Toll Cottage (former Rose Cottage) | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Toll Cottage (former Rose Cottage)

Item details

Name of item: Toll Cottage (former Rose Cottage)
Other name/s: Rose Cottage
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Residential buildings (private)
Category: Cottage
Primary address: 51 Bolton Street, Newcastle, NSW 2300
Parish: Newcastle
County: Northumberland
Local govt. area: Newcastle


Includes cottage, outbuildings and entire courtyard area including garden, and the parking spaces in the raised car parking area which are immediately adjacent to the eastern boundary of the sunken courtyard and the east elevations of the cottage and annexe. The curtilage boundary should follow to the northern, western and southern edges of the sunken courtyard area and the 7 parking bays within the raised car park area immediately to the east of the sunken courtyard area, cottage and annexe - there were no maps or serviceable aerial photographs available for the preparation of a curtilage map.
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
51 Bolton StreetNewcastleNewcastleNewcastleNorthumberlandPrimary Address

Statement of significance:

Toll Cottage is rare in Newcastle, NSW and possibly Australia as an example of some of the earliest housing stock built in the colony and the oldest surviving dwelling in Newcastle. It demonstrates the early application of the Georgian architectural style, developed in Britain but utilised in a simplified manner in Australia, yet exhibiting key features of that style, particularly its symmetrical, orderly features and balanced proportions. The cottage is particularly rare as an early example of this Colonial Georgian style surviving in an urban setting. Built during the late convict or colonial era (c. 1820 to 1840s) when Newcastle was undergoing a transformation from penal outpost to free town, the cottage articulates the domestic living conditions of 'gentlemen' settlers of the era, having been built for an official or free settler. It has a historical association with prominent Novocastrian, Simon Kemp, a key figure in Newcastle's economic and political history, serving as Mayor in the 1860s. Kemp was also part of a campaign to open the port of Newcastle to free direct trade, the success of which had a significant impact on Newcastle's and NSW's economic development. The site and its history also has the capacity to yield information about the early urban development of Newcastle, as well as building techniques and construction methods of the era, which can contribute to a greater understanding of the colonial era in NSW and Australia. Interiors of interest.
Date significance updated: 29 Oct 12
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.


Construction years: 1828-1830
Physical description: Toll Cottage is an early Georgian cottage constructed of handmade, sandstock colonial bond brick walls, now painted, on sandstone foundations, with a pitched shingled hipped roof and a central chimney. The cottage is symmetrically composed with only a few ground level rooms plus a roof attic with windows at both ends. It features twelve-pane sash windows. A separate two storey weatherboard structure originally housed the kitchen and domestic accommodation. This has not survived, although records from the 1970s indicate that remnants of the ground floor of the structure existed at the rear of the main cottage. Similar facilities have been sympathetically contructed in recent times. The cottage is set within a small courtyard below ground level and completely surrounded by more recent commercial developments and a car park, so that it is not visible from Bolton Street or other surrounding streets. It is accessed via a walkway forming part of the commercial development on Bolton Street. (Newcastle Regional Library, Local Studies Collection - Newspaper Cuttings File: 'Newcastle - Historic Houses - Rose Cottage' - Minutes of Works & Planning Committee Meeting 22/11/1971; Maitland & Stafford, 1997, pp 7, 31)
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The cottage has undergone a number of restorations in the 1970s and 1980s and is in good condition, having been repainted and re-roofed. Many of its original features including the twelve-pane sash windows and frames, sandstone step, doorway, staircase, fireplaces and stove remain in good condition.
Date condition updated:25 Jan 08
Modifications and dates: Restoration work was carried out on the cottage in 1976, 1983 and 1988. The cottage has been re-roofed at least twice - with corrugated iron sheeting and more recently, with shingles. The most recent refurbishment (1988) was associated with the cottage's preparation for lease as professional rooms. A separate annexe with lavatories and kitchen facilities and a paved courtyard covered by a pergola were also added at that time.
Current use: Legal Office
Former use: Residence


Historical notes: Permanent settlement was established at Newcastle in 1804 after official and unofficial exploration revealed its abundant resources of coal and timber as well as its suitability as a penal settlement. Over the next two decades, while coal, lime, timber and salt were extracted from the region by gangs of convicts, the vast agricultural potential of the well-watered, fertile Hunter Valley was also revealed. Until 1822, however, the vast majority of Newcastle's inhabitants were convicts. Governor Lachlan Macquarie’s decision to open up the Hunter Valley to free settlers necessitated the closure of the penal settlement, and during 1822 most of Newcastle’s convicts were moved away to Port Macquarie. As the town was expected to serve its hinterland as a port, a government surveyor, Henry Dangar, was directed in 1823 to prepare a town plan on the site of the convict settlement. Dangar imposed a regular grid plan on the rather haphazardly arranged settlement of 1804-1823. Making provision for a town of 190 allotments with a church enclave and market place at its centre, Dangar established the layout of central Newcastle as it is today. Free settlers were allowed to select a town allotment and land was also offered for sale. (Suters Architects, 2007, pp 1-4, 27)

Newcastle was declared a free town in 1824, however development proceeded slowly. Most of the early free settlers were farmers, who bypassed Newcastle for the fertile Hunter Valley; thus, Newcastle experienced a decline in population, which for several years hovered around 1,100 people in the wider Newcastle area. When visiting Newcastle in 1825, Reverend Threlkeld wrote that 'the town has more the appearance of a deserted village. ' By 1827 Newcastle was being described in terms of 'ruin' and 'decay', as most of the buildings of the convict era had not been constructed well. (Hanley, 1997, p 27)

Toll Cottage (formerly Rose Cottage), tucked away behind modern developments off Bolton Street, was probably built towards the end of the convict period. Some have dated the building to as early as 1828, which would make it the oldest surviving building in the city. The land on which Toll Cottage stands was originally part of town allotment number 35 and was owned by grant, promise or purchase by A. Beveridge. The original title to the property, dated in the 1820s, stipulated that it had to be developed within two years. It is probable that the cottage was erected in the late 1820s or around 1830 for Beveridge or other persons. At that time there were about fifty houses scattered about the town, which was centred around what is now Newcastle East, extending only as far as present-day Brown Street to the west. The town's population at the time was approximately 400, including the military guard and those prisoners that had been retained to mine coal and work on the breakwater. Other investigations have dated the cottage to the 1830s - 1840s era. (Maitland & Stafford, 1997, pp 7, 3; Hanley, 1997, p 27; Newcastle Regional Library, Local Studies Collection - Newspaper Cuttings File: 'Newcastle - Historic Houses - Rose Cottage' - Minutes of Works & Planning Committee Meeting 22/11/1971)

Built of lime-washed colonial bond brick, it is a modest Colonial Georgian dwelling consisting of four rooms and a loft, with twelve-pane sash windows, a shingle roof and no verandah. Early Australian architecture was based on a simplified version of the classical style of British architecture that had evolved during the reigns of the first three Kings George. The essence of this style of classical architecture was order, with all parts of a building harmonising visually. While the early Australian buildings were quite rudimentary, even the simplest structures exhibited something of the orderliness of the Georgian style, such as in the plain uniformity of brick walling and the simple rectangularity of sash windows. Georgian buildings possess a pleasantly human scale, rectangular and prismic shapes, symmetrical facades and balanced proportions (Apperley, Irving & Reynolds, 1994, p 24). While Toll Cottage is a modest structure, it exhibits many of these features characteristic of the Georgian style. The fenestration is also typical of the first half of the nineteenth century when, due to the scarcity and cost of glass, windows were glazed by placing small sheets of glass between slender lengths of timber fixed vertically and horizontally into the sashes. A separate two-storey weatherboard structure to the rear of the cottage housed the kitchen, with the upper floor used as accommodation for domestic servants. This was typical of early colonial housing which emulated living conditions in other colonies, especially India, where the hot climate dictated separate kitchens. It was also a precaution against the risk of fire. The dwelling would have been a 'gentleman's cottage', probably built for an Army officer or other official. The cottage demonstrates the simple design and construction of the earliest colonial period housing in Newcastle and in the colony of New South Wales. Such symmetrical Georgian cottages erected during the early period of settlement did not offer the degree of climate control that was found necessary in most areas - the hot sun bearing down on bare facades made these dwellings unbearable in summer and so verandahs soon became a feature of Australian architecture. It was only in Tasmania, with its cooler climate, that the unadorned face of the Georgian house continued to be seen in large numbers. Thus, this simple cottage, constructed without a verandah, is a rare and early example of its type surviving in an urban setting in NSW and probably Australia. (Maitland & Stafford, 1997, pp 7, 3; Hanley, 1997, p 27; Newcastle Regional Library, Local Studies Collection - Newspaper Cuttings File: 'Newcastle - Historic Houses - Rose Cottage' - Minutes of Works & Planning Committee Meeting 22/11/1971; Evans, 1983, pp 8, 54; Stapleton & Stapleton, 1997, p 11).

The first authenticated transfer of the land was on 30th September 1856, being a grant by purchase to Simon Kemp. Kemp was once a carpenter with the Australian Agricultural Company, who became a prominent citizen and landowner in Newcastle. In the 1840s he was part of a group that successfully campaigned for the opening of the Port of Newcastle as a free warehousing port. They wanted the right to export coal, wool and other produce, and to receive imports directly at Newcastle, instead of having to export and import through Sydney. In the 1850s Kemp was also instrumental in campaigning for the establishment of local government in Newcastle and became Mayor of Newcastle in 1866. (Newcastle Regional Library, Local Studies Collection - Newspaper Cuttings File: 'Newcastle - Historic Houses - Rose Cottage' - Minutes of Works & Planning Committee Meeting 22/11/1971 & Newcastle Morning Herald 27/10/1971; Turner, 1997, pp 21, 34)

According to newspaper sources, Joe Finney bought the cottage from Simon Kemp in the 1860s. Finney was an Ulsterman, who made his fortune as a carrier. The property at one time had frontage to a reserved road 12 feet wide, which provided access to a number of other properties, which have long since been demolished. The reserved road was never dedicated, however, and so access to the cottage was from Bolton Street via a laneway 10 feet wide. This lane was not dedicated as a public thoroughfare and has now been partially built over. Finney's daughter, a Mrs Charlotte Hodge lived in the house for many years. The cottage continued to be used as a residence until the 1970s, although it had been owned by property developer, Toll Investments Pty Ltd since the early 1950s when it became known as Toll Cottage. By the 1970s Toll had acquired the entire block of land bounded by Church, Bolton, Watt and King Streets. (Newcastle Regional Library, Local Studies Collection - Newspaper Cuttings File: 'Newcastle - Historic Houses - Rose Cottage' )

Since the 1970s there have been several development proposals for the land surrounding Toll Cottage reflecting its prime location in the topographically confined space of the modern Newcastle CBD. While its setting has been completely obliterated by the developments that have occurred, including an office block and carpark, the cottage has survived, though it is not visible from Bolton Street, and has posed a challenge to its owners to find an appropriate use for it. The cottage has also undergone restoration works on a number of occasions. In 1976 Toll Investments decided to try to restore the dwelling as authentically as possible as a gesture of goodwill towards the City of Newcastle that had been good to the Toll family. Some sections of the walls and foundations were replaced with bricks from the old outhouse, which, though a later addition, was of the same hand-made sandstocks. The window frames and much of the internal woodwork was found to have survived under layers of paint and some of the glazing was original. The lathe plaster was replaced by a suitable equivalent and some of the original shakes (axe split hardwood square boards) for the roof still existed, though the roof had been covered with corrugated iron sheeting. (Newcastle Regional Library, Local Studies Collection - Newspaper Cuttings File: 'Newcastle - Historic Houses - Rose Cottage'; Hanley, 1997, p 27 )

In the 1980s, when the surrounding commercial and residential developments were being planned, it was proposed to either dismantle the cottage and rebuild it on the site after the ground level was raised by 1.5 metres, or else to underpin and jack the building up, which would be less damaging. Fortunately, however, the cottage remained in its original position and the new developments were designed around it. In 1988 the cottage underwent further restoration before being leased as professional rooms for a legal practice. To complement the restoration work, a separate annexe with toilet and kitchen facilities and a paved courtyard covered by a pergola were added. It is likely that this addition is in a similar location to the original kitchen and domestic servant accommodation associated with the cottage. (Newcastle Regional Library, Local Studies Collection - Newspaper Cuttings File: 'Newcastle - Historic Houses - Rose Cottage'; Hanley, 1997, p 27 )

The cottage survives with a much reduced site curtilage, well hidden from the street and accessible via the walkway outside the office block fronting Bolton Street. While its setting has been lost, the cottage itself remains in good condition, with many of its original features, including staircase, timber-mantled fireplaces and fuel stove.

It seems that Toll (Rose) Cottage is a rare example of a modest small-scale free standing Colonial Georgian dwelling in an urban setting in NSW and possibly Australia. A review of other 'cottages' listed on the State Heritage Register reveals very few comparable sites. Cadman's Cottage, dating from 1816 is the earliest known surviving building in Sydney and is a good example of Georgian styling. Other Colonial Georgian dwellings existing in urban areas include Reynolds' Cottages at the Rocks, however these are not free standing. A stone cottage in Merriman Street, Millers Point, Undercliffe Cottage in Argyle Street, Millers Point and Roseneath Cottage in Parramatta are much larger structures with verandahs. The most comparable items outside the metropolitan area include a group of Warders Cottages off Barrack Lane in Parramatta, though again, these are on a larger scale than Toll Cottage; a group of Government Cottages in Stanley Street, Bathurst (1830s); Hooper Cottage in Randwick (1840s) and Oldholme in East Maitland (1830s). While there are other Georgian cottages surviving in NSW they tend to be located in rural or semi-rural settings and are usually larger and grander than Toll Cottage, for example: Bowman House, Richmond (1818-1820) and Claremont Cottage, Windsor, and usually feature a verandah. Toll Cottage is therefore a valuable reminder of the earliest housing stock surviving in an urban setting outside Sydney.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Convict-Activities relating to incarceration, transport, reform, accommodation and working during the convict period in NSW (1788-1850) - does not include activities associated with the conviction of persons in NSW that are unrelated to the imperial 'convict system': use the theme of Law & Order for such activities (none)-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Accommodation-Activities associated with the provision of accommodation, and particular types of accommodation – does not include architectural styles – use the theme of Creative Endeavour for such activities. Housing-
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)-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages (none)-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Domestic life-Activities associated with creating, maintaining, living in and working around houses and institutions. (none)-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups prominent individuals-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Toll Cottage has historical significance for Newcastle and the State as an example of some of the earliest housing constructed in Newcastle and New South Wales, most likely being Newcastle's oldest surviving residence. It represents the style of housing constructed in the township of Newcastle and in NSW during the late convict and colonial era, a period in which Newcastle was undergoing a transformation from a penal outpost to a free town. The cottage demonstrates the domestic living conditions of 'gentlemen' settlers in the period from the late 1820s to the 1840s. A modest Colonial Georgian dwelling it reflects the earliest architectural style applied in Australia, based on British models, before being better adapted to suit the Australian climate.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The Cottage is most notably associated with Simon Kemp, who owned and occupied it from the mid-1850s to 1860s. Kemp was a prominent Newcastle resident, who was instrumental in lobbying for free trade in the port and for local government. He served as Mayor of Newcastle in the 1860s.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Toll Cottage exhibits a high degree of aesthetic significance as a fine example of an early Colonial Georgian cottage with many of its original features intact. While it is a modest structure, the cottage displays many of the key elements of the Georgian style of architecture, particularly its symmetrical harmonious facades, balanced proportions and simple rectangular forms of its doors and windows. Situated in a courtyard setting below ground level, the cottage survives as a simple and elegant reminder of a bygone era within the modern commercial heartland of Newcastle's CBD.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
From the limited scope of research carried out for this review, it seems that Toll Cottage is valued by the people of Newcastle as possibly the city's oldest surviving residence. Development proposals surrounding the cottage at least since the 1970s have been followed with interest by the local media, with the fate of the cottage a key consideration for locals, heritage practitioners and the Council. The fact that its owner - a developer - wished to restore the cottage as a gift to the Newcastle community attests to the esteem with which it is held locally.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The site on which Toll Cottage stands is likely to have archaeological potential as it possibly contains remnants of earlier structures including the former kitchen and domestic living quarters. The site could also yield information concerning early patterns of street alignment in Newcastle. The building itself can shed light on construction methods and materials, domestic life and living conditions in the early colonial era.
SHR Criteria f)
Toll Cottage is a rare example of a simple small scale free standing early Colonial Georgian cottage surviving in an urban setting in NSW and possibly Australia. It is rare in NSW as such an early example of the style as most surviving cottages of this era are larger and usually feature a verandah that developed in response to the hot Australian climate. It is rare locally as the only such example in Newcastle itself and as Newcastle's oldest dwelling.
SHR Criteria g)
The cottage is representative of an early Colonial Georgian cottage, exhibiting some of the key characteristics of this style, including: plain uniformity of brick walling, the simple rectangularity of twelve-pane sash windows, its hipped shingled roof and stone entrance step.
Integrity/Intactness: Good
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 PlanNewcastle LEP 2012I37015 Jun 12 64 
Heritage study     

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Newcastle Heritage Study1990147Unknown  Yes
Review of Items of Potential State Significance in the Newcastle City Area2008 Sue Rosen and Associates Heritage Assessment And History (HAAH)Rosemary Kerr, Emma Dortins and Julia Kensy Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written  Newcastle Regional Library, Local Studies Collection - Newspaper Cuttings File: 'Newcastle - Historic Houses - Rose Cottage'
WrittenApperley, Richard, Irving, Robert & Reynolds, Peter1994A Pictorial Guide to Identifying Australian Architecture
WrittenEvans, Ian1983The Australian Home
WrittenHanley, Jo1997'Newcastle: Place of History, Landscape of Memory' in Moore, J & Ostwald, M. J., 'Hidden Newcastle - Urban Memories and Architectural Imaginaries'
WrittenMaitland, Barry & Stafford, David1997Architecture Newcastle
WrittenStapleton, Maisy & Stapleton, Ian1997Australian House Styles
WrittenSuters Architects2007Newcastle City Wide Heritage Study - Thematic History
WrittenTurner, John1997A Pictorial History of Newcastle

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: 2170147
File number: 147

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