Walter Renny was born in England in c1828. He emigrated to Australia in 1853 on the Strathfieldsaye. He married Mary Ann White at Balmain in 1857; no children of the marriage have been identified. Renny spent his later years living with his sister in William Street, and also lived in Melbourne. He went on a world tour in 1878, but died at his mother’s house in London on 24 June 1878 aged 49 years old.
Occupation & interests
In 1858, Walter Renny, painter, had premises at 380 Brougham Street. From 1863 he was a painter and paperhanger at 170 Pitt Street. In 1867 he offered samples of imitation stained glass to Henry Parkes. In 1873 his business was described as an oil, colour, glass, and paper-hanging warehouse. The flamboyant painter advertised his decorative skills by painting blocks of blue and white on his premises near the corner of Pitt and King Streets. This establishment became famous as the Blue House and earned him the nickname of Royal Blue Renny.
In 1868, Strathfieldsaye was built for him at Burwood, the name inspired by the Duke of Wellington’s English home. It was later known as Strathfield House and the name was adopted for the new Municipality of Strathfield on 2 June 1885. He is also remembered by a pair of sandstone gateposts at the Bridge Street entrance to Macquarie Place Park and two drinking fountains in Moore Park and Argyle Place. He was also the namesake for Mount Rennie (sic) in Moore Park.
Renny was a Justice of the Peace (JP). He was a member of the Sydney Lodge of Mark Master Masons No 25, and was also a champion marksman.
Local government service
Walter Renny was Alderman for Bourke Ward, 1 December 1863 to 30 November 1865 and 1 December 1866 to 30 November 1870. Renny was Mayor in 1869-70. During his mayoralty, Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, was entertained by Sydney Council at a specially erected pavilion in Hyde Park.
City of Sydney Archives: Aldermen’s Files; Photo: THC 90/011
Walter Renny, Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW, ML 1062, https://collection.sl.nsw.gov.au/record/n7o7Qp3n
Mary Ann Renny, Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW, ML 1063, https://collection.sl.nsw.gov.au/record/nV2pd5qn
Walter Renny letter-diary to his parents relating to voyage to Australia on Strathfieldsaye, 1853, with related material, 1857-1896, State Library of NSW, MLMSS 5627, https://collection.sl.nsw.gov.au/record/1LjR46D9
Terri McCormack, ‘Renny, Walter’, Dictionary of Sydney, 2012, http://www.dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/entry/renny_walter, viewed 05 December 2012
‘Walter Renny’, Design and Art Australia Online, http://www.daao.org.au/bio/walter-renny, viewed 5 July 2021
Hughes, Joy (ed) 1999, Demolished Houses of Sydney, Historic Houses Trust of NSW, Glebe
Leichhardt Historical Journal Volume 12
Strathfield District Historical Society Newsletter Vol 10 No 10 June 1988
‘A HO(A)RSE LAUGH AT A MAYOR’S FEAST’, Sydney Punch, 4 September 1869, p. 7, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article253224202
‘Moore Park’, Sydney Morning Herald, 15 June 1870, p. 2, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article28420248
‘Family Notices’, The Argus, 13 August 1878, p. 1, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5944051
‘Death of Mr. Walter Renny’, Evening News, 17 August 1878, p. 3, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article107949632