Mw026 : Mount Wilson Conservation Precinct | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

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Mw026 : Mount Wilson Conservation Precinct

Item details

Name of item: Mw026 : Mount Wilson Conservation Precinct
Primary address: , Mount Wilson, NSW 2786
Local govt. area: Blue Mountains
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Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
 Mount WilsonBlue Mountains   Primary Address

Statement of significance:

Criterion (a) Historical

Mount Wilson has high state significance because of its unusual development as an Indian-type hill-station for a handful of wealthy businessmen, lawyers and politicians escaping in summer from the climate of Sydney and Newcastle. It preserves to an extraordinary extent the values which these nineteenth-century owners and their resident staff imposed on the striking environment of the basalt outcrop, with its tree-ferns and rain-forest. The temptation to create exotic gardens in this lush place was indulged enthusiastically, so that the contrast and the tension between the native and the introduced, the natural and the modified, has created over a century a village of exceptional interest.

Criterion (c) Aesthetic

The distinctive ‘summer retreat’ quality of the area is largely due to the consistent and large-scale plantings of ornamental deciduous trees as a foil for the conifers. The involvement of prominent amateur and professional botanists in the planting of the gardens of the area has also contributed to a character that is more botanically diverse and exotic than many places elsewhere in the Blue Mountains area: this is particularly marked at Nooroo and Yengo. The minimisation of subdivision of the larger estates has ensured the retention of large areas of gardens, remnant rainforest and grazing land which make a considerable contribution to the character of the Conservation Area.

The plantings in public places,, especially where they form mature avenues, most of allThe Avenue itself, combined with banks of rhododendrons, cleared paddocks with stands of tree ferns and the reserves that are a feature of Mt Wilson (such as Gregson Park and Silva Plana) provide the area with a character unlike any other in the state.

The surviving houses are collectively and individually fine examples of Victorian residential work with Yengo and Dennarque of particular merit. Wynstay, despite the loss of Yarrawa, is the jewel in the crown thanks to the fine suite of outbuildings including the gatehouse, stables and the unique Turkish bathhouse to complement Old Wynstay and the grander inter-war main house of Wynstay. Later retreats such as Sefton Hall reinforce the qualities of these early retreats.

Criterion (d) Community

Because Mount Wilson remains a small and rather isolated community, the commitment of the local residents to the values of the place is very high and the work of the local Historical Society and the Progress Association, in different ways, has reinforced the sense of awareness of the uniqueness of the village, its history and its environment.

Criterion (f) Rarity

Mount Wilson’s qualities of architecture and garden creation over 130 years on an isolated ridge of exceptional natural beauty are not only rare but unique in the state.
Date significance updated: 21 Jun 04
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

Physical description: (a) Natural environment and plantings

The cultural landscape of Mount Wilson is directly related to its underlying geology, soils and cool climate. The vegetation changes from scrubby on the approach to Mt Wilson to one which is lush with large eucalypts, especially Manna or white gum. Mt Wilson is an ‘irregularly-shaped basalt-capped mountain with three high points—at Wynstay, Dennarque and Yengo,’ ( Don Schofield, ‘The Trees of Mount Wilson’ Mount Wilson Study Centre, n.d) These properties along with Bebeah, Withycombe, Nooroo and Sefton contain the oldest and best known ornamental tree plantings. The moist basalt cap forest is a tall open forest community variously dominated by Eucalyptus viminalis(ribbon gum), E. blaxlandii(brown stringybark) and E, radiata (narrow-leaved peppermint). Other canopy species include E. oreades(blue mountain ash) and Eucalyptus fastigata (brown barrel). The closed-canopy rainforest include tall, dense softwood trees such as Doryphora sassafras (Sassafras) and Ceratopetalum apetalum (Coachwood) along with lianas (climbers) with an understorey of ferns and tree ferns (Dicksonia and Cyathea The Cathedral of Ferns is a concentrated area where the special qualities of the local rainforest have traditionally been appreciated. Of the tree ferns Cyathea were left when the early settlers of the area cleared the land for timber and these now form a distinctive and important aspect of the character of the Mount Wilson conservation area. These basalt soils also were ideal for supporting large introduced conifers and deciduous trees. The basalt cap soils give way to shallow sandstone-derived soils that do not support dense vegetation. This change in vegetation type within a short distance has meant that ‘hill station’ or summer retreat gardens were established in a relatively confined area. Several distinctive rock formations, Du Faur’s Rocks and Wynne’s Rocks lie in areas where the vegetation has changed to a sandstone type at the edge of the mountain and panoramic views can be enjoyed from these locations. The impact of these lookouts is heightened by the contrast with the relatively closed nature of the forested areas on the mountains.

The earlier gardens are characterised by shelter belt plantings of Cupressus macrocarpa and Pinus radiata and hedges of Prunus laurocerasus (cherry laurel) or Crataegus sp.(hawthorn) and Ilex sp. (holly). Tall growing conifers of the genera Abies, Picea, Thuja, Sequoia, Sequoiadendron, Cedrus ( particularly Cedrus deodara and C. atlantica), Tsuga, Cryptomeria japonica and Chamaeocyparis ( Chamaeocyparis lawsoniana in particular) are used as ornamental plantings throughout the Conservation Area. A large specimen of Sequoiadendron giganteum on the corner of The Avenue and Queens Avenue is a landmark planting. The distinctive ‘summer retreat’ quality of the area is, however, largely due to the consistent and large-scale plantings of ornamental deciduous trees as a foil for the conifers, particularly Quercus ( oaks—Q.robur, Q.rubra, Q.coccinea and Q. palustris), Ulmus (elm),Acer (maples), Aesculus (horse chestnut), Tilea (linden), Fagus(beech), Prunus (cherry), Betula (birch) and Liquidambar. More recent street tree plantings have been Liriodendron tulipifera (Tulip Tree).

The street tree plantings and the relatively narrow, low key, ‘country lane’ qualities of the roads are an important component of the landscape character of the Mt Wilson Conservation area (see attached document). The plantings commenced in the 1880s when The Avenue was planted with Ulmus procera (English elm), Aesculus hippocastanum (Horse Chestnut) and Platanus sp.(Plane Tree) still remaining from these earliest endeavours. Queens Avenue was similarly planted with Liquidambar and Prunus (cherry) by local residents, primarily the premier of New South Wales, W.C. Holman of Shasta Lodge, and Fred Mann of Yengo. These plantings, especially where they form mature avenues, combined with banks of rhododendrons, cleared paddocks with stands of tree ferns and the reserves that are a feature of Mt Wilson (Gregson Park and Silva Plana) provide the area with a character unlike any other in the state.

The involvement of prominent amateur and professional botanists in the planting of the gardens of the area has also contributed to a character that is more botanically diverse and exotic than many places elsewhere in the Blue Mountains area. This is particularly evident at Yengo, where the garden was laid out with advice from Director of Sydney Botanic Gardens, Charles Moore; at Nooroo where the original plantings by William Hay were supplemented by horticulturist George Valder of the NSW Department of Agriculture and then his son the botanist Peter Valder and where a nursery was also established. This latter function was taken over by Libby Raines, who from 1979 developed a nursery at Merry Garth, which includes important parent stock from the earlier Nooroo nursery.

The minimisation of subdivision of the larger estates ensuring the retention of large areas of gardens, remnant rainforest and grazing land makes a considerable contribution to the character of the Conservation Area, with smaller holdings featuring in restricted areas, some of which are linked historically to the working families that supported the larger estates.


(b) The built environment

Mount Wilson has a unique character created in no small part to its development as a pocket of 19th and early 20th century retreats in mature gardens. The generous size of the properties and setbacks of the residential development behind mature gardens give a rural character throughout the village.

Of the first eight houses built as private retreats at Mount Wilson, Dennarque, Nooroo, Yengo, Bebeah and Beowang (Withycombe) survive. Wynstay retains the original cottage and later houses built on the site, although the earlier Yarrawa was destroyed by fire and replaced in the 1890s by Old Wynstay. Only Campanella and Balangara have been lost. The surviving houses are collectively and individually fine examples of Victorian residential work with Yengo and Dennarque of particular merit. Wynstay, despite the loss of Yarrawa, is perhaps the jewel in the crown thanks to the fine suite of outbuildings including the gatehouse, stables and the unique Turkish bathhouse to complement the later Old Wynstay and the grander inter-war main house of Wynstay. Later retreats such as Sefton Hall reinforce the qualities of these early retreats.

Few of the private houses of Mount Wilson are immediately visible from the street. This is partly a result of the single storey scale of most of the dwellings. The only two-storey dwellings of individual historic significance being Dennarque and Wynstay, both of which are sited so they do not overlook the public domain. Even those close to the street are shielded from view by fencing or carefully landscaped gardens. This gives the few public buildings including the school, village hall, church and former post office a greater visibility in the streetscape.

The only places where there is a sense of a village node are at the village hall and school, a community focal point reinforced by the more recent bushfire station, and further north at St George’s Anglican Church which is reinforced as a node by the nearby Post Office. Because of its siting at the junction of The Avenue and Church Lane, St George’s Church is a landmark within the village.

The public buildings in the village also have a quality of their own. They are in the main simple buildings, the result of a community working together to provide for itself. This is evident from the school building of 1891 through to the village hall of 1951. The post office is another example of a simply constructed building, although unusually embellished.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Good
Date condition updated:21 Jun 04

History

Historical notes: The area designated by the Blue Mountains City Council as Mount Wilson Conservation Precinct is essentially the area first surveyed by Edward Wyndham in 1868. Wyndham had been sent out to survey a crown reservation of some nine square miles on the basalt cap of Mount Wilson, but he had also been instructed to sub-divide the reserve into 62 portions (Currey, Mount Wilson, 27).

Up to 1868, the area north of Bells Line of Road had been little explored or developed. The main traffic across the Mountains had continued to be Mitchell’s version of Cox’s Road to the south of the Grose Valley gorge, the present Great Western Highway. Bells Line, first surveyed in 1823, running along ridges to the north of the Grose Valley, from North Richmond through Kurrajong to the Darling Causeway, presented travellers with the perils of crossing Mount Tomah, which defeated wheeled vehicles until the 1870s and remained basically a drove-road for cattle and sheep throughout the nineteenth century (Jack, ‘Bells Line of Road’). Bilpin and Berambing remained lightly populated and their daunting hinterland was not much explored after William Govett made an initial survey of the area for the Surveyor-General Thomas Mitchell in 1832. The critical change came when George Bartley Bowen, who, like his grandmother, had land at Mount Tomah, found his way in 1867 to the rich basalt outcrops of Mount Wilson by crossing the Bowen’s Creek gorge (named after his father George Meares Countess Bowen) and emerging near Waterfall Creek where Sid and Albert Kirk later had their saw-mill (MW 034). The elder Bowen contacted the Deputy Surveyor-General, P.F. Adams, who, after consulting Govett’s 1833 map, realized that the hazards of Bowens Creek could be avoided by following the present road-line along the spur from Bells Line of Road and in 1868 sent Wyndham out to confirm the promise of Mount Wilson (Currey, 14-31).

The railway across the Blue Mountains was far advanced by 1868 and the decision to build the Great ZigZag down into Lithgow Valley via Mount Victoria and the Darling Causeway meant that Mount Wilson was a rather less remote location in 1868 than it had been in 1860. The government from the outset intended to sell residential sub-divisions on the rich basaltic land, the gazetted reserve of 1868 was promptly revoked in 1869 and in 1870 lithographs of Wyndham’s plan were distributed with 62 portions available for purchase from the crown via an agent in Windsor. The land sold relatively slowly but all portions were sold by the beginning of 1876, the year after Mount Wilson railway station was opened near the present village of Bell (Currey, 30-3).

Only 54 of the portions lay within the area defined as the village of Mount Wilson: Wyndham’s portions 55 to 62 lay further out on the Mount Irvine road, accessed by what are now Farrer Road East and Farrer Road West (State Records NSW, AO Map 10570). It is in this area, right on the western boundary of portion 55 on Farrer Road West, that the only known survivor of the trees marked by Wyndham in 1868 precariously survives today (MW Add 041).

The land which Wyndham surveyed in 1868 was not, perhaps, quite untouched by white settlers or timber-getters. Although the surveyor later wrote that it was:

very difficult to make any progress owing to the immense timber
and thick undergrowth. All the time I was there I never saw the
least sign that any human being had been there before, either axe
marks or any other sign (quoted Currey, 27)

this disguises the fact that Wyndham is claimed to have slept in a hut already built by Robert Kirk in 1867 when he brought Eccleston du Faur and Richard Wynne to Mount Wilson before it was surveyed. And Robert Kirk, according to his grandson, Tom Kirk, had already been guided to the basalt by Aboriginal friends (information from late Tom Kirk; Hughes, Story of Mount Wilson).

Access to Mount Wilson was, however, still arduous, not preposterous like the route down and up the gorge of Bowens’ Creek but arduous enough. The final approach to what became known as The Avenue was very steep and a ZigZag is still necessary today, but the present ZigZag is not the original improvement to the track. Surveyor Wyndham cut his own ZigZag (MW Add 039), with the bend some 200 metres north-east of the present bend, and opened a bluestone quarry right on the bend for road metal (MW Add 040). (Currey, 27-8) This was the road by which the would-be purchasers or their agents came to view the new sub-divisions in the early 1870s.

The portions offered for sale were in the main between 7 and 12 acres (3 to 5 hectares), although some of the outlying portions were as large as 40 or even 56 acres (16, 22 hectares). Since, however, purchasers like the speculative Riverina squatter, William Hay, bought several portions (there were only 34 purchasers for the 62 portions), the land controlled by individuals, such as Richard Wynne of Wynstay (MW 001) was often quite substantial. Public servants who knew something of the potential of Mount Wilson were prominent from the start. No fewer than six of the first purchasers were members of the Surveyor-General’s Office, including Adams himself who had ordered the survey, and two more were Treasury officials (Du Faur’s notebook, ML A1629). They were soon joined by another draftsman from Adams’ department, Eccleston du Faur, a widely cultured man, who bought part of what is now Breenhold (MW 011) in 1876, built a wooden hut there and encouraged the admiration of the sublime .

Although du Faur did not continue to live at Mount Wilson after 1888, his influence was considerable: Du Faurs Rocks commemorate him today (MW 023). In particular he encouraged a friend, Lewis Thompson, to become a permanent resident, caretaking the new settlement on behalf of the new absentee landowners from his slab and bark hut near the track to Du Faurs Rocks (Currey, 51-2, photograph of the hut opposite p.52).

Thompson, the Kirk family who have remained so influential in Mount Wilson and an increasing number of other caretakers and gardeners on the major properties gave the continuity which the peculiar nature of the settlement required. None of the early purchasers sought to live primarily in this remote place: Mount Wilson was the ultimate Australian hill-station, on the Indian model, where the well-to-do of the plains could retreat in summer. Only a small percentage of the 34 initial purchasers actually built houses at all. Some like Hay were speculators and sold quite rapidly (though Hay built Nooroo and retained it until 1885). The Sydney lawyers, Thomas Salter, Judge Sir Alfred Stephen and three of his lawyer sons, all bought early, but only Matthew Stephen built a house, called Campanella, in 1878 (James, Fraser & Mack, ‘Settlement of Mount Wilson’, 42-3). Charles Brownrigg, formerly superintendent of the Australian Agricultural Company, based near Newcastle, bought what is now Silva Plana reserve (MW 013) and sold it in 1876 to the current superintendent, about to retire, Edward Merewether (LPI, vol. 233 fo.25). In turn Merewether enthused about the place to his own successor, Jesse Gregson, who bought a portion in 1877. As a result, Merewether built Dennarque in 1879 (MW 015) and Gregson built Yengo in 1878-80 (MW 027).

The earliest of the summer retreats erected in this first period of Mount Wilson was the work of Richard Wynne, who had made his fortune in building materials in Sydney and was the inaugural mayor of Burwood in 1874. His first purchases from the crown in Mount Wilson totalled 93 acres (37 hectares) in six portions and by 1882 he held some 300 acres (120 hectares). Probably as early as 1871 he built the two-roomed cottage which is the earliest building in the village today, with flooring of sleepers illegally cut on his land, which Wynne confiscated and notched to make them unacceptable to the railway. With the subsequent building in 1875 of a more substantial cottage called Yarrawa (burnt down in 1906), the crenellated stables of 1890, the remarkable Turkish Bath of the late 1880s, the hexagonal gatehouse of c.1893 and the surviving cottage now called Old Wynstay built by 1893, Richard Wynne’s extravagant dreams of a mountain estate were largely realized before he died in 1895. The final utilization of the best of Mount Wilson’s views from the verandah of the stone Wynstay built in 1922-3 for Richard Wynne’s grandson brought the estate to full maturity.

The northerly aspect of Wynstay house, built to take advantage of the view, was not paralleled by Wynne’s earlier houses or by any of the eight major houses in nineteenth-century Mount Wilson. These foundation houses were: Hay’s Nooroo (for most of the twentieth century in the hands of the Valders); Merewether’s Dennarque; Gregson’s Yengo; Matthew Stephen’s Campanella; Bebeah, built by Edward Cox of Fernhill in the Mulgoa valley; Beowang (now Withycombe), built by his cousin, George Henry Cox of Burrundulla near Mudgee; a cottage (later a billiard room to Sefton Hall) and Balangra (now Sefton Cottage), built by George Cox’s brother James; and, of course, Yarrawa (Wynstay) itself.

The attention which has been paid to these foundation houses (of which all but Campanella survive in some form or other) and to their wealthy owners has obscured the rest of the Mount Wilson population. In the late 1860s and 1870s the area was busy with timber-getters, partly cutting sleepers for the railway to the west as far as Orange: the tangible evidence of their activity still lies on the floor of the earliest cottage at Wynstay (cf. letter from Merewether 1876, Newcastle Public Library, Merewether, BoxA/A/1876-1880). The initial roadworks created a camp of workmen near Robert Kirk’s hut just south of the ZigZag which was being improved and the building works created a camp for men employed by the Sydney contractor James Nutman closer to the village. Mrs Olive rented Lewis Thompson’s former hut from Eccleston du Faur and opened a general store in the mid 1870s (ML, A 1629). Caretakers and gardeners (such as Smith at Yengo and Sharp at Beowang) were needed to look after the initial houses and develop the gardens which were being created from the rainforest: they occupied cottages built on the estates. By 1891 the census shows that there were 14 families other than the Merewethers, Gregsons and Wynnes in Mount Wilson on census day, totalling 57 people including children (census sub South Kurrajong, SRNSW, Reel 2517).

As a result a provisional school was built in 1891. George Cox, Edward Merewether and Matthew Stephen had been the petitioners and George Cox supplied the timber: the school was built on a small piece of crown land which had not been offered for sale (Currey, 79). The Department of Education noted that Mount Wilson was ‘a peculiar case’:

The school was built and furnished in a handsome manner by Cox,
Judge Stephen, Merewether and Wynne specially for children of
their caretakers … It would be unjust and injudicious to close the
school so long as a dozen children attend. (SRNSW, 5/16975.3)

The school maintained critically low numbers and closed periodically for short periods. Colonel Wynne, the next generation at Wynstay, opened his own school around 1930 for the Gregsons of Yengo, the Valders of Nooroo and his own three children, with a governess installed in Old Wynstay, but when the public school reopened in 1936 Helen Gregson and Peter Valder were among the pupils, along with the caretakers’ children (Warliker, A Mount Wilson Childhood, 48-50; Public School Roll, in private hands). Mount Wilson was indeed ‘a peculiar case’.

The village is exceptional because of its relative remoteness. Comparison with other summer retreats in the Mountains is instructive. Most of the country estates built for occasional residence by coastal people of substance lay close to the railway line from Lapstone to Mount Victoria. To take Faulconbridge as an example: Sir James Martin in the 1870s had his own station of Numantia close to his house; his friend Sir Alfred Stephen (who bought but did not build at Mount Wilson) had his weatherboard cottage Alphington close by, near the cottage of another friend, Professor Charles Badham of the University of Sydney (who similarly bought but did not build at Mount Wilson). The three visited their country estates frequently throughout the year and Stephen often went up by train for a Saturday or a weekend alone, with his family or with friends, with a very occasional excursion to see his son and other friends at Mount Wilson. Sir Henry Parkes was a neighbour to Martin, Stephen and Badham at Faulconbridge from 1878 to 1882, but was not quite in the same social set and his sick wife and two daughters were in semi-permanent residence, while Sir Henry commuted from his Parliamentary business and his lodgings in town. Faulconbridge was very much an extension of normal life in all seasons and an escape from tensions, certainly for Stephen and Martin, whereas Mount Wilson was seasonal. Almost all of Merewether’s letters from Mount Wilson are dated in December or January in the 1870s and refer enthusiastically to ‘the abode of health and happiness’ (Newcastle Public Library, Merewether, Box A/A/1876-1880).

The only part of the Mountains which had something of the hill-station flavour of Mount Wilson, as opposed to the country retreat flavour of Faulconbridge, was Kurrajong Heights, high enough above the Hawkesbury Valley to tempt people like the Richmond Presbyterian minister, Dr Cameron, to buy a salubrious cottage for the summer months, along with a group of like-minded folk. But Kurrajong Heights was easily accessible by the best part of Bells Line of Road and attracted orchardists in the late nineteenth century, so that the hill-station aspect was substantially moderated by commerce (Webb, Kurrajong). Mount Wilson later in the later twentieth century developed its own nurseries and its own tourism centred around the tree-ferns which had given Yarrawa, Dennarque and Beowang their names and around the exotic gardens created out of the forest, but the quintessential character of Mount Wilson remained and remains, despite many changes in individual properties and in social mores, a hill-station which is unique in the state.

The commercial activity which made Mount Wilson possible, the quarries for building stone and road-metal, the timber for housing and fencing cut at the saw-mills of Tom, Syd and Albert Kirk, the propagation of plants for the private gardens often in conjunction with the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, is an intrinsic part of the hill-station origins, whereas it is an intrusion at Kurrajong Heights: the independent orchardists of Kurrajong were different from the caretakers and gardeners who were enmeshed in the Mount Wilson system. The children of orchardists and landowners attended the same Kurrajong schools, just as ultimately the children of caretakers, gardeners and landowners attended Mount Wilson public school, but they arrived by very different routes.

The development of Mount Wilson during the twentieth century owed much to a nineteenth-century sort of paternalism among the leading families. Old owners, outstandingly the Wynnes of Wynstay and their descendants the Smarts, and newer owners, outstandingly Marcus Clark of Sefton Hall (on the site of Cox’s Balangra), gave generously of their spare land for community use. The Anglican church, a particularly successful design in asbestos cement, was built by the Clark family in 1916 on land given by Clark before his death as a memorial to him after his death. The Village Hall, so vital a resource for such a community, was built in 1952 on land donated by Mrs Sloan of Bebeah, while Miss Helen Gregson of Yengo left a bequest which was used for the building and the Wynne family organised a campaign to build and fund the hall (Currey, 100). The provision of electricity to the village came in 1940 primarily through the influence of Charles Jefferson, a high-powered American electrical engineer who was also the father-in-law of Edward Gregson of Wyndham, formerly of Yengo (Warliker, 5; Currey, 99). But there was also a strong element of self-help and co-operation which spread throughout the entire community, led not least by the many members of the Kirk family who have been the custodians of a collective memory going back to the 1870s.

Helen Warliker, born Helen Gregson in 1924, the daughter of Edward Gregson who built Wyndham in Wyndham Avenue when the family sold Yengo, wrote her reminiscences called A Mount Wilson Childhood in 1960. In her foreword, Mrs Warliker recalled that in the 1920s and 1930s:

Life was not idyllic but I think we were privileged to have been brought
up in this unique environment, not only because of the beauty of its
gardens and seemingly endless expanses of bushland which were our
playground, but because of the diversity of people who formed the
community. Long after my family had become fragmented and I and
other contemporaries had moved away, there was still the feeling of
an extended family and a strong emotional attachment remains to this day. (Warliker, i)

The diversity of the community is a key factor. Mount Wilson is now in the twenty-first century a still more diverse community, certainly larger, but it retains the special character of isolation. In some ways, ironically, it is more isolated, with fewer facilities than in the past. There is no Mrs Olive selling ‘bread of a sort’ as Merewether grumbled in 1878; there is no longer a post office, either at Silva Plana or at Beowang/Withycombe or at 77 The Avenue; no coffee-house can be relied upon to be open for the casual visitor; but public reserves and public toilets are liberally provided throughout the village and the gardens, some of which retain their Victorian aspect, others created between the wars or, like the splendours of Breenhold, in the 1960s, attract people from all over the world. This is an exceptionally special place.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Land tenure-Activities and processes for identifying forms of ownership and occupancy of land and water, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal (none)-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Mount Wilson has high state significance because of its unusual development as an Indian-type hill-station for a handful of wealthy businessmen, lawyers and politicians escaping in summer from the climate of Sydney and Newcastle. It preserves to an extraordinary extent the values which these nineteenth-century owners and their resident staff imposed on the striking environment of the basalt outcrop, with its tree-ferns and rain-forest. The temptation to create exotic gardens in this lush place was indulged enthusiastically, so that the contrast and the tension between the native and the introduced, the natural and the modified, has created over a century a village of exceptional interest.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The distinctive ‘summer retreat’ quality of the area is largely due to the consistent and large-scale plantings of ornamental deciduous trees as a foil for the conifers. The involvement of prominent amateur and professional botanists in the planting of the gardens of the area has also contributed to a character that is more botanically diverse and exotic than many places elsewhere in the Blue Mountains area: this is particularly marked at Nooroo and Yengo. The minimisation of subdivision of the larger estates has ensured the retention of large areas of gardens, remnant rainforest and grazing land which make a considerable contribution to the character of the Conservation Area.

The plantings in public places,, especially where they form mature avenues, most of allThe Avenue itself, combined with banks of rhododendrons, cleared paddocks with stands of tree ferns and the reserves that are a feature of Mt Wilson (such as Gregson Park and Silva Plana) provide the area with a character unlike any other in the state.

The surviving houses are collectively and individually fine examples of Victorian residential work with Yengo and Dennarque of particular merit. Wynstay, despite the loss of Yarrawa, is the jewel in the crown thanks to the fine suite of outbuildings including the gatehouse, stables and the unique Turkish bathhouse to complement Old Wynstay and the grander inter-war main house of Wynstay. Later retreats such as Sefton Hall reinforce the qualities of these early retreats.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
Because Mount Wilson remains a small and rather isolated community, the commitment of the local residents to the values of the place is very high and the work of the local Historical Society and the Progress Association, in different ways, has reinforced the sense of awareness of the uniqueness of the village, its history and its environment.
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
Mount Wilson’s qualities of architecture and garden creation over 130 years on an isolated ridge of exceptional natural beauty are not only rare but unique in the state.
Integrity/Intactness: High
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 PlanLocal Environmental Plan1991MW02627 Dec 91 183 
Heritage study MW026   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Blue Mountains Heritage Review2003MW026Jack, Hubert, Lavelle, MorrisRIJ, PH, SL, CM Yes
Technical Audit BM Heritage Register2008MW026Blue Mountains City CouncilCity Planning Branch No

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Oral HistoryBill Smart of Wynstay1989Interview with Ian Jack
WrittenC H Currey1968Mount Wilson, New South Wales: Its Location, Settlement and Development
WrittenE C Merewether E C Merewether Correspondence, Merewether Estate Archives, 1826-1961
MapEdward Wyndham1869Map of Mount Wilson
WrittenElizabeth Raines1994Mount Wilson Walks (2nd Edition)
WrittenElizabeth Raines1989Mount Wilson - A Brief History: Transcript of Talk
Oral HistoryElizabeth Raines of Merry Garth2004Interview with Ian Jack
WrittenGilbert Hughes1974The Story of Mount Wilson (revised edition)
WrittenHelen Warliker1990A Mount Wilson Childhood
WrittenHugh Fraser, Bruce James and Alexis Mack1969The settlement of Mount Wilson
WrittenMary Reynolds of Donna Buang2004Interview with Ian Jack
WrittenNational Trust of Australia (NSW)1984Inspection 332, Mount Irvine and Mount Wilson, 6 May
Oral HistoryTom Kirk1989Interview with Ian Jack

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

Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Local Government
Database number: 1170570


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