairs with a pigeon loft, open to the sky, above.

Ben Stone served one term (1920-22) as a Glebe Alderman on the City of Sydney Council and in 1925 bought a couple of cottages in Dunblane St Camperdown. In 1959 Waratah was sold and Benjamin moved to 7 Sheehy St, the home of his son Herbert, a stove fitter, and daughter-in-law Doris Laurel May. A great-grandfather and a member of the Victoria Park Bowling Club, he died on 19 July 1961 and was cremated at Rookwood. He was survived by sons Herbert and Reginald and daughters Edith Hewitt and Lillian Dempsey, his youngest daughter Alice Creagh having died in 1943 and his wife Alice on 6 June 1958. (Alice Stone in 1918 had bought 4A and 4B Leichhardt St, twin houses which remained in family ownership until 1973.)

Ben’s brother ‘Billy’ Stretton Stone, stovemaker, lived at Volta Alexandra Lane, fronting Jubilee Park, with his wife Eliza Ryman Stone (died 1951) and, for a time, his married daughter Nancy Clara, son-in-law Walter Campbell Bock and granddaughter Elaine Dorothy Bock. In 1960 ownership of 1 Alexandra Lane passed to Billy Stone’s sons, welder Sydney Arthur and accountant Francis Victor.

Waratah’s owner from 1959 until her death in 1984 was Mary Baldwin née Smith, born in 1896 at Wallsend, the sixth child of the second marriage of Streker Smith and Ann Charlton who wed in 1887. Streker Smith, born into an Irish coalmining family in County Durham, arrived in Australia with three children of his first marriage. (His unusual first name, sometimes spelt ‘Streaker’, was the maiden name of his mother.) He worked as a miner at the Gartlee and Pacific collieries at Teralba, and was twice declared bankrupt in the 1890s. Mary Smith married Henry H Baldwin at Adamstown in 1919. She was widowed by the time she bought Waratah.

Mary Baldwin fell foul of local real estate agents by frequently putting up no. 294 for sale and then withdrawing, sometimes after contracts had been exchanged. Her daughter Marie Elsie Rodgers inherited the house, since when it has been sold three times.


Sources: Australian Town and Country Journal 25.4.1906; City of Sydney Aldermen website; Daily Commercial News and Shipping List 25.6.1919; Evening News 14.1.1882, 19.8.1886, 12.11.1904, 11.2.1905; NSW births, deaths, marriages registry; NSW cemetery records; NSW electoral rolls; Rodney Hammett; RootsChat website; Sands Directories; Sydney Mail 12.10.1904; Sydney Morning Herald various issues including 13.3.1889, 12.9.1904, 16.10.1907, 23.10.1907, 2.2.1920, 18.2.1931.