Bronte - Villa | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

Culture and heritage


Bronte - Villa

Item details

Name of item: Bronte - Villa
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Residential buildings (private)
Category: Villa
Primary address: 50 Gidley Street, St Marys, NSW 2760
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Penrith
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
50 Gidley StreetSt MarysPenrith CumberlandPrimary Address

Statement of significance:

Completed in 1889 for James Bennett, the manufacturer of Bennett wagons, the house demonstrates the rise of a resident professional class in St. Marys over the late nineteenth century, and is the only extant building which provides a tangible association with the Bennett family. The house is an excellent example of a late Victorian suburban middle-class villa, on a scale that is rare within the LGA. The building is one of a small number of structures in St. Marys erected over the nineteenth century and early part of the twentieth century which collectively demonstrate the pattern of village settlement. Collectively these properties imbue the suburb with high historic and aesthetic values.
Date significance updated: 06 Mar 05
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: William Sykes
Builder/Maker: Joseph Sainsbury
Physical description: The item is a rendered brick house on Gidley Street. The house is a two storey Italianate villa erected in 1889. The asymmetrical front elevation has a projecting two storey wing with gabled roof and with a two storey verandah with cast iron columns, lace brackets and valance. The verandah floor is finished in tessellated tiles. The external walls are decorated with vermiculated quoins and keystones, and moulded stringcourses, window sills and entablatures. Other decorative motifs include panels of figurative glazed tiles, and rendered medallion in the gable panel. The main roof is of the jerkin-head style with rendered chimneys featuring corbelled capitals and tri-precast cowls and decorative bargeboards. The roof is sheeted in corrugated metal, and the chimney flues are carried up on the side wall. The windows are timber framed sashes and there is a wide french door on the balcony. The house is set within the remnants of a garden setting with tall palms at the front. There is a utilitarian addition at the rear. The house is setback from the street within a large suburban allotment with a landscaped front garden which retains a small number of mature trees. With the elevated corner block and neighbouring an open park reserve the villa is highly visible in the neighbouring streets. The open reserve also contributes to interpreting the once expansive setting of the villa.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Date condition updated:06 Mar 05
Current use: Corporate
Former use: Residential


Historical notes: Bronte was completed in 1889 for James Bennett of the famous firm of ‘G and J Bennett’, wheelwrights and wagon builders of St Marys. The house was designed by Penrith based architect William Sykes and was built by local St Marys builder, Joseph Sainsbury. A contemporary description of Bronte, appeared in the Nepean Times of 14 September, 1889, which provides some details of its features just after its completion:
"The first object which attracts the attention of anyone entering St Marys from Penrith is a fine house which has just been erected by Mr James Bennett. The house stands in a fine piece of ground over three acres in extent. On approaching the building one is struck with the beautiful finish and workmanship shown in both design and execution. The building is of brick on concrete foundation with iron roof, and contains six rooms on the ground floor and five (including bathroom) upstairs. Water is laid on in every room, the supply coming from a large underground tank, 14 x 14 ft, whence it is driven by means of an improved force pump in to three tanks placed above the kitchen. The interior of the house is in keeping with the exterior, everything from the hand painted ceilings to the marble mantels and improved grates being highly finished and in the most elegant taste. From the upper windows a most magnificent view is obtained as the house overlooks the whole town and the distant mountains."

Having passed out of the Bennett family many years ago the house continued as a private residence, and during the second world war a guesthouse. It was extensively renovated in the early 1990s and operated as a café.

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. Rural villages-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Rural villages-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Rural villages-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The house dramatically demonstrates the rise of a resident professional class in St Marys over the late nineteenth century.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The property is associated with James Bennett, the local manufacturer of wagons, and is the only extant building which unequivocally demonstrates this association.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The house is an excellent example of a late Victorian suburban middle-class villa.
SHR Criteria f)
The villa is one of two of this scale and date in the LGA, both being associated with industrialists of St Marys.
SHR Criteria g)
The building is one of a small lnumber of structures in St Marys erected over the nineteenth century and early part of the twentieth century which collectively demonstrate the pattern of village settlement. Collectively these properties imbue the suburb with high historic and aesthetic values.
Integrity/Intactness: High
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 PlanBronteSM-1120 Dec 91 180 
Local Environmental PlanPenrith LEP 201029922 Sep 10   
Heritage studyBronteSM-1101 Apr 87   
Heritage study 226029901 Nov 07   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Penrith Heritage Study Review2005SM-11Paul Davies Pty. Ltd.Paul Davies Pty Ltd Yes
Heritage Study City of Penrith1987SM-11Fox & Associates  No

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written 1991Penrith Local Environmental Plan 1991 (Environmental Heritage Conservation).
Written  National Trust Listing Proposal

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: 2260299

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