The Abbey is an extraordinary Gothic revival mansion built in 1881-1882 by prosperous building contractor, international exhibition commissioner, sometime Lord Mayor of Sydney, unsuccessful parliamentary candidate and high-ranking freemason John Young (1827-1907). The Abbey is one of a group of eight residences built by Young on Johnston Street, Annandale, and was leased after completion, Young living at his large house Kentville, next door.
The building is a complex of three parts on different levels of the sloping site, with a dominating tower which is a local landmark, and a high enclosing stone wall. The Abbey’s lavishly detailed interiors followed the style of English architect A.W. Pugin, using tiling schemes with medieval motifs of Minton manufacture and scenes from literary works designed by J. Moyr-Smith. The Sydney firm of Lyon, Cottier & Co. were responsible for the stained glasswork and stencilled decoration. The built-in furniture - possibly manufactured by the Sydney firm of Wallach Bros during partner Maurice Aron’s residence in The Abbey from 1887-1889 – includes painted panel decoration by cabinet-maker and art teacher Parnell Wressell Johnston (1850-1911).
The Abbey was converted to flats in the 1920s but this use ceased in 1959 when the house was purchased by Sydney surgeon Geoffrey Lancelot Davis, a member of Sydney’s Bohemian movement The Push. The Davis family remained in occupation until the death of Dr Davis in October 2008. The photographic documentation was undertaken following the auction of the furniture and furnishings and prior to the sale of the house.
Suzanne Forge, Victorian splendour: Australian interior decoration, 1837-1901, Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 1981.
Robert Irving, The history and design of the Australian house, Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 1985.