St Brigid's Balcony Interior 1935 now home to Gallery 1

St Brigid's balcony interior 1935, now home to Gallery 1

The story of St Brigid’s began with its older and somewhat grander neighbour Redleaf, a Victorian Italianate mansion built for William Benjamin Walker in 1863, now home to the Woollahra Municipal Council Chambers and Customer Service Centre. Frederic Lassetter acquired Redleaf in 1891, and in 1897 had a new, smaller dwelling constructed on its grounds for his son Arthur.

Ownership was transferred to the Moulder family in 1913. A number of photographs survive where the building’s recognisable features are foregrounded by scenes of family life and social occasions. During the Moulder’s time, the interior was lavishly ornamented with the dark wallpapers, heavy furniture and soft furnishings popular during the Edwardian era. The arrangement of internal spaces was likely hierarchical, with the upper floor designated for family and the lower floor reserved for domestic staff.

St Brigid’s continued as a home until 1951 when the land and properties were acquired by Woollahra Council. In 1952, the building became a centre of art and culture when Woollahra Art Centre occupied its space. Embracing the surrounding gardens, the centre included an open-air theatre for children.

In 1953 St Brigid's played an important part in Australian modern history, as it took on the role of headquarters for The Royal Commission on Espionage, which investigated Soviet espionage in Australia.

In 1955, Woollahra Municipal Library opened in the building’s garage before moving into the building. For the next 61 years the space, known as Double Bay Library, was frequented by local families who appreciated the library’s holdings and beautiful surroundings. St Brigid’s remains cherished by many for this very reason.

The Double Bay Library was relocated to a new purpose-built facility in Double Bay in 2016. Following the Council resolution in September 2018, St Brigid’s was sympathetically restored, and in 2021 began a new life as Woollahra Gallery at Redleaf, led in its early years by the first Gallery Director, Sebastian Goldspink. The Gallery was awarded the Leo Kelly OAM Arts and Culture Award as part of the 2022 NSW Local Government Week Awards.