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News > From the Archives > From the Archives: Nelson House - The Story Behind the Name

From the Archives: Nelson House - The Story Behind the Name

13 Dec 2021
From the Archives

The building that is home to our Kindergarten and Pre-School classrooms is known as Nelson House.  As the first building to be owned by the School, 39 Wongala Crescent is particularly significant. But how did this building come into the School’s possession and why is it called Nelson House?

Carl Oscar Nelson was born in 1881. His father owned a grocery store, selling the business shortly after the birth of his son. On Valentine’s Day 1911, Carl married Lydia Hobden, the daughter of a gentleman and 13 years his senior. Initially living in the inner west and working as a labourer, Carl and his new wife were active members of Holy Trinity, Dulwich Hill. The couple later moved to Dundas, where they attended St Paul’s Carlingford and supported a range of other churches and Christian organisations within the Diocese of Sydney.

In 1946, Arden was purchased by the Church of England. The School moved from the Presbyterian Church hall in Welham Street up the road to the church hall of St John’s. As student numbers began to increase, the church hall reached its capacity and so began an active campaign to find alternative accommodation. Successive Headmistresses, Miss Margaret Rowe and Miss I. Frazer, both organised a range of fundraising activities to gather the funds needed to purchase and fit out a new property.

Sadly, on 17 August 1951, Lydia passed away after a long period of illness. Determined to honour his wife’s memory, Carl donated £3 000 to the School on two conditions. Firstly, it had to be used to purchase 69 Railway Parade, Beecroft, and secondly, the School had to be willing to pay off the £3 000 remaining on the property. These conditions were agreed to and thus Arden secured a permanent home.

After some minor repairs and refurbishments, including painting, new guttering, and toilets, staff and students moved into the new school building at the beginning of Term 1 1952. This significant moment in the School’s history was celebrated with an official opening and dedication on 1 March 1952 by the Archbishop of Sydney, the Most Reverend Howard Mowll. The plaque unveiled at the opening read:

A living memorial to

Lydia Nelson

Whose life was devoted to the service of the Master.


The official opening concluded with a buffet-style afternoon tea on the lawn.

In mid-1952, Carl generously donated the remaining £3 000, paying off the debt on Nelson House. His generosity put Arden on a solid financial footing and ensured the School’s future in Beecroft. Regrettably, Carl died on 27 August 1953 at Ryde District Hospital, aged 71. His legacy, however, remains evident today.

Do you have memories or memorabilia relating to Nelson House? As Arden’s Centenary approaches in 2022, the Archives welcomes donations of relevant memorabilia and reminisces from members of our School Community. This includes contemporary items as these will become tomorrow’s history. If you feel you have something that may be of interest, the Archives would appreciate hearing from you. Please get in touch by email:

Photo: Carl Nelson (seated, far right) with invited guests at the official opening of Nelson House.

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