June 19 - 25, 2011: Issue 11 

The Oaks - La Corniche 

La Corniche [exterior view] Image No.: a105577, courtesy State Library of NSW circa 1925

The Oaks - La Corniche 

The mansion built at Mona Vale by George Brock in 1894, which sent this poor man broke, became known as 'Brock's Folly'. This gentleman called it 'The Oaks'. It overlooked what was called then Bongin Bongin ('lots of shells') beach, now known as Mona Vale beach. Frequented by many who travelled specifically here (The Allen Family and father of PG Taylor) the expense incurred at building such a lavish structure did not attract the clientele he needed to ensure success.

Prior to this George Brock was bent on making the place a success - see Mona Vale Training Grounds - From Lancers on Horses to Lasses on Transport Courses. 

This would not be the first time the grounds would be used as such - prior to and during WWI they were used as training grounds, they formed part of coastal reinforcements during WWII and housed recruits being trained.

MILITARY INTELLIGENCE. MANOUVERS BY THE LANCERS IN THE VICINITY OF NEWPORT.

The Sydney and Parramatta squadrons of the New South Wales Lancers were engaged on Saturday and part of yesterday in some interesting fluid operations in the neighbourhood of Rock Lily and Newport. The parade was also the last of the year.

The Sydney squadron, numbering 69, under Captain King, was as supposed to represent the advance party of au enemy which had landed at Bongan Bongan Beach, near the entrance to Broken Bay. The squadron left the city at 8.30 a.m., and bivouacked at 1 p.m. at Narrabeen. The lauding party, by arrangement, commenced to make its dispositions at 2 p.m. from the Rock Lily Hotel, and the idea, was that the telegraph lines should be tapped in order to prevent reinforcements of the defending force coming from Hornsby.

The Parramatta, squadron of Lancers was ordered to find out the strength of the enemy that had landed at Bongan Bongan Beach. According to the plan of operations the road via the Spit was held to be untenable, so that the detachment had to proceed via Pymble. The Parramatta men mustered 72, and were under the command of Captain Mackenzie. They left Parramatta at 8a.m. and reached Tumble-down Dick, near Pymble, in time for lunch. Lieutenant-Colonel James Burns, officer-commanding, accompanied them, and at Pymble Brigadier-General Finn, Major A. P. Luscombe, D.A. Q.M.G., and Lieutenant Macartney, A.D.C., joined the party with a view to witnessing the manouvres.

A start was made at 2 p.m. from Tumbledown Dick to ascertain the whereabouts of the enemy, and very rough country was encountered, but trooper's and horses got over the ground capitally. The enemy's landing party not having time apparently to achieve its object, its officer-commanding threw out a line of outposts extending from the Rock Lily Hotel to a little point near Newport. Shortly alter 3 p.m. the Parramatta squadron got into touch with the outposts about two miles from the hotel, and after some good work on both sides the evening's advance guard, according to the prearranged plan, was driven back to the reserve near the beach.

Owing to this reverse and the weather becoming thick and stormy the landing party was supposed to be unable to re-ombark by boats on board of the cruisers, consequently a position was taken up on Bongan Head. In this phase of the operations, however, the Sydney squadron no longer represented the enemy, but joined the Parramatta men. The enemy's position on Bongan Head was represented by eight canvas targets, which had been erected under the supervision of Major M. Hilliard, D.S.O., and Captain P. C. Timothy. Four of these were located about 500 yards from the main road and the other f our about 900 yards distant, but the ranges were unknown to those who subsequently took part in the firing. It was decided that the attack on this position should be made shortly after daybreak on the following day by the entire body of Lancers representing the home force.

The two squadrons a little after 5 p.m. reached Mr. George Brock's Mona Vale estate, where Captain Timothy had arranged with the owner for the whole force to bivouac for the night. The troops were here joined by Colonel H. D. Mackenzie, A.A.G., Captain J.  Purves, and Captain J. S. Brunton, the two latter travelling by motor car. The Lancers band also came down by a coach provided by the officers, who also contributed the commissariat supplies.

The State Commandant addressed the officers and N.C.O's. during the evening, and said that he was well pleased generally with the tactics, intelligence, and conduct of the troops. The men had shown their efficiency as skilled horsemen in very rough country, and he complimented them on their mobility. The outpost work was creditably performed, but at times rather humid. After tea a camp-fire concert was held, in which the band figured conspicuously, and Mr. Brock' rendered valuable assistance. A boxing bout between two amateur champions, Troopers Parbury and R. Baker, proved exciting, as were also some smart singlestick tourneys.

At daybreak yesterday the reveille sounded, and the Lancers at 5.45 a.m. were on the way to attack the enemy's position, indicated by the canvas targets on Bongan Head, forty rounds of ball cartridge were fired per man in the attack, which was at unknown distances. The shooting was good. One target had about 200 hits on it. The weakness of the attack, according to Brigadier-General Finn, lay in the fact that the men were too prone to expose themselves and rush forward in large numbers instead of in twos and threes. These were defects apparent in all sham fights, however, and only corrected by a taste of the " Real thing."

The troops returned to camp at 8.16. After morning "stables " a bathing parade was held, in which nearly every Lancer participated on his horse. Mr. Brock was thanked for his kindness in quartering the forces, and route march was then taken via the Spit for the Sydney Squadron and via Pymble for the- Parramatta men. - The Sydney detachment reached the city in the afternoon. MILITARY INTELLIGENCE. (1902, December 15). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 9. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article14521240

George Brock was relying on the ill-fated tram line being built to Mona Vale, even Newport as it was first touted. This idd not occur in time for him. The tram eventually terminated at Narrabeen. He was soon in dire straights money wise and this item appeared:

Brochure advertising sale of land in the Warriewood Estate by Henry F. Halloran & Co showing the entrance to Brock's Folly and Bongin Bongin Beach 1906.

TO HOTELKEEPERS, AMUSEMENT CATERERS, SPORTING CLUB PROPRIETORS. BY ORDER OF THE MORTGAGEES. THE OAKS. MONA VALE.. PITTWATER. 

This MAGNIFICENT and UNIQUE PROPERTY comprising about 114 acres, under TORRENS TITLE is situated 10 miles from MANLY, about 5oo yards from the Rock Lily Hotel, on the main road to Pittwater and Newport, rendering it accessible from the city by either MOTOR CARS or COACH, has large FRONTAGES to DARLEY STREET, 'the PITT WATER-ROAD, BASSET STREET, and the PACIFIC OCEAN'! 

THE BUILDINGS specially designed for a RESIDENCE of a PERFECT SANATORIUM, with Cottages for families attached, of brick on concrete foundation with Mansard roof with promenade, contain imposing MAIN ENTRANCE and HALL, billiard-room, lounge, smoking-room, 25 bedrooms, extra large dining hall, 6 bathrooms, and most up-to-date domestic arrangements, and servants' quarters.

ADJOINING THE CLUB-HOUSE is a STUDIO MUSIC-ROOM, with artistic lead-light windows and ceilings. LARGE FERNERY. A Short Distance from the main building is an octagonal house of brick and wood, containing in the upper portion BALL-ROOM (12ft x 42ft), -with up-to-date arrangements in basement.

IN the GROUNDS are the THREE BRICK COTTAGES above referred to, also TWO OTHERS in course of construction, and on the far side of the grounds is a six-roomed W.B. Cottage, with tiled roof.

THE GROUNDS are tastefully laid out with ornamental shrubs, lawns, and statues in front of the CLUB-HOUSE, while an area of about 40 acres opposite has been made ready for SPORTING purposes. GOLF, POLO, CRICKET, FOOTBALL, LAWN TENNIS, etc, and a 6-furlong Racecourse.'

THE PROPERTY. DELIGHTFULLY SITUATED on the shores of the PACIFIC OCEAN, embraces large beach Frontage where SURF Bathing can be indulged in without risk. Added to other attractions there is a NATURAL FRESH WATER LAKE in the grounds, enhancing their beauty, and at the same time affording a PERMANENT WATER SUPPLY. '

CONSIDERING the rapid strides in Motoring- as a means of transit, and the unrivalled position of the  health and holiday resort, there should be a great future FOR THE OAKS.

BATT, RODD, AND PURVES, LTD, have been instructed to sell the above by PUBLIC AUCTION, at their Rooms, 88 Pitt-street. Next TUESDAY, the 7th of MAY, at 11.30 a.m. MESSRs. Minter, Simpson and Co., solicitors for the Mortgagee. Advertising. (1907, April 27). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 22. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article28153265

Hearing of his problems the then state government, stepped in and purchased the property from the mortgage company, leaving Mr. Brock still in debt (see advertorial below - 'The Story of Brock's Folly'). Their initial plans were to establish a healing place to be overseen by the then named 'Lunacy Department', which was wholeheartedly embraced by residents:

MONA VALE PURCHASE

At a public meeting convened by Councillor Quirk In Booth's Hall, the recent purchase of Brock's Hall and estate by the Government to establish a convalescent home at Mona Vale was discussed. There was a very large attendance.

Councillor Quirk having explained the position, Mr C P Harrington was voted to the chair.

A motion from Mr Devlin, asking the Government to give a guarantee that the proposed Institution be used for no other purpose than a convalescent branch of the Lunacy Department was moved, but the following amendment was carried by an overwhelming majority -"That this meeting is meeting is In accord with the proposition of the Government to occupy Brock's Mansions as a convalescent home, and most unreservedly gives it all support, and without question ". MONA VALE PURCHASE. (1909, March 26).The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 10. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15045857 

A quick escape along the beach may have been cited as one of the reasons this facility never came about, long term. James Booth also had something to say about the buildings themselves during 1909 and perhaps gives an insight into another reason the government my have had second thoughts about their pruchase:

Brocks Mansions. 

(To   the   Editor.) 

I read with deep regret the pathetic story of how the loss of £25,000 brought the writer, G.   T.   Brock,  into financial difficulties, if not financial disaster, and as you ask for comments on this great loss, I would like to point out what I consider were the big mistakes made in the construction of these mansions. The first part of the work was good, filling in the  swamp, erecting fences, the racecourse, polo grounds, stables and  dwelling-house deserve every praise, as it turned an almost useless piece of land into  what it is now, one of the most charming little spots on the N.S.W. coast. What Mr.   Brock’s intentions were for constructing such a large place, I do not know, or anything about tram promises made to him by Mr. Sullivan. I  am dealing with the buildings,   simply from a mechanics   standpoint,  and I can only concur with you as you say in “Building” that the want of an architect   was severely felt, and it does seem almost incredible that a man with Mr.  Brock’s great intellectual attainments, and practical knowledge on so many   diverse subjects, ever attempted to carry on such a big work without professional assistance.  

These buildings are not a common or ordinary structure by any means; their construction required the skill of nearly every class of artisan,  and nearly   every known design of work, from Ionic masonry to lath and plaster, and naturally called for a man that was well up to all the little niceties of modern   architecture. The tradesmen employed were good enough, their work speaks for itself; and the marvel is that they did so well, handicapped, as they   were, for want of details. Being a stonemason myself, there are two blunders in the work that show out very conspicuously, and points badly to the   want of someone who could use intersecting lines, or had knowledge of geometry. First, is the scroll work at the entrance gates.   It is all out of rhythm,  and   seems to have been scratched on in a “here’s luck” sort of  way, without any attempt at practical drawing at all. The second is the joints of the elipses   arches, which are all wrong; instead of being struck from a centre of three segments, they are struck from the centre of an ordinary half-circle, so you can see in these two things alone, for want of a draughtsman, what is otherwise a fairly good piece of masonry, is spoilt. I also consider Mr. Brock tried to   do too much at once; if he had finished something, got something going, he would have been there to-day; but great slabs of work were started all over the estate, half done, then something else gone on with, till the whole thing was in a perfect state of chaos, from which nothing but disaster could be   expected. The site is a good one, and the Government have done well to purchase it; but the buildings themselves will try the skill of their architectural   staff to complete them to suit the requirements of a Government institution. 

Everyone here is really sorry for Mr.  Brock. He spent a lot of money,  gave Mona Vale a real good start, and now both him and his fortnightly pay is   sadly missed. 

JAMES   BOOTH,   Stonemason. Mona   Vale. - Published in Building : the magazine for the architect, builder, property owner and merchant. Call Number N 690.6 BUI Created/Published [Sydney : Building Publishing Co.] 1907-1942. Issue Vol. 3, No. 23 (12 July, 1909)

La Corniche was soon called Mona Vale Hydro:

MONA VALE HYDRO.
The ceremony of opening the Mona Vale Hydro formerly known as Brocks Mansion Pittwater took place yesterday afternoon The estate which has a frontage to the beach was recently acquired by Mr Arthur Rickard of this city and he has leased the house to Mr Fox as a hydro and the polo grounds as golf links. Upwards of 80 people accepted invitations and in the unavoidable absence of the Minister for Works the ceremony of opening the Hydro was performed by Mrs Griffith. A dinner presided over by Mr Arthur Rickard followed...
MONA VALE HYDRO. (1910, December 23). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 8. Retrieved, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15190827

This three storey edifice had 37 rooms consisting of 25 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms, kitchens, a ladies lounge, ballroom, billiards room and servants quarters. The grounds had ornate fountains, stables, statues and a polo field. Smaller villas were built beside the main house and the grounds around them stretched from Bassett to Darley Street.

An in depth advertorial tells more of how Mr. Brock lost his enterprise and who took it over after him and what his idea originally was:

WHERE TO SPEND THE WEEK END. MONA VALE

(BY MARCUS SUBURBUS.)

THE STORY OF BROCK'S FOLLY.


THE MONA VALE HYDRO.

Sydney Is indebted to the misdirected and inspired energy and enterprise of a man of whom, perhaps not one In five hundred knows anything at all for one of the most magnificent examples of palatial architecture that grace the outer circle of its environs. This beautiful and stately pile of buildings represents a great— a masterly— idea, which cost its unfortunate originator £25,000, and left him practically beggared. Sixteen or so years ago this man with an idea noted the great unclaimed swamp at 'Mona Vale— a stagnant lagoon, the only point in its favor being its proximity to a fine ocean beach, one of the many that enrich that much-favored stretch of coast from Manly up to Pittwater, and beyond. It occurred to him that if this useless blot upon the landscape could be drained an excellent seaside estate should result. And then the idea germinated. The unpromising-looking land was purchased for £600, and then the New South Wales Government was approached with the proposition that the buyer was prepared to spend £25,000 upon this site, providing a start was made upon the Pittwater tramway that had so long hovered mirage-like before the inhabitants of the district. .The Man with the Idea even offered to build the line' himself, should the Government withhold its hand, and called on the Minister for Works with a cash deposit of £10,000 to prove his sincerity. But the Government, apparently satisfied by these representations that the need of the district was pressing and genuine, promised to undertake the construction of the line a once. And the buyer, secure in the Government's promise, allowed his great idea to blossom instantly into the concrete expression of bricks and tiles and timber. 

THE GREAT IDEA. And the idea was this: To build a huge village upon the drained lands of the estate, dominated by a magnificent clubhouse, and to sink £25,000 in the realisation of this immense scheme. To prove a financial success, access by tram to the estate was the one thing absolutely necessary. And this the Government had promised. The Man with the Idea set about the carrying out of his .purpose on a splendid scale. On the site he erected his own brickworks for the manufacture of the bricks and tiles: he bought a timber area at Erina Creek, on the Hawkesbury River, installed a timber mill and a planing machine as well, and so cut, freighted, and treated his own timber on the spot. He worked his own quarry, drawing from it all the needful stone, drained the swamp, obtained a regular water supply by the construction of a great brick and cement tank,' 20Ct. wide and 14ft. deep, and Installed a complete sewerage system. And all the while the promised tram was creeping out from Manly, slowly but surely. By the time it had reached Curl Curl, 12 months after its start, the walls of a mansion, or rather of a group of mansions, at Mona Vale were roof high, and the great idea was flowering in wood and stone and brick towards completion and perfection. The sum of £10,000 had already been sunk in initial expenses, and a further £15,000 borrowed to complete the work, and that work promised to be indeed a "thing of 'beauty and a joy forever." Forever, for the floors of the main building were built on a layer of concrete covered with a layer of bitumen and sawdust, upon which were laid 5000 hardwood sleepers, , and upon them another layer of sawdust and bitumen, and then the parquet flooring— a foundation impervious to white ants, and for all practical purposes everlasting. A hundred carpenters were at work, as well as a great host of other mechanics, and the loud ringing music of labor, which is the voice of progress, echoed and re-echoed' throughout Mona Vale. And the setting of the picture was as beautiful as the immense building rising under trowel and mallet and hammer. In the foreground two crescent-curves of hard, fine, sand, fronting the sea; beautiful green seaward sloping lands, and green embracing' bills. Meanwhile the grounds about the mansion were being decorated with statues and playing fountains, and among other costly and artistic fittings a great majolica mantel, that had originally cost £720, was In stalled in the entrance ball of the palatial place.. It was plain that the Man with the Idea had invested more than his mere capital In this sumptuous scheme. Something must have stirred in him that was akin to the emotions of all great builders, from Solomon of old and Darius the Persian, down to Christopher Wren and the designer of the flatiron building in New York. And Mona Vale on the New South Wales coast was in touch with the same spirit that reared the pyramids and built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. 

THE FATE OF THE SCHEME. 

And it Is just here In the story that the fateful tram stopped. It had reached Curl Curl, one mile out from Manly, and there "it stayed, just 10 miles short of Mona Vale, and its waiting palace. Perhaps the authorities judged that a pleasant ten-mile tramp, bag in band, would be just the thing for intending guests, considering the invigorating air of the locality. Perhaps not. Anyhow, the mortgagors who had loaned their £15,000 in expectation of a tramline that would go a good deal further than Curl Curl Lagoon began to look dubious. Then, "at this psycho logical moment," as the novelists say, the Government that had guaranteed the tram bore tragic testimony to the instability of all human institutions, by going the way of all flesh. In short, it went out of office, and its tramline promise passed into the limbo of forgotten things, together with a variety of other departmental lumber. Matters began to look exceedingly serious. The £25,003 was gone, and although £5300 had been paid off the borrowed £15,000, a balance of £1000, which Included Interest, remained, and there was no Immediate prospect of the property returning it. But the Man with the Idea was not wholly beaten yet: Surmising that perhaps if a ready-made population were provided first, the tardy tram might reasonably be expected to follow them, he determined to sacrifice practically the whole of the area, including the recreation reserve, and the grounds surrounding the house, to pay the balance of the mortgage. The site had been actually surveyed for subdivision, when the wheel of his enterprise was effectually spiked again. The shire refused to approve of the plan until £1500 was deposited for the construction of the streets, and so, operations were again brought to a stand still. At this point the unfortunate successor of Darius, Barneses', and Christopher Wren was informed that the Government wished to purchase the entire property as it stood, and desired to know his price. ' He named the comparatively utterly insignificant sum of £7500, explaining that he needed £6500 to pay off the mortgagors, and £1000 to wipe off money owing for material supplied. He did not ask for one Sixpence for himself; only for sufficient to clear him of his obligations. He had failed, losing everything; but he wished to face the world with a clean sheet. However, the Government's emissary, after hearing the story, went to the mortgagors to negotiate. Naturally all they asked for was their £6500, and the Government, falling in with this request, took over the entire concern for that sum. So the Man with the Idea was turned adrift with £1000 worth of debts upon his shoulders, and not a penny saved from the wreck: while his £25,000 palace had been sold for £6500 Such is the story of Brock’s Mansion at Mona Vale, and surely the misfortune of the unlucky builder from whom it takes its name is almost unique. 


BROCK'S ESTATE FROM THE HYDRO.

BROCK'S ESTATE TO BE SOLD. 

The sequel to the story of what has come to be known as "Brock's' Folly" promises to be good reading. It will doubtless prove a tale of pioneering such as all Australians delight in. There is every' Indication that In a few years the magnificent estate which was intended for the mansion grounds will become the scene of one of the most beautiful seaside settlements in the State. Mona Vale might have been designed by Nature as a resort of rest and delicious peace. Brock's Estate fronts two horseshoe-shaped beaches of hard yellow sand, on which the surf breaks soothingly, for the formation of the beaches provides splendid shelter against the occasional fierceness of the ocean's ebb and flow. 'Surf-bathing may therefore be indulged in with the greatest possible safety. All the pleasures of surfing arc to be gained there without any of Its discomforts. The coastline thus shaped is extremely pretty. Far away to Barranjoey is a succession of delightful little bays, forming; a- seascape' of quiet beauty. 

SEASHORE JEWELS. ; The magnificent coastline that encompasses the Hole in the Wall, The Cave and Little Head is only just beginning to be known and appreciated. Between the Brock Estate and Manly the coast is better known, and is as picturesque as anywhere around -the continent. About three miles to the south are the Narrabeen Lakes fronted by that long stretch of beach that has made Narrabeen such a famous resort. Farther south still are Long Reef, Deewhy, Fresh water, and Curl Curl. The entire coastline, therefore, for miles in each direction forms a rich necklace of seashore jewels that grow in value as years go on. It will be very surprising if the whole of the 18 miles of coast between Manly and Barrenjoey does not attract a large population and become a famous pleasure zone. 


THE BEACH FRONTING BROCK'S ESTATE.

MAGNIFICENT LANDSCAPES. Some of the landscapes surrounding this Brock Estate would be worthy 'subjects for the brush of a Turner or a Corot. As one approaches it from the Newport-road, for in stance, an entrancing view is met with, the road winding prettily through undulating country, magnificently timbered and clad- with wild flowers. The property itself lies in a hollow of a cup like appearance, and on every side save the east it is protected by glorious hills. One can therefore enjoy all the benefits of the sea, air without the discomforts of the gales. The large fortune spent originally on this estate has made it a model site for fine homes. What Mr. Brock left undone Mr. Arthur Rickard has accomplished, and I see that next Anniversary Day that enterprising gentleman will offer those fine allotments to the public. Truly, they are very tempting morsels of the earth's surface, and especially so because the estate is splendidly subdivided and good wide streets, made throughout. The allotments are exceptionally large, and as the soil is excellent, the week-ender who purchases one of them may have a perfect orgie of flower and fruit-growing. If example goes for anything this estate should be the scene of some beautiful homos in the near future, for not only the mansion but several  adjacent buildings have set a high architectural standard. 'Since Pott Pointing, has given way to week-ending It is quite likely that palatial residences will adorn this spot, especially as there Is no other land with ocean frontages for sale near there. 


A SECTION OF BROCK'S ESTATE.

A GOOD INVESTMENT. The only need for the development of this fine area of country Is the tram, but the Newport extension may be regarded as a certainty and only a matter of time. The surveyed route, I am Informed, is along the road which fronts Brock's Estate. Although no definite promise has been given, it is generally understood that the tramline will shortly be proceeded with. When this is accomplished the estate will be within a comparatively short tram ride of Manly, and therefore within easy reach of the city. In these days of rapid transit and, a growing inclination, to plant homes in broad spaces, Mona Vale need not be considered too distant. The trip all the way from the city is such a glorious one that the travel-loving Sydney man will doubtless regard the distance as more of an advantage than otherwise. As an Investment, of course, property In this locality is a particularly good thing at present, for when the work on the tramline does start values are bound to take a leap 'upwards, and - there is no likelihood of them ever coming down again. Week-end holiday makers would do well to wait for Anniversary Day, as there might be a chance of getting in on this excellent proposition at bargain prices. 

THE MANSION AS A HYDRO. On Thursday, last Brock's Mansion came Into its own when It was opened by Mrs.- Arthur Griffith, wife of the Minister for Public Works, as a hydro. At the invitation of Mr. Arthur Rickard (lessor) and Mr.' F. W. Fox (lessee) a large number of people attended, and the ceremony, which has already been reported in "The Sun", was a complete success. No better idea could have been conceived than to convert this magnificent building into a hydro. Mr. F. W. Fox, who is a well-known gentleman, and has been long and honorably identified with city business life, and his good lady, Mrs. Foy (who has large and fashionable guest establishments at Neutral Bay), are to be complimented upon their enterprise in undertaking this venture, and deserve every possible success. For several years past, and particularly since surf-bathing became popular, the need has been felt of a really first-class accommodation house near the seashore. The hotels and boarding-houses at the beaches have proved, inadequate to accommodate, in the best style the great and growing number of families who desire to spend their summer vacation at the seaside. Taking a furnished cottage is the only other, alternative, and this has decided disadvantages. In the first place, the majority of people cannot afford a sufficiently long vacation to make it worth while. Again, the responsibility of house keeping greatly detracts from the pleasure of a holiday. Is it any wonder then that the question is asked again and again: "Where is there a really first-class place to stay, at the sea side, where one may enjoy every comfort and have absolute peace and quiet— a place equal to the resorts of Europe and America?" We now have the answer: in the Mona Vale Hydro. The building alone is a source of never-ending delight. It is as the pictures denote, a palatial structure, and an architectural triumph. The decorations, both externally and Internally, are extremely artistic, and a constant pleasure to the eye. This octagonal building is constructed of brick and wood. The upper portion contains a ballroom 42 x 42, with a specially-constructed floor. The main entrance hall is lavish, and the mansion contains, all beautifully designed, a -billiard-room, ladies' lounge, promenade roof, smoke-room, ballroom, and theatre. The dining hall, which, is about 36'x 72 feet, is very large, and Imposing. The sights of the building alone should prove a continual joy to those who are fortunate enough to secure apartments there. It is quite a pleasure to roam around the mansion with its great staircases, its stained glass windows, its huge columns, Its beautiful mantels, and the general ornateness of its spacious rooms. There are 25 bedrooms and six bathrooms in the main building, though there are adjacent cottages where there is more accommodation. One of these, for example, is extremely handsome with its tiled roof and its large crescent-shaped tiled verandah with bay windows on each side. The front door of this villa gives entrance to a very large reception room, and attached to the premises there is a studio and music saloon, built of brick, with large lead-light, windows and wood-panelled ceilings. Both from, the Mansion and the adjoining buildings glorious views are to be obtained. For miles the coast, broken into enchanting bays and coves, yields a panorama of great beauty, and the charming undulating character of the back country reveals some exquisite landscapes. Here, then, is delicious peacefulness and rest with nature smiling all around one. Everything has been done by Mr. Fox to ensure the comfort of his guests. He has arranged a cuisine of the highest standard; hot and cold baths are to be obtained in plenty; every room is handsomely furnished; there is a large motor garage and accessories.

The hydro is particularly well suited to business men who desire to get away from the city for a few weeks and recuperate their physical and mental faculties, or for country people who need a change at the seaside. No better place than this could be found for the enjoyment of all healthy natural pleasures. What was intended as a racecourse and polo ground now makes ideal golf links, and devotees of this sport could not be better provided for. 

As already pointed out, surf-bathing may be enjoyed with every degree of comfort and safety. There are also facilities for tennis and cricket, and plenty of good fishing may be obtained. The hydro is, therefore, not only a magnificent structure sumptuously furnished— it is the home site of all those pleasures that do most to make life worth living. A convenient motor service to and from Manly has been established, and the business man who must attend the city daily is thoroughly provided for in the time-table. For the benefit of the touring -motorist; equestrians, and others, Mr. Fox has arranged to cater for lunches, dinners, and afternoon teas, and can provide for parties or picnics of any description by previous notice.


ANOTHER VIEW OF THE HYDRO.

WHERE TO SPEND THE WEEK END. (1910, December 25). The Sun : Sunday Edition (Sydney, NSW : 1910), p. 11. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article231015197

The Fox-Foy 'Hydro' didn't last long. Sources state the building was renamed 'La Corniche' by Rainaud, a French Restauranter who originally ran a successful tea room, restaurant and boarding house at Church Point-Bayview until a tragedy. He brought the name with him when taking over these premises. 

Advertising. (1911, September 9). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 18. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15272695


Above: P G Taylor's father  P T Taylor on balcony of La Corniche, Mona Vale (where blocks of units are now) in 1911. Picture a3289053h from the Allen Family Album, image courtesy Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW.


La Corniche, when under Rainauds

On January 8th 1912 the building was burned;

MANSION DESTROYED. NEWPORT BOARDERS' ESCAPE. BUILDING WITH A HISTORY. 

A disastrous fire, which happily did not result, as might easily have been the case, in loss of life, took place at an early hour yesterday morning. It occurred in a large boarding establishment at Mona Vale, Newport, known formerly as "Brock's Mansion," and latterly as "La Corniche," which was completely destroyed. The property is that of Mr. Arthur Rickard.

The cause of the fire is as yet unknown, but at about 5 minutes to 1 a.m. some of the occupants of the house were aroused to a sense of danger by a strong smell of smoke. On Investigation the fire was located In the dining-room, and it was at once seen that any efforts to check the flames would be hopeless, and the Inmates were simply got out of the house as quickly as possible. Fortunately there were no signs of panic, and In a few minutes everybody was safely outside-watching the flames eating up the large building with a blaze that Illuminated the landscape for a considerable distance.
Owing to the inaccessibility of the locality no fire-engines, or, indeed, means of any water for fighting the fire, were available, and soon the whole building was reduced to ruins. The place, which Is said to have cost Its builder £30,000, was Insured for £6000 In the New Zealand Insurance Company; but the loss to the present owner Is estimated at about £10,000. Something like £250 worth of books, silver, and linen was not insured at all, and was totally destroyed. The building, which was a large one, contained 37 rooms. There were about 30 boarders in the house when the outbreak occurred.
A rather pathetic history attaches to the now smouldering building. Some years ago Mr. Brock, of Enmore, a gentleman with an enterprising idea, was so struck by the beauty and natural advantages of Mona Vale district that he originated a plan to establish and conduct an elaborate tourist home and sanatorium there, similar to Medlow Bath. Mr.Brock approached the Government of the day and laid his scheme before the Minister having charge of the railway and tramway construction branch, with a view to securing tramway communication to the spot. The scheme appeared so genuine and sound that Mr. Brock was given the assurance that, if the work was commenced, the tramway would be considered- He then set to work and laid out the grounds, and brought along his building material, establishing brickworks and a saw mill.

The tramway proposal from Manly was also favourably considered, and surveyors were sent to Manly. £30,000 was spent on the building by Mr. Brock. It assumed gigantic proportions, and when nearing completion formed one of the principal landmarks along the coast. The grounds were laid out to perfection, and included a racecourse, golf-links, and polo grounds. A fine surf-bathing beach also formed part of the establishment.

The tram meanwhile was constructed only as far as North Manly, a distance of one mile. The Minister for Works, Mr. E. W. O'sullivan, who had worked hard for the extension, left office. The non-completion of the tramway was disastrous to Mr. Brock, as the financial success of the enterprise depended largely on tramway facilities being given to the sanatorium. The premises soon changed hands, Mr. Brock being a heavy loser.

Recently the greater part of the property was put up for auction sale by Mr. Arthur Rickard and sold at a good figure. The name of the building was changed to "La Corniche," and was utilised as a boarding establishment by the proprietor, who has now sustained a great loss by the fire.
MANSION DESTROYED. (1912, January 9). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 10. Retrieved, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15301090

The structure was rebuilt, in part. 

BY ORDER OF THE MORTGAGEES. MONA VALE.ONLY A FEW MINUTES FROM THE BEACH AND GOLF LINKS. That well-known SEASIDE ESTABLISHMENT Known as LA CORNICHE,now conducted as a Tourist Boarding-house, and which is also eminently suitable for a REST HOME, SCHOLASTIC, or ECCLESIASTICAL INSTITUTION.

The building is constructed of brick, cemented,with Iron roof, and comprises ground and two upper floors. On the ground floor are wide verandahs, hall, office, double lounge-rooms, large dining-room, smokeroom. kitchens, scullery, pantries, store and engine room. On the two upper floors: 20 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. Detached is ballroom (18 x 60), with special floor. In addition to the above are FOUR  COMMODIOUS COTTAGES, built of stone and of brick, with tiled and iron roofs, each having verandahs,and about 7 large rooms, kitchen, and offices. Two motor garages. Tennis court. The buildings are connected by electric light (own plant) and septic sewerage. 

THE SITE is a most PROMINENT ONE having a frontage of approximately 335ft to the MAIN NEWPORT-ROAD, together with frontages of about 795ft to Darley-street, 350ft to Noble-street, and 440ft to Stanley-street lan unformed street), and is suitable for subdivision. (Plan on view at the Auctioneers). TORRENS TITLE. EASY TERMS CAN BE ARRANGED. RICHARDSON and WRENCH, LTD., will submit above to PUBLIC AUCTION, in the Rooms,92 PITT-STREET, on FRIDAY, 19th FEBRUARY,at ll a.m. Advertising. (1932, February 6). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 20. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article28035038

During World War II La Corniche was used as a Red Cross centre for wounded soldiers. In World War II "La Corniche" was commandeered by the Air Force during and used as training ground for recruits. Some sources state it was also used by the Army as an Infantry Training School for NCO's. La Corniche - [Occupation by Australian Military Forces of premises known as 'La Corniche' in Mona Vale, the property of Mr GJ McPhee. Includes claim for compensation] Australian Archives Military Records. Property files for sites in NSW hired or acquired for the Department of Defence during World War II

Of then:

I was ordained in 1941, the beginning of `41, and appointed as a curate in the parish of St Faith's, Narrabeen. I was then just two days beyond my twenty-third birthday. The war had commenced, and, during my first appointment at Narrabeen, army camps were being formed in the area, because the threat of invasion was feared. I can recall fences being erected along the sides of the road, so that places like Palm Beach or Bayview could be shut off if need be, and then, when the threat of the Japanese came, the more intense development of army troops in that area. And Canon Tugwell then asked me to become a part-time chaplain to those troops in that area.

The parish of Narrabeen in those days went from Collaroy down to Palm Beach. There were main residential settlements at Collaroy, Narrabeen, but when you went out beyond that to Mona Vale you had mainly twenty-five acre small farms, many glasshouse tomato producers. Beyond Mona Vale, Newport was ... just one hotel in Newport, and mainly accommodation for people coming down to holiday use. Beyond Newport, at Bilgola and at Avalon, and then at Palm Beach, there were just mainly holiday homes, very few permanent residents.

My appointment was to help commence a ministry in that northern part. So I boarded with an old Boer war veteran and his wife, a Mr and Mrs Wilson, who lived in Fermoy Avenue, Bayview. And from there would conduct services in the store at Avalon, where there was little tea-rooms behind the store, and in an estate agent's office at Palm Beach. Subsequently a family by the name of Byle lent us their home for the service at Palm Beach.  And my other ministry there was to the troops, which were then being trained by the army, and they had an officers' training unit in a big home at Mona Vale, and my responsibility was to conduct services, and then to have discussions or what they called padre's hours with the intake of recruits.

Canon Charles Henry Sherlock, Chaplain RAAF, interviewed by Gail Winkworth for the Keith Murdoch Sound Archives of Australia in the War of 1939-45
From: http://www.awm.gov.au/transcripts/kmsa/s00572_tran.htm

Another use was made of these huge structure and its many rooms: 

Director of Physical Education, 7/1/43, advising that the National Fitness Council is now using "La Corniche", Mona Vale, as a training centre for boys and girls, of whom some hundreds will be accommodated from time to time throughout the year, and Mona Vale extensive use will be made by these children of the swimming Rockbaths pool at the beach, requesting Council to provide a rope across the pool which would be of great use to children who are non- swimmers, and serve as a safeguard in the event of waves sweeping into the pool. The Shire Engineer reported that a wire had been substituted, and that this should be sufficient. Resolved, - That a reply in the terms of the Engineer's report be sent. - 19/01/1943 Warringah Council Minutes

There were a number of submarine sightings during World War II in Pittwater and barbed wire along every beach except Newport. The Green Hornets of the 7th Battalion Volunteer Defence Corps camped in Warriewood Valley during this period and Mona Vale, south of La Corniche, was a camp for trainee machine gunners. Ruskin Rowe at Avalon hosted the Sundown RAAF Camp, who were trained by Nancy Bird Walton.

Part of the building was utilised after the war as a clubhouse by what became the Mona Vale SLSC.

The building was demolished to build home units after 1953.

Further Reading:

Mona Vale Training Grounds - From Lancers on Horses to Lasses on Transport Courses

Mona Vale Library History of Brock's Folly: http://www.pittwater.nsw.gov.au/library/local_history/Pittwaters_past/brocks_folly

WAAAF: www.defence.gov.au/news/raafnews/editions/4404/story10.htm &: http://home.st.net.au/~dunn/waaaf/waaaf.htm

BROCK'S MANSION BURNED.

News of the World by Our .independent Cable Service,

BIG BLAZE AT MONA VALE. beautiful landmark destroyed, damage estimated at £12,000. No fire- fighting appliances available.

"La Corniche," a mansion at Mona "Vale, which occupied a commanding position on the road between Manly and Newport, was destroyed by fire early this morning. Flames were discovered at 10 minutes to 1. At half-past 2 only portions of the walls, and they rickety, were standing.

The building was palatial In Its dimensions and appointments, and contained in all 38 rooms, 28 of which were bedrooms. It was originally designed for The Oaks Polo Club, and was built by Mr. G. S. Brock at a cost which has been set down at £32,000. 

Before the building was completed, however, it was acquired by Mr. Arthur Rickard, who brought it up to date and then let it to M. and Mme. Rainaud, at one time chef to Sir Harry Rawson. Instead of being used as a polo club it became a fashionable boarding house, and on account of its situation and its surroundings, including surfing and golf, it became exceedingly popular. There were 30 boarders in the place at the time of the fire. -The fire started in the large dining hall, and was discovered before it had a very strong hold of the room, but not in time to be beaten out. There was a hue and cry ... throughout the building, and boarders were running to and fro to ascertain the extent of, their danger and the possibilities of saving their effects. The flames spread with great rapidity, but happily not in the direction of the staircase, and many of the people were, therefore, able to dash about and get their property outside. Those on the second and third floors, however, did not take the risk which running up and down the stairs involved, and threw most of their belongings out of the windows. In ten minutes the flames had begun to light up the hills on either side, and to throw long reflections out to sea. The boarders were all out of the building by this .time, and the menfolk were assisting the staff (numbering 20) to remove the furniture. They continued in this until the flames drove them back, and were successful in getting out a piano and other big stuff. But what was saved was a mere fraction of what was lost. All that the people could do was to stand by and watch. There was water— the sea could be heard roaring in to shore all the time — but there was no means of pumping it into the building. No fire-fighting appliances which would avail anything were kept on the premises, there is no depot in the vicinity, and though a boarder motored to Manly post haste and reported the blaze the firemen did not go out, because they could have done nothing if they had. There were very few incidents in connection with the fire. Everybody was got out expeditiously, and though there were several cases where ladies fainted they were never in danger. 

Even the pets of the house were though one had a lucky escape. It was a little white pussy, and it mewed and mewed pitifully on the window sill of a room from which smoke was already issuing. One of the girls attached to the staff saw its plight and darted into the building and out again with her charge in a few seconds. Mr. Scott Fell, who has a house in the grounds of La Corniche, provided accommodation for the boarders for the rest of the night. As bad as the consequences were they might have been worse. If the blaze, for instance, had started nearer to the stairway than it did, it is quite possible that the escape of the boarders would have been cut off, and the only exit would have been through the windows, a course of action which would practically have endangered limbs if not life. Then, again, the wind was blowing out to sea. Had it blown from the sea, it Is not unlikely that two cottages and the Casino, nearer the roadway, would have gone, while the motor garage, where four motor-cars were kept, would almost certainly have been gutted. The most remarkable circumstance in connection with the fire was associated with the telephone. 

When the blaze was found to be so serious Mr. A. Davis tore the phone from the wall and carried it outside. Later in the morning an electrician fitted it up on to the fence— the only piece of the fence which escaped the flames— and a trial showed that though the wires had been through the heat of the flames, the phone was still In order, and the Manly exchange could be distinctly heard. The boarders relished the good fortune, because it enabled them to send reassuring messages to their friends. Mr. Rickard stated this morning that the building and furniture was insured in the New Zealand Insurance Co. for £6000, and that he was therefore a fairly heavy loser, seeing that his estimate of the value of the building was £10,000. The furniture was valued at £2000. Mrs. Mueller (wife of Dr. Mueller, of Macquarie-street), Messrs. Harvey, A. Davis, Earle Hermann, Toohey, L. A. and R. V. Minnett, Lotrois, and others of the boarders, were also sufferers by  the fire. 

Mr. Rainaud lost silver, linen, &c., to the value of £250, which was uninsured. The origin of the fire cannot he determined, but it is believed that it was caused by a lighted match or cigar butt carelessly thrown on to the carpet in the dining-room. Mrs. Rainaud heard a noise in the dining-room, which she attributed to burglars, and on getting out of bed found the place ablaze.

Below: Mona Vale Hydro, the scene of a disastrous fire which occurred in the early hours of this morning.  BROCK'S MANSION BURNED. (1912, January 8). The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 - 1954), , p. 1. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article222004219

After the fire at La Corniche Mona Vale, in January 1912, the Rainauds started a new venture in town:

About 10 years ago there arrived In Sydney Monsieur Rainaud, a French genius in the art of cooking, with a knowledge of the needs of the inner man and woman that was (second to none as far as Continental training) and experience were concerned. He conceived the idea of opening a Rotisserie Parisienne in the centre of the city to supply meals to people living at any reasonable distance from his establishment. But the tremendous possibilities of the thing did not appear to "grip" at the moment. The people were only just awakening to the problems of home life. Now they are fully awake. To get a decent meal in Sydney at a reasonable price, hot and hasty and tasty from the fire, is sometimes difficult. In August it will be easy. Sydney is to have its Rotisserie Parisienne. M. Rainaud has gradually been evolving his plan. 


During his period of service as head chef to Governor Sir Harry Rawson, and later when he was presiding over the culinary delights of La Corniche at Bayview, this French artist in food was thinking out the details of his scheme, and now it is almost an accomplished fact. An elegant shop in Culwulla-chambers, at the corner of King and Castlereagh streets, will be the distributing centre. This shop will be fitted up as a palatial, comfortably-furnished lounge. No meals will be served on the premises but ladies will be able to go there, see the menus, and order what they will need in their households day by day. There will be a wide range from which to make choice. All that, is best and, most inexpensive will be there. All that is reasonable in price will be there. Dainties from all parts of the world will be available as the liners bring them into Port Jackson, and all Australia's delightful products In meats, and game, and vegetables, and fruit, as well as the confections in pastry and ices that the best French chefs and experts can devise, will be procurable in a bewildering variety. A feature of the new Rotisserie Parisienne will be the old English spit, where the game and joints will be roasted in full view of the public. M. and Mme. Rainaud guarantee that the appetising odors that this branch of the business will give off will be the finest advertisement possible. Special boxes have been constructed to contain the, hot viands and to retain all their spiciness and tastiness. FEED THE BRUTE (1913, July 13). The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 - 1954), p. 20. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article229686457 

More use as a training ground:

NATIONAL RESERVE RIFLE CLUB. THE CAMP AT MONA VALE.
This was attended last week by 146 men, representing infantry, light horse, engineers, army medical corps, transport, nursing, and cyclist corps. A number of them had seen service in South Africa.
Colonel Wallack, the State Commandant, taking the salute in the march past. NATIONAL RESERVE RIFLE CLUB. (1915, January 31). The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 - 1954), p. 14 (SUNDAY EDITION). Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article229338874 

FROM:  Album 57: Photographs of the Allen family, 2 May 1911 - 7 October 1911 Digital Order No. a3289055; 'Enlargement of view taken looking over the Polo Grounds. The road up the hill leads to Barrenjoey' and Digital Order No. a3289054; 'Enlargement of view taken from Brock's house, 3rd of September, 1911'. Both Courtesy State Library of NSW.

Photo Attributions: TOP: W.A.A.A.F. recruits, Mona Vale, 1944 . FILE: 41\WAR41923 SUBJECTS: Australia. Royal Australian Air Force. Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force; La Corniche (House : Mona Vale, N.S.W.) ; World War, 1939-1945; New South Wales; Mona Vale; Mona Vale (N.S.W.) DESCRIPT: "La Corniche" commandeered by Air Force during World War II and used as training ground for recruits CREATED: [1944]

Below Top: Members of Australian Women's Flying Corps, Mona Vale, 1944
FILE: 41\WAR41916 SUBJECTS: Williams, Phyllis; Australia. Royal Australian Air Force. Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force; World War, 1939-1945 ; New South Wales; Mona Vale; Mona Vale (N.S.W.) DESCRIPT: Phyllis Williams, second from left, back row Photograph taken at "La Corniche" CREATED: [1944]

Above: Cadets at Camp at Mona Vale, NSW - 1943
Cadets from Parramatta Company at 'La Corniche' training camp, Mona Vale in 1943.

Above: Bedroom 8 at La Corniche. Right: the Ballroom. Images courtesy Mitchell Library, NSW, ca. 1900-1927 Sydney & Ashfield : Broadhurst Post Card Publishers. Album 'Scenes views and interiors of "La Corniche", Mona Vale, N.S.W. 1900-1927 Nos:  a106011 & a106008 . Below Bedroom 7. Below: the villas beside the main building and Dining room, No: a106006.

Above: View from Brock's House, Allen Family Album, 1911. Image No: 3289054, courtesy Mitchell Library NSW. Below: The Ballroom.

Also clubhouse for Mona Vale SLSC when was still Alumin SLSC. 1930s.

Images courtesy Mitchell Library, NSW, ca. 1900-1927 Sydney & Ashfield : Broadhurst Post Card Publishers. Album 'Scenes views and interiors of "La Corniche", Mona Vale, N.S.W. 1900-1927 Image No: a105578h
Images courtesy Mitchell Library, NSW, ca. 1900-1927 Sydney & Ashfield : Broadhurst Post Card Publishers. Album 'Scenes views and interiors of "La Corniche", Mona Vale, N.S.W. 1900-1927 La Corniche, Mona Vale [The Oaks] Image NO: a105579
Images courtesy Mitchell Library, NSW, ca. 1900-1927 Sydney & Ashfield : Broadhurst Post Card Publishers. Album 'Scenes views and interiors of "La Corniche", Mona Vale, N.S.W. 1900-1927 The Oaks, La Corniche Image No.: a106001
Images courtesy Mitchell Library, NSW, ca. 1900-1927 Sydney & Ashfield : Broadhurst Post Card Publishers. Album 'Scenes views and interiors of "La Corniche", Mona Vale, N.S.W. 1900-1927 A View at La Corniche. Image No.: a106003

The Oaks - La Corniche - threads collected by A J Guesdon, 2011.