Minimbah House and Outbuildings | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

Culture and heritage

Heritage

Minimbah House and Outbuildings

Item details

Name of item: Minimbah House and Outbuildings
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Farming and Grazing
Category: Homestead Complex
Primary address: , Whittingham, NSW 2330
Local govt. area: Singleton
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
 WhittinghamSingleton  Primary Address

Statement of significance:

Minimbah has state historical significance for its role in identifying the primary land grants in the Hunter Valley in the early decades of the 19th century and hence, an understanding of the pattern of settlement of rural areas of NSW for pastoralism. Historically Minimbah has been associated with aristocrcatic pastoral families Cobb and Mackay and then later with eminent Australian businessmen. 121 years old, the residence continues to provide evidence of the prominence and role of the early pastoral families in developing the Hunter valley and is indicative of the importance of a grand house to display their substanial wealth. Aesthetically Minimbah has landmark qualties, string visual appeal and display grandeur and elegance, having been designed by well-known English architect Benjamin Backhouse. The residence was built on a large budget with high quality materials, architecture and attention to details. Minimbah exemplifies the victorian Filigree style, characterised by elaborate cast iron verandah detailing and is a prominent example of its type in NSW, portraying the influence and wealth of its owners. As such, it has state aesthetic significance. Socially, the property has associations with early landholders in the region and NSW and as such, the expansion of cattle and horse breeding and grazing and therefore, the establishment of the economic base of the Hunter Valley. Minimbah is important to the descendants of the Mackay family and is significance because it represents a rare aspect of NSW's social and cultural environment and contributes to the NSW community identity. It has state social significance. Technically, it has the potential to contribute to a greter understanding of: building techniques and architectural detailing; the social class, wealth and lifestyle of early pastoralists; the pattern of land grants in rural NSW areas; the prominent settlers of the early 19th century; interior an exterior construction materials and decorations of the period of those with wealth; the details of cattle and horse breeding and grazing in the Hunter Valley; and the range and availability of skilled workers in NSW at the time of the residence's construction. Minimbah is a refeerence site for understanding our cultural heritage and as such, has state technical significance.
Date significance updated: 26 May 10
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: Benjamin backhouse made alternations to a plan prepared for William Dangar
Construction years: 1874-1877
Physical description: Two storey sandstone residence built on a u-shape floor plan with corrugated iron roof and roof dormers. This Victorian Filigree building has a two storey verandah with Filigree decoration including cast iron balustrades, columns and frieze panels to the main wing. The verandah extends along three sides of the residence, onto to which open French windows. The main building is flanked by two storey wings with hipped roofs and singles storey timber framed verandahs, both in which enclose a small courtyard containing a swimming pool.
The residence has ornamental stone chimneys and three storey observation timber-clad tower with large clear glass windows. Internally the Australian cedar and rosewood staircase, hand carved in Germany. Is evident. The residence has finally detailed windows, featuring some of the first stained glass representatives of native Australian fauna.

The adjacent face brick services building is single level with corrugated metal roof and skillion sheeting with a chimney. There are three small outbuildings, all of which have painted corrugated iron roofs. One, located adjacent to the tennis court, is currently used as the maintenance shed and is constructed of concrete block. The other building near the tennis court is currently used as a machinery shed. The stable is clad with weatherboards.

The residence is surrounded by landscaped garden beds, mature trees and vines. A pond with concrete surrounds and fountain is located to the front of the residence.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Structurally the building is in excellent condition. However repairs and restoration to many parts of the building is required. Similar work is required to the servant's quarters and other outbuildings.
Date condition updated:07 Jun 00
Modifications and dates: Alterations and restorations works were undertaken in 1973 including the addition of swimming pools, concrete tennis court, stables and horse yard and landscaping.
Further information: A Heritage 2001 application was lodged to the Heritage Office in June 1997 to undertake general repairs and maintenance to Minimbah. The application subsequently approved, this SHI form completing the final stage in the Application process. The proposed conservation work is based on principals of repair and restoration of the original existing building fabric including the removal of inappropriate additions and the reinstatement of the original building materials.
Current use: Vineyard - private home
Former use: Farming homestead

History

Historical notes: Brothers John and Duncan Forbes Mackay accompanied their family from Scotland, and emigrated to Canada in the early 19th century. From here, after some travelling, Duncan Forbes Mackay came to NSW and, in the early 1820s, secured a civil appointment at the former penal established at Newcastle. Form here he evaluated the country that was becoming available for settlement and deciding that he would like a grant of loan an the Williams River - actually selecting a portion of land adjoining the land that in 1834 became the township of Dungog. He secured his farm in c1829 and was probably the first settler in the upper Williams. Duncan Forbes Mackay did not marry and had no children but, in the 1830s, he encouraged his brother John to join him at his property "Melbee".

John, his wife Sybella and seven children, came to Melbee about 1839. Duncan Forbes Mackay Jnr (nephew to Duncan Forbes Mackay Snr) was the sixth child and forth son of John and Sybella Mackay. Two more children arrived to them in 1840 and 1841. By 1850, Duncan Forbes Mackay Snr made over his estate to his brother's family.

John's nine children were eligible marriage partners for several of the offspring of the Hunter Valley's aristocracy including the neighboring Hooke and Dowling families and the sparke and Cobb families of the Maitland area.

During the latter half of the 19th Century, the Mackays became one of the principal grazing and cattle breeding families in NSW, controlling vast pastoral leases in NSW and Queensland, with lavish residential establishments in the Hunter Valley, especially those built in the late Victorian area. In the 1860's and 1870's Duncan Forbes Mackay Jnr took up extensive cattle runs in the St George and Roma areas, in Queensland.

By the 1870's Duncan Forbes Mackay and his wife had five children. Duncan bought land, formerly a 2000 acre grant made in October 1823 to John Cobb, who had previously used the land for sheep farming. The property became renowned, among other attributes, for the breeding of excellent horses. Mackay increased the size of the property to 30,000 acres.

Duncan Forbes Mackay built Minimbah mansion in 1877. Original plans for a residence were drawn up in London for Mr William Dangar of Noetsfield but were bought by Mackay after the death of Mrs William Dangar. Duncan Mackay contracted architect Benjamin Backhouse to modify the plans.

Following Mackay's death in1894 the estate was sold to the mining magnate Sylvester Brown in 1901. In 1915 the Hon. John Morrissey acquired Minimbah, and it was then bought by Mr Foden, English multi-industrialist. Mrs J Birdsall bought the home and property in 1945 and later donated it to the Aboriginal Inland Mission, who operated it until 1973.

Minimbah was purchased by the family company of Marie and Alwyn Wells in 1973. The property was restored to its original condition at a cost of about 1 million and the addition of swimming pools (one located in the rear courtyard and heated and surrounded by sandstone brick paving), concrete tennis court, stables and horse yards and extensive landscaping.

Mr Frank Rickwood, Director of Papua New Guinea oil and gas company Oil Search Limited, bought the house in December 1982 for $300,000 and lived with his dog for 11 years. The residence and property was purchased by the current owner, the Ryan family in 1993. The property is now used for vineyards.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Pastoralism-Activities associated with the breeding, raising, processing and distribution of livestock for human use (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
* indicative of the primary land grants in the Hunter Valley in the early decades of the 19th century
* associated with aristocratic pastoral families Cobb and Mackay, the Mackay family renown for controlling vast grazing and cattle breeding leases in NSW and Queensland and then later with eminent Australian businessmen.
* now 121 years old, the residence continues to provide important evidence of the prominence and role of the early pastoral families in developing the Hunter Valley for grazing and cattle and horse breeding and of their substantial wealth
* indicative of the importance of a grand house to display this wealth and of the commissioning of a well known architect to undertake its design
* significant in the growth of development in the Hunter Valley and as such, a greater understanding of the pattern of settlement of rural areas of NSW for pastoralism
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
* the residence has landmark qualities - views from New England Highway
* Minimbah has strong visual appeal, displays grandeur and elegance
* Built on a large budget with high quality materials, architecture and attention to detail
* highest quality of design - joinery and hand painted stained glass windows, staircase hand carved in Germany
*one of the prominent examples of its type in NSW, portraying the influence and wealth of its owners
* exemplifies the Victorian Filigree style, characterised by elaborate cast iron verandah detailing including balustrades, columns an frieze panels
* associated with well known English Architect, Benjamin Backhouse
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
* Minimbah is important to the descendants of the Mackay family
* The property has associations with early landholders in the region and NSW
* The residence is associated with the expansion of cattle breeding and grazing and therefore, the establishment of the economic base of the Hunter Valley
and Minimbah is significant because it represents a rare aspect of NSW's social and cultural environment and contributes to the NSW community's identity.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
* potential contribution to a greater understanding of:
- building techniques and architectural detailing
- the social class, wealth and lifestyles of early pastoralists
- the pattern of land grants in rural NSW areas
- the prominent settlers of the early 19th century
- interior and exterior construction materials and decorations of the period for those with wealth
- the details of cattle and horse breeding and grazing in the Hunter Valley
- reference site for understanding our cultural heritage
- range and availability of skilled workers in NSW at the time of the residence's construction
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
Historically Minimbah is rare because it because it continues to provide evidence of the class and wealth of early Hunter Valley landholders and the size of their land grants when rural NSW was established its economic base. Aesthetically the residence is rare because it demonstrates the extent of architectural design and detailing in rural NSW mansions in the early decades of the 19th century. Socially Minimbah shows accurate evidence of the lifestyle of the Mackay family with their wealth demonstrated by the grandeur and expense of this home. And as such is a rare example of its type. Technically the residence is rare for its ability to demonstrate architectural designs and techniques of exceptional interest and therefore, an important aspect of the state's cultural environment.
SHR Criteria g)
[Representativeness]
Historically Minimbah is representative for its attributes, typical of the early 19th century aristocratic way of life and aesthetically, socially and technically because of its integrity, setting, condition and size.
Integrity/Intactness: Minimbah retains its original integrity and the important aspects of building which make it significant under the historical, aesthetic, social and scientific criteria identified above including, its original fabric, internal and external detailing, thee prominent towers, its landmark qualities and visual appeal from the New England Highway, its curtilage and associated landscaping, its sheer size and Filigree elegance and its ability too demonstrate a high quality residential achievement by wealthy landowners.
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:

Urgent maintenance required to control existing termite attack and general deterioration of the builing's external structure and fabric - 1988.

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental Plan  05 Jul 96   
Register of the National Estate  21 Mar 78   

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenCynthia Hunter1997Ravensworth, A history prepared for EJE Architecture, August 1997
WrittenDianne Sneddon1994Newcastle Morning Herald
WrittenEJE Architecture, Newcastle1998State Heritage Inventory Form
Writtenellen Connolly1994Newcastle Morning Herald
WrittenFrances Holz1995Newcastle Morning Herald
WrittenJodi Sladen1998Newcastle Morning Herald

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

Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Gazette NSW Statutory Listings
Database number: 14293
File number: H97/01133/01


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.