Finding Your Way
Early beginnings (1780 - 1939)
1790 - 1800
In 1792, Governor Phillip established the Government Farm of Longbottom, along Parramatta Road, consisting of 936 acres skirting Hen and Chicken Bay. In May 1798, James Williamson was granted 40 acres, which was named Rocky Point. This property was passed on to a Mr Levy, who tried to erect a house on it, but as there was no fresh water in the neighbourhood, he mixed mortar with salt water.
Near completion the house fell to the ground due to the wet and slippery mortar. Mr Levy proceeded to rebuild the house, which again fell down. The area of land became known as Levy's Folly. The land immediately north of Longbottom was granted to Isaac Nichols, the first Postmaster General of New South Wales. Isaac Nichols' father, Major Nichols resided on the property for a number of years and the Bay near the residence is still known today as Major's Bay.
1800 - 1849
Thomas Walker was born in Leith, Scotland in 1804, the son of a wealthy businessman. His uncle, William Walker, came to the colony and established a firm of general merchants in Hobart and later in Sydney. When Thomas reached the age of 18, he was sent to Sydney and for 15 years worked with his uncle building a prosperous business. When his uncle retired Thomas and a cousin took charge.
1850 - 1900
Thomas married Miss Jane Hart and purchased the Yaralla estate on the Parramatta River at Concord and gradually acquired surrounding properties, including Levy's Folly, the Nichols' orange plantation and Rocky Point. Yaralla grew to consist of 306 acres (124 hectares) with frontages to Concord Road and Major's, Yaralla and Horseshoe or Brays Bays.
After the birth of his daughter Eadith in 1861, Thomas supervised workmen to build a mansion, a magnificent white house designed by Edmund Blacket, surrounded by trees, shrubs and flower gardens. Completed in 1870, it still stands surrounded by beautiful gardens and outbuildings designed by the late Sir John Sulman.
Thomas became well known for his philanthropy. He supported a number of needy families and the Yaralla Cottages can still be seen from Concord Road. It was always Thomas Walker's ambition to build a hospital in the grounds of Yaralla and he engendered this same enthusiasm in his daughter.
After Thomas Walker's death in 1886, his will set aside 100,000 pounds and the northern part of the Yaralla Estate, at Rocky Point for the Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital for Women.
This hospital was later completed with funds supplied by Eadith Walker who personally advanced 50,000 pounds, with the opening occurring in 1893.
1900 - 1929
Eadith Walker continued to improve Yaralla. The estate became the centre of many charity events, which continued until the outbreak of World War I. It was while staying at Yaralla in July 1914 that the Governor General, Sir Ronald Munro-Ferguson, received the first official warning from the British Government of the approach of general war.
Towards the end of 1915, when the wounded began arriving home, Eadith Walker became a benefactor to the tubercular soldiers who had been housed at North Head Quarantine Station. In 1917, she established a camp for AIF tubercular soldiers in the ground of Yaralla. For years, she maintained the camp's staff without any financial support from the Government.
1930 - 1939
Eadith Walker was made a Commander, and then a Dame of the British Empire for her war assistance and widespread charity. When she died on 8 October 1937, her fortune had been reduced to 265,000 pounds, most of it left to the Returned Soldier's League.
On her death, half of Thomas Walker's estate was passed to the next of kin and the remaining part was placed in a charitable trust fund, management of which was subject to the Walker Trust Act of 1938. The Trustees of the Thomas Walker Estate proposed that the NSW Government should purchase both the Yaralla and Dame Eadith Walker Estates for the purpose of establishing a memorial hospital to be called the "Dame Eadith Walker Convalescent Hospital for Men".
In 1939 management of the property came under the control of the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Board of Directors. Shortly after the outbreak of World War II, the Army Department was looking for a site to erect a base hospital for the 2nd Military District.
The Board suggested that the 40 - acre block of land separating the grounds of the two Walker Hospitals would be ideal for this purpose because of its central position. This block was referred to as "The Folly" or "Levy's Folly". The Department of the Army agreed and the Commonwealth of Australia purchased the land from the State Government.