Serial renovators Elizabeth and Patrick Brennan have found a wonderful new focus for their creative energies in a historic homestead in Sydney’s south-west

Growing up in Dublin, it is unlikely that Professor Patrick Brennan would have guessed that his life and that of the notorious bushranger, Bold Jack Donohoe, would have crossed paths as he listened to the ballad of The Wild Colonial Boy. But cross they did in the historic setting of Bringelly, some 60 kilometres from Farm Cove, which was the site of the colony’s first farm in the centre of Sydney.

Situated in a private but elevated spot is the heritage-listed homestead of Kelvin, previously known as Cottage Vale and The Retreat. Built in 1820 by the notable early soldier and farmer, Thomas Laycock Jnr., the homestead is one of the few remaining historic homes within commuting distance of Sydney still in residential use. As the current owners, the Brennan family are dedicated to restoring the magnificent dwelling to its former glory.

Patrick, his wife, Elizabeth, and children John, Beth, Anna and Eoin moved to Australia just four years ago and Kelvin is already their third property. “We are serial movers,” explains Elizabeth. “We met in my home town of Ipswich but have also lived in Dublin and Belfast, where our two oldest children were born.”


The Brennans are also serial renovators and have honed their skills on a farmhouse in Ireland, a Victorian terrace in Dublin, a Georgian house on the Norfolk/Suffolk border and a 15th-century villa in Tuscany, which they have kept as a holiday house and rental property.

It was while living in Norwich in the UK that Patrick was offered a post at the University of Sydney to head up the Faculty of Health Sciences, and the family jumped at the chance to up sticks once more. Settling on Sydney’s north shore, first in St Ives and then Wahroonga, Elizabeth says that although they were both lovely houses, she felt there was something missing, and that was space. Patrick found the Kelvin property on the internet and soon after the Brennans were on the move again.

The complete story was originally published in Australian Country issue 16.4. Click here to subscribe to our magazine.

Click here for more home and interior stories.

Words Peter Hinton
Photography Ken Brass
Styling Sandra Hinton