Lynwood Hall was first named 'Linnwood' and was built in 1891 by George McCredie, an architect and engineer. McCredie was heavily involved in local Guildford politics, and lived there with his wife Susan Faulds McCredie and their nine children. The style of the house is a single storey Italianate style villa residence and it retains many original features, including stained glass windows, and trees and landscaping survives from the McCredie era. George McCredie was later appointed by the New South Wales Government to lead the clean up of bubonic plague in the city, which included large scale demolition of buildings in waterside areas such as the Rocks and Chippendale and the destruction of thousands of rats. Sadly, McCredie became ill during his work and died in 1903, aged just 44. Susan, who held significant areas of Guildford in her own name, moved to Wahroonga, selling off her Guildford holdings for income.
In 1917 Susan Faulds McCredie leased Linnwood to the Department of Education, which needed a new Truant School. The Department chose this house because it was in good repair, the grounds were spacious, the property had room enough for staff and it was located close to the railway. 'Linnwood' became the Guildford Truant School.
On 28 November 1936 the Child Welfare Department took over the site, intending it to be fitted out as a domestic science training school. The Child Welfare Department seems to have changed the name of the property, from 'Linnwood' to 'Lynwood Hall.' After painting and the installation of heating, it opened as 'a residential domestic science school for female wards', housing up to 58 girls aged from 12 to 15 years of age. Residents were 'unable to settle down in foster homes, or for other reasons are considered more suitable for the hostel type of life'.
Lynwood Hall changed little over the next three decades. In 1955 Donald McLean inspected the home and reported the girls in the home were not ready for foster placement or had been unhappy in previous placements and 'they need experiences which will reassure them of their own worth'. Girls were divided into five groups, two engaged on school work and the remainder on sewing, cookery and laundry. Some learned shorthand and typing at Technical College. Unusually for a government-run institution, girls learned ballet dances at the school - McLean thought 'the ballet lessons and the pleasure of expression through dance make an important contribution towards the growth of confidence.' McLean said girls were taught Aurora's Wedding, Tarantella, Spectre de la Rose, Swan Lake, Les Sylphides and modern pieces. Music and choir lessons were also comprehensive and the girls had many outings and joined the local Country Women's Association. McLean noted that, while it was difficult to assess how effective the education there had been, most of the girls 'achieved stability in employment' after their discharge. These jobs were traditional - nurses, telephonists, public servants - but some found careers in dancing.
On 12 July 1956 the building was damaged by a significant fire that started in the kitchen and spread through the roof. According to the NSW Heritage Council, newspaper reports of the fire describe the girls carrying furniture, bedding, clothes and crockery out of Lynwood onto the front lawn, and trying to help hose the fire down. The dormitory was used as accommodation while the main house was repaired.
This disruption did not affect the routine at the home. The 1961 Child Welfare Department Annual Report says that Lynwood Hall included a school with a curriculum adapted to the 'varying mental abilities and ages' of the girls, but 'cooking, needlework and home management' were central to the curriculum, plus 'special courses'. The report notes that many girls passed public service and nursing examinations, and many were placed in 'clerical positions'. Other activities included 'ballet, drama and choral work and such handicrafts as embroidery, needlecraft and flower arrangement.' Sporting activities included basketball, softball and swimming.
It is clear that the school emphasised traditional female roles, although it did provide space for the development of female accomplishments, and girls were taken on outings by Rotary and the Country Women's Association. These included the theatre, movies, exhibitions, and picnics.
Caroline Carroll, who was at Lynwood Hall in the 1960s, after spending time in a number of foster homes, depots and institutions, remembers Lynwood Hall as one of the few child welfare institutions in which she felt valued. She particularly appreciated the ballet lessons. However, another former resident who was at the home at the same time, remembers it rather differently:
'… the superintendent at that time … ran her school for girls like some sort of Nazi officer making us scrub and polish floors for hours on our hands and knees for being disobedient … [The Home] had an isolation room which apparently the Child Welfare Department was aware of … I spent many 24hour periods locked in isolation at the age of twelve to sit and stare at a wall. On one occasion I became hysterical, two officers came into the room, one held me down while the other forced a tablet down my throat, neither officer asked what was wrong or made any attempt to offer any form of comfort.'
The same resident reported a degrading lack of privacy, particularly around showering and the management of girls' menstrual periods. According to the New South Wales Heritage Council, others women who have shared their memories of the home remember being locked in 'the klink', a narrow room beside the laundry, and that forced silences were used as punishments. Apparently staff never used girls' first names, addressing them only by their surnames and, sometimes, by a number.
McCredie Cottage was built on the site in July 1970, to accommodate 28 preschool aged state wards, later taking in children up to the age of eight. Faulds House was added in April 1976, to provide accommodation for girls who were of primary and secondary school age, while they attended local schools. Faulds House was staffed by cottage parents, and the main house, after renovations, became a hostel for wards who were of working age but could not return to their families.
By 1977 Lynwood Hall was described as a 'group house' by the Department, and served as a hostel for 16 wards, male and female. They paid for their board and had a degree of independence. From 1983 until its closure in 1993 it was used as a Receiving Home for adolescents on remand or returning from foster care placements. After the home closed Lynwood served as office space for the Department. In 1996 it housed staff and students from Minali, which was under review, and it also housed staff from an Education Department assessment and tutorial service.
A Museum has been established on the site, and the Heritage Office has controlled it since 2002, in partnership with Holroyd Council. The Friends of Linnwood was formed to protect the heritage values of the site, and to preserve the memories of people who lived there as children. They provide tours and organise reunions for former residents of the site, usually in October every year.
03 January 2019
Cite this: https://www.findandconnect.gov.au/guide/nsw/NE00421
First published by the Find & Connect Web Resource Project for the Commonwealth of Australia, 2011
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