The north-eastern garden of Sancta Sophia College contains an outstanding specimen of the native Deciduous Fig (Ficus superba var. henneana). This particular specimen has two main trunks growing from a massive buttressed base (4.0m in diameter). The tree has an expansive canopy (25 metres in diameter) and stands 18 metres in height. This species is an interesting component of some of the City’s major parks. The two large Lemon-scented Gums (Corymbia citriodora), located within a mixed row planting along the Missenden Road frontage, also have local significance in this context.
The grounds of the University of Sydney contain an exceptional collection of significant trees, many of which are important elements in association with heritage listed buildings and road precincts. A number of places and items are scheduled on the Register of the National Estate, the State Heritage Register, City of Sydney Local Environmental Plan 2012 and classified by the National Trust of Australia (NSW). At a group level, the significant trees within the University are considered to be one of the City of Sydney’s more important collections in terms of the special combination of aesthetic, scientific, botanic, historic, social and commemorative values.
Many of these trees are of exceptional value, creating landscapes of high visual and aesthetic quality and a unique sense of place. The University’s significant trees are typically associated with the curtilage of historic buildings, building facades, boundaries to colleges and along the campus boundaries, ovals and sportsgrounds, internal roadways and pedestrian walkways, courtyards and a broad range of ancillary spaces. These trees tell the stories and aspirations of people. They also provide historic markers in the landscape, describing the way the campus developed over time and its close links with Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and Victoria Park (refer to other listings in this Register).
Sancta Sophia College was founded as a residential college for Catholic Women in 1925, as social and educational changes facilitated higher education for women, it was expected that more women from rural as well as urban centres would enrol at the university. In November 1923 the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Michael Kelly and the Bishops of New South Wales issued a pastoral letter that drew attention to the advantages of university education for the Catholic community and announced that a Catholic Women’s College would be built.
The foundation stone of the Hall of Residence was laid on 26 March 1925, and the name ‘Sancta Sophia’ was chosen. The first students moved into the Hall in its current location on Missenden Road, on 15 March, 1926. In 1957 Sir Mark and Lady Sheldon donated the dining hall which bears their name. Further additions have been made to the College over the years: the East Wing and kitchen were built in 1961, the Octagon building in 1963; the McDonald Wing in 1970 and the Vice-Principal’s and Principal’s flats in 1990 and 1993 respectively. A detailed history of Sancta Sophia College, Wisdom Built Herself a House by Marie Kennedy RSCJ, was published in 1997.
The Deciduous Fig (Ficus superba var. henneana) is usually noted as being planted during the latter part of the nineteenth century, it is somewhat less common than the Moreton Bay Fig and Port Jackson Fig found throughout the City of Sydney LGA. 1943 aerial photos of the site reveal that the Fig was not planted prior to this time and probably dates from some time in the 1950’s. The two large Lemon-scented Gums (Corymbia citriodora) do however appear to be present in 1943 and may indicate a planting associated with the early landscaping of the College in the 1930’s.