Grossman House, originally known by the name of Entcliffe, was built in 1870-71 by Isaac Beckett, a local merchant.
Adjoining it, Beckett’s business partner and close friend, Samuel Owen, built for his own family, the mirror-image Brough House (named for his wife Margaret’s family home in England).After emigrating to Maitland from Sheffield, England, Beckett and Owen established a business partnership in 1839, Owen and Company, which later became Owen and Beckett, one of the largest merchant businesses in the district. Owen and Beckett jointly purchased a block of land fronting onto prestigious Church Street, Maitland, and commissioned a local architect, William White, to design two family homes.
The two houses, which were to become Grossman and Brough Houses, were designed to mirror each other exactly. The two properties share a common laundry and the entrance doors to each house are on the outer side wall, rather than facing the street.
In 1880, according to the Certificate of Title, Isaac Beckett transferred ownership of Entcliffe to his wife, Caroline, who died in 1884, bequeathing the house to their eldest son, Thomas Cooper Beckett.
Isaac remained in the house until his death four years later.The property was sold to J. D. Prentice in 1890 and then, in 1893, was acquired by the Department of Public Instruction for the West Maitland Girls’ Public High school, which was one of only four public High Schools in NSW at the time. The Headmistress, Miss J.G. (Janette Grace) Grossman, who transformed the school into one of the most respected institutions in the community resided upstairs. The ground floor was turned into classrooms in time for first term of 1894 and the school catered for fifty students.
The Department of Education carried out structural alterations in 1918, removing architectural elements to increase space and allow safe functioning as a school. Brough House was acquired in 1919 as a hostel for out of area students. Despite this additional space, the school became overcrowded and, in 1939, was joined with the Domestic Science school next door. In 1963 the school was relocated to new premises in East Maitland. (see Cumberland Hall)
In 1935, Entcliffe was renamed in honour of Miss Grossman’s long and distinguished association with the school.
The NSW Department of Education granted authority and occupancy of both Houses to the Hunter Regional Committee of the National Trust in 1964, after which Grossman House was developed as a museum, opening to the public on 4 June 1966.
Between 1974 and 2004, the property was leased by the Hunter Regional Committee to Maitland City Council to house both the Maitland Regional Art Gallery and the Maitland Conservatorium of Music.
In 2000 the National Trust received a $600,000 grant to conserve Grossman House. As a result, Grossman House underwent a programme of restoration and refurbishment.
Grossman House now holds an extensive collection of textiles and garments originating in and reflecting Maitland’s social and industrial history of the 19th century. The National Trust of Australia (NSW) has interpreted the property to reflect the typical character of a Victorian middle-class family. The house features Georgian colonial architecture and comprises an entrance hall, drawing, dining and breakfast rooms, butler’s pantry, upstairs hall, principal bedroom, nursery, kitchen and a rear garden and laundry, all of which retain their Victorian character with period furniture and features. The National Trust (NSW) has obtained authentic furniture and objects from a variety of sources, including donors and bequests. Today Grossman House has been restored to its original form, representing a period of prosperity in Maitland in the19th century.
For some decades, the spelling of Grossman was shown as ending with a double ‘nn’, however Miss Grossman’s obituary of 7 January 1924 in the Sydney Morning Herald, as well as her death certificate, use a single ‘n’. The name of the property in Church Street was changed from Grossmann to Grossman House by the National Trust in 2007, however some local use maintains the double ‘nn’, such as Maitland Grossmann High School.