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Delamore, Stately Home to Convent to Retirement Community

A Stately Home

Delamore not only looked impressive, it was and is impressive. Built for a large family and as the home of a very prominent Brisbane identity, it was designed to house guests and provide space for large parties, weddings and other celebratory events.

The following description was published in the Brisbane Courier on many occasions when the owners were trying to rent the property.

The house which is brick and cement contains eleven rooms, exclusive of pantries, cellars, kitchen, and servants apartments, also vestibule, tower, hall, veranda all round, two stall stable, coach house, washhouse, and 10 acres of land. The annual lease was set at 100. This was a home for a gentleman of means.

Delamore, Kedron C1895
Delamore must have been an impressive sight standing more or less in isolation before the city caught up with it. Even today it is still a grand house, large, graceful and with a tower dominating the structure. (Photo courtesy of John Oxley Library. 63776)

Detail of the Wrought Iron Balustrades

Delamore was a building in which expense was not a problem. Wrought iron was common on verandas in the 19th and early 20th Centuries and was cast in moulds. Most housea could only afford small amounts but here it is used lavishly and to great effect.

The presence of a tennis court was a luxury that few could afford but there was plenty of room for the court as the property covered about 5 hectares.

Delamore, Kedron detail of ironwork on verandas
The tennis match was the main concern of the photographer but the wrought iron around the verandas is the important item for our purposes. (Photo courtesy of John Oxldy Library)

The Builder of Delamore

Henry St John Somerset was the third child and only son of Daniel Rountree and Dora Somerset who arrived in Brisbane, after being shipwrecked, in 1850. Daniel was a bookkeeper and became a partner in a business venture before joining the Queensland Public service after 1859.

Henry followed his father into the Public Service and rose to the position of Paymaster to the Treasury and administered the Imperial Pensions Account. He is remembered today as the builder of the stately home Delamore in Kedron although his family lived there for only a couple of years.

The actual cost of land and building is unknown but when Somerset mortgaged the property in1890 it was for 1,000 which would not have been the full value. At the time a skilled tradesman would be earning between 2 and 3 for a 48hour week.

Somerset was a well-known and highly respected member of the late 19th Century Brisbane scene for many years until he was arrested and charged with "larceny while in the service of her Majesty." A lengthy report of the affair was published in the local papers at the time and most of the information in this item comes from the Brisbane Courier 9th December 1898 p.6


Several people testified to Somerset's previous good character and his solicitor read a statement outlining the case and asked for a lenient sentence; Somerset had pleaded guilty so a trial was not necessary.

Somerset had worked as a Civil Servant for thirty-six years and was, at the time, Paymaster for the Queensland Treasury and administered the Imperial Pensions Account. He had power to operate this account and could write cheques for up to 3,000. There did not seem to be much supervision of the department and there had been no audit of the department for the previous twenty years.

Up to 1885 Somerset's affairs were sound and he went on a trip to Europe. While he was away he left control of his affairs in the hands of the Secretary (Unnamed and since died) of the Queensland National Bank. This person speculated with Somerset's money and lost between 5,000 and 6,000 leaving Somerset "practically penniless". And creditors were pressing him for payment of 300 which he took from the Imperial Pensions Account. From then on he kept on taking more and more, intending to repay but was unable to do so.

The presiding Judge took all this into account but felt that Somerset had to be punished as a caution to others in similar positions; the sentence of two years imprisonment, which seems rather lenient, was imposed.

Little is known about Somerset's later years. According to F. E. Lord writing in the Queenslander of 16-10-1930 he and his wife Sarah (nee Walker Forbes) went to Johannesburg, South Africa, for some time where she died. He then returned to Southport and stayed there till he died in 1919. He is buried in Toowong Cemetery.


NB: He is not to be confused with his son Henry St John Somerset (1875-1952), born in Brisbane who became a distinguished metallurgist.


The Parry-Okeden Family

The Bride & Groom departing from the wedding reception at Delamore. The bride is probably one of the Parry-Okeden family and the carriage may have belonged to the family. (Photo courtesy John Oxley Library Neg. No. 195897)

William and Gertrude (nee Wall) Parry-Okeden and family of eight children occupied the property from 1900 to 1912 and lived in great style making Delamore one of the social centres of Brisbane. The marriages of some of their daughters were great events featured in the newspapers. The marriage ceremonies took place at St Andrews, Lutwyche and the receptions were at Delamore.

William Parry-Okeden (1840-1926) led a varied life of service as an explorer, magistrate, police chief, protector of Aboriginals, public servant, horseman and racehorse owner.

An outstanding feat was his handling of the Shearer's Strike in 1894 when he avoided bloodshed. At the time he was Principal Under-Secretary to the Queensland government and he was appointed a special Magistrate for the troubled area of the Colony. Even though he had enormous power, he acted wisely, avoiding clashes. The shearers respected him, he gained their confidence and settled the dispute peacefully.

The Ownership and Occupancy of Delamore

Henry St John Somerset:
Beres McCallum in "Windsor Wakens" p.18 notes that in 1887 Somerset purchased 11acres at Kedron on which he built Delamore. The family was in residence by at least 1889 as the following Birth Notice in the Brisbane Courier 14-9-1889 indicates:
SOMERSET - On the 6th September, at her residence, Delamore, Kedron, the wife (Sarah nee Forbes) of H. St. John Somerset, of a son.
McCallum adds that in 1890 Somerset mortgaged the property to the Queensland National Bank for 1,000.

But the Somerset occupancy was short lived as the following notice on page 2 of the Brisbane Courier 2-1-1891 indicates they had already left Delamore:

TO LET, from 1st January, DELAMORE Kedron, at present occupied by the Hon. T L. Murray-Prior;
Queensland National Bank

McCallum continues, the Bank, in August 1892 foreclosed the mortgage and took over the property. Just what alarmed the Bank is unknown but in 1897 Somerset was arrested, charged with larceny and jailed.

There may have been a tenant or tenants but by July 1893 the 'To Let' advertisement reappeared and continued at monthly intervals until 1-8-1896 when the following item appeared in the Gossip Column of the B C:
Mr. and Mrs. Reginald Hurd, Dalmeny, Albion, have taken Delamore, Kedron, and will shortly remove there. A later note in the same column indicated that they were in residence, but by November 1896 the 'To Let' notice again appeared.

Parry-Okeden or the QN Bank
Finally success at last as William and Gertrude (nee Wall) Parry-Okeden, with their family took up residence in January 1898 and stayed till 1912. It is not clear if they leased or bought the house.

In1912 -Mr &Mrs G Howard Robbins bought Delamore and stayed till 1935 when they sold out for about 5,000(CM 28-2-1935p.15)

Sisters of St Francis
The buyers in 1935 were the Sisters of St Francis who renovated it into a Novitiate or Training Centre for Sisters. It was blessed and opened in March 1939 by Archbishop Duhig the total cost mentioned being 8,000, which probably included purchase and renovation.

Duhig recounted that he was a guest at one of the Parry Okeden weddings there in 1907. (CM 20-3-1939p.4)

At present Delamore is a resident-funded retirement community consisting of independent living units and serviced apartments located in the beautiful grounds of the Franciscan Convent at Kedron.

Convent and Retirement Community

In 1939 the Missionary Franciscan Sisters bought Delamore for a novitiate and in recent years developed it into accommodation for people over fifty five. It contains Units and Serviced Apartments with 24 hour emergency care.

Delamore reflects the needs of the times over the last 130 years. Starting as a luxury 19th Century Grand House built for prestige and entertainment when there was a young population and families were large and elderly people were a small proportion of the community.

Today the population is ageing, families are small and the elderly form a great and growing proportion. People are living much longer and old age is much longer but retirement age is much the same. More of the elderly can now live independently and Delamore caters for these people.

Delamore, Kedron in recent times
Originally built in the 19th Century the building has been renovated inside while keeping the original outside appearance. The addition of the shrine of Mary in the foreground is a reminder of Delaware's use for the last 70 years as a religious institution.

Detail of the front veranda

The restoration seems to have been well done judging by the appearance of the front veranda. The brickwork is fresh, the lawn established and the wrought iron well blackened.

Photo of Delamore front veranda showing wrought iron KED187
This recently (2000) taken photo shows the detail of the ironwork and gives some idea of its complexity.