Fb011 : Weemala | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage

Heritage

Fb011 : Weemala

Item details

Name of item: Fb011 : Weemala
Other name/s: Numatia
Primary address: 704, 704A Great Western Highway, Faulconbridge, NSW 2776
Parish: Magdala
County: Cook
Local govt. area: Blue Mountains
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
704, 704A Great Western HighwayFaulconbridgeBlue Mountains MagdalaCookPrimary Address

Statement of significance:

Criterion (a) Historical
The country retreat is an immensely potent recurrent theme in the creation of heritage places in the late Victorian Mountains. From Mount Wilson to Mount Victoria, from Blackheath to Glenbrook, significant inhabitants of the plains built significant summer houses with significant gardens and landscaping. The country retreat is one of the key aspects of the cultural landscape the length and breadth of the Mountains.

‘Weemala’, the former ‘Numantia’, along with its neighbour ‘Eurama’ (FB 010), has historical qualities which mark it out as something quite exceptional among all the country retreats, showing high State significance. Whereas a country retreat elsewhere in the Mountains represents the individual taste and needs of a single family, ‘Numantia’, along with ‘Alphington’, ‘Metchley’ and ‘Weston’ nearby, was the creation of an intellectual triumvirate, with wives and families. ‘Numantia’ is the expression of a community, where ‘Yester’ or ‘Silva Plana’ or ‘Eirene’ or ‘Wynstay’ is a declaration of withdrawal, of the solitude of the sublime.

The patresfamilias at ‘Numantia’ and its neighbours from 1876 until Sir Alfred Stephen had to sell in 1882, Professor Badham died in 1884 and Sir James Martin died in 1886, were all outstanding contributors to the development of the State of New South Wales. Distinguished in the law, in the administration of the law, in government, in the University, in international scholarship, men of wide culture in letters and music, all enthusiasts for the natural environment but also for the discreet creation of a new cultural landscape with exotic trees, shrubs, flowers, fruits and vegetables, the three friends who, with their families, intruded homes, gardens and bush-walks into this place of the ‘wonderful view’ created a communal heritage which is unique in the Mountains.

‘Weemala’ today is of historic significance for the surviving evidence of elements of Sir James Martin’s garden: the site of a rose garden and vegetable garden, a well, the site of a tea-house and two cisterns within the overgrown grounds. Its remnant plantings, including old fashioned roses, Crinum sp., wisteria, camellia and Chinese Windmill Palm (Trachycarpus fortuneii), contribute to the understanding of the remnant layout.

Criterion (c) Aesthetic
The high stone wall built in 1877 to protect the privacy of Sir James Martin from passing train-passengers is still a topic of conversation and curiosity today. It is one of the most tantalising and inscrutable of the remains of the nineteenth-century country retreats and has as a result its own peculiar aesthetic.
Date significance updated: 10 Oct 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

Designer/Maker: Hudson Bros for Numantia House
Builder/Maker: Paddy Ryan, stonemason, probably responsible for outbuildings
Construction years: 1877-1877
Physical description: The weatherboard house erected for Sir James and Lady Martin in 1877 was to a standard plan offered by the Sydney timber-merchants, Hudson Bros. It was a long rectangle, facing east towards the bush vista, with a central verandah and gabled rooms at each end. The house has now disappeared, but a photograph dating from the early 1880s is published in the Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, vol. 31, 1956, 260 and is attached to this report.

Between the back of the house and the railway line there was a courtyard with a high stone wall fronting the line (partly visible in the 1880s photograph). This wall is still intact and is the only part of the whole ‘Weemala’-‘Eurama’ complex easily visible from the Great Western Highway some two kilometres west of Faulconbridge village. Skillion rooms attached to the high wall survive, though not unaltered over the years: they are made of coursed rubble stone, with stone window sills and well cut capping stones, probably the work of the local mason Paddy Ryan (who is known to have worked for Martin in the early 1880s). There is a fine stone fireplace in the room on the north-west side of this courtyard. The yard itself is flagged with stone and provided with elaborate stone drains which are still in use.

On the approximate site of the original ‘Numantia’ weatherboard cottage, an unsympathetic brick house was erected in the 1960s and is now derelict.

In front of this house, to its east, there is an elaborate, large brick-topped cistern. At the south end of the small amount of residual land attached to the house there are the stone remains of Martin’s gate-house. On the same side of the courtyard, farther to the south, is the site of the level-crossing which gave convenient access across the railway to the properties now known as ‘Eurama’ and ‘Weemala’ (LPI, FP 308301). The closure of this level-crossing since World War II has left the present ‘Weemala’ land-locked and dependent on the owners of ‘Eurama’ for a right of way from the end of Sir Henrys Parade to the north-east.

There is still some evidence of the large front garden of Martin’s cottage, shown in the photograph of c.1880. The rectangular layout and the stone outline of paths are still visible in places. There is evidence of former garden elements - the site of a rose garden, vegetable garden, well, site of a teahouse and a second cistern within the overgrown grounds. Remnant plantings are old fashioned roses, Crinum sp., wisteria, camellia and Chinese Windmill Palm (Trachycarpus fortuneii).
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Poor
Date condition updated:10 Oct 04
Current use: Disused
Former use: Country Retreat; Residence

History

Historical notes: The founder of the small select community around ‘Numantia’ in the late 1870s and early 1880s was Sir James Martin, a man at the apex of the Sydney elite, who attracted friends from political, academic and legal life to take up land in Faulconbridge and to build country retreats there. Martin was an Irish Catholic who had arrived in Australian in 1821 as an infant. He trained for the law, entered politics in 1848 and, under responsible government after 1856, was attorney-general for both Cowper and Parkes, and himself premier of New South Wales in 1863-5, again in 1866-8 and finally in 1870-2. In 1873 he succeeded his close friend, Sir Alfred Stephen, as Chief Justice and remained in that office, performing his duties with great distinction, until his death in 1886. His Anglican marriage in 1853 to Isabella Long, the daughter of the wealthy wine-merchant who owned ‘Tusculum’, had brought Martin firmly into the colonial establishment and they lived in the Potts Point mansion of ‘Clarens’ in a style comparable to that of William Long nearby. (Nairn, Australian Dictionary of Biography, V 216-9)

Martin was a widely cultured man, with an extensive and choice library at ‘Clarens’. He was interested in plants and gardens and ‘acting as his own architect and superintendent he had converted the garden of Clarens into the resemblance of the private garden of an archon of ancient Greece’. (Grainger, Martin of Martin Place, 117)

His wife had an increasingly morbid fear of disease in the miasmas of Sydney, even among the breezes of the Eastern Suburbs, and was apprehensive about the health of her fifteen children. With his wife’s approbation, Sir James (knighted in 1869) sought out land in the Blue Mountains. The Martins were aware in 1875-6 that Sir Henry Parkes was in mind to acquire land at Faulconbridge and to build a country retreat there. Sir James and Sir Alfred Stephen went by train to the Mountains in January 1876 to reconnoitre and soon afterwards Martin bought portions 1,16 and 21 to 23 in Magdala parish. In September 1876 Lady Stephen went to Faulconbridge with her husband and with Sir James and Lady Martin, looked at the Martin land along the railway line and finalised the apportionment of some of the land among Martin, Stephen and Professor Badham. Martin had already identified the site next the railway on portion 1 where he was about to build ‘Numantia’. He transferred 14 acres (5.6 hectares) along the railway on the Sydney side of ‘Numantia’, part of portion 16, to Badham and 12 acres (5 hectares), part of portions 22 and 23, to Stephen. The two families dined ‘under the greenwood’ at the site of ‘Numantia’ on 16 September 1876 and returned to Sydney by train to implement the creation of a remarkable intellectual enclave at Faulconbridge. (Lady Stephen’s diary, ML MSS 777/3; Stephen, ‘Numantia’, Journal of Royal Australian Historical Society, 31, 1945, 255

Stephen and his wife (who was the daughter of an Anglican manse) were not wealthy like the Martins, but they too were anxious to have a place in the Mountains. So late in 1876 the Stephens were pleased to acquire these 14 acres of Martin’s newly purchased land and to build ‘Alphington’ on portion 22 in the following year.

The third member of the Faulconbridge triumvirate of 1876-7 was Charles Badham, the great Professor of Classics at the University of Sydney from 1867 until 1883. Of all the portraits in the Great Hall of the University which convey Victorian intellectual grandeur, none is more eye-catching than the life-size painting of Badham.

Badham gave a great deal to his adopted country, although his health was not robust. He was one of the dominating figures in the University, just as his predecessor, Professor Woolley, had been. He was keenly interested in widening the scope of tertiary education, to working men, to women, to country-dwellers and argued persuasively for evening and extension lectures. He was one of the last of the great orators in Sydney and his annual addresses on Commemoration Day at the University from 1867 to 1876 and again in 1879 remain classics of their genre. (Badham, Speeches and Lectures).

Badham mingled extensively in Sydney society and his conversation was much prized. He was particularly close to Sir Alfred Stephen and the two men served on the University Senate together from 1878 until 1884. Badham was involved in the Stephens’ acquisition of Martin’s land at Faulconbridge in 1876 and the Stephens’ diaries show Badham, his wife and some of his children coming to the ‘Eurama’ area and supervising the construction of ‘Metchley’ on portion 16, offered by Martin. The house, like Parkes’ ‘Stonehurst’ (FB 013), on adjacent land 2 km. to the north, Martin’s ‘Numantia’ and Stephen’s ‘Alphington’ (FB 010), was completed in 1877. Badham seems still to have been using ‘Metchley’ in 1879 but soon afterwards his new house called ‘Weston’, with extensive stabling, was completed 300 metres away to the north-east (see FB 010).

The closeness of the three was neatly expressed in the architecture of their houses. All three ordered their timber houses ‘ready-cut’ from the catalogue of Hudson Bros in Redfern, so it is no surprise that ‘Numantia’ and ‘Alphington’ looked almost identical. (Railway Guide of NSW, 1879, 40; Stephen, JRAHS 31, 260; Muir, Shady Acres, 66))

The triumvirate and their families enjoyed Faulconbridge for only a few years. The families were large: Badham married twice and had ten children born between 1848 and 1875; Stephen had eighteen children by two wives; Martin had fifteen children with Isabella Long. So, as well as the six parents, there were 43 children as potential visitors, not to mention other guests. Nonetheless, there were numerous weekends when Martin and Stephen could dine companionably alone, either in ‘Numantia’ or in ‘Alphington’. (Stephen diaries, Mitchell Library, ML MSS 777)

The idyll began to fade early in the 1880s. Despite the failure of the Mountain air to cure young Eleanor Martin, who died at ‘Numantia’ in February 1880, Sir James Martin decided to build a much grander stone mansion over a kilometre to the south west at Linden, close to the railway line. Lady Martin had been chafing about the inadequate size of ‘Clarens’ and about the unhealthiness of city life: the new ‘Numantia’ would, Sir James thought, solve all these problems at a blow. But after having the best local stonemason, Paddy Ryan (who probably had built the courtyard at the first ‘Numantia’), lay elaborate foundations and dig a reservoir for the water supply, Sir James found that his wife, who held the purse strings through her inherited fortune, had decided that the venture was far too expensive and work stopped. Ultimately a house called Banool (LD 011) was built on the foundations and with a pleasing irony the reservoir is still known colloquially today as Lady Martin’s Bath (LD 012).(Stephen, JRAHS 31, 259, 261-262)

Sir James Martin died in 1886, and his extensive family, after continuing to use ‘Numantia’ for a year or two, decided to lease it instead. The lessee was John William Cliff, who was described as ‘one of the shrewdest and boldest speculators in Sydney’ in the 1880s. He had already bought ‘Elizabeth Farm’ at Parramatta from Septimus Stephen (a son of Sir Alfred) in 1884 and was an associate of Andrew McCulloch junior who had bought Sir Alfred Stephen’s ‘Alphington’ and built the stone house adjacent which is now known as ‘Eurama’, but which McCulloch named ‘Weemala’ (FB 010). In 1889, while leasing the Martins’ ‘Numantia’, Cliff bought the adjacent property when McCulloch encountered severe financial difficulties. (Muir, Shady Acres, 322) This brought the two major estates under single management, but like his associates, though to a less marked extent, Cliff suffered a decline in his entrepreneurial fortunes and does not seem to have had the capital or the will to maintain the houses of ‘Numantia’, ‘Weemala’ and Alphington’ and their gardens.

Cliff was succeeded as lessee of ‘Numantia’ by Adolphus Rogalsky, who also leased the site of Sir James’ aborted ‘New Numantia’. Rogalsky had some grand ideas and in 1889 had the well-known Sydney architect John Kirkpatrick draw up plans for the Numantia Grand Hotel, a chateau of alarming proportions at ‘New Numantia’. This vision did not materialise, but Rogalsky purchased both the original ‘Numantia’ and the site of ‘New Numantia’ from the family in 1898. (Stephen, JRAHS, 31, 262-3; MacLaurin, Blue Mountains Memories, 2)

In due course Rogalsky sold ‘Numantia’. Subsequent owners included a retired Collector of Tasmanian Customs, Henry Hulme and, by 1945, Horace Goodwin. By this time the cottage had been renamed ‘Weemala’. This is intensely confusing, since ‘Weemala’, allegedly an Aboriginal word meaning ‘extensive view’, had been the name of McCulloch’s 1882 house 300 metres away until George Evans bought it in 1898 and renamed it ‘Eurama’, classical Greek a la Badham for ‘extensive view’. Since Cliff purchased Martin’s ‘Numantia’ also in 1898, the name ‘Weemala’ was available from the very beginning of Cliff’s ownership, but it is not certain which owner of ‘Numantia’ in fact changed the name. At all events, the property has been known as ‘Weemala’ for at the very least 60 years.

In 1923 the area of some 3 acres (1.2 hectare) now defined as ‘Weemala’ was defined, with a narrow rectangle of land (lot 1) extending from the house and garden for a little over 170 metres eastwards, a small strip along the railway line giving access to the level crossing to the south (lot 3), an irregular piece of land to the east (lot 2) adjacent to lot 1 and a small triangle close to the level crossing (lot 4). (Land & Property Information, FP 398301; MPS (RP) 8301) This reduced Weemala’ to its present paltry proportions.

Martin’s original cottage disappeared in the 1960s, when the present brick house was erected on much the same site. The consolidation of ‘Eurama’ estate under Mr Watkin in the 1970s and 1980s left ‘Weemala’ alone with its four small sub-allotments. Because of the proximity of the courtyard wall to the railway embankment and the presence of the former level-crossing, ‘Weemala’ was purchased by the State Rail Authority and its successor body is still the owner. The property is at present sadly derelict.

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)-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The country retreat is an immensely potent recurrent theme in the creation of heritage places in the late Victorian Mountains. From Mount Wilson to Mount Victoria, from Blackheath to Glenbrook, significant inhabitants of the plains built significant summer houses with significant gardens and landscaping. The country retreat is one of the key aspects of the cultural landscape the length and breadth of the Mountains.

‘Weemala’, the former ‘Numantia’, along with its neighbour ‘Eurama’ (FB 010), has historical qualities which mark it out as something quite exceptional among all the country retreats, showing high State significance. Whereas a country retreat elsewhere in the Mountains represents the individual taste and needs of a single family, ‘Numantia’, along with ‘Alphington’, ‘Metchley’ and ‘Weston’ nearby, was the creation of an intellectual triumvirate, with wives and families. ‘Numantia’ is the expression of a community, where ‘Yester’ or ‘Silva Plana’ or ‘Eirene’ or ‘Wynstay’ is a declaration of withdrawal, of the solitude of the sublime.

The patresfamilias at ‘Numantia’ and its neighbours from 1876 until Sir Alfred Stephen had to sell in 1882, Professor Badham died in 1884 and Sir James Martin died in 1886, were all outstanding contributors to the development of the State of New South Wales. Distinguished in the law, in the administration of the law, in government, in the University, in international scholarship, men of wide culture in letters and music, all enthusiasts for the natural environment but also for the discreet creation of a new cultural landscape with exotic trees, shrubs, flowers, fruits and vegetables, the three friends who, with their families, intruded homes, gardens and bush-walks into this place of the ‘wonderful view’ created a communal heritage which is unique in the Mountains.

‘Weemala’ today is of historic significance for the surviving evidence of elements of Sir James Martin’s garden: the site of a rose garden and vegetable garden, a well, the site of a tea-house and two cisterns within the overgrown grounds. Its remnant plantings, including old fashioned roses, Crinum sp., wisteria, camellia and Chinese Windmill Palm (Trachycarpus fortuneii), contribute to the understanding of the remnant layout.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The high stone wall built in 1877 to protect the privacy of Sir James Martin from passing train-passengers is still a topic of conversation and curiosity today. It is one of the most tantalising and inscrutable of the remains of the nineteenth-century country retreats and has as a result its own peculiar aesthetic.
Integrity/Intactness: Fair
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.

Recommended management:

It is impossible to treat the small area of ‘Weemala’ in isolation from the adjacent 141 hectares of ‘Eurama’ (FB 010), by which it is landlocked. The two properties are inextricably linked historically. ‘Eurama’ has been assessed as being of such outstanding and diversified importance at the State level that, before any sub-division or road-works happens there, a Conservation Management Plan is essential. Any development of ‘Eurama’ has a concomitant effect on ‘Weemala’, which is in 2004 disused railway land of high heritage value, with built and landscape features of State significance. Moreover, part of the garden of ‘Weemala’/‘Numantia’ and other significant features of Martin’s nineteenth-century property now lie within ‘Eurama’. It is highly desirable, therefore, that the Conservation Management Plan for ‘Eurama’ should deal simultaneously with ‘Weemala’ or be prepared in conjunction with a separate Conservation Management Plan for ‘Weemala’. The curtilage of ‘Weemala’ should be the entire property as now defined. No development approvals should be given by the Blue Mountains City Council until the Conservation Management Plan or Plans dealing with both ‘Eurama’ and ‘Weemala’ be completed and endorsed by the Heritage Council.

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanLEP1991FB01127 Dec 91 183 
Heritage study FB011   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Blue Mountains Heritage Study1983FB011Croft & Associates Pty Ltd & Meredith Walker  Yes
Heritage Study Review, Blue Mountains1992FB011Tropman and Tropman  Yes
Blue Mountains Heritage Review2003FB011Jack, Hubert, Lavelle, MorrisIJ, CM Yes
Technical Audit BM Heritage Register2008FB011Blue Mountains City CouncilCity Planning Branch No

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Photograph 1880Photograph of Numantia Homestead, circa 1880 in Stephen, Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, Volume 31, 1945
Written 1879Railway Guide of New South Wales
WrittenAlfred E Stephen1945Numantia: A Place of Disillusioned Aspirations in Journal of Royal Australian Historical Society, Volume 31
WrittenAllan E Searle1977Faulconbridge
WrittenBede Nairn1974Martin, Sir James (1820-1886) in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol 5
WrittenCharles Badham1890Speeches and Lectures delivered in Australia
WrittenE C B MacLaurin Blue Mountains Memories
WrittenElena Grainger1970Martin of Martin Place: A Biography of Sir James Martin (1820-1886)
WrittenH E Barff1902A short historical account of the University of Sydney
Oral HistoryJohn Watkin2003Interview with Ian Jack and Colleen Morris, 13 November
WrittenLady Stephen Diaries
WrittenLesley Muir1994'Shady Acres'
MapM C Faviell1923Plan of Subdivision of Weemala, 12 February
WrittenMartha Rutledge1976Stephen, Sir Alfred (1802-1894), in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol 6
WrittenSir Alfred Stephen Diaries
WrittenWilma Radford1969Badham, Charles, (1813-1884) in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol 3

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: 1170649


Every effort has been made to ensure that information contained in the State Heritage Inventory is correct. If you find any errors or omissions please send your comments to the Database Manager.

All information and pictures on this page are the copyright of the Heritage Division or respective copyright owners.