The Golden Decade of Australian Architecture

The Work of John Verge

Authors: James Broadbent, Ian Evans, Chris Lucas

Text by James Broadbent
Photography by Max Dupain
John Verge (1782-1861) by Ian Evans
The Architecture of John Verge by Clive Lucas

This book discusses 27 properties built by John Verge in the 1800s. Of those, Allan Cunningham spent many pleasant hours in at least two. One was the home of Hannibal Macarthur, The Vineyard (built 1835) and the other was the home of his friend, the Colonial Secretary Alexander Macleay, Elizabeth Bay House (built 1835).

The John Verge houses were built after Allan left Australia in 1831. When he returned in 1837 he found his friends had built magnificent homes and the colony showed much progress.

A study of the colonial architecture of the time gives the researcher a sense of the environment within which Allan Cunningham lived.

On the inside cover of the book, the author explains:

“Many of the most beautiful and impressive buildings which form Australia’s architectural heritage are the work of John Verge. Among these are Camden Park, designed and built for John Macarthur and Elizabeth Bay House for Colonial Secretary Alexander Macleay. John Verge has been described as the architectural giant of New South Wales.

“A Scholarly text by architectural historian James Broadbent and ninety superb photographs (reproduced in duotone) by Max Dupain, Australia’s leading architectural photographer, provide a detailed and evocative survey of Verge’s work. A short biography by Ian Evans and an evaluation of Verge’s architectural contribution by architect Clive Lucas, together with measured drawings and eleven of Verge’s own plans, make The Golden Decade of Australian Architecture a most comprehensive study.”


James Broadbent is well-known as an historian and conservationist. His study has been the history of New South Wales’ colonial houses, their furnishings and gardens, and the society that built and lived in them. Through his work as a museum and exhibition curator, as a lecturer – and as an author – he has promoted the significance of these houses and campaigned for their conservation.

Dr Broadbent graduated in Architecture from the University of Sydney, then studied Fine Arts at the same university before reading for his Doctorate of Philosophy in the Department of History at the Australian National University.

Dr Broadbent has expanded the field of colonial studies with his writings and exhibitions and has defined the role of the house museum in Australia, notably with his establishment of the museums at: Elizabeth Bay House, Sydney;Elizabeth Farm, Parramatta;
Rouse Hill House, Rouse Hill; andDundullimal, Dubbo.

Another of his publications is The Australian Colonial House

He has written and lectured widely on nineteenth-century houses and gardens, conservation philosophy and practice, early colonial society and taste, and early colonial trade, decorative arts and furnishings. Through articles, lectures and seminars, he has established a reputation for his erudition and incisive wit.

James Broadbent lives at The Cottage, Mulgoa (c1810), an important early bungalow which he has saved from dereliction

First published in Australia in 1978 by
The David Ell Press Pty Ltd,
12 Mark Street, Hunters Hill
Copyright © The Elizabeth Bay House Trust

ISBN 0908197004