The Meares family were the first occupants of Cliff Lodge at the corner of Mary St and Glebe Point Rd, a two-storey sandstone villa set in extensive grounds, with a bathing house on Blackwattle Bay. Renamed The Anchorage in the 1920s, it was demolished by Parkes Developments in January 1971 after which the site lay vacant for years before home units were built. To hide the spectacular view from locals agitating for a public park, the developers erected an unsightly fence patched together from old palings and bits of plywood and iron. It was hastily reassembled when parts collapsed in high winds.

Cliff Lodge was erected ca 1878 by Alfred Charles Petterson, a speculator builder from Sweden who lived briefly in another of his houses, Edsburg in Mary St, before bankruptcy forced him to move further out of town, to Richmond where he took up farming. Click here for the story of Edsburg and its neighbour Glenlea.

The Anchorage, sketched by George Mackay for the Glebe Society before the sandstone villa’s demolition in 1971.

The Anchorage, sketched by George Mackay for the Glebe Society before the sandstone villa’s demolition in 1971.
Richard Meares was born on 27 July 1821 at Killenboy in County Westmeath, Ireland, and migrated to Sydney where he set up business as a draper. His brother George (1825-1903) joined him in 1847 but five years later settled in Melbourne where he prospered as a draper and was elected Mayor 1879-81.

In 1855 Richard married Mary Anne Roberts, born in Sydney in January 1829.

The couple’s first three children were born in Glebe: Richard Sydney, Henrietta Lucy (1857-1938) and Lydia (1859-1942). The family then moved to Port Macquarie where Richard invested in the sugar cane industry. Born here were Alice (1861-1937), Matilda (1862-1946), Mary Anne jnr (1864-1950), George Hastings (1866-1926), Robert Alfred (1869-1935) and Hercules (1873-1942). Eldest son Richard Sydney died on 2 March 1871, three months short of his 15th birthday. After working as a publican, Robert Alfred turned to farming. Hercules attended Sydney Grammar and Sydney University, graduating BA 1893 and LLB 1894.

The Anchorage was built by the time the adjacent Mary St blocks were advertised for sale in 1880. (from Lyn Collingwood)

Two daughters married men who lived minutes away. Lydia wed Edsburg’s Rudolph Hamburger, and Matilda in 1911 took on the surname Meares-Mitchell as the second wife of chemist William Henry Douglas Mitchell who had lived at Guildford Lodge 431 Glebe Point Rd. An early female student at Sydney University, Matilda graduated BA 1889 and MA 1892. In 1895, after putting money into Riviere College Woollahra, she won a court case brought by its first principal, a theosophist whom she had dismissed. Matilda then became forthright headmistress of the ‘refined and comfortable’ girls’ boarding school. At a 1917 meeting of the Women’s Thrift Campaign she stressed that children were brought into the world not to play but to work, and that the modern girl seemed to think that she was ‘born for something higher than mere housework’ but there was a war on and all needed to do their duty. Meares-Mitchell’s final address was Doonbah on the waterfront at Hunters Hill where she hosted garden parties and moonlight fȇtes for the Riviere College Old Girls Union. Often featured on the social pages, she was also a founding member of the Shakespeare Society. She died at Hunters Hill on 20 March 1946. Executors of her will were her niece Rosalie Lydia Considine and her solicitor William Heath Moffitt.

Richard Meares JP died on 15 April 1891. In the same year Lydia was married, and Alice wed clergyman Robert Augustus Woodthorpe at St John’s Bishopthorpe on 21 October. This couple went to NZ where Robert became an archdeacon, a Maori scholar and a Professor of Economics. In 1925 they returned to Sydney, settling at Waverley where Alice died in June 1937.

Henrietta Lucy married John Alfred Tunnicliffe in 1895; she converted to Catholicism and waited until 1923 to sue for divorce on the grounds of desertion, 14 years after the event. Henrietta owned properties at Bondi and Katoomba, and in 1932 lost a forgery case against Clive Vernon Ley (the son of politician and murderer ‘Lemonade’ Ley, Clive was charged in London with forgery 30 years later) and died at Bondi on 25 October 1938.

Mary Anne’s brother William Roberts left a substantial estate at his death and she and her children were bequeathed £500 each in 1894. The widowed Mary Anne used her inheritance to extend her Glebe Point real estate to the high water mark on Blackwattle Bay. With her unmarried daughter Mary Anne jnr she remained in Cliff Lodge until her death at age 87 on 23 November 1916.

By the 1920s The Anchorage, like many Glebe mansions, was no longer a family home but a boarding house. (from Lyn Collingwood)

By 1919 rooms were being rented out, and in 1922 the property was advertised for auction, as comprising the house (10 rooms plus offices) set in extensive grounds with access to the waterfront and Mary St, the main road frontage suitable for new buildings. At this time a number of large Glebe houses were converted to boarding houses (Beresford 4 Allen St, Armand 8 Boyce St, Orielton 223A Bridge Rd, Ardnaho 223-5 Bridge Rd) with facilities such as billiard and card rooms and smoking lounges. Cliff Lodge followed the pattern. By 1924 its rooms had been subdivided and a tennis court built.

At the renamed 22-room The Anchorage landlady Mabel Wells offered full board for long-term residents and bed and breakfast for interstate visitors. She remained in charge for 20 years, to be joined by Emma Wells in 1941. In 1944 both women moved to 16 Allen St. Emma died in Glebe in 1947.

Sources: Australian Star 20.6.1891; Melbourne Argus 18.11.1923; NSW cemetery records; NSW electoral rolls; NSW online registry of births, deaths, marriages; Sands Directories; Sydney Mail & NSW Advertiser 25.4.1891; Sydney Morning Herald 16.4.1891, 23.1.1895, 24.11.1916, 22.5.1919, 22.10.1921, 21.9.1922, 5.4.1923, 16.11.1923, 7.2.1924, 29.12.1924, 7.10.1925, 8.1.1927, 14.4.1928, 25.9.1929, 24.8.1940; Sydney Sun 13.8.1936; Trove website.