In 1832 merchant and pastoralist John Betts purchased six acres with boat access to Black-wattle Swamp from Charles Cowper. Here he constructed The Wilderness, a single-storey seven-room shingle-roofed brick cottage. A letter written by Betts’ mother in 1836 tells of living there while waiting for her house Kew Cottage to be built next door.

The Betts family were devout Anglicans and contributed to the fabric of Christ Church St Laurence and, later, St John’s Glebe. John Betts died aged 41 in 1846. His furniture, horses, gig and carriages were auctioned and the “commodious and gentlemanly residence” advertised for rent. There were open paddocks plus “an ornamental and pleasure garden”, kitchen garden, vineyard, coach house and stables.

In 1853 The Wilderness was sold to wealthy ex-convict bookseller William Moffitt who preferred city life and never resided there but leased it.

First Chair of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy Morris Birkbeck Pell and his wife Julia occupied the house for a number of years with John Smith, Professor of Chemistry. Smith was also an avid amateur photographer and some of his surviving photographs picture the house and nearby Blackwattle Bay.

After the death of William Moffitt in 1874, the property was subdivided. A handsome row of 16 residences Palmerston Terrace was completed on the Glebe Point Road frontage by 1884. At the same time the old house was demolished and new thoroughfares, including Lombard Street, created.