114a St Johns Rd (image: Phil Young)
114a St Johns Rd (image: Phil Young)

In areas of Glebe with low population density most of its bigger houses were known by name before they were numbered, and they were often christened in memory of distant places – Jarocin, Penzance, Llangollen, Kew Cottage – or in honour of family members – Edith Villas, Florence Villa, Brucedale, Douglasdale, Allandale, Floraville, Marionville, Ellenville, Florenceville, Elsieleigh. The building on the corner of St Johns Rd and Westmoreland St (now numbered 144a St Johns Rd) in the 20th century functioned as a private house, a hospital and a sculpture gallery, and in the 21st century as a rehabilitation clinic Kathleen York House. Its original name was Ayshleigh.

William Aysh Adams was one of three carpenters (most of the other 210 passengers being agricultural labourers) on board the immigrant ship Julindur which landed in Sydney on 5 April 1849.  With his wife Susan and week-old son William, one of three babies born on the voyage from Plymouth, he went straight to Goulburn where three more children were born: Elizabeth 1851, Susan (1853-1938), John 1855 and Mary Ann (1857-1942).  Adams had moved to Sydney by 1879 when his youngest daughter married Thomas B Nosworthy at the Glebe Wesleyan Church, and by 1882 he had settled as a ‘gentleman’ of means at Ethelville an eight-roomed house at 9 St Johns Rd adjacent to a Congregational Church. His solicitor was Mark Mitchell, of Glebe’s D Mitchell & Co. mercantile family. (Glebe’s Michael David Mitchell was the subject of another Who Lived… article.)

When William Aysh Adams died at age 68 on 13 January 1895 he left an estate of more than £21 000; its beneficiaries his wife and two youngest daughters. His widow died aged 76 just over a year later, on 3 April 1896, and Susan junior (married to William Bates and living at Granville) and Mary Ann Nosworthy inherited a considerable fortune (they ended up owning a lot of land on the main street of Springwood).

After their marriage the Nosworthys lived at various places in Glebe: Belmore House Mount Vernon St, Pyrmont Bridge Rd, Carlton House Derwent St. It is almost certain that Ayshleigh, its name in honour of its benefactor and first recorded as 74 Westmoreland St, was built with Mary Ann’s inheritance. By 1897 she and Thomas were living in the six-bedroom house with their three children: Sydney Arthur (1880-97), Lilly May (1882-1966) and Victor Aysh Adams (1892-1951). On 17 April 1897 Sydney, like his father employed by D Mitchell & Co, drowned in a waterhole in the Lane Cove River while on a camping holiday with Glebe friends James Burfitt, Thomas Roberts and Horace Shorter. An inquest at Glebe Town Hall brought a finding of accidental death; Sydney’s funeral cortege left Ayshleigh for the Wesleyan section of Rookwood cemetery.

Like his wife, Thomas Nosworthy (1855-1911) was born in Goulburn. The son of Ann and William Nosworthy, a Merrilla farmer who patented a potato-digging machine, Thomas was employed by Davies, Alexander & Company’s Australian Stores in Goulburn before, at age 22, moving to Sydney to work as a bookkeeper with D Mitchell & Co. where he rose to the position of managing director. He owned a steamer, the Pioneer, (sold for £400 to Edward Bayly and architect Cyril Blacket) and kept stables on Old Parramatta Rd (one of his horses burned to death when the wood and iron structure was destroyed by fire in 1903). While living at Ayshleigh Nosworthy played lacrosse, was involved with the Forest Lodge Ayshleigh cricket team and kept valuable racing pigeons.  Appointed a JP in 1900, he was a Glebe alderman 1899-1907, Glebe mayor 1902-5, on the committee of the Boys’ Brigade, and vice president of the Glebe Rowing Club and of the Glebe Benevolent Society. He took a European holiday in 1904 and again in 1909, by which time the family had moved from Ayshleigh whose contents – including two pianos, a tennis net, a library, a lawn mower and a breech loading gun – had been auctioned in 1906. The Nosworthys took up residence in the Grosvenor Hotel Church Hill – the venue for daughter Lilly May’s society wedding to Edwin Ernest Morgan in 1910, and the next-of-kin address given by son Victor when he enlisted in the Light Horse as a stockman in 1915.

Thomas Nosworthy died aged 56 at Lewisham Hospital on 3 September 1911 and was buried in the Wesleyan section of Rookwood cemetery. His widow was interred with him 31 years later.

After the Nosworthys vacated 144a St Johns Rd it functioned as Ayshleigh Private Hospital until the late 1920s, its matrons including Annie Gillespie, Dora Eleanor Warrington and Katie Rees. For at least a decade from 1981 the building housed Celia Winter-Irving’s Irving Sculpture Gallery, the first Australian gallery devoted entirely to sculpture.

Sources: Births, deaths, marriages indexes NSW; Cemetery records: Rookwood Old Wesleyan; City of Sydney website: aldermen; Electoral rolls; Evening News various issues including 12.9.1885; First World War embarkation rolls; Sand’s Directories; Soul in Stone catalogue 1986; State Records NSW immigration indexes; Sydney Morning Herald, various issues including 6.9.1911