William Wright and Drummoyne House

Like many other suburbs and towns throughout Australia, Drummoyne was named for personal reasons, so called by newly arrived settlers to evoke perhaps, a more familiar and long-distant homeland.

Enter William Wright (1807-1889).

Wright was a successful merchant and island trader, born in Colchester, Essex, in 1807. As a teenager he had served an apprenticeship at an ironmongery before making to the move to Australia with his wife Bethia in 1838 to take over his uncle’s trading business in Sydney. The following year Wright organized a trading expedition to New Zealand and in by 1843 had established Wright’s General Commission and Shipping Agency in Auckland.

Drummoyne House and grounds estate; subdivision of the residence of the late William Wright 1894. National Library of Australia collection

Drummoyne House and grounds estate; subdivision of the residence of the late William Wright 1894. National Library of Australia collection

In 1853 Wright retired from commercial life. He settled on land he had bought on the Parramatta River where he began building a substantial and beautiful home. He called the property ‘Drummoyne Park’ after a family estate in the west of Scotland, with ‘drum’ meaning a ‘a ridge’ and ‘moyne’ meaning ‘a plain or marshy flat’ in Scots Gaelic. Wright invested the best of everything he could in his house at Drummoyne Park. It is believed that he employed around 70 European artisans in the building of its steps and balustrades, many of whom had also worked on the grand buildings that were evolving in the area of Hunters Hill. Italian masons were said to be responsible for the wood carvings inside the house, some of which are now in the collection of the Art Gallery of NSW. However it was not just the house that made Drummoyne Park a striking feature of the area, as Wright’s estate was also known for its extensive and beautiful gardens.

Group on the verandah of Drummoyne House, c 1875. State Library of New South Wales collection

Group on the verandah of Drummoyne House, c 1875. State Library of New South Wales collection


In his retirement, Wright declined several offers of a parliamentary seat, however his influence was still felt in major decisions concerning the local area. In 1889 Wright added his signature to a petition to create the Borough of Drummoyne – all but establishing the land he had named several decades earlier.
The McDonagh Sisters, filmmakers and residents of Drummoyne House. Sunday Times, June 1926

The McDonagh Sisters, filmmakers and residents of Drummoyne House. Sunday Times, June 1926


After the death of William Wright in 1889, the house changed hands several times through many prominent Sydney-siders. In the early 1900s it was occupied by one of Sydney’s most famous entrepreneurs: Anthony Hordern, whose wife Elizabeth died at Drummoyne House in 1919.

In the 1920s the house was occupied by the McDonagh sisters who rose to fame in that decade as female filmmakers. Their first, career-making film was titled ‘Those Who Love’ and was filmed at several localities around Sydney, including Tamarama Beach and Rothesay House in Bellevue Hill. Playing a central role in the film, however, was the grand facades of Drummoyne House. The film centres on a man who falls from his aristocratic background and in love with the poor but beautiful Lola Quale (played by one of the McDonagh sisters). You can watch a clip of this fantastic silent film online here. ‘Those Who Love’ was a commercial success, launching the careers of the McDonagh sisters and allegedly causing the Governor of N.S.W. to weep at the premiere.

Drummoyne House, seen in a scene from 'Those Who Love', 1926. National Film and Sound Archive collection

The interior of Drummoyne House, seen in a scene from ‘Those Who Love’, 1926. National Film and Sound Archive collection

Drummoyne House was demolished in 1971 and today in its place (59 Wrights Road) you’ll find units. However Wright, his estate and its occupants all left their mark on Sydney and the developing local community.

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5 thoughts on “William Wright and Drummoyne House

  1. May use some of this information, or ask the source of information , I lived in this house the year leading up to it being demolished , and am seeking information and history and rarerer photos to the ones I have …thanks

    • Hi Nate – it was demolished to make way for new housing, I’m not sure why its heritage wasn’t deemed significant enough to save it. Luckily some of the beautiful additions went into the collection of the Art Gallery of NSW. Cheers, Penny

  2. SomeonE tried to save it , I don’t know who they were( I was a kid) but the police turned up when they came to take the statue ….it should have been saved , it was an historic building ….greed I guess…I would like to know who owned it at the time

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