Wf027 : Yester Grange | NSW Environment & Heritage

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Wf027 : Yester Grange

Item details

Name of item: Wf027 : Yester Grange
Other name/s: Yester
Primary address: 34 Yester Road, Wentworth Falls, NSW 2782
Local govt. area: Blue Mountains
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
34 Yester RoadWentworth FallsBlue Mountains   Primary Address

Statement of significance:

Criterion (a) Historical and (b) Associations
Yester was a fine country retreat built by a young businessman associated with, but not part of, the great firm of Goodlet and Smith and it was subsequently owned by an undistinguished Premier of New South Wales for the last four years of his life. The continuing association of the family of Sir John See with the estate until 1944 ensured the maintenance of the house and grounds. All this gives some local historical significance to the scenic splendours of Yester.

Criterion (c) Aesthetic
The garden and grounds at Yester Grange are of aesthetic significance at the local level as a setting for a house of importance and for the manner in which they provide a foil for, and place a focus on, the magnificent views from the front garden across to Jamison Creek, Mount Solitary and Sublime Point. The mature trees and two large conical pillars of stone resembling cairns are a striking feature of the garden.

Criterion (g) Representativeness
The choice of site for the country retreat and the way in which the house avails itself of the setting and the view are representative of the considerations which encouraged the well-to-do to build in the Blue Mountains in the late nineteenth century.
Date significance updated: 08 Nov 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: James Barnet Junior
Construction years: 1886-1898
Physical description: Large and mature Pinus radiata are the predominant boundary plantings of Yester Grange. The entrance drive, to one side of the house, is planted with a mixture of trees that includes Norfolk Island Pine, Japanese Incense Cedar and Plane Tree. To the side of the drive opposite the house there is a levelled area that indicates an old tennis court. The line of an older drive, which approached the house from a different direction, can be seen below the tennis court area.

The layout of the garden is a simple one, which provides a foil for, and places a focus on, the magnificent views from the front garden across towards Jamison Creek, Mount Solitary and Sublime Point. A broad grassed terrace with a semi-circular retaining wall is in front of the house. The platform for the house is cut into the slope and there are drystone retaining walls are behind the house.

A long path is set to one side of the broad grassed terrace at the front of the house. Two large conical pillars of stone resembling cairns are to either side of the path and are a striking feature of the garden. The path leads down the hill toward the valley and a formalised bush walk through stands of Pinus radiata. Recent reproduction urns on plinths have been placed at intervals along the path.

The residence is a handsome house in the Victorian Filigree style, with the front verandah well designed to take advantage of the splendid views.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Good
Date condition updated:08 Nov 04
Current use: Unused
Former use: Country Retreat

History

Historical notes: James Smith was the foundation partner of Colonel Goodlet in the celebrated building firm of Goodlet and Smith in 1862: because of a railway accident in the later 1860s, however, Smith was partly incapacitated, so played a decreasing role in the day-day running of the major firm and finally he allowed Goodlet to buy him out of the partnership in 1881. With a view to building a restorative country retreat, Smith bought a 58-acre (23-hectare) estate in Linden parish at this time, but went abroad on a protracted tour in 1882-3, accompanied by his elder son, John Charles Smith. On his return, James Smith died in 1884 without enjoying the air and views on his Wentworth Falls estate, which he named Yester. (Cooper, draft thesis on Goodlet and Smith)

The origin of the name Yester is of some interest. Smith was a lowland Scot, a Borderer from Dornick near the Eildon Hills and very close to Abbotsford, the mansion built by Sir Walter Scott. In Scott’s long poem, Marmion, there is a celebrated section in Canto III about a thirteenth-century castle on the other side of the Lammermuir hills from Dornick. This castle was called Yester and had a Goblin Hall, ‘a capacious cavern formed by magical art’. The castle with its underground room still survives in ruins and nearby there is another Yester, a mansion built in 1715 by a James Smith who is believed to have been an ancestor of James Smith of Dornick. (Scott, Marmion, Scott’s own notes to canto III)

John Charles Smith, in his mid-twenties, and married to an unrelated Susan Mary Smith, succeeded to the Wentworth Falls estate in 1884 and soon put into effect his father’s plans for a country retreat on the site. Although John Charles worked for Goodlet and Smith for a time, he was never a partner and soon joined James Lawson the auctioneer, another prominent Scot and son of another James Lawson, head of a furniture firm who in the 1890s bought an estate in Springwood. (Cooper, draft thesis)

John Smith is said to have commissioned James Barnet junior to design his house: Barnet was the eldest son of the well-known government architect, but was only 21 years old in 1886. The story that the house was built by Goodlet and Smith (Notes by J.J. Anderson, 1979) is untrue: the firm probably supplied materials, but they did not contract to build houses. The initials JCS and SMS on interior glass are those of John and Susan (not those of the next owner, John See and his wife, as usually claimed). The name YESTER was inscribed on the glass panel above the front door, flanked by waratahs.

John Charles Smith died young in 1898, just after extending Yester with the ballroom and the rear wings. His widow Susan retained the house for a few years but sold it in 1903 to Sir John See, at that time premier of New South Wales. See was a self-made man, burly and black-bearded, the son of an English farm labourer who had emigrated to Sydney in 1852. Although undistinguished as an orator or as a political thinker, See took a prominent role in local politics in Randwick, where he was mayor in 1880-1, and from 1880 until 1904 he was a Member of the Legislative Assembly for Grafton (where he had substantial business interests). In 1901 he became Premier with the support of the Labor Party and is remembered for the female suffrage act of 1902. (Henry, Australian Dictionary of Biography, XI 560-562; Radi, Spearritt & Hinton, Biographical Register of the NSW Parliament, 249)

The drought and recession of 1903 brought political troubles and health problems, which it was hoped, no doubt, that the purchase of Yester would alleviate. In February 1904, however, See went to Rotorua, not to Yester, for health reasons, his wife Charlotte died in March and in June Sir John resigned from Parliament. In 1905 he travelled to New Zealand again and to Japan to improve his health, but died in January 1907. (Henry, ADB, XI 561) It is clear that Sir John and his wife benefited very little from their purchase of Yester.

See was remembered as the ‘slab-hut Premier’, the Australian equivalent of a ‘log-cabin President’, but Yester was no slab hut, and the 58-acre estate was enjoyed by the seven children of John and Charlotte as a country retreat until 1938. The house was then vacant until 1944, when it was sold to Margery and Jim Anderson, prominent members of the Bullaburra Progress Association. The Andersons sub-divided some of the Yester estate in 1954: as a result the entry road to the house became Yester Road and the house’s curtilage contracted to the present 4.7 hectares. John Smith’s coach-house was burnt down in 1957. (Woods, Street Whys, 115; Yester Grange brochure)

In 1975 Gil and Elisabeth Clarke, who ran an art gallery in Cronulla, acquired Yester and renamed it Yester Grange. The Clarkes restored the overgrown garden and the dilapidated house and opened the house to the public as an art gallery, with frequent concerts in the garden and in the ballroom. (Yester Grange brochure) The property is now is new ownership and has been closed to the public.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Environment - cultural landscape-Activities associated with the interactions between humans, human societies and the shaping of their physical surroundings (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]
Yester was a fine country retreat built by a young businessman associated with, but not part of, the great firm of Goodlet and Smith and it was subsequently owned by an undistinguished Premier of New South Wales for the last four years of his life. The continuing association of the family of Sir John See with the estate until 1944 ensured the maintenance of the house and grounds. All this gives some local historical significance to the scenic splendours of Yester.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The garden and grounds at Yester Grange are of aesthetic significance at the local level as a setting for a house of importance and for the manner in which they provide a foil for, and place a focus on, the magnificent views from the front garden across to Jamison Creek, Mount Solitary and Sublime Point. The mature trees and two large conical pillars of stone resembling cairns are a striking feature of the garden.
SHR Criteria g)
[Representativeness]
The choice of site for the country retreat and the way in which the house avails itself of the setting and the view are representative of the considerations which encouraged the well-to-do to build in the Blue Mountains in the late nineteenth century.
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 PlanLEP1991WF02727 Dec 91 183 
Heritage study WF027   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Blue Mountains Heritage Study1983WF027Croft & Associates Pty Ltd & Meredith Walker  Yes
Heritage Study Review, Blue Mountains1992WF027Tropman and Tropman  Yes
Blue Mountains Heritage Review2003WF027Jack, Hubert, Lavelle, MorrisIJ, PH, CM Yes
Technical Audit BM Heritage Register2008WF027Blue Mountains City CouncilCity Planning Branch No

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenChristopher J Woods1997Street Whys: The origins of Blue Mountains City Street Names
WrittenGil and Elisabeth Clarke1987Yester Grange Brochure
WrittenHeather Radi, Peter Spearritt and Elizabeth Hinton1979Biographical Register of the NSW parliament, 1901-1970
WrittenJim Anderson1979Notes on Yester Grange
WrittenKeith Henry1988See, Sir John (1845-1907) in Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol 11
WrittenPaul Cooper Draft Ph D thesis on Goodlet and Smith, University of Sydney, in progress
WrittenSir Walter Scott1808Marmion, Notes by Scott to the Host's Tale, Canto III, Stanza 19

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: 1170681


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