Highlands | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage



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


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.


Designer/Maker: John Horbury Hunt
Construction years: 1890-1893
Physical description: 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.

The garden, although significantly altered, contains a notable period Hoop Pine and provides a sympathetic setting to the house.
Current use: Private Residence
Former use: Private Residence


Historical notes: 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. 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.

The Alfred junior and Bruce 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
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

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria g)
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.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
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.

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


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   

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
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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