George McCredie was born in Sydney in 1859, the second son in a family of 10 children, to Thomas & Jessie McCredie. After attending Fort Street Model Public School, he studied engineering by night while serving his apprenticeship with the Australasian Steam Navigation Company at their Pyrmont Shipyards. By the time he was 21, George had entered into a partnership with his brother, Arthur McCredie, who was an architect. Soon after, George married Susan Faulds Blackwood, daughter of the engineering supplies company family, James Blackwood & Son.
Some examples of the buildings George and Arthur were involved with are “Montana” in Glebe, the Burns Philp Building in Bridge Street, Sydney, and the Mark Foys Building. The firm was also responsible for the construction of the underground telephone cable tunnels in the Sydney CBD – still in use today.
In 1889, George and Susan purchased part of the Orchardleigh Estate at Guildford and set about designing and building a residence for their family. The house, named “Linnwood”, was completed in April 1891.
George and Susan were to have 9 children, but unfortunately the eldest son, James, was to die at the age of 13 in 1895.
George entered into local politics, being elected to the Council of Prospect and Sherwood (now Holroyd) in March 1891. In 1892 he was elected as Mayor, a position he held for 3 terms. In 1894, George stood for election in the NSW Legislative Assembly and won the seat of Central Cumberland as an independent free trader and an advocate of female suffrage.
He lost his seat the following year and returned to work, but in 1900 the State Government called upon him to help clean up the City of Sydney when there was an outbreak of the Bubonic Plague. In gratitude for his work, the people of Sydney presented George with a shield that is now held in the Powerhouse Museum.
Unfortunately, in 1903, whilst on holiday with his family, George became ill and died of gastritis – and it is believed that this illness was a result of the work he had done in the plague conditions. His funeral was a huge event in the area, many people walking behind the hearse from “Linnwood” to Rookwood Cemetery as a mark of respect for this well loved and respected man of the community.
George McCredie was only 43 when he died and left a wife and 8 young children.
The house “Linnwood” was an innovation for its time – generating its own electricity and having the first telephone in the district. A newspaper article of the 1890′s describes “Linnwood” as “being one of the most perfectly finished domestic establishments in the Southern Hemisphere – a home that is just a dream of every convenience and comfort”. A summer house and a small hall were erected on the site and the first Presbyterian Church Services in the area were held on the property. Services continued there until a new church was built on Guildford Road, named in honour of George McCredie.
After George’s death, Susan and her children remained at “Linnwood” until 1917 when the property was advertised for lease. The Education Deptartment then leased 11 acres of the property to use as a Boys Truant School. The lease included a clause that the Department could purchase the property during the currency of the lease. This they did in 1921 for the sum of five thousand pounds. The Department purchased the remaining acre of land in 1930.
“Linnwood” was now known as the Guildford Truant School for Boys. In 1923, approval was given to build new dormitories and extra outbuildings, including a laundry and shower block.
Around 1930 the number of boys being sent to the school was dwindling and by 1936 conversion from a Truant School to a residential girls school for State Wards aged from 14 years was completed.
“Linnwood” continued to be used in this way for the next few decades and by 1966 was seen as a Special Training School for Home Science for girls from deprived backgrounds. It was not strictly an orphanage, but used for girls who, for various reasons, could not live in their own homes. The girls were taught housekeeping, cooking and needlework as well as being schooled on site in Linnwood’s own schoolroom. With changes in the welfare system, homes like Linnwood gradually became superfluous to the Department, and by 1999 all buildings on the estate were virtually empty.
The Friends of Linnwood formed to help “preserve and protect” Linnwood and it is our aim to help the Heritage Office with much needed restoration works on the house. Membership to the “Friends” is open to anyone with an interest in helping to preserve this important part of our history and only costs $5 per year ordinary membership and $2 concession.