Reading around the history of Brunswick, I discovered that an electrical transfer station now occupies the site of the Stony Park mansion which was progressively and eccentrically demolished in 1924. Maie Casey wrote about Stony Park in her memoir An Australian Story 1837 to 1907 (1962). She would visit Stony Park on Saturdays with her mother which used to be situated in what is now East Brunswick. It originally belonged to the famous William
Frederick Augustus Rucker who went bankrupt and sold 120 acres to Theodotus John Sumner in 1852. Sumner died in 1884 and the original residence burnt down in 1885. It was rebuilt by his son-in-law James Grice in a ‘British Italianate’ style which ‘rose from the ground with extravagant gusto’ (36). Casey imagined that for her mother the new Stony Park must have been ‘a distorted echo of the earlier house where her childhood had been spent’ (33). Described as having as 22 rooms, balcony, tiled entrance hall, vestabuille with parquetry floor, polished cedar staircase and all conveniences.
This rebuilt mansion was in turn demolished, when a subdivision made way for the Sumner estate. We can still see traces of the Sumner influence as many surrounding streets named after family members or staff, including Sumner, Rupert, Lowan, Winifred, May, Ryan, Osborne, Nash Peers.
Casey believes that Stony Park must have taken its name from the stones that occurred for many miles to the north, as the Merri creek was named after them (56). She remarks philosophically on the manmade infrastructure that replaced the house of her mother and grandparents.
‘The jungle has closed over it now – a jungle of concrete, of steel masts, of electric transformers…The paddocks are filled with neat streets…Merri Creek remains as willful and untidy as ever, ducking under small bridges, deep enough below the level of the ground in most places to receive all sorts of awkward rubbish.’ (62)
I went walking along the Merri Creek to escape home isolation the other day and took a peek at the transfer station over a high fence. It’s very difficult to imagine a stately mansion in this non-place which is now dominated by pylons and cables.
The demolition of Stony Park might be seen as yet another example of the failure to protect old buildings in the Moreland area – although Casey herself is not nostalgic about the rebuilt Stony Park, preferring the old mansion to the newer one: ‘I feel resentment that the first Stony Park was burned down before I could see it and that I only knew the cold and pretentious mansion that replaced it’ (20) .
Photo Stony Park, inscription reads Ethel Sumner (undated) Moreland City Libraries. H 2.5