KEERA VALE - West Wollongong

KEERA VALE - West Wollongong

KEERA VALE – Judge Therry’s House

Street Address: 30 Bukari Street, West Wollongong

Deposited Plan: Lot 1 DP206947 

Roger Therry was born in Cork, Ireland in 1800 and came to Australia with his wife, Ann Riley (neé Corley) in 1829. He was appointed as a commissioner in the Court of Requests and conducted a private legal practice in Sydney.  He subsequently acted as Attorney-General and sat in the Legislative Council ex officio.  When he stood for election in 1843, his opponent questioned whether he was a suitable candidate as he was a Roman Catholic.  Therry won the election with the support of James Macarthur.

Therry was appointed the resident judge at Port Phillip in December 1844 and resigned from the Legislative Council.  The Port Phillip district encompassed most of what is now Victoria and although part of the Colony of NSW it was too remote for Therry to attend meetings of the Council.

In 1843, Therry had begun the construction of a house, Keera Vale, at what is now 30 Bukari Street, West Wollongong.  Judge Therry decided to let the house and adjoining farm while he was in Port Phillip.  The first advertisement appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on 26 October 1844 and the property continued to be advertised for sale or lease until March 1847.

The house was described as

A   commodious two-storied House, advancing rapidly towards completion, and will be fit for the reception of a family about the 1st of January, has been recently erected on the farm, with a verandah and balcony,  commanding a delightful view of Mount Keera, Keera Vale, and the varied surrounding scenery. The house contains eight capacious rooms, with spacious hall above and below stairs, besides kitchen, storeroom, servants' room, &c., the whole enclosed at the rear with a substantial brick wall. The farm is supplied at all seasons with excellent water from the mountain stream that flows through the Vale of Keera. A large weather boarded barn, a dairy, stockyard, servants' huts, are on the farm, which presents every facility for carrying on the business of an extensive dairy. The garden is large, is of the richest soil, and is well supplied with fruit trees, ornamental, and other shrubs, &c.

The Therrys returned to Sydney late in 1846 and Judge Therry wrote occasional letters as late as 1854 to the Sydney Morning Herald giving his address as Keera Vale.  In September 1848, the Illawarra Seminary for Young Ladies operated by a Mrs. Wardlow was advertised as occupying the ‘elegant mansion of the Honourable Mr. Therry’.  The property was advertised for sale or lease in 1852 (Empire, 12 Apr 1852 p2) and purchased about 1854 by John Stewart (a veterinary surgeon, property dealer, politician and first Mayor of the Central Illawarra Shire). 

Judge Therry meanwhile resided in Sydney where he sat in the Supreme Court until 1859 then retired to England where he was knighted in 1869.  He died at Bath in 1870.

The Keera Vale house and 160 acres were again advertised for lease or sale in 1856 but the Stewarts were still living in the house when their 4 year daughter, Casmi Adelf, died in September 1860.  The house was put on the market again in 1861 and 1862.  The Stewarts moved to Sydney in 1866 and throughout the latter half of 1867 and early 1868 the house and fifty acres were advertised for lease.  

The Sydney Morning Herald of 19 February 1870 contained an advertisement

TO LET, Keera Vale GARDEN, vineyard, orchard, &c, about 10 acres, with cottage, two miles from Wollongong harbour.

Keera Vale HOUSE, a commodious country residence, with garden and paddocks, near Wollongong. Apply Mr. Biggar, Wollongong; or Mr. J, Stewart, 239, Victoria-st. (Darlinghurst)

Over time, the farmland and gardens surrounding Keera Vale were gradually subdivided.   The fortunes of the house declined.  Its verandahs and balcony were removed along with some of its internal features.  For a long time it was divided into two flats and its forlorn appearance suggested that it could have been the model for the home of Miss Haversham in Great Expectations.  Its innate elegance, however, is apparent as it sits surrounded by suburban bungalows on the crest of Bukari St awaiting better times.

The house is one of the oldest homes in Wollongong and is now owned by Jenny Dixon and Harold Crosier who are undertaking its restoration. 

 

John Shipp

February 2018

NSW Heritage listing