Sobraon: 17-21 Ormond Street, Paddington, New South Wales

Sobraon is a magnificent row of three storey terrace houses in Paddington, Sydney is an unusual Italianate composition.  The name could have come from a clipper of the same name which was regularly moored at Rose Bay between 1867-1871 and the largest composite ship ever built1 (itself named for a war in Punjab India in the 1840s) the sails and masts which may well have once been visible in the distant harbour from the rear of these homes.  The mid terrace is notably wider than either flanking terrace. (Photo by: J Bar licenced under (CC-SA))

Sobraon: 17-21 Ormond Street, Paddington, New South Wales.  Image by J Bar licenced under CC-SA Photo by: J Bar licenced under (CC-SA)

Sobraon: 17-21 Ormond Street, Paddington, New South Wales

The party walls emerge as pinnacles topped by decorative urns which frame a cornice, frieze (dotted with square leaf patternes) and balustrade along a tall parapet which completely hides the roof.  The mid terrace parapet is stepped up slightly to give it prominence and this features a small temple motif framing the row’s name.  Sets miniature double corbels hold up the cornice – five on the mid terrace and three on either flanking terrace.  The arched window openings feature a keystone above and sash ledge with decorative corbels dot an otherwise plainly treated upper facade.  The party walls burst out in a wavy slide to frame the corrugated iron verandah roof.  The party walls themselves are topped by urns and encrusted in interesting patterns and scroll corbels.

The upper verandahs were unsympathetically closed in to create a balcony flat during a front renovation sometime in 19292.  These balconies are currently in decay, with much of the iron lacework rusted.  The balcony lacework bows out slightly in a similar curve effect to the verandah roof.  While the mid terrace features a central cast iron column with brackets to balance the heavier looking mass with pendants on either side to balance, the lower fringe of the flanking terraces features central pendants in its place appearing somewhat lighter and narrower.

The terraces are built up to the property line with a cast iron fence and the ground level has triple arched double hung windows with spiral cast iron columns in a Palladian motif.  The main door sits within an arched frame.

Of the houses, probably only the mid terrace 19 Ormond Street has a mildly interesting history.  In 1904, two men boarding at the house were committed for theft and pawning of the owner’s, Alexander John McFye of Queensland’s possessions. 3 The Murray family lived in this house during the 1940s. 4

The terraces are unfortunately very run down, however a full restoration may also remove some of their appeal.

  1. http://www.library.usyd.edu.au/libraries/rare/bax/FromSailingShipstoSteamItemsfromtheAllanEBaxCollectionofMaritimeHistory/parkinsobraonphotograph.html
  2. The Sydney Morning Herald (pg 6) Saturday 16 November 1929
  3. The Sydney Morning Herald (pg 4). 11 March, 1904
  4. The Sydney Morning Herald (pg 8). 10 April, 1944

7 Responses to “Sobraon: 17-21 Ormond Street, Paddington, New South Wales”

  • Sally:

    I love these Terrace Houses and probably half of Paddington would love to take a peak inside. I walk up this street most days, and get great pleasure out of seeing these beauties in their untouched glory.

  • peter:

    I am a newly arrived resident of 17 ormond street and would love to find out more about the history of the place. there is much scuttlebut pertaining to the three terraces which has been had to verify. If anyone has any facts about the houses I’d love to here them

  • Vicky Les:

    Please never restore these…..we cant see Time but through these unrestored terraces we can see the effects of time !

  • Felix:

    Are you for real Vicky ? This dump looks like its just survived the Christchurch earthquake. I say pull this junk down nd bild something modern that represents the real Aussie spirit !

  • Cameron:

    I lived in 19 Ormond in the 1980s when at art school at East Sydney Tech..it was occupied by artists mainly at that time a left over from bohemian Paddington of an earlier period before the renovators took over..amazed too see it hasnt changed. originally it was owned by the Navy in the Victorian era it was accommodation for cadets or similar maybe young officers was the story we heard back then. Much of the older parts were in tact with the renovations probably from the C1930s or similar present. The original building must have quite a place in its day, though t its condition had deteriorated the upper parts of 19 were condemned as unfit to live, though the rooms would be great if a little work had been done. The very top of 19 had a small room with a 360 view of all around Sydney. i had a room out the back on the first floor which had its own terrace and closing french doors it was a great little space. I also lived in the larger room on the ground floor of 19 which had very high ceilings typical of Victorian era buildings. The building was own by a lady called Mrs Shea (sic) who came each week to collect the rent. She seemed to be happy to have artists there she was a very pleasant person very kind to the artists living there. Her son was also a pleasant fellow who would have acquired the property is my guess he would come over at times do some work there. Probably to renovate would be costly. We use to call it Cockroach Castle lol – despite its run down state I actually have some great memories there it actually had several well known artists from around Sydney live there at times. Basically it was built by the Navy in the Victorian era which may also explain the nautical name. Back in its day it would have been one of the main buildings in that street., Remember Paddington was a slum for a number of years before the renovations happened in the 80s it was bohemian and artists and hippies every where .this was left over from that era i am amazed it hasnt had some developer snap it up do the usual nouvea rische renovations typical of that area. Hope that helped give a little insight I was 21 yo at the time so was sort of roughing at art school it was a fascinating place back in the day though i wouldnt care to live there these days 🙂

  • Cameron:

    Just did a little research and found that Sobraon was a training ship part of a nautical reform training for way ward boys in the Victorian era – a brief quote from an article – “From the mid-1860s, the government set up ‘nautical school ships’ as reformatories for wayward or neglected boys. On board these ships, the boys were given nautical and industrial training and instruction, elementary schooling and ‘moral training’. One of the key aims was to provide sufficient training to give the boys an opportunity to obtain meaningful employment after they left the ship.”

    “The first of these ships was the ‘Vernon’, which was succeeded by the ‘Sobraon’ in 1892. This system lasted until 1911, by which time all the remaining boys had been discharged, apprenticed, or sent to land-based institutions.”

    So Soboran the terrace house most likely housed the boys in this reform schooling – it certainly fits in with what we heard back in the 1980s it was some thing a long these lines, it would also explain the large institutional scale of the terraces

    http://gallery.records.nsw.gov.au/index.php/galleries/50-years-at-state-records-nsw/4-02/
    http://www.findandconnect.gov.au/guide/nsw/NE01079

  • Georgia:

    Does anyone know who currently owns these terraces? They are very iconic on Ormond St and seem to be full of people

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