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Canberra Today 8°/10° | Monday, July 4, 2022 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Questions haunt the history of stately home

The front of stately “Kinkora”, Photo: Belinda Strahorn

ONE of Queanbeyan’s most stately homes is nearing its centenary.

As “Kinkora” – at 5 Stornaway Road – closes in on its 100th birthday, its history is being pieced together by owners Susan Warner and Michael Milligan.

“Everyone knows about the house and most Queanbeyan people have memories of it,” Susan says.

“It’s had many different lives and incarnations over the years.”

Having served for a time as a maternity hospital, the impressive home was  originally built as a private residence for builder and developer Walter Henry Mason.

“We know the house was built in 1925 by W. H. Mason – who built the Hotel Queanbeyan – and he built it as his home to live in,” Susan says.

“But he never got to live here because he went bankrupt and so the Resch’s family used to stay here.”

Starting life as a private home, it then became a “lying-in” birthing hospital run by Sister Eva Darmody, who had operated a maternity home at Sutton.

“We are not quite sure how long she was here, but there are advertisements for her up until the early ‘30s for obstetrics here at the house,” Susan says.

Sister Eva Darmody.

According to amateur Queanbeyan historian Phil Hawke, private “lying-in” hospitals were prominent in Queanbeyan during the late 1880s and the early 1900s.

“There were about half a dozen of them operating in Queanbeyan during that period and most of them were named,” Phil says.

Sister Darmody had previously run a “lying-in” hospital at 25 Campbell Street, upon moving to 5 Stornaway Road she took the name “Kinkora” with her, says Phil.

Susan and Michael would like to know more about their home including how many babies were delivered there.

“What’s really lovely is thinking of all the babies that were born in this beautiful place, a place of happiness and a time of sadness for some,” Susan says.

“There’s lots of pieces of information out there about “Kinkora” and we’d like to fit them all together.”

The historic home has long been on Susan’s radar, having had an abiding interest in the property and its history.

“There are not too many stately homes in Queanbeyan so when it came on to the market in 2020 we had a look, put an offer in and it was accepted,” Susan says.

Susan Warner and Michael Milligan at “Kinkora”. Photo: Belinda Strahorn

One of the most unexpected events from their time in the house was a gentleman who turned up with his mother’s birth certificate wishing to view the place where she was delivered into the world.

“We had a man knock on the door and say his mother was born here,” Susan says.

“He had her birth certificate with him and she was from Sutton. We’ve often imagined how she got in here because not everybody had a vehicle back then.”

Susan herself descends from a long line of local residents with her grandparents owning a poultry farm on Cooma Street.

“That’s why the family nickname has always been “Chook”,” says Susan.

“When we were growing up there were virtually no houses on Cooma Street. We roamed about a lot and fished at Googong. It was a beautiful childhood.”

Susan’s uncle, the late Jimmy Warner, was a well-known Queanbeyan resident and Paul Keating’s former driver when he was treasurer and then prime minister in Canberra. 

Susan’s husband Michael also shares her passion for the home and enjoys spending time delving into its history, a history which also includes a period served as a mental health facility.

“If you look at the plumbing there are old terracotta pipes going every which way obviously for all the different incarnations the house has had,” Michael says.

“At one point there were flats out the back for people to rent Les Robins the shopfitter had his workshop there. It’s had lots of lives,” Susan says.

While Susan and Michael have discovered the house is an inter-war Georgian style, they have been unable, so far, to identify its architect. 

“That’s another mystery…one possibility is James Wallace Sproule,” Susan says.

Sproule, the first architect to receive a licence in the capital territory, worked as a draughtsman on the plans for Old Parliament House, according to Queanbeyan historian Brendan O’Keefe.

He lived in Queanbeyan for a time and designed many important buildings in Queanbeyan including the Town Hall, and the School of Arts.

“Kinkora” recently hosted an art exhibition and Susan and Michael have plans to hold similar events in the future to showcase local art and share what they have learnt about their beautiful home.

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Belinda Strahorn

Belinda Strahorn

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One Response to Questions haunt the history of stately home

Meg says: June 8, 2022 at 7:59 am

We owned this wonderful house selling it in 2020 after completing the renovation and also turning the wasteland of a garden into what it is today. We are so happy Susan and Michael love it as much as we did.


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