The Center of the Esoteric School of Theosophy in Australia, the Manor is a large private house situated in Mosman, Sydney, Australia. It overlooks picturesque Sydney Harbor and is surrounded on two sides by a national park. The building is spacious with side verandas and large rooms.
The Manor in the 1920s
The Manor was built about 1912 by a Mr. Bakewell, who owned a brick and tile factory. He had built it as a residence for his family; but, to his disappointment, the family did not wish to use the house as he had intended. A group of Theosophists lived in Mosman and some surrounding suburbs in the early 1920s. One of them, Lucius Van Gelder, had an idea for an experimental community to make life more "reasonable, cheaper, and more useful" for the families and individuals concerned. It was suggested that the group occupy the house built by Bakewell. Charles Leadbeater, a prominent Theosophist of the day and a bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church, arrived in Sydney about this time. He recognized the house's possibilities as a community home and declared his willingness to come and live there himself. Consequently, a three-year lease was signed; and on August 3, 1922, several people moved in. Leadbeater, who became the focus for the community, invited Van Gelder to assume the task of managing it; and the residence became known as "The Manor."
On January 9, 1925, the property was purchased from its owner for £14,000, and a trust was formed, whose purposes were "the formation of a spiritual center where people may be trained in religious matters and the formation of a community based on Theosophical ideals." The appointment of trustees was placed in the hands of Annie Besant, then the International President of the Theosophical Society, and her successors.
In 1936, a company called the Manor Foundation was formed to act for the property as a permanent trustee, agent, and representative of the Esoteric School of Theosophy. Thus the Manor became an official center of the Esoteric School, whose Head is officially the Head of the Manor and who appoints a resident head to oversee the running of the community. The Manor is maintained through private funding, legacies, and rent from individuals who stay there.
It is of historical interest that radio station 2GB began its life in 1926 using the Manor grounds and two outlying cottages on the Manor property. 2GB was begun by a group of Theosophists, the letters "GB" being adopted to commemorate the name of Giordano Bruno, a martyr whom the Inquisition burnt at the stake in 1600. The station moved to other premises in the mid-1930s and eventually passed into commercial hands.
Recent photo of The Manor*
The Manor has been used over the years as a residence and also as a center for spiritual retreat and the teaching of Theosophy. The number of permanent residents and the extent of the activities held at the Manor have varied over the years. Seminars, study groups, and retreats are conducted there, as well as other activities, such as meetings of the Order of the Round Table. On the ground floor of the Manor, a small chapel is the site of Liberal Catholic Church services. Visitors often remark the Manor’s peaceful atmosphere, built up increasingly over the years.
*Thanks to Dianne Kynaston and Dai Trandang