Brent Knowle | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

Culture and heritage


Brent Knowle

Item details

Name of item: Brent Knowle
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Residential buildings (private)
Category: House
Primary address: 31 Shellcove Road, Kurraba Point, NSW 2089
Local govt. area: North Sydney
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
31 Shellcove RoadKurraba PointNorth Sydney  Primary Address

Statement of significance:

A picturesque early 20th century gentleman's residence designed by an eminent architect BJ Waterhouse under partnership as Waterhouse & Lake for financier Major JH Evans Booker. It is perhaps his most important early work and clearly manifests the influence of the English Arts and Craft movement. The house is well related with its harbourside site through the use of fluid roof forms which tie together the residence, service wing and front stone wall. The property includes an original garage and stables. The significant interior retains the original room configuration and detailing with both servants' rooms and residents' rooms clearly differentiated . Waterhouse's skilful use of scale and proportion, colours which are not harsh and textured surface treatment mark him out as an early 20th century architect of importance. See also under 'Shellcove Road Group' NSHS1246.

Heritage Inventory sheets are often not comprehensive, and should be regarded as a general guide only. Inventory sheets are based on information available, and often do not include information on landscape significance, interiors or the social history of sites and buildings. Inventory sheets are updated by Council as further information becomes available. An inventory sheet with little information may simply indicate that there has been no building work done to the item recently: it does not mean that items are not significant. Further research is always recommended as part of preparation of development proposals for heritage items, and is necessary in preparation of Heritage Impact Assessments and Conversation Management Plans, so that the significance of heritage items can be fully assessed prior to submitting development applications.
Date significance updated: 19 Jul 19
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: B J Waterhouse under partnership as Waterhouse & Lake
Physical description: The elevations are composed of slate hipped and gabled roofs, a turreted enclosure to a spiral staircase, casement windows, leadlight windows and carriageway arch, roughcast walls with sandstone foundations and front wall. Further interest is added by the use of face brickwork and unusual chimney detailing. The gabled wing facing the street contains staff quarters and a garage. The property once had extensive grounds stretching down to Shell Cove but the waterfrontage has been subdivided off, detracting from its expanded curtilage. The interior room configuration is intact. The decorative detailing is also largely intact and includes but is not limited to original decorative plaster ceilings, curved and coffered ceilings, original joinery including staircases, wainscoting, floorboards, skirting boards, picture rails and brick fire places. Exposed brickwork is also used internally within a bathroom and billiard room. (No internal inspection has been undertaken).The family accommodation is distinct from the servant's accommodation. This building is designed in the Federation Arts and Crafts style.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Minor Alterations
Further information: 27, 29, 31, 33, 37, 39, 49 Shellcove Road, Neutral Bay
Current use: Residential
Former use: Residential


Historical notes: Built 1914 for Mayor S H Evans-Booker at a cost of 10,000 pounds by Waterhouse & Lake. It was for many years the residence of H E Pratten, M P, a former Commonwealth Government Minister for Trade and Customs.
The owner was very ill when he commissioned the house. This may explain the desire for a large dwelling that could accommodate numerous servants and guests while providing Booker with privacy and easy access between his bedroom, dressing room, library, drawing room and dining room.

Booker's was a large Sydney house by any standards. As well as living quarters, it had five bedrooms, three maids’ rooms and a ‘man’s room’, in the proximity to the stables and loft, which probably accommodated a man or boy who looked after Booker’s horses.

In the manner of many upper class houses, Waterhouse designed this dwelling so that the working areas were grouped together to maximise efficiency and minimise the interaction between the residents and the domestic help. Interestingly, one of the maid's rooms had its own verandah; an unusual comfort for domestic staff.

The house design also reflected both the lifestyle of a passing era and the arrival of modern trends. The property had horse stalls, a coach house and an automobile garage. In this period, horses were beginning to share roads with motorised transport. But the presence of horse accommodation was also proof that Major Evans Booker was a man of considerable wealth who partook in riding for recreational rather than practical reasons. It was an interest he might have developed while serving in the military in the late 1800s.

The style of the house is very much influenced by the contemporary English Arts and Crafts architecture – particularly the designs of CFA Voysey. This is most apparent in the use of varied and dramatic roof planes. The half hipped gables evoke the feel of a thatched house.

Booker never got to enjoy his purpose-built home on fashionable Shellcove Road. He died in July 1914 at his Marrickville abode, 'Kaluah'. In its obituary of 22 August, the journal Newsletter described Booker as ‘an able and shrewd master’ of finance, property and ‘business investments’. The cost of construction for the Shellcove Road house was £10,000, the equivalent today of more than $3.3 million dollars.

In 1917 the house was bought by HE Pratten, MP, mining entrepreneur and former Mayor of Ashfield who made a fortune from his fruit canning and jam factory. An English immigrant, it was Pratten who gave the house its name ‘Brent Knowle’ – probably after Brent Knoll, a hill in Somerset, England, known for its Bronze Age relics.

In both name and design, then, the dwelling indicates the strong attachment to Englishness in the decades following the establishment of the Australian Commonwealth.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
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. (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)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Local Significance
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
Local significance with eminent architect BJ Waterhouse
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Local Significance
SHR Criteria f)
This item is assessed as aesthetically rare statewide.
SHR Criteria g)
This item is assessed as socially representative regionally.
Integrity/Intactness: _Intact
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:


Management CategoryDescriptionDate Updated
Statutory InstrumentNominate for State Heritage Register (SHR)19 Jul 19
Recommended ManagementProduce a Conservation Management Plan (CMP)19 Jul 19


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Regional Environmental Plan     
Local Environmental PlanNorth Sydney LEP 2013I068902 Aug 13   
Within a conservation area on an LEPCA 16 - Kurraba Point 02 Aug 13   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
North Sydney Heritage Study Review19931249Tony Brassil, Robert Irving, Chris Pratten, Conybeare MorrisonTB October 1992 Yes
North Sydney Heritage Review2002 John Oultram  No

References, internet links & images


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: 2181249

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