From 1896 the author Ethel Mary Turner (1870-1958) and her barrister husband Herbert Raine Curlewis (1869-1942) rented Yanalla at 7 Harbour Street, Mosman. While living there they sought a larger home of their own. In 2014 Yanalla was still intact.
In September 1900 they purchased a vacant block of land in Warringah Road, Mosman, for 150 Pounds. It had a panoramic view of Middle Harbour and overlooked Chinamans Beach. There were few immediate neighbours yet the block was close to shops and public transport. Ern Thompson was appointed as architect with final plans for a large two storey house being completed by April 1901. The brickwork was well advanced by July. In September shingling started on the roof and an extensive terraced garden was laid out. Ethel, Herbert and their two children, Ethel Jean Sophia (known as Jean) Curlewis (1898-1930) and Adrian Herbert Frederic Curlewis (1901-1985), moved into Avenel in November 1901.
Already well known as author of the best selling Seven Little Australians (1894), Ethel wrote many other books while living at Avenel and was an astute businesswoman and publicist. Herbert, also an author, was appointed a judge of the Industrial Arbitration Court in 1917 and a District Court judge in 1928. Jean followed in her parents’ footsteps as a published writer. Adrian became a District Court judge and a life saving administrator. He was knighted in 1967.
Ethel’s biographer A.T. Yarwood describes Avenel:
At ground level the house was brick but rose to an upper floor and a roof of dark painted shingles. On the southern side of the house facing a broad lawn a small half-hexagonal room jutted out. Situated on the ground floor with access from the dining room, this was later extended to keep pace with the growth of Ethel’s library…. On both floors there were large verandahs facing east towards the sparkling waters of Chinaman’s [now Chinamans] Beach. When the family entertained, especially during the adult years of Jean and Adrian, the open verandah on the ground floor was set up for dancing with clouded lights and magic lanterns.
In 1911 a half acre of sloping land adjoining Avenel’s block was purchased. Its development together with improvements to the existing garden involved heavy expenditure on labour and materials. A low stone wall and a tennis court were established. A full-time gardener built new paths and laid buffalo grass turf near the tennis court.
Following Herbert’s death in 1942, Ethel continued residing at Avenel until her own death in 1958. She was in frequent contact with Adrian and his family, who from 1939 lived in nearby Hopetoun Avenue.
In 1970 Avenel was demolished and replaced with a block of home units bearing the same name.
Douglas Booth, ‘Curlewis, Sir Adrian Herbert Frederic (1901-1985)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/curlewis-sir-adrian-herbert-frederic-12382/text22253, published in hardcopy 2004, accessed online 3 November 2014.
David Carment, visit to site, 3 November 2014.
Pam Lofthouse, email to David Carment, 30 October 2014.
Brenda Niall, ‘Turner, Ethel Mary (1870-1958)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/turner-ethel-mary-8885/text15605, published in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 3 November 2014.
Philippa Poole, Of Love and War: The Letters and Diaries of Captain Adrian Curlewis and his Family 1939-1945, Lansdowne Press, Sydney, 1982.
Philippa Poole (comp), The Diaries of Ethel Turner, New Holland, Sydney, 2011 (first published 1979).
A.T. Yarwood, From a Chair in the Sun: The Life of Ethel Turner, Viking, Ringwood, 1994.
Avenel, Warringah Road Mosman, under construction (Mosman Library)
Avenel, Warringah Road Mosman, c. 1906 (Mosman Library)
Site of Avenel, 2014 (David Carment)