Major George Johnston (1764–1823) captained a ship of the First Fleet, which brought convicts to Australia from England. He was granted 100 acres (0.40 km²) of land in the area around Annandale and Stanmore, which became known as Johnston’s Bush. He later renamed it Annandale after his birthplace Annan in Scotland, United Kingdom. His name is remembered in Johnston Street.
Johnston built a fine residence called Annandale House in 1799, some distance back from Parramatta Road. It was demolished in 1905, but the gatehouse still stands in Johnston Street on the grounds of Annandale Public School. His son Robert inherited the estate, but in 1877 sold it to John Young, who was a businessman, architect and mayor.
Young began turning the Johnston estate into an attractive suburb by building a number of picturesque houses. One of those houses was Kenilworth, with a “witch’s cap” style of roof common to that period of architecture, which Young rented to Henry Parkes, father of Federation and former Premier of NSW. Another house in the group was The Abbey. Some of the houses are popularly known as “witches houses” because their towers resemble witches’ hats.
Of the various houses in this group, The Abbey is the most notable. You can see the Abbey, and the three remaining witches houses on Johnston St, a few blocks from Revolver.
“Craiglea” was constructed on the corner of Annandale and Rose Sts. in 1893 and was originally intended to be a Sydney pub. The classic pub design, blue tiles and mermaid mural brought attention from the landed gentry in North Annandale and the pub plans were soon quashed. So Craiglea became a residence and corner store. “Kierwin” the grocer opened as a general store in late 1893 and was operated by a young Welsh emigrant named David Kierwan
The general store traded in various formats, consistently from 1893 until 2005 and for 112 years it was a place where North Annandale locals would meet and chat. In 2005 291 Annandale St was purchased and so began the 4 years process of creating ‘Revolver Café’
Revolver opened in September 2009, and has consistently rated as one of Sydney’s most popular cafes.
I noticed what looked to be poorly rendered up doorways in the upstairs windows and with some arduous detective work i was able to establish that indeed craiglea did used to have a full wrap around balcony (as do a lot of pubs). I even found the grandson of one of the original owners of italian decent who told me he remembered the story of how the balcony was lost.
One day while trading in the shop in the early 1940s 2 men came in and approached mr cainairo who tended his groceries. The 2 men told of how dangerous the rotting timbers were to such heavy iron lacework and that they had no work at present and that for a very reasonable sum they would remove the entire balcony clean and paint all the iron and rebuild the structure “better than new”.
A deal was struck, the balcony was then speedily removed, and even more speedily taken away…………never to be seen again..along with the 2 reasonably priced tradesman. I guess 29 lineal metres of iron work was worth a substantial amount even back then 😉