Stillness at ‘Eryldene’

‘Eryldene’: A Place for Stillness
The concept of a house museum, of freezing in time the domestic life enjoyed within a specific property, is one which gained traction in Australia in the late twentieth century. Significant homes in New South Wales were preserved and given protection by institutions such as the National Trust and the Historic Houses Trust, now Sydney Living Museums, to enable visitors to gain an enhanced understanding of different modes of domestic living over time. ‘Eryldene’, an historic house and garden at Gordon on Sydney’s North Shore, is an example of this impulse to interrogate history. The property is today owned and managed by the Eryldene Trust and is open to the public throughout the year.
‘Eryldene’ was the home of Professor E.G. Waterhouse and his family from its construction in 1914 until the death of Professor Waterhouse in 1977. The house, designed by William Hardy Wilson, is a fine example of colonial revival architectural style and is little altered from its original design. It retains much of its original furniture and art works and as such allows visitors an insight into the life of a privileged Sydney family in the first part of the twentieth century. The Professor of German and Comparative Literature at the University of Sydney, Waterhouse was part of an educated elite which was central to the intellectual life of Sydney in the mid-twentieth century; as a Trustee of the Art Gallery of New South Wales for over twenty years he was friendly with many artists, critics and patrons.
Beyond its cultural and architectural importance, it is the manner in which the house is integrated into its garden setting which imbues ‘Eryldene’ with its unique character. The design of the garden was a joint project between Waterhouse, Hardy Wilson and later members of that architect’s practice over a number of years and represents a fusion between the Arts and Craft movement and the Asian aesthetic that was at the heart of much of Hardy Wilson’s work. As a world authority on the propagation and cultivation of camellias, Professor Waterhouse developed the garden as a showcase for this species and today there are over 500 varieties throughout the ‘Eryldene’ garden. This very personal response to site evokes a sense of stillness, of timelessness, that is at the heart of ‘Eryldene’.
The significance of this property was recognized in 1979 through its purchase by the Eryldene Trust, an independent body formed by the local community which has as its aim the protection and preservation of this unique property. The work of the Trust to open ‘Eryldene’ to the public and provide modes of interpretation for visitors represents a cogent example of a community response to its connection with history.