The Briars | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

Culture and heritage

Heritage

The Briars

Item details

Name of item: The Briars
Other name/s: The Briars
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Residential buildings (private)
Category: House
Location: Lat: -33.7172828004 Long: 151.1131829110
Primary address: 14 Woonona Avenue, Wahroonga, NSW 2076
Parish: Gordon
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Ku-Ring-Gai
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Metropolitan
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT1 DP529626
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
14 Woonona AvenueWahroongaKu-Ring-GaiGordonCumberlandPrimary Address

Owner/s

Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
 Private19 Mar 99

Statement of significance:

The Briars has state heritage significance for its historic, cultural, archaeological and aesthetic values. It is a good example of a transitional late Victorian/early Federation architectural style house. It is a prime example of the style of development prevalent in the local area at the turn of the 20th century. Historically it is significant as it represents the first period of residential expansion in Wahroonga which followed the opening of the railway in 1890.

The Briars is associated with:

William Alexander Balcombe, who built the Briars in Wahroonga, was the grandson of William Balcombe (Snr) who was Navel Agent and Purveyor for the East India Company on the island of St Helena in the South Atlantic during
the exile of Napoleon Bonaparte on the island. His uncle was briefly associated with Napoleon Bonaparte during his period of exile on the island of St. Helena.

Bonaparte was incarcerated there on the 15 October, 1815 after his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo.Whilst his accommodation at Longwood was made more habitable, he lived with the Balcombes at their home on St Helena, 'The Briars'. More particularly, he lived in the Pavilion on the Briars' Estate, which still remains today.William Alexander's father, Thomas Tyrwhitt Balcombe was born on St Helena on 15 June 1810. There are reports in a number of history books that Napoleon was often seen playing with the Balcombe children during his stay with the Family.

William Balcombe( Snr) eventually emigrated to New South Wales where he became the first Colonial Treasurer. Thomas became a well known Colonial artist and many of his works can be seen in the Mitchell Library. The Balcombes had a family tradition of naming their houses "The Briars". The house on St Helena was The Briars and the pavilion on the estate where Napolion stayed has a obvious similarity in overall form to The Briars at Wahroonga. There is also a house at Mornington in Victoria that was built by Thomas's brother, Alexander Beatson Balcombe called "The Briars." The similarity in design of the 1860 additions to the house in Mornington to that of the Briars at Wahroonga and the pavilion on St Helena are obvious.

(Heritage Office, 1999; Sheedy, D., 1976, National Trust, 1983)
Date significance updated: 15 Feb 11
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: Charles.H Halstead
Physical description: Setting:
A large garden surrounds the house (although reduced by subdivision, notably of its former tennis court to the east and land to its south. From the east / street the garden was (until its 2009 demolition) screened by a single storey 1950s house built on (its former) tennis court, however glimpses of large tree tops and very interesting chimney pots give hints of the garden within. This 1950s house was bought and demolished in 2009 and replaced by a small pocket park of open space created on its lot by Ku-Ring-Gai Council, partly interpreting the former tennis court at least in its open space character, and opening up views from the street and park to the Briars behind (to the west).

A gravel carriageway (which follows the original carriage way (McDonald and Stone, 2009, 5) into the "hatchet" shaped block (around a small park on what was previously the Briars' tennis court) is flanked with hedges, leading to the front door and around to the garage on the south side.

The drive follows the original carriage way around the front of the Briars house and heads towards the stables, which (in 2009) were the site of new development (flats)(ibid, 2009, 5).

Garden:
Many parts of the garden are in their original form. Twelve old turpentine trees remain from one of the earliest stands (Heritage Branch, 1983).

The owners found a jungle when they bought the property (1999); some sixty trips to the rubbish tip were needed to clear the property. However, a number of old trees and shrubs were retained. The tall turpentine trees are remnants of the natural vegetation. The pathway through the forest leading to the stables was uncovered (ibid, 2009, 6).

The grounds, while considerably reduced by subdivision, retain several large turpentines (Syncarpia glomulifera) at the rear (west) of the site (NTA (NSW) listing proposal, 1983) and a large English elm (Ulmus procera) in the north-eastern corner (Hook, 2006, 7, botanical names added by Stuart Read, 15/4/09).

A gravel carriageway into the "hatchet" shaped block is flanked with photinia hedges under-planted with blue flowered Nile lily (Agapanthus orientalis). The drive leads to the front door and around to the garage on the south side of the house. Here very old azaleas (Rhododendron indicum cv.s) line the edge of the veranda and near the back door an enormous old white flowered camellia (C.japonica cv.) remains (ibid, 2006, 7, 15/4/09).

A pair of old cypress trees and a more recently planted lily pilly hedge line the southern boundary and an old jacaranda (J.mimosifolia) spreads in the south eastern corner of the property (ibid, 2006, 7, 15/4/09).

Glimpses of large tree tops and very interesting chimney pots give hints of the Briars' garden within. An interesting large garden surrounds the house. Over the past eight years the present owners have restored and developed the garden. The sloping block is terraced level at the front and on both sides. On the north side an old cast iron fountain in a pond makes a focal point in the (side) lawn. Steps behind (west of) the house lead down to the large back garden which is divided into several "garden rooms" varying from quite formal areas to very natural spaces (ibid, 2006, 7, 15/4/09).

The house is faced with verandahs across the front and down part of both sides. On the north eastern corner of this verandah an old rose - 'Pierre de Ronsard' weaves amongst old trellis panels.

The sloping block is terraced level at the front and on both sides. On the north side an old cast iron fountain in a pond constructed from old bricks and filled with iris is a focal point in the lawn. The perimeter garden bed has box hedging and is planted out with bear's britches (Acanthus mollis), winter roses/ hellebores (Helleborus orientalis & H.niger), windflowers (Anemone hupehensis cv.) etc.

Steps behind (west of) the house under a large tree fern (Dicksonia antarctica) lead down to the large back garden which is divided into several "garden rooms" varying from quite formal areas to very natural spaces. The area directly off the back porch (to the west) & outdoor living space features old brick paving and steps down to an area of lawn surrounded in part with contrasting twin hedges of box (Buxus sp.) and silver germander (Teucrium sp.) or with box only (in the shaded area). A large sandstone urn containing a variegated leafed star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides 'Variegata') is placed on a plinth & creates a centre piece, the beds are planted with iceberg roses, agapanthus and ground covers.

Under a large old English elm (Ulmus procera) in the north-western corner of the garden the ground has been paved with white pebbles in a circle to reflect the canopy of the tree above, the surrounding beds are planted with magnolias, ferns, hydrangeas, gardenias and feature statuary.

In the backyard is an area where a group of large remnant turpentines grace the property, many natives including blueberry ash (Elaeocarpus reticulatus), birdsnest ferns (Asplenium australasicum), matt rush (Lomandra sp.) and river lily (Crinum pedunculatum), have been planted in the filtered light. Old bricks form meandering paths through these trees and from here glimpses & vistas of the formal parts of the backyard can be seen (Hook, 2006, 7, botanical names added by Stuart Read, 15/4/09, updated 8/1/2010).

In 2006 and 2007, the garden was open under the Australian Open Garden Scheme attracting over 600 visitors (ibid, 2009, 6).

House:
The Briars is a well built house retaining a large proportion of the original fabric. Joinery, screenwork and hardware (fireplaces etc) are all original (as of 1983)(Heritage Branch).

The style is transitional between the late Victorian Italianate and Federation. It is a single storey brick house with a hipped slate roof. A projecting brick bay with three stuccoed arches markes the front entrance and intersects a timber framed verandah which surrounds the house on three sides. The verandah is decorated with timber brackets and dentillation. Shuttered french doors open onto the verandah from the principal rooms. Internally it retains much of its original joinery and fireplaces.

In 1999 it was in poor state of repairs. There were over 800 broken slates on the roof and no electricity in some rooms. Bathroom and kitchen were almost non existant. However, its splendid bones were intact. Carpet had concealed and protected tallow wood floors, now polished and oiled. The original fireplaces, doors , windos and ceiling roses were intact. Notice the servent bells on the side of the fire places (ibid, 2009, 5).

The front enterance has its original tiles. The stained glass door is replicated at the end of the hallway. The owners have, so far as practicable, furnished the home with period or earlier furnishings (ibid, 2009, 5).

Hallway: As you enter, notice the collection of plates on the plate railing. On the right is a William IV rosewood 'Banjo' Barometer, c.1835. In the middle of the hallway is a Victorian burr walnut centre table, c.1860. The longcase mahogany-veneered oak clock, c.1780, is a family heirloom. At the end of the hallway is an Irish regency mahogany side table, c.1860 (ibid, 2009, 5).

Main bedroom: The mahogany queen-sized debstead is William IV. The flame mahogany chest of drawers, the dressing table and the breakfront wardrobe are all Victorian pieces. The patchwork bed covering was made by Mrs FUller to tone with the curtains. Here you see one of the many original fireplaces (ibid, 2009, 5).

Second bedroom: Notice the original cast iron ceiling rose and tongue and grooved ceiling. The crocheted bedspread was made by Mr Fuller's mother. The three door cedar wardrobe is mid-Victorian. The wall-mirror is late Victorian and ia a family piece (ibid, 2009, 5).

Library: Again, notice the orginal cast iron rose and the tongue and grooved ceiling. The mahgany revolving drum table is Victorian. the French walnut bookcase, c.1880, is an early example of prefabricated furniture. the Vicorian ebonized walnut card table is a family piece (ibid, 2009, 5).

Third bedroom: The wardrobe is Australian cedar, c.1880. The distinguished gentleman in the picture is a great, great uncle (ibid, 2009, 5).

Dining room: This elegant room has a splendid fireplace. On the mantle piece is a French clock. the clock and the small statue of Nepoleon is a reminder of the Emperor's connection with the Balcombe family (ibid, 2009, 6).

On the William IV breakfast pedestal sideboard are pieces of family silver and an early blue and white set of Meissan cups, saucers and eggcups. The Victorian table and chairs are mahogany. A handsome tantalus rests on a Vistorian chiffonier. The pig pot is from Papua New Guinea, where the Fullers lived in the early 1980s (ibid, 2009, 6).

Formal Sitting Room: The furniture is mainly early Victorian mahogany. The small chiffonier is c.1840. Many of the china pieces and family heirlooms. Note the tea caddy has its original crystal bowl. The small (Chinese) Cabinet is Victorian and has been in the family for over 100 years (ibid, 2009, 6).

Study: The ceiling is a mystery. The Colonial cedar bookcase and the Victorian Mahogany desk feature.
Family Sitting Room: Over a c.1820 pine dresseer is a story board from the Sepik River area in Papua New Guinea.
Morning room: Note the prints of paintings by Thomas Balcombe and a recent photo of The Briars on St Helena. The early photos of The Briars date from c.1915 (ibid, 2009, 6).

The Verandah: Has some of its original posts and the beam that supports the verandah, you can see the new development emerging in the south western corner of the Briars. Note the original chimney pots with fans on the roof (ibid, 2009, 6).
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The house is in good condition and has been sympathetically renovated by its present owners. (National Trust (NSW), 1983). Joinery, screenwork and hardware (fireplaces etc) are all original (as of 1983). Many parts of the garden are in their original form. Twelve old turpentine trees (Syncarpia glomulifera) remain from one of the earliest stands. (Heritage Office)
Date condition updated:08 Aug 16
Modifications and dates: c.1940-50 Subdivision of former tennis court to front (south) of the house, erection of another single storey house there.

1968 subdivision of the former tennis court to front (south) and erection of single storey house.

1983 Sympathetically restored by then owners, then in good condition (1983). The same owners had replaced verandah posts with careful replication of former details, and other "substantial" restoration works. It was substantially intact.

26/10/1999 alterations and additions - when it was in poor condition (there were over 800 broken slates on the roof and no electricity in some rooms. Bathroom and kitchen were almost non-existent. However its splendid bones were intact. Carpet had concealed and protected tallowwood fllors, now polished and oiled. The original fireplaces, doors, windows and ceiling roses were intact. The servants' bells on the side of fire places survived (ibid, 2009, 5). They sympathetically renovated it further (over two years: Liu, 2015, 13) along with its garden. The garden has been planted in a more formal 'compartmentalised' manner of garden 'rooms' and one which seeks to screen by hedging adjacent development which has encroached on the property on all sides.

Works: demolished unauthorised 1970s rear deck and enclosing walls, conservatory. Demolished 1920s internal bathroom and external toilet. Reinstated windows in rear wall of house. Constructed new verandah to match existing details. Fitted out existing spaces as bathroom, laundry and kitchen. Constructed new garage and connecting breezeway. Repaired existing timber verandah.

2001 Land on The Briars' southern boundary (part of the former Briars'estate ) was developed under SEPP 5 planning provisions resulting in the construction of 5 single storey townhouses ( closest to The Briars) and 2 two storey townhouses further away.

2002 4 single storey townhouses and 2 two storey townhouses were constructed close to the northern boundary of The Briars pursuant to SEPP 5 planning provisions.

2007 The Land and Environment Court reduced the height of a 5 storey unit development on the south-western boundary of The Briars( on the Briars former stables area) to 3 storeys to prevent the development from dominating the garden of The Briars.

In 2008, The Land and Environment Court refused an application for a 3 storey townhouse development on 12
Woonona Ave, adjacent to The Briars on its northern boundary (the old Briars tennis court). In late 2008, The Ku-ring-gai Planning Panel approved a modified 3 storey town house development on 12 Woonona Ave. In late 2009, Ku-ring-gai Municpal Council acquired 12 Woonona Ave to create a public park The Council has since grassed the site and has prepared concept landscaping plans for the embellishment of the park.

2009 Old conifers (Bhutan cypress, Cupressus torulosa) removed.

2009 Land & Environment Court refused an application for a two storey residence on 12 Woonona Avenue adjacent.
Ku-Ring Gai Planning Panel approved a modified application for two storey development on the same lot. The c.1950s house has been demolished (2009).

Ku-Ring-Gai Municipal Council have since acquired 12 Woonona Avenue and grassed the site as a public park (8/1/2010). Council have since grassed the park and is proposing to name it Balcombe Park (12/2010).
Further information: Needs a CMP
Current use: Suburban residence
Former use: Aboriginal land, timber-getting, country residence on a large lot

History

Historical notes: Wahroonga is Aboriginal land:
The meaning of 'Wahroonga' - an Aboriginal word - is 'our home'.

Material in rock shelters reveals that Aboriginal people inhabited the surrounding region at least from the last ice age some 20,000 years ago. Several different languages and dialects were spoken in the Sydney Harbour area before the arrival of the First Fleet. 'Kuringgai' was the language spoken on the north shores (DEST & DUAP, 1996, 42, 135, 138). When Europeans chose the south side of the harbour for the settlement of the First Fleet in 1788, they chose the territory of the Darug-speaking people, who inhabited the region from the southern shores of Sydney Harbour west to the Blue Mountains. Both the Darug and the Kuringgai groups suffered catastrophic loss of life in the smallpox epidemic that swept through the indigenous population in 1789, with a death rate estimated to have been between 50 per cent and 90 per cent. Over the following century there were numerous documentary recordings of the movements of surviving Kuringgai people within the Ku-Ring-Gai locality, both attending Aboriginal gatherings and collecting European rations such as blankets. There are also several oral history accounts of small clans travelling through the district in the late nineteenth century. In the 1950s at least a few local Aboriginal people were known to be still living within their traditional territory (Ku-Ring-Gai Historical Society, 1996, 12-13).

Early Europeans in the district
Before the railway (constructed late nineteenth century) and later the Sydney Harbour Bridge (opened 1932) made the north shore easily accessible, the Kur-Ring-Gai area was remote from Sydney Town and consisted mainly of isolated white rural communities earning their livelihood from agricultural activities such as timber-getting and market gardening. Wahroonga first experienced suburban development after the railway line from Hornsby to St Leonards was opened in 1890, when the first suburban roads were constructed followed by the first homes, built around 1896. The Shire of Ku-Ring-Gai was first constituted in 1906 with just six councillors, who took temporary offices in the grounds of St John's Church at Gordon (ibid, 1996, 12-18).

George Caley (1770-1829), a botanist sent to the colony in 1795 by Sir Joseph Banks from London to collect flora specimens for Kew Gardens, was one of the first white men to explore this bushland area. In 1805 he walked along a cattle path on the ridge towards Fox Valley, near the 640 acres that were later granted to Thomas Hyndes by Governor Darling (1825-31). The north-western part of the grant, known later as Pearce's Corner extended past the present Sydney Adventist Hospital (today this area marks the boundary of three suburbs: Normanhurst, Waitara and Wahroonga) - and honours an early settler whose name was Aaron Pierce. He arrived with his wife in 1811, received a conditional pardon and worked as a timber cutter along the ridge from Kissing Point to the present Pacific Highway (formerly Lane Cove Road). Three tracks converged at this point and Pierce built a hut to house his family and set out an orchard. He was said to reside there by 1831, and the corner was then known as Pierce's Corner). A village developed on the opposite corner (Pearce's Corner Township, later renamed Normanhurst)) around St. Paul's Church (which today is in Wahroonga).

On Hyndes' death the grant was bought by John Brown and became known as Brown's Paddock. When he died in 1881, it was resurveyed and the larger portion became Fox Ground Estate, purchased by a Francis Gerard (Pollen, 1988, 260-2).

Before the railway (late nineteenth century) and later the Sydney Harbour Bridge (1932) made the north shore easily accessible, the Ku-Ring-Gai area was remote from Sydney Town and consisted mainly of isolated white rural communities earning their livelihood from agricultural activities such as timber-getting and market gardening (ibid, 1996, 12-18).

The harbour barrier delayed suburbanisation of the district and in the early 1880s the tiny settlement was judged too small to warrant a railway line. Access to Milsons Point remained difficult although a coach service plied that route from 1881 to 1887. By 1885 it was also possible to travel to Sydney via the 5 bridges road crossing the water at Fig Tree, Gladesville, Iron Cove, Glebe Island and Pyrmont (AHC - indicative place listing - Mahratta Avenue Urban Conservation Area).

Railway and tramway plans for the area were discussed by the authorities in the 1880s (Scobie, 2008, 9). The single-track North Shore railway line that went from Hornsby to St Leonards in 1890 finally reached Milsons Point in 1893. The North Shore Ferry Company had been carrying passengers from Milsons Point to Circular Quay since the 1860s and by the 1890s around 5 million people crossed the harbour by this means every year. Offering suburban subdivisions along the railway line in advance of the stations, speculators developed Ku-ring-gai well before completion of the North Shore Bridge in 1932 set off another flurry of real estate promotion. Ku-ring-gai grew slowly in the 19th century, its population being 4,000 by 1901. However, over the next two decades its population quadrupled. By this time, with its large residences in beautiful, leafy surrounds, it had changed from a district with a dubious reputation to one that attracted people of high socio-economic status, 73 per cent of whom were home owners.

When the railway line came through the North Shore from St. Leonards to Hornsby, a station opened in this area on 1/1/1890 and was called Pearce's Corner. The construction name had been Noonan's Platform because the property belonging to Patrick Noonan came within the new railway's boundary. The name was changed to Wahroonga on 30/8/1890 (AHC - indicative place listing - Mahratta Avenue Urban Conservation Area). The section between Hornsby and St. Leonards was built by E.Pritchard & Co. contractor (Scobie, 2008, 9).

Wahroonga first experienced suburban development after the railway line from Hornsby to St Leonards opened in 1890, when the first suburban roads were constructed followed by the first homes, around 1896. The Shire of Ku-Ring-Gai was first constituted in 1906 with six councillors, who took temporary offices in the grounds of St John's Church at Gordon (ibid, 1996). The post office opened on 15/10/1896. In 1898 Abbotsleigh School for girls moved to Wahroonga. In 1899 when only 3 houses stood in Fox Valley Road, Wahroonga, the Seventh-Day Adventists purchased land there and erected a large building by 1903. This evolved into 'The San' or Sanitarium hospital (Pollen, 1988, 260-2).

During the interwar years of 1921 to 1933, the population increased by 45 per cent from 19,209 to 27,931 with a 68 per cent rise in the number of occupied dwellings, the proportion of brick to weatherboard being 5:1. The same sort of increase occurred from 1933 to 1947 when a further 43 per cent of people moved into the district bringing the total population to 39,874 and adding 3,564 houses. Even greater restriction on the use of timber and fibro occurred in this period so that 3,182 of these were brick. Clearly, Ku-ring-gai suffered less in the 1930s depression than other municipalities where development was much slower. Its people also encountered less unemployment - only slightly behind Vaucluse with 16 per cent unemployed, Ku-ring-gai and Mosman registered 18 per cent unemployed in 1933 - although the proportion of owner occupation did fall to 68 per cent (AHC - indicative place listing - Mahratta Avenue Urban Conservation Area).

District History
Captain John Hunter and Captain Arthur Phillip led the first expeditions north of Sydney Cove into the tribal lands of the Gurringal soon after the landing of the first fleet, searching for suitable agricultural land and fresh water. Rock carvings are the only evidence of Aboriginal habitation. In 1896 a large expanse of bushland was reserved as parkland and named Ku-ring-gai Chase for the original inhabitants. This name was also adopted by the shire formed in 1906 and the municipality gazetted in 1928.

Millwood Farm on Blue Gum Creek was established in 1814 by a marine, Williarn Henry, the first white settler in the Ku-ring-gal area. In the 1820s ex-convict Joseph Fidden, a major force in the districts development, eventually became a ferryman after a brief attempt at farming. He rowed sawn timber from the government sawpits on the Lane Cove River to Sydney and dropped off supplies to settlements on his way home. The sly-grog and other facilities he provided at the infamous Fiddens Wharf attracted the rough-living sawyers and bushmen of the district.

Later Daniel Mathew established two sawmills, one at Clanville (Roseville) in 1825 and another at Rosedale (Pymble) in 1838. Most of sawyers moved on when the trees were felled, leaving cleared land for fanners and orchardists who followed. One was Robert Pymble who gave his name to the suburb where he established the first north shore orange orchard. Other early settlers were Richard Archbold at Roseville and Robert Pockley at Killara. The Lane Cove River was used to carry the produce to Sydney. The harbour barrier delayed the suburbanisation of the Ku-ring-gai district and in the early 1880s the tiny settlement was judged too small to warrant a railway line. Access to Milsons Point remained difficult although a coach service pliedthat route from 1881 to 1887. By 1885 it was also possible to travel to Sydney via the five bridges road crossing the water at Fig Tree, Gladesville, Iron Cove, Glebe Island and Pyrmont.

The single-track North Shore railway line that went from Hornsby to St Leonards in 1890 finally reached Milsons Point in 1893 where passenger and vehicular ferries completed the journey to the city. The North Shore Ferry Company had been carrying passengers from Milsons Point to Circular Quay since the 1860s and by the 1890s around 5 million people crossed the harbour by this means every year. Offering suburban subdivisions along the railway line in advance of the stations, speculators developed Ku-ring-gai well before completion of the North Shore Bridge in 1932 set off another flurry of real estate promotion. Ku-ring-gai grew slowly in the nineteenth century, its population being 4,000 by 1901. However, over the next two decades its population quadrupled. By this time, with its large residences in beautiful, leafy surrounds, it had changed from a district with a dubious reputation to one that attracted people of high socio-economic status, 73 per cent of whom were home owners.

During the interwar years of 1921-33, population increased by 45 per cent from 19,209 to 27,931 with a 68 per cent rise in the number of occupied dwellings, the proportion of brick to weatherboard being 5:1. The same sort of increase occurred from 1933-47 when a further 43 per cent moved into the district bringing the population to 39,874 and adding 3,564 houses. Even greater restriction on the use of timber and fibro occurred in this period so that 3,182 of these were brick. Clearly, Ku-ring-gai suffered less in the 1930s depression than other municipalities where development was much slower. Its people also encountered less unemployment - only slightly behind Vaucluse with 16 per cent unemployed, Ku-ring-gai and Mosman registered 18 per cent unemployed in 1933 - although the proportion of owner occupation did fall to 68 per cent (AHC Register of the National Estate - indicative place listing - Mahratta Avenue Urban Conservation Area).

The Briars:
The Briars was built on land first granted to John Terry Hughes on 18 August 1842. Hughes' grant comprised 2000 acres and was part of Portion 400A of the Parish of Gordon, County of Cumberland. After Hughes' death in 1851 the land was conveyed to a number of businessmen and speculators who subdivided it into four major estates (Robertson & Hindmarsh, 2010, 3).

The Briars marks the first period of residential expansion in Wahroonga which followed the opening of the railway in 1890.

One of the four major estates, the Bundarra Estate, stretched from the Pacific Highway (then Lane Cove Road) north acrosws the North Shore railway and lay west of Woonona Avenue. The Briars is contemporary with the initial subdivision of the (this) estate (McDonald and Stone, 2009, 4). The estate stretched from the Pacific Highway (then known as Lane Cove Road) north across the North Shore Railway, lay west of Woonona Avenue and encompassed the properties on both sides of Bundarra Avenue. It was offered for sale in 1892 (Robertson & Hindmarsh, 2010, 3).

Jessie Edith Balcombe, wife of public servant William Alexander Balcombe (1855-1939) purchased lots 5, 6 and 16 on 14 April 1895 and the couple built The Briars on Lot 16 in 1895, facing Woonona Avenue (ibid, 2010, 3).

The Briars was designed by young, English-born and trained architect Charles Herbert Halstead (1865-1941). Halstead is considered to be the architect for West Maling (1889), a house constructed in Penshurst for his friend Albert Weigall, Headmaster of Sydney Grammar School (ibid, 2009, 4). He was also the architect for the Old Science Building (1899) at Sydney Grammar School and for a number of church and public buildings in the southern suburbs of Sydney (ibid, 2010, 3; ibid, 2009, 4).

It was financed by a mortgage from William Henry Hargraves, Deputy Registrar in Equity (Balcombe's employer). Halstead was a young architect born and trained in England who migrated with his family to Australia. He practiced as an architect and a nurseryman from 1893 to 1912 and then again solely as an architect from 1912 until he ceased practice in about 1935 (ibid, 2010, 3).

Balcombe's uncle had formerly been Governor of St Helena - a volcanic island in the Southern Atlantic Ocean; it is believed that the house that he lived in on St Helena was also called 'The Briars' and that this house was built to the same plan (National Trust (NSW), 1983). Napoleon Bonaparte reputedly had lived in the Governor's house on St. Helena for some time after his exile to the island in 1815, while a permanent residence was being built for him.

William Alexander Balcombe (born in Sydney in 1855) was grandson of William Alexander (W.A.) Balcombe who was the Naval Agent and Purveyor for the East India Company on the Island of St. Helena (in the South Atlantic). After his defeat in the Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon Bonaparte lived with the family at their home (there), named 'The Briars', for two months in 1815. W. A. Balcombe had friends in high places in English society (there was speculation that he was the illegitimate son of the King), came to Sydney with his family in 1824 and was the Colonial Treasurer until his death in 1829. His eldest son later built 'The Briars' on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula, which is a listed heritage property in that state (ibid, 2009, 4).

William was the son of (another of W.A. Balcombe's sons) Thomas (Tyrwhitt) Balcombe, who worked for the Australian Agricultural Company at Port Stephens and as a survey draftsman in Sydney for the Surveyor-General, Sir Thomas Mitchell (ibid, 2009, 4). Thomas Tyrwhitt Balcombe was a well-known colonial artist (Liu, 2015, 13).

William married Jessie Edith Griffen on 1/7/1884 at Raymond Terrace. He became Chief Clerk in Equity at the Supreme Court of NSW (ibid, 2009, 4; Liu, 2015, 13).

William died at Hornsby in 1939. Jessie was still living in 1944. In 1903 the Electoral Roll recorded them both living at 14 Woonona Avenue, Wahroonga (Murley, 2007). Several historical records reveal that Napoleon was often seen playing with Balcombe children during his stay with the family (Liu, 2015, 13).

The garden is much reduced by subdivision. In November 1924 Jessie Balcombe sold parts of Lots 5 & 6 (fronting Bundarra Avenue) subject to covenant and retained Lot 16 and the eastern parts of Lots 5 & 6. In 1935 she was listed as the sole proprietor of The Briars. By this time the estated had been reduced to 1 acre 2 roods and 29 1/2 perches in area and comprised Lot 16 and the eastern parts of Lots 5 & 6 which contained the stables and other essential outbuildings. The Great Depression hit the Balcombes hard as they were mortgaged to the Bank of Australasia from 1935 until 1941 and in 1941 Jessie sold The Briars to Winifred Laura Phipps, wife of Joseph John FLower Phipps of Chatswood, merchant. The Phipps continued to own the estate until 1949 when Lot A was sold to Nathaniel Joseph Victor Howes. Lot A comprised what is now known as no.s 12 and 14 Woonona Avenue and was the same as the original Lot 16 minus the two access driveways excised in 1959 to give access to Lots B and C which were the remnants of the original back paddocks of The Briars.

Howes owned The Briars until 1968 when it was sold to Ian and Judith Heydon of Wahroonga. As part of the process of selling The Briars, it appears that Howes subdivided the allotment into the two lots known today as 12 and 14 Woonona Avenue (containing the house of The Briars)(ibid, 4-5).

The front block (12 Woonona Avenue) was built upon, with a single storey red brick home that obscured views of The Briars to its rear (north).

The former tennis court (between Woonona Avenue and the Briars house's front door) was subdivided off and a single storey house built there (c1968).

The Briars' driveway (which led to the former stables on the house's west)(demolished) was subdivided off. There is now a steep bank along this western boundary. There is a line of coniferous trees about where a Himalayan cedar tree (Cedrus deodara) was (in a photograph of c1915 a 5-6m tall deodar/Himalayan cedar was to the west of the house, along with a giant bird-of-paradise flower (Strelitzia nicolae). Both are now gone). These were between what is now the garage and the boundary fence.

The creeping fig (Ficus pumila var.pumila) that covered the portico in 1915 was removed for a period and restored to the portico in the 1960s. An 8' high chain wire fence along the eastern boundary was erected in the 1960s (probably c.1968). A c.1915 photograph shows the house open to the tennis court, but with two flanking wire mesh fences (starting roughly at the house's outside walls') that appear to be climbing in height (presumably to stop tennis balls).

In 1972 the Heydons sympathetically renovated The Briars house (NTA, 1983). In 1983 the Heydons requested that a Permanent Conservation Order be placed over the property (ibid, 4-5).

Subdivision of former Briars estate (1990s?) was approved by Land & Environment Court (SEPP5) and 6 single storey villas were built adjoining the State Heritage Register boundary, on an adjacent block, while retaining a line of mature turpentines (Syncarpia glomulifera) on the drive to the house's (and one to 12 Woonona Avenue's south-west) west.

John & Elizabeth Fuller bought the property in 1999 when it was in poor condition (there were over 800 broken slates on the roof and no electricity in some rooms. Bathroom and kitchen were almost non-existent. However its splendid bones were intact. Carpet had concealed and protected tallowwood fllors, now polished and oiled. The original fireplaces, doors, windows and ceiling roses were intact. The servants' bells on the side of fire places survived (ibid, 2009, 5). They sympathetically renovated it further (over two years: Liu, 2015, 13) along with its garden. The garden has been planted in a more formal 'compartmentalised' manner of garden 'rooms' and one which seeks to screen by hedging adjacent development which has encroached on the property on all sides.

In 2006 and 2007, the garden was open under the Australian Open Garden Scheme attracting over 600 visitors (ibid, 2009, 6). It was also opened for the Sydney & Northern NSW Branch of the Australian Garden History Society in 2006 (Stuart Read, pers.comm.).

The c.1968 house on the Briars' former tennis court at the front (east) facing Woonona Avenue was demolished in 2009 and, after refusal in a NSW Land & Environment Court appeal, a modified application for a two storey residential flat building was approved on 12 Woonona Avenue by the Ku-Ring-Gai Planning Panel in 12/2008. Construction proceeded there in 2009 to the extent of excavation and construction of the basement car park.

On 30/10/2009 Ku-Ring-Gai Council purchased this block for additional open space so that an appropriate visual curtilage could be reinstated for The Briars. In January 2010 Council filled and re-grassed the site (12 Woonona Avenue) as a small public park, thus restoring part of the 'front' setting (and curtilage) of The Briars to Woonona Avenue, allowing it to be seen from there again (Robertson & Hindmarsh, 2010, 5; HIS, 2009, pers.comm., J.Fuller, 8/1/2010).

The Fullers opened The Briars to the National Trust of Australia (NSW) (Womens' Committee House Inspection, 2009) and their garden through Australia's Open Garden Scheme (now Open Gardens Australia). The property is now on the real estate market (Liu, 2015, 13).

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
1. Environment-Tracing the evolution of a continent's special environments Environment - naturally evolved-Activities associated with the physical surroundings that support human life and influence or shape human cultures. Gardens-
1. Environment-Tracing the evolution of a continent's special environments Environment - naturally evolved-Activities associated with the physical surroundings that support human life and influence or shape human cultures. Changing the environment-
1. Environment-Tracing the evolution of a continent's special environments Environment - naturally evolved-Activities associated with the physical surroundings that support human life and influence or shape human cultures. Natural - regenerating native flora valued for conservation purposes-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Environment - cultural landscape-Activities associated with the interactions between humans, human societies and the shaping of their physical surroundings Developing local, regional and national economies-National Theme 3
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Forestry-Activities associated with identifying and managing land covered in trees for commercial purposes. Timber getting-
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 public servants and officials-
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. Adapted heritage building or structure-
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. Federation era residence-
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 famous families-
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. A Picturesque Residential Suburb-
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 (suburbs)-
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. Gentlemens Villas-
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 1820s-1850s land grants-
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 Resuming private lands for public purposes-
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 Granting Crown lands for private farming-
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 Sub-division of large estates-
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 Changing land uses - from rural to suburban-
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 Administering and alienating Crown lands-
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 19th century suburban developments-
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 Subdivision of rural estates-
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 19th century suburban developments-
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 A Picturesque Residential District-
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 Garden suburbs-
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 Suburban Consolidation-
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 Impact of railways on suburban development-
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 Developing suburbia-
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 Beautifying rural estates-
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 Role of transport in settlement-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. State government-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Local government-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Developing roles for government - administration of land-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Developing roles for government - parks and open spaces-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Developing roles for government - conserving cultural and natural heritage-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Domestic life-Activities associated with creating, maintaining, living in and working around houses and institutions. Ways of life 1850-1900-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Domestic life-Activities associated with creating, maintaining, living in and working around houses and institutions. Ways of life 1900-1950-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Domestic life-Activities associated with creating, maintaining, living in and working around houses and institutions. Ways of life 1950-2000-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with foreign diplomatic representatives-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Charles H Halstead, architect-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with William Balcombe, Chief Clerk in Equity, Supreme Court of NSW-

Recommended management:

Recommendations

Management CategoryDescriptionDate Updated
Recommended ManagementProduce a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) 
Recommended ManagementCarry out interpretation, promotion and/or education 

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
HERITAGE ACT 1977
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

FRANK SARTOR
Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 5 2008

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0027402 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - Permanent Conservation Order - former 0027409 Sep 83 1244164
Local Environmental Plan  04 Nov 89   
National Trust of Australia register  10443   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Ku-Ring-Gai Heritage Study1987 Robert Moore, Penelope Pike & Helen Proudfoot  Yes
The National Trust of Australia Woman's Committee - Inspection # 581. Wahroonga2009 Robin MacDonald  No

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written 1895Building & Engineering Journal, 30 March
WrittenFuller, John2011Information provided by Mr John Fuller
WrittenHeritage Office (Mark Robinson)1999Integrated Development Application Referral - report for Director's approval
WrittenHook, Murray2006The Briars
WrittenKu-Ring-Gai Historical Society Inc1996Focus on Ku-Ring-Gai
WrittenLiu, Susan2015'Historic Property fit for Napoleon- heritage building has links to leader'
WrittenMcDonald, Robin and Stone, Mieke2009The Briars, 14 Woonona Avenue South, Wahroonga, by courtesy of Mr & Mrs John Fuller
WrittenMoore, R., Pike, P., Proudfoot, H.1987Ku-ring-gai Heritage Study
WrittenMurley, Shirley & Keith2007Balcombe family - England Napoleon Australia - revised version 5/2007
WrittenNational Trust of Australia (NSW)1987National Trust Listing Proposal
WrittenPollen, Francis, in The Book of Sydney Suburbs1988'Wahroonga'
WrittenRobertson & Hindmarsh P/L2010Statement of Environmental Effects for proposed new fence - The Briars, 14 Woonona Avenue, Wahroonga
WrittenRobertson & Hindmarsh P/L2010Heritage Impact Statement for proposed new fence - The Briars - 14 Woonona Avenue Wahroonga -
WrittenSheedy, David1976(not stated)
WrittenStirling, Ros 'The Briars: an encounter with the Emperor'
WrittenTanner, H., & Clarke, S. for the National Trust of Australia (NSW)1983Classification report

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: Heritage Office
Database number: 5045082
File number: 09/02148; S90/04972 & HC 32982


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