ONE OF THE BEST HOMES IN THE HILLS

In the last edition of this publication I wrote about the Masonic School at Baulkham Hills which was built on what was once the property of pioneer George Best. In this edition I concentrate on an adjoining property, that of Thornbury Lodge, which was also erected upon a property once owned by George Best. This property came to mind in a recent discussion that I had with a former teacher at Thornbury Lodge.

Thornbury Lodge was a childrens’ and infants’ home established at Baulkham Hills in 1958 or 1959, by the Child Welfare Department. It was a receiving home, and was set up to increase facilities for children in transit from foster homes to hospitals, institutions or other placements as Bidura had become too crowded. Thornbury Lodge housed 30 preschool-aged children, initially just girls but by the 1970s housed both sexes. It had closed by 1990.

The NSW State Records Archives Investigator site states that Thornbury Lodge was established to ease overcrowding at Bidura, in Glebe, by increasing reception facilities. It appears to have served the same function as Bidura, which was temporary accommodation for children in transit from foster homes to hospital or other establishments, and between Children’s Court appearances.

Thornbury Lodge was established in a historic house on Seven Hills Road, Baulkham Hills. According to a 1990 archaeological study by Wendy Thorp, the land was first granted in 1802 to James Pye but the house is thought to have been built in the 1870s or 1880s, possibly by the Best family. The house passed through many hands until 1957, when it was transferred to the government, for use by the Child Welfare Department.

The Child Welfare Department carried out major works in the gardens and house. Thorp describes it as opening as a ‘Foster Home’ in 1959, but the Child Welfare Department’s Annual Reports describe it as ‘a new home for preschool children’ in the previous year, 1958. It is clear from photographs of the time that school-aged girls were also housed there.

The 1959 Child Welfare Department Annual Report notes that the building required extensive renovation and building work before it could be used as a children’s home. As a supplement to Bidura, it was originally a girls’ home, but at some point in the late 1960s began to admit both boys and girls. There was space for 30 boys and girls in the home.

By the 1970s Thornbury Lodge seems to have changed into use as a ‘Family Group Home’, a form of accommodation for children in ‘community style homes under the care of a Housemother’, and,in which children attended local schools.

By 1990 the house was disused, but was still in the ownership of what was then called the Department of Family and Community Services. The property surrounding the house has since been further subdivided and new roads created and the home which still faces Seven Hills Rd has since been recorded as being at 9-13 Owen Avenue, Baulkham Hills

In 1973 Some of the children were transferred to Karril Cottage at Kellyville which was a Government run Home for school aged boys and girls. It had opened by 1973. Karril Cottage closed in the late 1980s.