ROY IRONS - THE ARCHITECT OF WYEWURK
a direct part of the D.H. Lawrence, Wyewurk and Kangaroo
story, an historical loose-end has been who was the architect
of the seaside bungalow (now Heritage-protected) and what
other buildings did he design.
We know that
a student architect Roy Irons was the designer, mainly because
its original owner was contemporaneously quoted as saying
proudly that he had given his son a free hand in its interesting
Who then was
His full name
was actually Thomas Roy Irons (1889- 1950). He was known
as 'Roy' to family and friends to avoid confusion with his
prominent Sydney engineering and manufacturing father, Thomas
Irons (1849-1918). Roy had 2 brothers and 2 sisters.
(Snr) was a Scottish-born engineer who arrived in Sydney
1855. He worked at P.N. Russell Engineering and at the Woolwich
Dockyards. In 1898, he headed a consortium that rescued
what became Clyde Engineering at Granville. It grew to become
the largest engineering company in Australia (prior to BHP)
specializing in railway locomotive and cable tram construction.
Thomas was an industry leader, travelling to Europe and
the USA to review technological and business developments.
He was Mayor of Granville declining further opportunities
in politics. At the time of Wyewurk's construction, Thomas
was President of the Iron Trades Association (now the peak
council- the Australian Industry Group). He was also a leading
public figure in the promotion of technical trades training
and in the affairs of St Mark's Anglican Church, Granville.
Born into a
Granville-based family, Roy finished his schooling at The
Kings School, Parramatta 1903- 1904 in preparation for an
intended professional career. Family photographs (available
for viewing at the Wollongong City Library) suggest a physically
robust young man. He also rowed with the fashionable Sydney
Rowing Club eights.
training in Sydney after leaving school is unclear. The
normal vehicle for entry into the profession at the time
was through industry experience and articles, supplemented
with classes at Sydney Technical College (a Faculty of Architecture
was not established at the University of Sydney until 1920).
Given his father's
prominence, his own schooling and elite sporting connections,
Roy would not have had any particular problems gaining articles
with any leading Sydney firm of the day- possibly Kent &
Budden, or Nixon & Adam. Both firms were building fashionable
Arts-and-Crafts homes and would have had exposure to the
new bungalow style emerging in the architecture schools
in United States. There is also a family memory that Roy
somehow had a junior role in the construction of the famed
circular swimming baths at Clifton Gardens, designed by
James Rutledge Louat.
by 1910, Roy would have been well into his architecture
studies and his older siblings were producing the first
Irons grandchildren. The growing family had need of a child-friendly
weekender and, at the age of 21, Roy was given the chance
by his father to show his talents. He produced Wyewurk,
skilfully adapting the latest American bungalow style to
the environment of Thirroul, the sea and the Escarpment
so carefully described by DHL.
It may have
been his only completed work- overseas study from 1912,
WW1, marriage and family tragedy intervened.
During the years
1912-1914, Roy was enrolled as an Architecture student at
the Ivy-League, University of Pennsylvania. With the outbreak
of war, he patriotically took leave from his studies and
enlisted as an officer in the British Army. In November
1915, Roy transferred to the newly-created Royal Flying
Corps. In January 1917, he was invalided back to England
from the Western Front with the rank of Major.
at the seaside estate of Lord Colwyn in North Wales, Roy
met and married Winifred, the peer's eldest daughter. The
Colwyn's were a classic Manchester cotton mill owning family
that had diversified into the manufacture of Macintosh waterproof
clothing and later Dunlop Rubber. In addition, the family
had banking, railway and steel interests as well as high
Roy died in
England in 1950 never apparently resuming his architecture
studies, nor returning to Australia. Winifred passed away
the following year. They had only one child- Elizabeth,
born in 1918. She later married a Scandinavian and lived
much of her life in Spain and South Africa dying in 1996.
not to return to Australia and to sell Wyewurk (when he
inherited it in 1918) was undoubtedly influenced by the
tragedies experienced by the Irons family during the years
of WW1 and the sad memories that the once happy family holiday
home would by then have evoked.
brother, David Irons had been Works Manager at Clyde Engineering,
but had suffered a nervous breakdown with the war production
effort. He committed suicide in 1916 bizarrely outside Granville
Police Station using both poison and a revolver.
brother, Ralph Irons had attended Sydney Grammar and was
an engineering graduate from the University of Sydney. He
died of wounds shortly after arriving in the trenches on
the Western Front also in 1916.
father's health never recovered from these shocks and he
died of a heart attack at Wyewurk in 1918.
sold out of the Irons family in 1919, following a short
period of transitional ownership by Roy's brother-in-law
Thomas Nossiter. The new owner was Beatrice Southwell from
a property/business family at Epping. She subsequently rented
the property (through her sister, a local Thirroul real
estate agent) to DHL and Frieda in 1922.
Wyewurk's owner and protector into the 1970s.