Ardill House, originally called Clermont House, was constructed in 1861 on a grant to Henry Bray, third Mayor of Concord. Henry died in 1896.
Subdivision of the estate began in 1917 and in 1918 the house and existing grounds were donated by the then owner, Mr. F.K. Oliver, to the Society for Providing Homes for Neglected Children. At this time the name was changed from Clermont to Ardill House to honour the founder of the Society, George Edward Ardill, who established the charity in 1887 to provide refuge for neglected, homeless and threatened childrn.
In this article the historic aspect is based not on the beautiful building that graces the block of ground in Correys Avenue, but on the history of the Society which ran the Home for many years.
The founder of this Society was Mr. George Edward Ardill, MBE, and along with this he also established the Sydney Rescue Work Society, the South Sydney Hospital, a babies’ home at Rockdale (Roslyn Hall), and other homes for children at Liverpool, Camden and Guildford.
Mr. Ardill was born at Parramatta in 1857. He opened a temporary home for the friendless and the fallen, and at Newtown the Home of Hope was opened. Later an All Night Refuge for Women and Children, a Day Nursery and other organisations, in addition to those already mentioned earlier, were either founded by him or owed much of the inspiration that brought them to birth.
He was the Director of the Society until his death in 1944, having given nearly sixty years of his 88 years of life to these and other activities. On the occasion of his death, the late Archbishop Mowll said of him: “G.E. Ardill possessed outstanding qualities. He was never negative, but ever positive. He wrought manfully, fought valiantly, served devotedly, and was ever to be found where the battle was the thickest. He was a born leader, and loved to plan and scheme and contrive in the interests of causes dearer to his heart. Even those who opposed him had to concede that he possessed uncommon qualities and front rank abilities. He breathed the spirit of God, he was a man of unswerving devotion to Christ. His loyalty was absolute. He was a man of heroic unselfishness”.
In 1945 he was succeeded by his son, also George Edward Ardill, as the Director of the Society and he retained this office until his death in 1964 when the Rev. H.E. Rowland was appointed Director.
In.April 1918 a young lady was appointed as Assistant Matron of “Our Children’s Home”. She was taken on a month’s trial and paid 10/- ($1). She was later appointed Matron. Her name was Louisa Horner and she later became Mrs. Skinner.
Gladys Holt joined the staff at the Home in 1934, and was Matron for most of the intervening years. Matron Holt, a very dedicated and sincere woman, was well loved and admired by all the children she has ‘mothered’ over the years. In recognition of her devotion and loyalty to the work she had done over the years, Matron Holt was awarded the MBE in 1970 by Her Majest, Queen Elizabeth II. She received this award personally from the Queen in May of that year.
The Chairman of the Society for many years, until his death, was Mr. David Benjamin Hunter, MLA for Ashfield. He served on the Committee from 1946, most of the time as Chairman. Mr. Walter Routley was Treasurer from 1963 until his death in 1970, when he was succeeded by his son, Mr. R.P. Routley (Mayor of Concord, 1971-72). Mr. E.J. Handel, who joined the Committee in 1960, served as Secretary from 1966.
The aim of the Societyy was to instill in the children the true standard of right living and thinking, so that they might emerge as good citizens of credit and renown. There are many of whom all traces have been lost, and many have not attained the standards envisaged. Some have been a great disappointment, often because of insufficient contact with them for a long enough period, but nevertheless, there are many who have made good and the Society looks to them with pride. One became the Mayor of Granville, another the Mayor of Cootamundra. Others have become Superintendents of Sunday Schools, another the Chairman of the Department of Christian Education of his Church denomination. Another became the manager of a 500,000 acre estate in Western Australia. One girl is a missionary amongst the Aborigines in the Northern Territory. Others have become prominent in the business life of Sydney and New South Wales. One girl became the Australian Drum Majorette Champion. These are they who were “fathered in childhood” by Our Children’s Home.
The basis of the Society is laid down in the Constitution which reads in parts as follows: “The Society shall be non-denominational, but distinctly Christian in character, it being founded upon the principles and teaching of the New Testament”. The children have received their Christian education from the Holy Trinity Church of England, Concord West, since 1918, and from the Concord Baptist Church where they attend evening Service.
The Society has been run as an act of faith. It was felt that there was a job to be done for children who suffer most when a marriage is broken, by the death of a partner, by a mental breakdown necessitating residence in a mental home, or when the mother and father separate and go their different ways.
No Government support was ever received over the years, but there was generous support from Churches, Service Clubs, Sporting organisations, Lodges and many interested individuals, thus enabling this service to be rendered in the name of God, and in the name of humanity whatever the race, colour or creed of the child to be served.
For many years it was known as “Our Children’s Home” but, with government changes in child care, it closed in approximately 1981 and a few years later opened for children’s day care in various forms.
(This article was prepared by Keith Elliott, a long-time member of our society and a resident at the Home. It was published in Nurungi in May 1973)