Houses – Penrith

Historic Houses – Penrith

Combewood (North Penrith)


Combewood, Corner of Castlereagh Road and Coreen Avenue, Penrith. (Penrith Library Photographic Collection LH 216)

The year 1890 was an important one for Penrith. During that year the town was connected to both water and electricity, significant occurrences indeed for what was then a relatively small country town such as Penrith. But the year 1890 was important for another reason. It also marked the completion of “Combewood”, a now historic house situated near the corner of Coreen Avenue and Castlereagh Road, Penrith.

The historic house and gardens of “Combewood”, now both classified by the National Trust, were first inhabited and built by Francis Henry Woodriff. Plans for building of the house were prepared in England. The two storey building is of cinder bricks and the roof is of blue Welsh slate. The unusual cast iron pillars were made by W.R. Wise, Iron maker, Newtown Road, Sydney. The house is protected by a tree lined driveway which features Himalayan cedars, Chinese elms, white cedars, peppercorns, kurrajongs, jacarandas, bunyah trees and an abundance of olives. The design of the avenue of trees is such that winds are lifted and the house remains sheltered. The two acre garden surrounding the house remains today as it was laid out last century.

In earlier times the house was the focal point of a farm established on part of a 1,000 acre land grant to Captain Daniel Woodriff. Captain Woodriff was granted the land by Governor King in 1804. It was not until the late 1800’s, however, that descendants of Captain Woodriff took up the grant. Francis Henry Woodriff built “Combewood” and his brother, Frederick Daniel Woodriff, picked a site on Mulgoa Road and built “Rodley”. Francis Woodriff married Margaretta Tingcombe, the daughter of an early rector of St. Johns Church, Camden. It was from a syllable of each surname that the name “Combewood” was derived.

The present occupant of the house, Mr. John Woodriff, is a grandchild of the original builder, Francis Henry Woodriff. Mr. Woodriff’s sister, Mrs. Margaret Cox, also lived in the house until her death in 1996. Mrs. Cox’s late husband, Broughton Cox, was a direct descendant of William Cox, who built the first road over the Blue Mountains in 1814.
Today, “Combewood” stands as one of the most important historical buildings in the Penrith area.
[Originally published in the Penrith District Star newspaper on 7 August,1984 (p.17) – rewritten and updated with notes in January, 1997.]

Notes: Information for this article gathered from the National Trust (NSW) listing for ‘Combewood’ and files contained in the Library’s Local Studies collection, including the ‘Woodriff Papers’ and the ‘Combewood Conservation Plan’ (1994).

Thornton Hall (North Penrith)


Thornton Hall, Thornton, North Penrith (Penrith Library Photographic Collection No. 2937)

Thornton Hall is located at 11 Mountain View Crescent, Penrith. The house was built in 1882 for Thomas Smith, a prominent local resident and was voted an Alderman of the first Penrith Council. His son Thomas Richard Smith was a local parliamentary representative being Member for Nepean in the Legislative Assembly from 1877-87, 1895-98, and 1901-1904 and elected Mayor of Penrith in 1889. The land on which Thornton Hall stood was originally 320 acres. Thomas Smith was a wealthy land owner who owned large sections of High Street. He also built and owned the Red Cow Inn. Thornton Hall was Thomas Smith’s family home and on his death he left the property to his son, Sydney Smith. Sydney Smith also became a local parliamentary representative and served in Parke’s last ministry as Secretary for Mines (1889-1891) and was also First Secretary for Agriculture from 1890. He was defeated in the elections of June 1898. In 1901 he was elected to the House of Representatives for Macquarie, and was Opposition whip in the first Parliament. Defeated in 1906, he retired to his estate, Thornton Hall at Penrith.

The property, was leased by Henry Lack from about 1910 and was used as a dairy. In 1941 the whole site, excluding the house was taken over by the Royal Army Engineers Depot. Thornton Hall was later subdivided to four acres and was sold by the Smith family to Read, who in turn, sold to Strong. The Commonwealth Department of Defence compulsorily acquired it from Strong in 1951.

The significance of the property, with its associations to Thomas and Sydney Smith certainly makes it of local and state significance. Thornton Hall is on the Heritage list for Penrith City Council, inventory no. Pb (6). Thornton Hall & its surrounds is listed on the Register of the National Estate No. 101114.