Beecroft-Cheltenham History Group

Albert Ernest Wright de Berri Wachsmann

Albert Wachsmann was born in Nelson, New Zealand, in 1874, of German and French stock. With his widowed mother, Angelina, and sister Ada, he came to Sydney between 1876 and 1880 and lived in Liverpool Street, Sydney. When he was 16 years old, Albert joined the Lands Department as a field clerk, no doubt sponsored by his stepfather Alfred Barnby. He later transferred to the Registrar-General’s Office, Land Titles Branch, where he became Chief Clerk.

In 1893 Albert married Lily Armitage in the Garrison Church, the Rocks, Sydney. They lived for a time in Mosman where their daughter Lily Dorothea was born in  1895 and later in Beecroft where a son, Ashton Albert was born in 1903.

In 1896 Albert purchased for £46 two acres of rough bushland on the southern side of Murray Road extending from Boronia Avenue to Castle Howard Road, Murray Road then being a dirt track running steeply down to and across Devlins Creek. This land was directly opposite that of his mother, Angelina Barnby. Albert built a solid redbrick house of symmetrical plan and conservative in style. Verandas on three sides had unusual hardwood lattice panels and the internal fireplaces had marble mantels and surrounds. The house was named ‘Mai-Tai’ after the river flowing through Nelson in New Zealand. In 1902 Albert purchased two adjoining acres to the south.[1]

Albert was a keen gardener and laid out a formal front garden around a semi-circular carriageway. He was later to be one of the founders and the secretary of the Horticultural Club in Beecroft. At a flower show in 1912 he exhibited a new variety of dahlia, the Collaret, as well as a magnificent collection of palms and ferns.[2]

A much respected man, Albert Wachsmann was appointed a trustee of the Village Green (1900), the amalgamated park trust (1902), the School of Arts (1906) and Cheltenham Park (1913). He was also a foundation committee member of the Cheltenham Recreation Club (1912). In his younger days, he had been a keen athlete and had run with the Botany Harriers.[3]

His lifelong interest in ornithology was fostered by the Cheltenham bush near his home and was one of the reasons for Albert buying that particular land. Apart from his knowledge of wild birds, he prized the many varieties of Australian and overseas birds which he kept in large aviaries specially built in the grounds of ‘Mai-Tai’. He learned the particular calls of the birds and could mimic them accurately. He was regarded internationally as an expert on Australian birds and he maintained a correspondence with other ornithologists throughout the world.

Lily Wachsmann played tennis with the local club, helped organise balls, was a committee member of the Parents’ and Residents’ Association and was an active member of St John’s Church. She died of tuberculosis in 1914.[4]

In 1917 Albert married Ethel Heumann, daughter of Gustav Heumann who lived in ‘Ramona’ nearby. They had one daughter, Hilda Gertrude.

Albert Wachsmann died in 1939 soon after his retirement. Some of his birds were given to his friend and fellow bird enthusiast, Anthony Hordern of ‘Milton Park’, Bowral.[5]




[1] Land Titles Office 1219/59, 1365/163; Cumberland Argus, 21 August 1897.
[2] Cumberland Argus, 26 November 1910, 6 April 1912.
[3] Cumberland Argus, 10 March 1900, 18 January 1902, 28 April 1906, 16 August 1913.
[4] Cumberland Argus, 7 October 1899, 11 May 1907, 22 December 1906.
[5] Information from Mrs Lois McEvoy and Mrs Gai Wachsmann, both of Turramurra.
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