Abercrombie House | NSW Environment & Heritage

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Heritage

Abercrombie House

Item details

Name of item: Abercrombie House
Other name/s: ‘Mount Pleasant Estate’, Or The ‘Mount’
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Residential buildings (private)
Category: Homestead building
Primary address: 311 Ophir Road, Stewarts Mount, NSW 2795
Parish: Mount Pleasant
County: Bathurst
Local govt. area: Bathurst Regional
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
311 Ophir RoadStewarts MountBathurst RegionalMount PleasantBathurstPrimary Address

Statement of significance:

An important house in its association with Major General Stewart and his heirs. Also an excellent example of the Victorian Tudor style which in an English traditional style that sought a nostalgic view of Britain and the time of Henry VIII. Though the Scottish baronial idiom was popular in the Pastoral Boom period of 1870s. This country family mansion settled high on a hill side overlooking a broad landscape was the perfect subject.
Date significance updated: 05 Dec 06
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.

Description

Designer/Maker: Mansfield Bros,after Calvert Vauz ( design)-1873 to 1878, Mathew Sadlier (early super. architect )
Builder/Maker: David Jones
Construction years: 1870-1878
Physical description: A large two storied residence which is an exemplar of Victorian Tudor style which is a Britsh traditional style that sought a nostalgic view of England and Scotland and the time of Henry VIII. (English and Scottish architecture of the 16th century and attempted to produce buildings that were picturesque and human in scale, and this country family mansion was the perfect subject.
The walls are constructed of dimensioned stone, under a prominent stepped and gabled slate roof.
The building is basically U shaped in plan with a plethora of elaborate and exuberant details including parapeted curvilinear notched gables, caste iron finials, traceried windows, and an octagonal spire. Slate roofed verandahs to front and side elevations, and stone balustrades porch.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Excellent.
Date condition updated:12 Oct 05
Modifications and dates: 1968-69 purchased by present owners and the property name changed from 'The Mount' or 'Mount Pleasant Estate' to 'Abercrombie House'.
Current use: Residence
Former use: Residence

History

Historical notes: Prior to their dispatch to NSW in 1823 ‘The Buffs’, or 3rd Regiment of Foot had served with distinction in the Peninsular War Campaign under the command of Lieutenant Colonel William Stewart. Stewart was declared ‘The Hero of Albuhera’ at the conclusion of a bloody encounter with Napoleon’s Army near that Spanish town on 16th May 1811 and was awarded the (very rare) Army Gold Medal inscribed Albuhera, by the Duke of Wellington.

Later the 3rd Regiment was dispatched to New South Wales under Stewart’s command. He arrived in April 1825 and on the 3rd May was sworn in as Lieutenant-Governor of the colony under Governor Brisbane, also a veteran of the Peninsular War. He was appointed to the Legislative Council and the Land Board and served as acting Governor for the 18 day period between the departure of Brisbane and the arrival of Governor Darling.

In December 1825 Stewart established a corps of mounted police and dispatched it to Bathurst after the commandant, Major Morisset had reported the problem of convict ‘bolters’ or ‘bushrangers’ committing crimes across the district. The activities of this mounted force were in great measure responsible for a period of comparative quiet during the next few years. This corps, known as ‘Stewart’s Police’ evolved later into the NSW Mounted Police. He also established the first postal regulations in NSW.

Early in 1827 Governor Darling asked Stewart to take up a land grant of 3,000 acres which had been promised to him by Governor Brisbane acknowledging his service to the Crown as Commander of the 3rd Regiment and through holding public office (second in command) in NSW. Stewart had resisted taking up a grant while he was serving on the Land Board in Sydney because of the conflict of interest this action would have caused him.
Stewart had sought land at Parramatta but Darling persuaded him to travel to Bathurst and make the first selection west of the township of Bathurst.

By March 1827 Stewart had selected and been granted 3,200 acres in the parish of Mount Pleasant, adjoinng Bathurst, and purchased a further 12,160 acres (the remainder of the Parish) totalling 15,360 acres or 36 square miles. All of this land, which included the picturesque ‘Mount Pleasant’ named by Surveyor Evans in December 1813, had been Government Domain, carrying the government flocks and herds since 1815 with their attendant convict shepherds and Mount Pleasant itself had been highly significant to the Wiradjuri people who continued to gather there for ceremonies up to 1845.

In November 1827 Stewart and his Regiment were dispatched to India where he assumed the Presidency of Bengal, giving him military command of India. Stewart retired as a Major-General and in January 1832 returned to NSW. His family followed him from Caithness, Scotland arriving in 1834.

The property boundary was surveyed by James Byrn Richards during these years. The construction of the original homestead ‘Strath’, and a complex of outbuildings, had begun in 1827 and was complete by 1932. This was a large vernacular Georgian house of red sandstone bricks made on the site with ‘gothic’ fortified battlements and symmetrical squat towers on each end of the south face of the building. At the time of construction there were no other permanent (brick) structures to the west of ‘Strath’ in the Australian interior making this homestead, for several years, the literal frontier of permanent settlement. ‘Strath’ was in fairly close proximity to ‘Westbourne’, the last dwelling of Stewart’s friend and neighbour Captain John Piper. These two men built a ford across the Macquarie River between their properties in the 1830’s.

Stewart was an active contributor to the life and settlement of Bathurst and was a founder of its Presbyterian Church laying its foundation stone on 30th April 1834 and also served as a Magistrte. His compassion for the welfare of convicts was widely known and he was often approached by them when they needed help. Stewart died in April 1854.

James Horne Stewart inherited the property and immediately set out to develop and intensify its farming activities resulting in the establishment of up to 120 tenant farms on 12,000 acres of the estate and the creation of the villages of Dunkeld and Evans Plains (for the Village of Mount Pleasant) by the mid 1850’s, right in the centre of the estate.

James Stewart demolished two thirds of ‘Strath’ in 1969 on the death of his mother, General Stewart’s widow, and commenced building ‘The Mount’ (Abercrombie House) in 1870 using granite rock quarried on the site of the house, supplementing its construction with materials salvaged from the partial demolition of his father’s house nearby. ‘The Mount’ (Abercrombie House) was completed in 1878. It’s design closely follows, but is an enlargement of a pattern published in ‘Villas & Cottages’ by Calvert Vauz in 1856 and is therefore a very rare example of the work of Vauz in the Australian context. Vaux is celebrated in America as the creator of Central Park in New York and a superb landscape architect. The supervising architect was Mathew Sadlier of Bathurst who died in December 1872 before the construction phase began and was replaced by George Mansfield who modified and completed the building over the next six years. The builder was David Jones who was responsible subsequently for some of Bathurst’s fine
Victorian buildings including the Court House. ‘The Mount’ was his first major project.

James Stewart was a highly successful pastoralist and strongly philanthropic in the Bathurst community with particularly long service as a deacon of the Presbyterian church, having substantially paid for the construction of the new Saint Stephens Church in the 1872 and the adjoining church hall in the early 1900s. He also paid substantially for the building of the Baptist Church in Bathurst in 1870 and constructed nearly all the public buildings in Evans Plains.

Stewart was one of the wealthiest citizens of Bathurst up until the depression of the 1890s. By 1906 he had sold about 12,000 acres of the estate (the entire southern portion to which he had applied tenant farming since the 1850s) to the developer A.C. Reid who subdivided it into 82 small farms ranging from 12 to 386 acres. Many of these farms were purchased by the former tenant farmers. Stewart died in 1920 and his wife Harriet died in 1922. Both were in their nineties. The house was vacated by the Stewart family in November 1927.

The house and 46 acres of home paddocks were bought by Rex Morgan AM, MBE, widely noted and three times nationally honoured educationalist, and Mary Morgan from James Stewart’s great grandson in late 1968 and a condition of the sale was that the name of the house be changed resulting in Morgans selection of ‘Abercrombie House’, a reference both to the shire of that name in which the property was situated and to General Sir Ralph Abercrombie, under who William Stewart had served in the 1790s in the West Indies. The Morgans embarked on a complete restoration of the house and property which is now largely finished and commenced a programme of public heritage tours of the house which has continued regularly since April 1969, making Abercrombie House one of the longest standing privately owned historic house museums in Australia.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Accommodation-Activities associated with the provision of accommodation, and particular types of accommodation – does not include architectural styles – use the theme of Creative Endeavour for such activities. Victorian period house-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Lt. Colonel William Stuart-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
An historical edifice to the Pastoral Boom years of the 1870s.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
An historical edifice to the Pastoral Boom years of the 1870s.
Important associations with Lieutenant Governor Major-General Stewart, Bathurst Pioneer and his son, highly sucessful patoralist Jeames Horne Stewart.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
An exemplar of Victorian Tudor style which in an English traditional style that sought a nostalgic view of England and the time of Henry VIII. (English and Scottish architecture of the 16th C ) and attempted to produce buildings that were picturesque and human in scale, and this country family mansion was the perfect subject. The architect usedan American pattern book design by celebrated landscape architect Calvert Vaux.
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
Extremely rare example of Vaux desing in Australia.
SHR Criteria g)
[Representativeness]
An exemplar Victorian Tudor style Country Mansion
Integrity/Intactness: Very high level of original fabric
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanAbercrombie House25419 Nov 14   
Heritage study     

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Bathurst Regional Council Heritage Review2005F/N 16Hickson in assoc. with Bathurst Regional CouncilB.J. Hickson Yes
Bathurst City Council Heritage Study1990A582Hughes Trueman LudlowHughes Trueman Ludlow No

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenApperly, Irving, Reynolds1989A Pictorial Guide to identifying Australian Architecture.
WrittenArchieves Collection Abercrombie House, Bathurst 1969-2006
WrittenBernard Greaves1964The Story of Bathurst
WrittenKerr, Joan and Broadbent, James1980Gothick Taste in the Colony of NSW
WrittenMorgan, Rex1998Abercrombie House
WrittenTheo Barker1992A History of Bathurst Vol 1
WrittenVauz, Calvert1856Villas and Cottage

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Local Government
Database number: 1080302


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