Highlands | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

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Highlands

Item details

Name of item: Highlands
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Residential buildings (private)
Category: House
Location: Lat: -33.7117574571 Long: 151.1107855390
Primary address: 9 Highlands Avenue, Wahroonga, NSW 2076
Parish: South Colah
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Hornsby
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Metropolitan
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT5 DP258247
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
9 Highlands AvenueWahroongaHornsbySouth ColahCumberlandPrimary Address
9 Highlands AvenueWahroongaHornsbySouth ColahCumberlandDuplicate Address

Owner/s

Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
 Private19 Mar 99

Statement of significance:

Highlands is a fine example of John Horbury Hunt's interpretation of the Shingle Style. The house displays many of the elements common to Hunt's Shingle Style houses, including recessed verandahs and sweeping skirts to deposit water well away from the walls. In contrast to these common elements, Highlands also displays several unusual features, a half-glass door and distinctive chimney stack being the most prominent.

Highlands is significant as evidence of women shaping architecture. Mrs Caroline Hordern was a keen cook and the two-storey kitchen wing was heavily influenced by her. The landscaping was also of her creation and Mrs. Horden introduced many exotics from the Pacific Islands to adorn the garden.
Date significance updated: 20 Sep 06
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: John Horbury Hunt
Construction years: 1890-1893
Physical description: Garden:
The garden, although significantly altered, contains a notable period Hoop pine (Araucaria cunninghamii) and provides a sympathetic setting to the house.

House:
This distinctive two-story house comprises two conjoining components. The prominent part is the house proper, the kitchen wing sits a separate pyramidal roof. The seperation of these two functional centres was advanced for its time. Both roofs were originally shingled, like the walls. The wall shingles curve out over verandahs and openings, to shed water away from the walls. This is a feature of several of Hunt's Shingle Style houses. The verandahs are supported by massive timber posts, minimally decorated. The verandahs are recessed under the eves, another design element commonly used by Hunt.

Internally, a small stair hall opens into the sitting room on the right and the drawing room on the left. The drawing room was formerly a dining room. Behind the hall was originally Mrs. Hordern's kitchen, but has since been converted into the dining room.

The bedrooms on the second floor open off the stairwell, with the verandah facing north off the main bedroom.

Extensive alterations have been made to the kitchen wing. This wing contains a feature not seen in Hunt's other houses - a wide half-glass door. Reynolds and Hughes (2002:145) describe "the structural brace is treated as a glazing member, to which the normal glazing bars are subservient."

The chimney stack is another unusual feature, "a tall, buttressed slab of brickwork which appears almost freestanding." (Reynolds & Hughes 2002:145). Externally, the original roof shingles have been replaced by grey roof tiles.

The main framing, including window openings is of NSW hardwood, while the window sahes and doors are cedar.

The house was originally situated on 13.6 hectares, but subdivisions have left it on a substantially smaller allotment, with the rear of the house to the street.
Current use: Private Residence
Former use: Aboriginal land, timber getting

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).

The Highlands:
The Highlands was built for Alfred James Hordern, a retail merchant, and his wife, Caroline. During the construction of Highlands the couple lived in a small cottage close to the construction site. It was in this cottage that their first son was born, Alfred Roy. Their second son, Bruce Alexander, was born six years later.

Alfred (1859-1932) married Caroline DOIG (1870-1938) in 1890. Caroline was the daughter of Alexander, a planter in Levaka, Fiji, where she was born.

Plans for Highlands would have already been drawn up or the house may already have been under construction. Caroline obviously had a hand in the plans. Lesley Horden (1985:218-219) said of Alfred that "There is nothing in his letters to suggest he had the aestheticism or the spirit of innovation which would move him to commission such an architect (as John Horbury Hunt). He was not a man to take risks or flout convention, and the robust and distinctive style of this house... bears little relation to his nervous personality." Caroline, however, is described as an artistic and well-educated woman, attributes reflected in Highlands. Other evidence of her influence of the plans is the second kitchen, located next to the household kitchen, which allowed her to "indulge in a culinary orgy." For Caroline, cooking was a creative outlet and was not for the purpose of feeding her family. Once her masterpieces had been formed they were given to local hospitals to feed patients.

The garden was also created and maintained by Caroline, with the help of up to 14 gardeners. The original garden, how much modified, featured colour. Of note was the gravel driveway bordered by hydrangeas, in 1931 the garden was said to contain 100 varieties. Another feature was a 21 foot long bed of lily-of-the-valley. The garden was not just ornamental, there were extensive kitchen garden beds and, in 1903, Caroline had a grape house constructed. She was also an avid collector and would bring back exotics from her travels in the Pacific Islands and Europe. This had its down side, it is said she introduced a weed of the Oxalidaceace family to Australia.

Their children, Alfred junior and Bruce Hordern may not have maintained the house as when it was purchased by Mr and Mrs Norman Jones in 1948 it was in a dilapidated state. The Jones replaced the shingle roof with concrete tiles in the 1960s as part of the restoration.

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. Other open space-
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. Introduce cultural planting-
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-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Commerce-Activities relating to buying, selling and exchanging goods and services Retailing-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Commerce-Activities relating to buying, selling and exchanging goods and services Developing Commercial Enterprise-
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 Environment - cultural landscape-Activities associated with the interactions between humans, human societies and the shaping of their physical surroundings Landscapes of passive recreation-
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 Landscapes and gardens of domestic accommodation-
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 Landscapes used for self reliant recreation-
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 Gardens celebrating multiculturalism-
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 Landscapes and parklands of distinctive styles-
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 Creating environments evocative of the 'old country'-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Events-Activities and processes that mark the consequences of natural and cultural occurences Developing local landmarks-
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. Governing-National Theme 7
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Alfred James Hordern, retail merchant and his wife Caroline-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Caroline Hordern (nee Alexander), creative gentlewoman-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Alfred Hordern Jr., retail merchant-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Bruce Hordern, retail merchant-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Norman Jones and wife, gentlepersons-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria g)
[Representativeness]
Highlands is representative of John Horbury Hunt's interpretation of the Shingle Style. While each of Hunt's houses has distinctive elements, Highlands displays features common to his Shingle Style houses, namely recessed verandahs and shingles sweeping away from openings to carry water away.

Highlands is currently the only Shingle Style house of this scale on the State Heritage Register.
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:

Recommendations

Management CategoryDescriptionDate Updated
Recommended ManagementProduce a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) 
Recommended ManagementCarry out an Archaeological Assessment 
Recommended ManagementPrepare a maintenance schedule or guidelines 
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 0003402 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - Permanent Conservation Order - former 0003411 Jan 80 0040114
Local Environmental Plan 199422 Jul 94 0973905
Register of the National Estate  21 Mar 78   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Ku-Ring-Gai Heritage Study1987 Robert Moore, Penelope Pike & Helen Proudfoot  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenHorden, Lesley1985Children of One Family: the story of Anthony and Ann Hordern and their descendants in Australia, 1825-1925
WrittenKu-Ring-Gai Historical Society Inc1996Focus on Ku-Ring-Gai
WrittenPollen, Francis, in The Book of Sydney Suburbs1988'Wahroonga'
WrittenReynolds, Peter, Lesley Muir & Joy Hughes2002John Horbury Hunt: Radical Architect 1838-1904

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: 5045172
File number: S90/06098 & HC 32191


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