Rivendell is considered one of Sydney’s best kept secrets.
It is a rare, unchanged example of a late 19th century institutional complex built in one major phase. It was built on the Walker Estates on the foreshores of Sydney Harbour and the Parramatta River. The only other surviving example is Callan Park.
Thomas Walker bequeathed 100,000 pounds to build a convalescent home at Rivendell, on the banks of the Parramatta River. The building, designed by John Sulman, was commissioned following his death in 1886. A further £50,000 was provided by his daughter Eadith, sister Joanna and Eadith’s companion, Anne Sulman (nee Masefield).
It is considered to be John Sulman’s finest work in Australia.
The building was opened in 1893 as a free convalescent hospital. Patients were referred by many Sydney hospitals including St Vincents, Royal Prince Alfred and Sydney Hospitals. In the first year of operation, 608 patients were admitted. The poet Henry Lawson was at one time a patient and penned a poem entitled “The Unknown Patient” published in The Bulletin.
Over 70,000 patients convalesced at the hospital, including servicemen from the 1914-18 and 1939-45 World Wars.
In 1894, the Joanna Walker Memorial Childrens’ Convalescent Hospital was opened in a separate building in the grounds. It was also designed by John Sulman. It was built around a central glassed-in courtyard featuring a Doulton fountain in the centre. A feature of the building are the leadlight panels enscribed with eight verses.
The other significant buildings on the estate are the Land Gate House and the Water Gate House.
Until 1979, the hospital was administered by the Perpetual Trustee Company but funds were dwindling and provision of a free convalescent hospital was no longer feasible. The hospital was transferred to Sydney Local Health District. It is now home to the Rivendell Adolescent Unit including Rivendell School. In 1999, the buildings underwent extensive restoration.
Dame Eadith Walker Estate Conservation Management Plan, Rappoport Heritage Consultants, 2014: slhd.nsw.gov.au/yaralla/pdf/Yaralla-Estate-Conservation.pdf
Dame Eadith Walker Convalescent Hospital Statement of Significance, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage: environment.nsw.gov.au