Harris Dynasty

Surgeon John Harris came to Sydney in 1790 with the NSW Corps. Like other officers he joined factions, quarrelled, embezzled funds and was court-martialled. He was granted a large amount of land, named it Ultimo and developed it as an English country house.

Having no children, he bequeathed his estate to the children of his two brothers, provided that his heirs were legitimate and named John. Thus the estate was divided between two nephews (John II and John III) who came from Ulster to take up their inheritances. Only John II concerns us: he and his wife produced six children, three of whom played leading roles in public life: John IV, Matthew and Margaret. The others were George, Mary Ann (who died young) and William Henry.

John IV (1838-1911) lived at Bulwarra House, Ultimo, and in 1874 began his public career in the City Council, where he enjoyed five terms as mayor.  He was also elected to the House of Assembly. One son (Reginald) served as a City Alderman, and a grandson (John V) was mayor of Kuring-gai and a Sydney City Alderman in the 1970s.

 Meanwhile Matthew (1842-1917) built Warrane at Crown Road from which he managed his estate. He was elected from Denison to the Municipal Council in 1883: he was mayor three times, was knighted in 1899, but tried in vain to extend the Council’s powers, and was criticised when the bubonic plague erupted. He moved from Ultimo to Darling Point, where he died in 1917.

Margaret Harris, born in 1844, created Littlebridge as her home in William Henry Street and devoted her life to charities, her many friends, and her brothers’ children. Presbyterians, the National Council of Women, the Mission to Seamen and various hospitals were among the charities she funded.

And John VI, solicitor and historian, is a productive and inspirational member of the Pyrmont History Group.