Arthur Muston, a banker and merchant, was born in North Sydney in 1856, his family being early settlers on the North Shore. Growing up in the area he recognised the potential of the nearby Mosman area and, in the 1880s, began purchasing land there. One of Mosman’s early speculators, he owned land in the area near Muston Street, eventually named after him, and built a ‘model village’ of desirable homes in Keston Street and Gladstone Avenue. By 1883 he also held most of a triangular area bounded by what are now Prince Albert Street, Queen Street and Bradleys Head Road, originally part of James King’s Silex Estate grant.
Having married Henrietta Bull in 1880, in 1883 Muston began construction of a family home, Blakesley, in Bradleys Head Road, on an acre of his land between what is now the Warringah Bowling Club and Mosman Police Station. Blakesley first appeared in Sands Directory in 1884 (in Military Road) – Bradleys Head Road only appeared under that name in 1887, having just four residents at the time. Initially only house names were used for identification, but when street numbers were introduced in 1913 Blakesley became number 60, then later number 84 Bradleys Head Road after 1924.
Blakesley was a family name, that of Arthur Muston’s English grandmother Ann Blakesley. Over time however the name acquired sad associations. Arthur and Henrietta’s second son Arthur Blakesley Muston died in infancy, as did a grandson who also bore the name.
The Mustons lived at Blakesley during the 1880s, but in February 1889 it was advertised for let. It was described as having ‘8 rooms, bathroom, kitchen etc, two-stall stable, coach house, man’s room and large yard, city water, near tram’ (Sydney Morning Herald, 23 February 1889, p 19). Apparently there were no immediate takers because not until 1894 were they listed at a new address, Terralta in Prince Albert Street. Also built by Arthur Muston on part of his landholding, it was behind Blakesley and connected by a laneway. From then on Sands Directory lists a number of different tenants at Blakesley, including Richard Hayes Harnett. By c1910 Arthur and Henrietta Muston’s eldest son John had married Vere McMahon, and his family remained at Terralta, while Arthur, whose wife Henrietta died in 1911, eventually moved away from Mosman. He built a home on the waterfront at Wunulla Road, Point Piper, close to his yacht club, where he could moor his boat at the foot of his garden and indulge his passion for sailing. He died in 1948.
John and Vere Muston remained at Blakesley for the rest of their lives, John dying in 1934 and Vere in 1951. Photographs show Blakesley as a substantial single storey Victorian style house with large grounds, which their granddaughter, Jacqueline Morgan, remembers well. A rear garden kitchen and small orchard occupied the south-western area of the site, and to the north was a large lawn which became a tennis court. The house faced northwards towards the tennis court, though the front entrance was on the eastern side facing Bradleys Head Road. A driveway, on the northern border near the police station, provided access from Prince Albert Street and also to Terralta, the other Muston residence.
Mosman Council had in 1937 made changes to residential zoning, allowing the building of flats in selected areas along the ridges and close to shopping centres. This section of Bradleys Head Road was included in one of these areas so the Muston family, following John’s death, apparently made the decision to subdivide and sell some of the land adjoining Blakesley. This was advertised for sale in the Sydney Morning Herald on 18 September 1937, but not until 1940 were two lots, between the house and the police station, sold. Mosman valuation lists of 1941 show that blocks of flats were under construction at numbers 88 and 90 Bradleys Head Road, land previously part of Blakesley.
Following Vere Muston’s death in 1951, the property was passed to Horace Kenneth Muston who lived there for just a short time. In 1955 Blakesley was finally sold out of Muston family hands, the new owners being Dr James and Mrs Marion Sherwood. In February 1963 it was again sold, this time to Vernon Alston, a builder of Harbord. Home unit construction was at this time starting to take off in Mosman. In November 1962 Alston had sought, and been granted, approval in principle to build on the site a three storey block of 15 flats – six with two bedrooms each and nine with one bedroom each – at a cost of 37,000 Pounds. Blakesley was at that time described as a ‘dwelling converted into 2 flats’.
Mosman Council Building Application Number 63/63 gave final approval for this plan. A condition of the approval was for ‘existing shrubs, small trees and landscaping on the southern boundary and along the street front being retained’. Demolition of the old house and construction of the flats, now 84-86 Bradleys Head Road and also named Blakesley, was completed, and the final inspection certificate issued by 26 September 1963. It is one of Mosman’s earliest Strata Plan unit blocks. All that remains of one of Mosman’s earliest homes, built by one of the fathers of Mosman, Arthur Muston, is part of the old stone wall and steps bordering the footpath of Bradleys Head Road.
Jack Carroll, The Mosman That Was, 1789-1900, Mosman, 1949.
Mosman Council building applications.
Mosman Council valuation lists, 1926-1950.
New South Wales Land and Property information.
Notes and photographs kindly lent by Mrs Jacqueline Morgan (nee Muston).
Sands Directories, 1880-1924.
Gavin Souter, Mosman: A History, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1994.
Sydney Morning Herald, various articles.
Blakesley in early twentieth century (Mosman Library)
84 Bradleys Head Road in 2018 (Phillipa Morris)