Story by David Tunny Photography courtesy of Eryldene Trust
Famed camellia expert Professor E G Waterhouse was a man who had a passion for beauty and harmony. At Eryldene, in the northern Sydney suburb of Gordon, his home for 64 years, he created one of the world’s great camellia gardens.
Waterhouse was a friend and admirer of the visionary architect William Hardy Wilson (1881–1955). It is said that in 1913 he presented Hardy Wilson with a handsome brass door knocker saying, “Build me a house around this, Billy.” So began a partnership lasting 20 years. They collaborated in designing the camellia garden and a wonderful series of buildings and structures that give the garden its unique character.
Eben Gowrie Waterhouse was born in Waverley in 1881. Scholar, author, teacher, traveller, horticulturalist and garden designer, he was a man of boundless energy and was driven by a highly refined sense of aesthetics. He said, “I believe in the good, the true and the beautiful.”
At Eryldene his aim was to create a haven of beauty and tranquillity on his one-acre block in what was then an outer suburb. In Hardy Wilson he found the perfect partner. The architect designed a colonial Georgian family home in a restrained style that was the hallmark of both men.
Waterhouse and his wife Janet, a Scots woman, moved into the house in 1914. They named it Eryldene after Janet’s family home in Kilmarnock. It cost ?1760, an enormous sum for a modestly paid lecturer in modern languages at Sydney Teachers’ College, Waterhouse’s position at the time.
The house comprises 11 rooms with loggias at either end of an elegant front verandah. At the rear there is a flagged courtyard between the two wings. A classical temple was built in the front garden in Hardy Wilson’s typical understated style.
Waterhouse had become interested in the camellia, a plant that had fallen from favour in Australia. His curiosity led him to research the origins and nomenclature of the plant and he soon planned his garden so as to display its many varieties. With Hardy Wilson, he designed a series of outdoor “rooms” featuring massed plantings, large trees, meandering paths and secret places.
By 1921, the Waterhouses had four sons and the professor, as he now was, needed a study away from the interruptions of the house. Hardy Wilson designed a garden study that complemented the house perfectly. It still contains the professor’s desk and chair and many artefacts collected on his travels. Opposite the study, Hardy Wilson built a walled fountain, creating a tranquil corner for contemplation.
In 1927, a Chinese teahouse was built to serve as a pavilion for the lawn tennis court. He and Waterhouse had recently visited China and they became enthralled by the Orient. Hardy Wilson described the house as his most perfect building. It was a folly yet it sits perfectly in its elevated position among massed azalea plantings.
Opposite the teahouse is a moongate built in the 1930s. It is an evocative entry point to the tennis court, which was well used for entertaining. By this time, Waterhouse had become Professor of German at Sydney University and was an influential figure in Sydney’s art, architecture and design circles. The garden continued to develop with the addition of a handsome Georgian-style pigeon house, its gilded tympanum providing a brilliant note of colour at the end of a long flagged path. A striking Georgian-style wooden screen was built to link the house to the new garage.
By the 1950s, the garden had matured and its splendid displays had gained international attention. On his retirement, Waterhouse continued to be active. He was a trustee of the Art Gallery of New South Wales and its president from 1960 to 1962. He was chairman of the Australian Limited Editions Society and founder of Camellia Grove Nursery. In his 90s he began to study Japanese and at the age of 94 he flew to London to preside at a meeting of the International Camellia Society. He was awarded the OBE and CMG and received honours from France, Germany and Italy.
On the professor’s death in 1977, and according to his wishes, the house was purchased by a group of interested citizens and Ku-ring-gai Council. The Eryldene Trust was formed with the aim of conserving the property for the community. Today, Eryldene’s house and garden are open between March and November for open days, exhibitions and special events. The camellia season runs from June to August when there are spectacular displays of blooms.
For information about Eryldene, coming events, opening times and tours visit the website www.eryldene.org.au
Eryldene — a remarkable location
Eryldene Historic House and Garden is an exquisite early 20th century property perfect for photo shoots that require beauty, atmosphere and the authenticity of a heritage house and internationally famous garden.
Located at Gordon on Sydney’s north shore, the house was designed by visionary architect William Hardy Wilson in 1913 for Professor E G Waterhouse and his family, who lived there until 1977.
Professor Waterhouse and Hardy Wilson collaborated over a 23-year period to create a remarkable property that integrates the house with one of the world’s great camellia gardens. The many garden structures include a Chinese teahouse, garden study, walled fountain, grass tennis court, a bold lattice screen and a striking Georgian pigeon house with golden tympanum. Together, they provide an extraordinary range of photo possibilities.
The lawns, massed plantings, mature trees and secret places make Eryldene a wonderful location for still, film and video shooting.
Contact Anne Davey, who will be happy to show you the possibilities and help make your shoot trouble-free on the day. On-site parking is available.
Event and Property Manager
Eryldene Historic House and Garden
17 McIntosh Street
P 02 9498 2271 M 0422 596 292