House | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

Culture and heritage



Item details

Name of item: House
Other name/s: said to have been built by a publican of the Toronto Hotel; Donnelly's House
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Residential buildings (private)
Category: House
Primary address: 4 Arnott Avenue, Toronto, NSW 2283
Parish: Awaba
County: Northumberland
Local govt. area: Lake Macquarie
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
4 Arnott AvenueTorontoLake MacquarieAwabaNorthumberlandPrimary Address

Statement of significance:

SIGNIFICANCE - 1993: An unusual house, of idiosyncratic design and with an outstanding presence. The house takes significance from its former owners, Bessie and Leslie Arnott , of the nationally significant Arnott's Biscuit company.
LEVEL of SIGNIFICANCE - 1993: Regional Significance - high (to be confirmed)
Local Significance - high (to be confirmed)
Group Significance - high (as a contributing item
in the conservation area)
Date significance updated: 24 Oct 18
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: Mr T. Hardiman
Builder/Maker: Mr Sommers
Construction years: 1911-1915
Physical description: PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS - 1993:
Architectural Style: Federation Queen Anne
Materials: Frame - timber (upper)
Roof - terra cotta tile cladding with octagonal turret.
Walls/Cladding - vertical weatherboards & terra cotta tiles (top)
Windows - wood frame (sliding?) with coloured cathedral glass
Floors - ?
Interior - ?
This house is obscured from view, except for a large octagonal turret sitting above the main house, and forming an elevated sitting room with views of the Lake.
The turret is supported at front by wooden verandah posts with Lyre-shaped brackets.
The turret walls are clad with vertical boards, except for a bottom skirt of tc tiles as a verandah roof for the main house below.
The lakeside turret walls have extensive windows, with cathedral glass above.
The octagonal roof has tc tiles, and rises steeply to a tall peak with a terra cotta finial.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
This house is obscured from view, except for a large octagonal turret sitting above the main house, and forming an elevated sitting room with views of the Lake. The turret is supported at front by wooden verandah posts with Lyre brackets. The turret walls are clad with vertical boards, except for a bottom skirt of tc tiles as a verandah roof for the main house below. The lakeside turret walls have extensive windows with cathedral glass above. The octangonal roof has tc tiles, and rises steeeply to a tall peak with tc finial.
Modifications and dates: None visible. Looks in very original condition.
Appears to have been built on a subdivision of Arnott's land.
Current use: 1993: domestic residence


Historical notes: HISTORICAL NOTES - 1999
William Arnott, when aged about 20 years, and his brother David, arrived in NSW in 1848. William, from Fifeshire, Scotland, was a baker and pastry cook. He married Monica Sinclair in 1851, tired his luck on the Turon River gold fields and in 1853 settled in West Maitland. He commenced a bakery and confectioner buisness but the repetitive flooding of the Hunter River in the 1850's bought him to bankruptcy. After the untimely death of his wife he, with five young children, relocated to Newcastle where he commended another bakery. The buisness prospered and in 1865 he married Margare Fleming and fathered eight more children. Newcastle eas a rapidly growing shipping port. Ocean-going ships needed provisions and William Arnott responded to the almost unlimited market for ships buiscuits by expanding his bakery to a biscuit manufactory. From the 1870's, the family lived at 'Leslie Villa', a large two storey home in Melville Street (now Union street),Newcastle, built by William Arnott in 1873. Nearby was William Arnott's Steam Biscuit Factory. By 1888, William Arnott and some of his family had moved and were residing at 'Arnott Holme', a quality mansion in Crebert street, Mayfield, then a highly desirable outlying suburb.

By 1874, the eldest son, James Hydon Leslie Arnott ('Leslie') was taking over more responsibilities in the business and soon steered the company's expansion, including the opening of a large biscuit factory at Homebush, Sydney. In July 1893, part of Lots 12, 13, 14 and 15 in Section 6, of DP 2505 were transferred from the Excelsior Company to William Arnott and the house 'Lake Holme' (now the Royal Motor Yacht Club) was built. The Arnott family probably maintained homes at both Mayfield, Sydney and Toronto around this time. The Arnott family's interest in property at Lake Macquarie occurred while they were living in new home(s) in Mayfield, so their interest in land at Toronto was most likely as a holiday retreat and place for visitor entertainment.

Land Titles Office registers indicate that the land between 'Lake Holme', owned by Willian Arnott, and the Ingall property came into the possession of Bessie Arnott, wife of Leslie Arnott (eldest son of William senior) in 1897, possibly at the same time as 'Lake Holme'. " On 11 August 1911, the "Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners Advocate" reported that an unusual 'pagoda-shaped building' was under construction for Mr Leslie Arnott on land at the side of his home, at an expected cost of 2000 pounds. Already Leslie Arnott's home was considered 'one of the finest residences on the lake shore' and this noteworthy and surprising addition was 'the first of its kind in the Newcastle district'. Built of brick and tuck-pointed, the building was octangular, of two-storeys, with exceptional views from the windows and verandahs. The building contained dressing rooms and bath rooms, and hot and cold running water. The interior fittings were of Queensland maple. The interior steps were of polished marble, with exterior marble stairs and a roof of French tiles. The architect was Mr T. Hardiman and the contractor Mr Sommers. The emphasis on the dressing rooms and bath rooms with hot and cold water suggests that the building was purpose built for lakeside recreation although recollections of local people indicate that the building was a residence. Leslie and Bessie Arnott journeyed extensively abroad during the years before erecting this building and it is thought that the unusual design was influenced by a building seen during their travels. The Pagoda House may have been later occupied by Ethel, wife of Cecil Hollingshead, and daughter of Leslie and Bessie Arnott. Records indicate that Leslie and Bessie Arnott retained Lake Holme and the Pagoda House until the mid-to-late 1920's - almost thirty years. The Arnott family also owned the adjoining house, from 1914 to 1926.
At the time the Newcastle branch of the Royal Motor Yacht Club was established in 'Lake Holme' in 1927, it was owned by Charles Bacon, the proprietor of the Toronto Hotel. The Pagoda House appears to have been sold by Bessie Arnott in a conveyance dated 22 May 1929, to Charles Bacon for two thousand pounds. Bacon, is reputed to have lived there for many years. [from EJE Architecture "RMYC Toronto Heritage Significance Study" 1999:4-5]

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The Pagoda House is significant for its historical significance as being remaining evidence of the settlement of this area of the foreshore of Lake Macquarie by Newcastle's wealthier citizens for recreational purposes.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The Pagoda House is significant for its strong association with the Arnott family, in particular James Haydon Leslie Arnott ('Leslie'), who took over the responsibilities of the Newcastle biscuit factory and steered the company's expansion, including the opening of a large biscuit factory at Homebush,Sydney. 'Arnotts Biscuits' went on to become a household name in Australia.
SHR Criteria f)
The Pagoda House is significant for its unusual design, being 'the first of its kind in the Newcastle district'.
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:

RECOMMENDATION - 1993: More information needed. Apart from the prominent turret, the house is not easy to see, & has not been properly assessed. It needs to be fully investigated.


Management CategoryDescriptionDate Updated
Statutory InstrumentList on a Local Environmental Plan (LEP)22 Jun 08
Statutory InstrumentInclude in a Conservation Area within an LEP22 Jun 08
Recommended ManagementDocument and prepare an archival record22 Jun 08


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanLake Macquarie LEP 2004TT-2019 Mar 04   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
City of Lake Macquarie Heritage Study1993TT-20Suters Architects Snell, Dr J. Turner, C & MJ Doring Pty LtdDoring Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written 1924"Toronto Tourist Guide" Souvenir Issue, 1924.
WrittenClack, EW1974Early History of Toronto
WrittenCynthia Hunter1999Lake Holme & The Royal Motor Yacht Club, Toronto Heritage Significance Study
WrittenNilsen, L. (ed)1985Lake Macquarie: Past and Present

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

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Local Government
Database number: 1910207

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