heritage lost, Marrickville

History Lost: The Warren

As a follow up on our post about the use of The Warren as a training camp during World War I … we should include it as a post in our History Lost series….

The Warren, Marrickville. Image: Inner West Library and History Services BRN 222330

Thomas Holt (1811–1888) was a Sydney business tycoon who built a castellated Victorian Gothic mansion named ‘The Warren’ in 1857 in Marrickville South. It was designed by architect George Mansfield, and contained an impressive art gallery filled with paintings and sculptures from Europe. It had elaborate stables built into imposing stone walls, and large landscaped gardens filled with urns overlooking Cooks River. Holt gave it that name because he bred rabbits on the estate for hunting, as well as the grounds being stocked with alpacas and other exotics. The Warren was a landmark in the district for some decades; the still-operating Warren View Hotel in Enmore is evidence of this.

As Holt’s health became an issue, the Warren was subdivided in 1884 with the land around the immediate building’s grounds being sold off – and the family returning to Britain for the remaining years of his life. He passed away in 1888. The Warren became a nunnery when the mansion and 12 acres (5 ha) of land were purchased by a French order of Carmelite nuns. The Carmelites were evicted from The Warren in 1903 for outstanding debts. By this stage the grounds appear to be bare with a high wood fence installed on the western side of the building about this time. It was then used during WWI for an artillery training range and this fenced area also appears in photos along with smaller buildings on the grounds nearby. It was resumed in 1919 by the New South Wales government and was finally demolished in 1922 – the land subdivided to build a housing estate for returned soldiers.

Sunday Times 28 Sept 1919, page 4. trove.nla.gov.au

16 thoughts on “History Lost: The Warren”

  1. does anyone have a map of the actual location of the building … I assumed the pillars in the park were in their original positions but recently found out they were put there by council


  2. I've researched and written on The Warren in the past, and you can still see the remaining 'square' where the main building was as it was the last part to be sold off. As I recall it was a government housing project designed to create affordable homes for returned servicemen. So one of the sides of the square is Mansion Street. It's pretty obvious on Google maps. So north of the 'columns' which were actually positioned at the entrance of the mansion, they weren't turrets or towers, but more, as you refer to them as – pillars. Wandering around the hillside, you'll see the lined paths and stairs, even a couple of urn bases scattered around.


  3. Hello Darian, I lived in the Warren in Mansion st for the first 20 years of my life. My father was brought up in the same house 1925 – 1970. He was an alderman on Marrickville Council between 1960 -1970. I have just written my memoirs and there are three chapters about Marrickville and the Warren if you would like to read them.


    1. Hi Kerry, I also live in The Warren a couple of streets over. I would love to read what you’ve written about this history. Do you have any photos of the houses, most of them have lost their original designs and I’d love to see how they originally looked.


      1. Harry, are you related to little Hannah Sampson who was one of the first students at Ferncourt Public School in The Warren? If so I’d like to hear from you as a matter or urgency.


  4. Hello Darien, I lived in Grove Street, from birth to 12 years old, went to Marrickville West primary school. My sister was married at the stone church at the Warren in 1957, but I can’t remember the name of it, I know it wasn’t a Catholic Church. Would you know?
    Thank you, Lorraine Graham.


  5. I have a copy of The Premier Street Directory of Sydney and Environs, Fourteenth Edition, by H E C Robinson Pty Ltd. It is undated, although I have estimated at c1948. It lists the south of Marrickville as the suburb of The Warren. This has turned up in my research of Carrington Road. I was wondering at what stage was The Warren dropped as a suburb name in favour of Marrickville.


    1. Hi Alan, I can’t answer your question, but I’d like to hear more about your possible family connection to The Warren. Please get in touch here if you see this.


  6. Hi Rebecca, I’m afraid that i have very little knowledge about Holt and his mansion other than what was written in newspapers about that time. A lot of information is available on ‘Trove”. and i have accumulated ‘stuff’ in the hope of acquiring some confirmation of my family living in the area.
    The only evidence that i have gleaned of my family possible involvement is a note in the “Truth” (13.10.1919) that … Bradley was the gate keeper at The Warren.
    I have also noted that the birth registrations of my Great Grandfather and his siblings all gave their place of birth as ‘Cooks River’, but if that means that they were born or the family lived on Holts estate (the Warren) then i am probably clutching at straws.
    Sorry that i cant give you more info. We just keep on searching…. you never know what might turn up. Regards Alan


  7. Wondering if there are any surviving photos of two homes in the Warren. Beauchamp Villa The Warren about 1883 the time my ancestors were there. and St Elmo Warren road.. They were there early 1900s. Their daughter took ownership in 1913 and was there till 1919. Family name Yard,


    1. Many of the older buildings are still there on the surrounding streets – that area was sold off first in the 1880s and they slowly dispensed with parts of it until just the Mansion remained on a modest block until around 1921. There’s some delightful examples of Victorian houses in the surrounding streets that were orginally on land that was the ‘main’ as in active, used part of the estate.


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