Althorne, Woollahra

by AF

Althorne, Woollahra

Althorne is a mid-Victorian Gothic villa dating from around 1872. It was first built on a 1.5 acre block by Mr. Walter M. Church on Lot 5 and part of Lot 6 of the Point Piper Estate. Further subdivisions of the land over the years have reduced its current size to a quarter of an acre.

Soonafter completion, Mr. Church was declared insolvent and the house was put up for sale in 1875. The sale listing described the home as

A recently-erected and tastefully finished villa residence, with wide verandahs, front and back, and containing the following accommodation: –

  • Ground floor – Wide entrance hall, drawing room, dining room, library and pantry
  • First floor – 4 large bedrooms and bathroom, with 3 attic rooms over.
  • Basement – Very large kitchen, servant’s bedroom, laundry and store-room, wash-house, fitted with copper, and man’s room.

Abundance of good water supplied from a large Reservoir hewn out of the solid rock, in which there is a never-failing spring. The water is conveyed from the Reservoir to the bathroom, and other parts of the house, by means of a hydraulic ram.

Althorne is a very desirable and beautifully situated family villa residence, in the best and most fashionable part of Woollahra, and is surrounded by first-class residences and grounds.

The position is elevated, and the view, for extent and beauty, cannot be surpassed in any other part of this favourite suburb.

It was purchased by merchant Thomas Cowlishaw. The Cowlishaws lived in the property until 1908 when it was sold to retired merchant Mr. Robert Chadwick. Mr. Chadwick had entered into the timber business after he arrived in Australia from Lancashire, England, in 1856. He died at Althorne in 1916, and the home was sold to politician and businessman Sir William McMillan. McMillan had previously been Colonial Treasurer in the Parkes Government from 1889 to 1891 and was also president of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce in 1886. He took a prominent part in the free trade and Federal movements, becoming Deputy Leader of the Free Trade Party and being appointed KCMG (Knight Commander) in 1901. McMillan died at Althorne in 1926.

After McMillan’s passing, the house appeared to have been converted into three flats.

In 1981 it was classified by the National Trust.

For Sale

The 6-bedroom home went to auction on June 1 with $9 million price hopes, but was passed in with a vendor’s bid of $8,800,000. The owners bought Althorne in 1998 for $2.56 million and have since spent $3.6 million on renovations.


281 Edgecliff Road, Woollahra, Sydney

Listing information and images via