Wf038 : Whispering Pines and Grounds | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

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Wf038 : Whispering Pines and Grounds

Item details

Name of item: Wf038 : Whispering Pines and Grounds
Other name/s: Chalet Fontenelle; Glenhurst
Primary address: 178-186 Falls Road, Wentworth Falls, NSW 2782
Local govt. area: Blue Mountains
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
178-186 Falls RoadWentworth FallsBlue Mountains   Primary Address

Statement of significance:

Refer to Assessment.
Date significance updated: 06 Jul 09
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.


Designer/Maker: Edward Jeaffreson Jackson
Construction years: 1898-1898
Physical description: Whispering Pines is a two-storey Federation Arts and Crafts house set in substantial grounds. The house is marked by a broad gabled roof, spreading out over the side
verandahs and extending across the front verandah. A north wing provided accommodation for services.

The house has rendered walls, originally all in roughcast, now largely in smooth render (where render has been replaced in the 1990s). The roof is of corrugated steel. The verandah is designed with timber posts on heavy roughcast piers. The balustrade has timber slats with a wavy pattern. The main roof gable is finished with half timbering. Corner brackets to the verandah are finished with an etched scroll.

The main entry is on the west verandah and leads to a central stair hall. The front door has leadlight panels and a leadlight toplight. Paired casement windows also have leadlight toplights.

Surviving joinery which could be salvaged in the 1991 work was re-used in the public spaces.

Pines trees around the boundary probably relate to the Childe occupation of the house as does the aged Arbutus at the southwest entry. The remainder of the present garden has been largely planted in the last 10-15 years.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Date condition updated:06 Jul 09
Modifications and dates: Reconstruction work 1991
Garden pavilion 1990s
Current use: Bed and Breakfast
Former use: Country Retreat; Private School; Guesthouse


Historical notes: Chalet Fontenelle was designed in 1898 by Edward Jeaffreson Jackson as the mountain retreat for Rev. Stephen H. Childe, the rector of St Thomas' Anglican Church, North Sydney.

Stephen Childe was born in London in 1844 and served in parishes in London before migrating to Australia. He had the longest ministry of any minister at St Thomas, serving there from 1879 to 1913. While at St Thomas' he was responsible for the enlargement of the church, the organ, a new rectory and a new assistant's house. He is credited with developing the choir and music at the church. His ministry at St Thomas was not always happy as he was criticized by some for his theological views. (Walker, What God Has Done)

As soon as Childe arrived at St Thomas in 1879, his first wife died, leaving him with five small children to maintain. In 1886 Childe married again, to a barrister's daughter, Harriet Gordon: although the marriage was opposed by Harriet's parents. she received a substantial dowry and it was her money and her inclination that led to the acquisition of the prime 4-acre site in Wentworth Falls where Chalet Fontenelle was built, (Green, Prehistorian: a Biography of V. Gordon Childe, 4-5)

Jeaffreson Jackson, who designed Chalet Fontenelle, was born in 1862 in London and trained as an architect in England attending the Royal Academy School of Architecture. Articled to William West-Neve he developed an arts and crafts aesthetic. In 1884 he sailed to Australia where he began work with the Colonial Architect's Branch of New South Wales before establishing his own practice between 1885 and 1888. (Dudman, Two Houses by E. Jeaffreson Jackson)

Jackson was well known to the Childes as he was a church-warden at St Thomas. He had also designed a new rectory for St Thomas when he was asked to design a mountain retreat for Childe. (Dudman, Two Houses by E. Jeaffreson Jackson)

Stephen and Harriet Childe had two sons, but one died in infancy. The surviving child, Vere Gordon (named after his maternal family), was born in 1892 and as a small boy revelled in the Wentworth Falls country retreat. The family spent more and more time in the Mountains, although the Reverend Stephen Childe was not only rector but also, from 1901 to 1906, Rural Dean of North Sydney. Even those well disposed to the rector commented that 'He was a great "Rural'' Dean - so rural that he almost lived in the rural surroundings of Wentworth Falls. He was there more often, they said, than at St. Thomas.' (Green, Prehistorian, 7)

Harriet Childe died in 1910, however, and her son Gordon thereafter spent much less time at Wentworth Falls or with his father.

Gordon Childe was a brilliant student at the University of Sydney from 1911 to 1914,
graduating with first-class honours in Latin, Greek and Philosophy and the University Medal in Classics. He went on to have a stormy political life and an internationally renowned career in Britain as a prehistoric archaeologist, after studying at Oxford from 1914 to 1917, returning to Australia until 1921, when he began his archaeological career abroad in earnest. (Green, Prehistorian, 9-10)

Just before Gordon left the University of Sydney his father retired from St Thomas and moved permanently to Chalet Fontenelle in 1913 (Green, Prehistorian, 8). Stephen Childe and his third wife, Monica Gardiner, turned Chalet Fontenelle into a guest house from at least 1915 to 1917, but sold the property in the early 1920s and moved to Coronel, a fine new house in Blaxland Road. (Silvey, Happy Days, 85, 100; Dudman, Two Houses by E. Jeaffreson Jackson)

After passing through numerous hands, Chalet Fontenelle was sold in 1943 to Colin
MacLaurin (who became Head Of Semitic Studies at the University of Sydney) and was renamed Glenhurst. MacLaurin and his mother had founded the MacLaurin Church of England School at Leura in 1949. They opened Glenhurst to boarders from that school in 1952. The school is now located on the Great Western Highway and has been reincarnated as the Blue Mountains Grammar School. (Silvey, Happy Days, 85-86; Dudman, Two Houses by E. Jeaffreson Jackson)

By 1968 it was known as Whispering Pines Resort. (Croft & Assoc., VVF 038)

At some time in the later twentieth century, the house was divided into 12 flats- It fell into disrepair, the fine garden of the Childes became totally overgrown and by 1991 the property was occupied by vagrants. (SiIvey, Happy Days, 86; Dudman, Two Houses by E. Jeaffreson Jackson) It was bought in 1991 by the present owners, Bill and Maria McCabe, who remodelled the interior, created a new garden. retaining some old plantings, and opened the property with its 1.6 hectares of grounds as a bed and breakfast.

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The former Chalet Fontenelle is a good example of a late-Victorian country retreat which became the retirement home of the Anglican minister and his well-to-do wife who established the property.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
As a favourite boyhood home of Gordon Childe. the seminal figure in European prehistory between the wars and a great Professor of Archaeology at the Universities of Edinburgh and London, the former Chalet Fontenelle has significant associations with a wider world. The association is not, however, so meaningful as to raise the property to a State level of heritage significance.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Whispering Pines is a good example of a substantial Federation Arts and Crafts style retreat. The design is of interest with the broad roof gable being more characteristic of central Europe than the typically complex roofs of the Australian federation period. The perimeter of pine trees are important in providing a setting for the house. The two Arbutus trees at the entry contribute to the sense of arrival at the site.
Integrity/Intactness: Main structure and layout intact. Most joinery reconstructed. Most original spatterdash replaced.
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.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanLEP1991WF03827 Dec 91 183 
Heritage study WF038   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Blue Mountains Heritage Study1983WF038Croft & Associates Pty Ltd & Meredith Walker  Yes
Heritage Study Review, Blue Mountains1992WF038Tropman and Tropman  Yes
Blue Mountains Heritage Review2003WF038Jack, Hubert, Lavelle, Morris  Yes
Technical Audit BM Heritage Register2008WF038Blue Mountains City CouncilCity Planning Branch No

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenCroft and Associates1983Inventory Form 038 Blue Mountains Heritage Study
WrittenGwen Silvey1996Happy Days: Blue Mountains Guesthouses remembered
WrittenJeannie Walker, Co-ordinator1996What God has Done: 150 years at St Thomas' Anglican Church, North Sydney
WrittenSally Green1981Prehistorian: A Biography of V Gordon Childe
WrittenVanessa Dudman1991Two Houses by E Jeaffreson Jackson RIBA: An architectural and historical survey

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: 1170825

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