The Abbey is a heritage home at 272 Johnston Street in the suburb of Annandale, Sydney, Australia. It is listed on the Register of the National Estate and the New South Wales Heritage Register.
Description and history
The Abbey was built by John Young, a builder who had migrated from England to Australia. After working for some time as a builder in Melbourne, Young moved to Sydney and continued a successful career. In 1877, he bought land in what is now the suburb of Annandale, where he had visions of creating a garden suburb that would rival exclusive harbourside suburbs like Darling Point. He proceeded to build an extraordinary group of eight homes along a ridge near Rozelle Bay: The Abbey, Oybin, Kenilworth, Rozelle (now demolished), Greba, Hockindon, Highroyd and Claremont (now demolished).
The Abbey was the most outstanding of these homes, an "imaginative, romantic house loosely modelled on a Scottish manor". It was designed in a variation of the Victorian Free Gothic style and incorporated stencil work, hand-painted panels, timber architraves, a Gothic vault and a tower with gargoyles. (Young was the principal builder of St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney, and it was rumoured that he had stolen gargoyles from the cathedral to use on his Annandale homes.) He also used reinforced concrete, which was quite an innovation in those days. Since Young was a Freemason, the house was decorated with Masonic symbols. It was completed in 1882.
Young built the home to impress his wife and encourage her to return from the UK. She did not return and they never lived in it. The Abbey was occupied by housekeepers while Young lived in a house called Kentville, near Rozelle Bay, which has since been demolished. From 1887, the ballroom and stables of The Abbey were used as a boarding house for private schools.
In 1924, the house was subdivided and converted to flats—the beginning of a long period of decline. In 1959, it was acquired by radio engineer Lancelot Davis for the sum of £4500 for his son, Sydney surgeon Dr Geoffrey L R Davis. Dr Davis, an associate of the bohemian Sydney Push, continued to lease out some of the original separate units for two decades while proceeding with a long-term restoration of the house.
The Davis family occupied The Abbey for 50 years. Dr Davis died in 2008. In May 2009, the contents of the house were auctioned off by Lawson Auctioneers. The house itself was sold in November, 2009, for $4.86 million. This was a record for Annandale, although it fell short of the $5 million the vendors had been hoping for. It surpassed the $3.35 million paid for Kenilworth in 2007.
Gervase Davis claims the house is haunted. He says he has felt various presences from time to time, and a lady in white has been seen occasionally. Ghost hunters with "ectoplasmic machines" investigated the house in the 1970s. Francesca Davis believes that cats could sense the presence of spirits and her hackles would rise when such a presence came into the room.
The Abbey is listed on the Register of the National Estate and the New South Wales Heritage Register.