The Leveys were influential figures within Sydney’s business community. Barnett Levey built Waverley House, the first house in the district that subsequently took its name. Barnett was the colony’s first Jewish free-settler, arriving in December 1821, on a ship transporting female convicts. His brother, Solomon, arrived as a convict in 1815, sentenced to seven years for stealing 90 lbs of tea and a wooden chest. He served only four years of his sentence, after which he began a meteoric career as a mercantile dealer, trading throughout the South Pacific, including New Zealand, where Port Levey was named after him. His triumphant and prosperous return to London in 1826 triggered Australia’s first wave of free settlers, including most of his own family.
Solomon’s wife, Ann Roberts, was the daughter of William Roberts, who owned the entire Bondi foreshore between Old South Head Road and the beach. Barnett erected an Obelisk overlooking Bondi from Bellevue Hill, which was a popular destination for day trips from Sydney. He also built the colony’s first theatre and opened it’s first book lending library. They say he was obsessed with setting the cultural foundations of the colony. Waverley House was named after his favourite novel, which depicts society through the eyes of a mediocre individual with access to various social groups. Barnett himself was a front runner in the nation’s earliest awakening to the prospect of independence. Governor Darling mentions Levey in a letter to London, identifying him as a low class troublemaker.