Newspaper arcticle about Cliftoria and its builder

Clifftoria -from postcard
I discovered an article written in August 1937 about Cliftoria’s builder. It is really quite interesting.

There is a bit about Daniel Kennedy, the plasterer/builder of Cliftoria, wife’s relatives. I had to look up what a daily semptress was and that is another word for a daily seamstress, which is a person who makes their living from sewing. Also about how he was the first person to bring iron bed frames into the town.

There is quite a lot about his secret cement recipe. It is fascinating to know that a bolting horse once broke a cart against one of the columns out the front. The stables and men’s quarters have gone as the houses on both sides of the house are much younger. I hadn’t heard that the kitchen cottage out the back was convict built. This is the building we are calling the studio. Maybe some of it was as it has been altered over time. The cottage building had been stripped of everything inside of it including several large sinks. There is no sign of the mentioned bath. I have changed Clarisville to Cliftoria in the article as I think she remembered the name wrong after so many years.

Without further ado here is the article.


Cement like Iron

Live Oyster Shell

The seepage from Burrinjuck brings up the subject of cement, and cement recalls to me a secret which has been lost to the world, writes Mary Gilmore in “The Sydney Morning Herald.”

Daniel Kennedy was a genius born out of his time. He died a broken man. He was a distant connexion of my father, who was married to a Croke. I knew of this because I recollect hearing father say – and to him a beggar with a long pedigree was more important than a King with a shorter one – that “though Kennedy had married into a family that was poor, it had roots.”

There were three brothers Croke. One was the great Archbishop Croke of Dublin, one that was Lord Mayor after whom Croke Park (Dublin) was named and the third one, apparently without the ability of these two, who was sent out to Australia with an allowance to make a start on his own account.

In Goulburn, about 1920, I met one of the most beautiful girls I have ever seen. Painters seeing her said she might well have been the original of the Sistine Madonna, as hers was so like the face in the picture. She was a daily semptress, a granddaughter of the original Croke, and knew nothing of her ancestry in Ireland till I told her of it. But if ever beauty, spiritual as well as physical, was made manifest in the flesh, it was in this girl. It was her aunt whom Daniel Kennedy had married.


The secret of Daniel Kennedy’s discovery was never told and never written. He carried his formula in his head, and certain parts of his work he did himself so that his workmen would not guess it-or so he told my father when he came to Wagga Wagga in the middle seventies to ask father to go into partnership with him.

In Goulburn in the 1920’s I saw some of his machinery rusting on the ground at the side of his great Georgian mansion, Cliftoria. This building had been erected on the site of and what was said to be the original Marsden convict-built cottage at Goulburn, the cottage being the kitchen. In it is still the bath that was perhaps the first one over the mountains that was not a wooden one or a tin tub. It looked like an excavation, ground out of solid rock.

Cliftoria was built three stories high, and with a broad colonnade in front. At the side were the stables and the men’s quarters. The men’s rooms were furnished with an iron bedstead, a chest of drawers, and a floor mat for each man, “as good as those in his own house,” it was said. Kennedy told father that he believed that any man doing his work should be well housed. The iron bedsteads he brought from the U.S.A., where he had gone to buy machinery that he could not then get in Australia.

As he had to bring the bedsteads back with him, they were probably the first iron ones to reach there. They were so alien to the times that people talking of them remarked that they would be cold to sleep in and not warm like cedar. Dan Kennedy’s reply was that they might be cold, but that they could be kept free of vermin, for they could be scalded without destroying the polish,


The pillars on the front of Cliftoria are of the cement Dan Kennedy made. They are enormously thick, and no ordinary tool will more than mark them: while Goulburn tells a story of a bolting cart that bumped into one, and though the cart broke, the pillar it hit was not even marked. The flags that floor the colonnade, and also the courtyard between the kitchen and the house, are of the same material; and these flags are as smooth after over 60 years (and perhaps more) as when they were first put down.

I remember my father, about 1882, urging Kennedy to write the formula, as he might get a knock or a fall and forget what it was. “Even if I did,” said Kennedy, “it is so simple that I could rediscover it from the materials of which it is made.”

Besides Cliftoria, there is a villa in Sloan Street that once belonged to Dr Sinclair, a well-known medical man of his day. It is a typical Dan Kennedy building of the opposite kind from Cliftoria, being as light and graceful in design as the other is massive and heavy. A builder, whose name I have forgotten, bought it in later years. Being at the place one day, I told him that I recognised the style and the substance in the delicate and slender veranda pillars.

“But they are iron.” exclaimed the builder-owner. “No cement could be as fine as they are; it would break.”

“They are cement,” I repeated, laying my hand on one for the reassuring feel of the material. “You get a file or a knife,” I added, “and try if they are iron”

He took out a knife. “You are right!” he said, as he filed at an edge, and was as eager as the others to know how the composition was made.


In the middle part of Goulburn, or near it, is a subterranean water-way above which was, or is, built one of the old inns of the early days. When I was a little girl I heard Dan Kennedy describe how he made it; I heard another man describe it in July of this year. A cart can go through it, it is so big; but 60 years of creek water running through it has not made a mark on either the pavement or the walls.

In Sydney at Miller’s Point there were slender fluted pillars in what in my young years were still doctors’ residences. About 1887, father, wanting to renew his acquaintance with them, took me to have a look at them so that I would know them as Dan Kennedy’s work. When, in some rebuilding or resumption, these places were pulled down, they were the wonder of the building trade, because it was not till wrecking took place that it was discovered that the pillars were not iron.

The only thing that I know of the mixture is that Kennedy used live shell.

But, as this was the custom then, this was not singular. I remember it was said that the oysters cried as they went into the furnace, a little thin sound like a wire might make. We drove out once to see the kilns and watched the sacks of oysters being emptied into the furnaces. The only sound I heard (and as a child certain sounds made music for me not apparent to others-frogs in a pond, for instance) was the rhythmic rattle of the shell as it poured in. There was a hiss of steam as the oysters suddenly evaporated in the heat.

“Were the oysters hurt?” I asked, and was not consoled by being told that they were dead before they had time to feel, for I was unable to see how they could not feel.

As I have said, all builders used live shell at one time. Advertisements for tenders always called for live shell to be used, and the makers of lime advertised “made of live shell.” So it may be that in the proportion used lay the secret of Dan Kennedy’s cement. But having in mind what analysis can do today, remembering that examples of his making can still be seen in Goulburn, and realising that cement means to Burrinjuck and other similar reservoirs, it might be well to investigate and perhaps find the secret.

Because anything that might be of national worth has always meant so much to me, it may be that I set too high a value on the Kennedy discovery; but at least, the facts speak in the flags and pillars still to be found in Goulburn, and which have never been duplicated by anyone but the original maker.

Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld.: 1878 – 1954) Monday 30 August 1937 p 14 Article

The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW: 1842 – 1954) Saturday 21 August 1937 p 13 Article

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