Tocal Homestead | NSW Environment & Heritage

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Heritage

Tocal Homestead

Item details

Name of item: Tocal Homestead
Type of item: Complex / Group
Group/Collection: Farming and Grazing
Category: Homestead Complex
Location: Lat: -32.6235860577 Long: 151.5902756580
Primary address: Tocal Road, Paterson, NSW 2421
Parish: Houghton
County: Durham
Local govt. area: Dungog
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Mindaribba
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT1 DP231538
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Tocal RoadPatersonDungogHoughtonDurhamPrimary Address

Owner/s

Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
C.B. Alexander FoundationPrivate 

Statement of significance:

The place is significant because it represents the complete range of human habitation in the Paterson Valley. There is evidence of its use by the Gringai Clan of the Wonnerau people through the name 'Tocal' and the presence of axe grinding grooves on site. The main significance of Tocal as a European site is the entire precinct which is a stud horse and cattle agricultural property from the 19th century. It is extremely rare to find such a complete complex of largely unaltered buildings. The fact that many are typical timber structures also demonstrates various construction technologies (Eric Martin and Cameron Archer 1998).

Tocal under James P.Webber is also significant for its association with the development of viticulture and the development of the Hunter Valley wine industry (Driscoll, 1969).

The key element within this important precinct is the Homestead representing a very fine residence of which few of equal age and quality remain today.

Also of exceptional significance is the original Webber's homestead and stables plus the barracks. The design of the homestead with the house, staff quarters and stables all part of one building but separately accessed plus the two storey town house type of accommodation (barracks) for farm workers are very rare, if not unique.

The Blacket-designed barn is a finely detailed building by one of Australia's prominent architects of the 19th century.

There are many more elements of considerable significance including the cattle shed which represents a rare and special building to accommodate cattle.

The other significant element is the generator and associated farm equipment. Although not old compared with Tocal, its completeness is an extremely valuable heritage asset.

Most of the remaining elements have some significance in their own right.

The association of the Reynolds is also a very important one. They were pioneers in stud cattle and horses, who contributed greatly to stud breeding and recognition. Reynolds was a name synonymous with Hereford cattle in NSW for a nearly a century that remains largely as it was when they operated it.
Date significance updated: 24 Jul 00
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: Various: Homestead 1845 Moir, Barn 1867 Blacket
Builder/Maker: Various
Construction years: 1822-1922
Physical description: Garden & Setting:
The landscape includes wetlands, riverine rainforest and formally dry sclerophyll forest land which has been cleared to become pasture land (Eric Martin and Cameron Archer 1998). The Tocal Agricultural Centre property is 2500 hectares comprising 5 farming enterprises, a heritage precinct and one of Australia's top agricultural colleges (Hunter Post, 20/2/08).

Tocal Homestead is carefully located on the top of a small rise overlooking the lagoon to its east and Paterson Road beyond that. The house is framed by a number of magnificent (again, carefully placed) mature Moreton Bay fig trees (Ficus macrophylla) which are visible from quite some distance away (Stuart Read, pers.comm., 2/3/2012) and the homestead garden is enclosed, by a white painted picket fence (RNE).

Other trees near the house include some local rainforest species, such as red kamala (Mallotus philippensis) south-west of the homestead facing its rear yard. This may represent bird-dropped seed but is an unusual find in any garden (Stuart Read, pers.comm., 7/10/2015).

A hedge of Cape honeysuckle (Tecomaria capensis) runs from the house's rear to the north, demarcating the garden 'front' and the service yards and outbuildings to the rear. Another rare plant in the garden is the Solomon Islands leafless shrub, ribbon bush (Homocladium platycladum), otherwise only seen in Botanic Gardens)(Stuart Read, pers.comm., 7/10/2015).

Homestead:
The Homestead consists of a late Georgian/Regency Revival rendered sandstock brick two storey homestead, with verandahs (flagged sandstone) on three sides, set on a knoll overlooking the Paterson River and surrounding areas.

Outbuildings:
The site also consists of a wide range of vernacular timber buildings, stockyards, post and rail fences, underground silos and other elements representing technology of a 19th century farm. These consist of convict-built sandstock brick residential buildings, as well as a large stone barn built in 1830 by convicts, an 1860s timber barn designed by architect Edmund Blacket and yards, fences etc.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Physical condition is good to fair. Archaeological potential is high given the undisturbed nature of the site. (Eric Martin and Cameron Archer 1998)
Date condition updated:07 May 98
Modifications and dates: Homestead - The Homestead remains in quite intact condition with modern facilities and some equipments. The exterior bricks have been painted, however the rest of the exterior is in original state. (Eric Martin and Cameron Archer 1998)

Stone Barn - This 1830 building is in original condition but a with 1920's attachment used by the previous owner as a carport.

Sandstock Brick Buildings, Barracks & Thunderbolt's Cottage - These are in reasonably stable condition, they require extensive repairs but retain much of their original qualities.

Timber Outbuildings - These are in quite good condition. A garage has been converted to public toilets (1990) and the staff quarters modified to incorporate Tea Rooms (1990, 96)

1998-2002 former hayshed east of house converted to visitor centre (Archer, C., 2002)
Current use: Tourism & Interpretation
Former use: Agricultural purposes

History

Historical notes: Prior to 1822 the area was part of the lands of the Gringai Clan of the Wonnerau people and used as a camp site. Tocal is derived from Koori language meaning 'Ducks Aplenty'.

The presence of the large lagoon was one of the deciding factors in the use of this area by both Aboriginal people (who harvested plants and animals for use in daily life - from the rainforest along the river and surrounding paperbark (Melaleuca sp.) forest, which provided a great variety of food and materials) and European settlers, as it provides a permanent source of fresh water for humans and animals. The proximity of the site to the river was also a factor in settlement by Euroepans as the river remained a major transport route for 100 years (Hathway, 2003, 3).

The site was a 4,000 acre land grant to J P Webber in 1822, who established it as a productive farm.

The fertile flats on the banks of Webber's Creek were cleared with convict labour in the 1820s and it is from this land that much of the wealth of Tocal was created. The low-lying area and wetlands at the back of the homestead was one of the first areas to be cleared by Europeans for building materials, grazing stock and to establish food crops (ibid, 2003, 3).

The planting of vineyards and the making of wine were given every encouragement by the early Governors of New South Wales, as well as by urban and rural authorities, for their economic value and also partly, if not chiefly, for their 'sobering' appeal. (Simon, 1966, 9).

There is no indication of who actually planted the first vines in the Hunter Valley. The first official returns did not appear until 1843 and listed only acreages and production figures by counties. However, a list of vines planted in the colony by 1832 appears in manuscript notes on the flyleaves of a copy of James Busby's 1830 publication, 'A Manual of plain directions for planting and cultivating vineyards and for making wine in NSW'. At this stage there were 10 settlers on the Hunter River growing vines. These included James P. Webber at Tocal who had 3 acres of a Hunter Valley total (15.5 acres). In 1834 Webber supplied George Wyndham of Dalwood estate Oporto and Gouais grape cuttings (Driscoll, 1969, 11-12, 28).

So great was the interest to be in wine making that when the first returns for vineyards were made in 1844 for the year 1843, the Hunter had 262.5acres of a NSW total of 508. By 1850 this had grown to over 500 acres. The 'Maitland Mercury' estimated that in 1850 there were 32 vine growers in the Maitland Police district alone. The Hunter pattern was for large farming and grazing properties. J.D.Lang noted that in 1836 the farms varied from 500-2000 acres, and were held by free immigrants employing convict labour. The areas devoted to vines were necessarily small though Lang does say that the wealthy proprietors had their vineyards managed by scientific and practical vine dressers from southern Europe and that landholders were already talking of exporting wine to India and England (Driscoll, 1969, 23, 25).

In 1834 Webber sold Tocal to Caleb and Felix Wilson (father and son, who had a large business in Sydney (Hathway, 2003, 4, 6). Caleb died in 1838.The Wilson family built the homestead in 1840 (Hathway, 2003, 4 says it was 1841: Felix commissioned Scottish architect, Moir to design it for use as a country residence) and the Wilson family held the property till 1907 (Eric Martin and Cameron Archer 1998). Respected 20th century architect William Hardy Wilson was descended from this family.

In 1844 Charles Reynolds leased Tocal until 1871 (Hathway, 2003,4 adds that the lease continued until 1907) and the following two generations of that family made it one of the most famous stud farms in the country. 'The Barb' 1886 winner of the Melbourne Cup stood at Tocal. 'Free Trader' winner of the 1856 Grand National was imported by the Reynolds to Tocal but before he could be extensively used was stolen by Captain Thunderbolt, the bushranger. Thunderbolt had previously worked on Tocal as a horsebreaker.

During the period of Frank Reynolds' leasehold and subsequent purchase prior to Reynolds family, extensive timber buildings were added to the site including the Blacket Barn, designed by Blacket and built in the late 1860s.

Also during the Reynolds family occupation (1844-1926) the homestead was a social hub of the district. A tennis court was located between the (now huge) fig trees, which were then considerably smaller. The family entertained regularly in the homestead and held tennis parties on the front lawn (ibid, 2003, 6).

In 1865 Felix Wilson died and Tocal was willed by entail to (unborn grandson) David Wilson, born 1879. In 1871 Charles Reynolds died and management and stud stock were transferred to his widow Frances and their sons (Hathway, 2003, 4).

In 1907 Tocal was sold to Charle Reynold's son, Frank Reynolds. Frank died in 1920 (ibid, 2003, 4).

Sons,Darcie and Arthur Reynolds ran the Tocal property as the estate of Frank Reynolds from 1920 to 1926.

In 1926 the property was sold to the Alexander siblings (Jean, Isabella, Robert and Charles Boyd (C.B.)), who ran it as a breeding and dealing property.

In 1938 Jean Alexander died leaving Charles (C.B.) on his own at Tocal. The following year Myrtle and Marguerita Curtis came to Tocal to live with their uncle Charles (ibid, 2003, 4). The Alexanders were a much more private family than the Reynolds. The departure of the Reynolds left a void in the social life of the district and led to a misconception that the Alexanders were snobbish. The Valley garden was a favourite spot of Myrtle and Marguerita Curtis. It most likely dates from the Alexanders' time, and displays the style of garden favoured by early settlers, based on familiar English plants (ibid, 2003, 7).

The last of the family, C. B. Alexander died in 1947 leaving a complex will for the estate which among other things, left his properties (this one included) to establish homes for 'destitute, homeless and orphan children' - in time this would provide for the establishment of an agricultural institution at Tocal. He gave his nieces, Misses Myrtle and Marguerita Curtis life tenancy and they lived at Tocal Homestead until 1985, dying just five days apart. Its contents were bequeathed by the Alexanders and the Misses Curtis to the College (ibid, 2003, 7). Since then the homestead has been run and operated by the C B Alexander Foundation (Eric Martin and Cameron Archer 1998).

In 1963 a solution to Charles Alexander's will was found by E.A.Hunt. Work began on the College (ibid, 2003, 4).

1965 the C.B.Alexander Presbyterian Agricultural College was opened by the Presbyterian Church through the efforts of Edward A. Hunt.

1970 management of the College was handed to NSW Department of Agriculture. The College was named C.B.ALexander Agricultural College (ibid, 2003, 4)

1981 NSW Department of Agriculture external study program moved to Tocal.

1984 Tocal Field Days began.

1987 Tocal Homestead was opened to the public visitors.

2000 the Maitland district office of NSW Department of Agriculture moved to Tocal.

2001 Stage 1 visitor centre opened on the site. Multi-purpose skill shed opened.

2002 Tocal Agricultural Centre was named. Stage 2 visitor centre opened.

2003 Commenced weekend opening of Tocal Homestead. Tocal was named as a NSW Agriculture Centre of Excellence (www.tocal.nsw.edu.au/reader/tocal-about/history.htm)

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Aboriginal cultures and interactions with other cultures-Activities associated with maintaining, developing, experiencing and remembering Aboriginal cultural identities and practices, past and present. (none)-
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Convict-Activities relating to incarceration, transport, reform, accommodation and working during the convict period in NSW (1788-1850) - does not include activities associated with the conviction of persons in NSW that are unrelated to the imperial 'convict system': use the theme of Law & Order for such activities Experiencing life opportunities after emancipation-
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Convict-Activities relating to incarceration, transport, reform, accommodation and working during the convict period in NSW (1788-1850) - does not include activities associated with the conviction of persons in NSW that are unrelated to the imperial 'convict system': use the theme of Law & Order for such activities Working on private assignment-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Agriculture-Activities relating to the cultivation and rearing of plant and animal species, usually for commercial purposes, can include aquaculture Growing vines and maintaining vineyards-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Agriculture-Activities relating to the cultivation and rearing of plant and animal species, usually for commercial purposes, can include aquaculture Ancillary structures - windmills-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Agriculture-Activities relating to the cultivation and rearing of plant and animal species, usually for commercial purposes, can include aquaculture Farming with convict labour-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Agriculture-Activities relating to the cultivation and rearing of plant and animal species, usually for commercial purposes, can include aquaculture Clearing land for farming-
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 (none)-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Pastoralism-Activities associated with the breeding, raising, processing and distribution of livestock for human use (none)-
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 (none)-
7. Governing-Governing Defence-Activities associated with defending places from hostile takeover and occupation (none)-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The entire precinct represents a solo horse and cattle agricultural property from the 19th century. The early structures are among the finest in the area and include the convict built Webbers cottage, Barracks and Barn.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The Homestead is a fine residence of which few of equal age or quality remain. The Barn is a finely detailed building by one of Australia’s prominent 19th century architects, Edmund Blackett. The collection as a whole has great aesthetic appeal.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The association with the Gringai Clan of the Wonnerau people, with Reynolds who were pioneers in stud cattle and horses and the Alexander family are all important social aspects of the property.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The various timber structures demonstrate 19th century construction technologies. The generator and associated equipment are old and rare examples of electrical equipment. The archaeological potential is high as some structures have been removed and areas are largely undisturbed.
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
The collection as a whole is rare, the Blacket Barn is one of his few remaining rural structures. The silos are also rare examples.
SHR Criteria g)
[Representativeness]
The timber structures are representative of 19th century technology and the farm is a collection representative of a 19th century farm.
Integrity/Intactness: The collection maintains a very high degree of integrity with most original material remaining.
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:

Continued conservation of all elements improve interpretation of the site (Eric Martin and Cameron Archer 1998) and educational opportunities. Conservation of interior of Barracks desirable and conservation of Webber’s Cottage essential.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workHeritage Act See File For Schedule
Refer to standard exemptions gazetted 23 October 1998.

Order Under Section 57(2) to exempt the following activities from Section 57(1):
The maintenance of any building or item on the site where maintenance means the continuous protective care of existing material:

The minor repair of the building where minor repair means the repair of materials by patching, piercing-in, splicing and consolidating existing materials and including minor replacements of minor components such as individual bricks, cutstone, timber sections, tiles and slates where these have been damaged beyond reasonable repair or are missing. The replacement should be of the same material, colour, texture, form and design as the original it replaces and the number of components it replaced should be substantially less than existing.
Jul 28 1989
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
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.
Apr 17 2013
21(1)(b)Conservation Plan submitted for endorsementFinal draft of CMP submitted for consideration and endorsement. Apr 18 2014

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0014702 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - Permanent Conservation Order - former 0014706 Nov 81 170 
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage registers.170 Department of Agriculture, 2002    
Regional Environmental PlanHunter REP 1989 03 Nov 89 1079343
Local Environmental Plan  06 Apr 90   
National Trust of Australia register Tocal Agricultural College4729   
Register of the National Estate 134721 Mar 78   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Dungog Heritage Study1986 Perumal, Wrathall & Murphy Pty Ltd  No

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
TourismAllyn & Paterson River Valley's2013Tocal Homestead View detail
WrittenArcher, Cameron2002Tocal Visitor Centre: new use for an old shed View detail
TourismAttraction Homepage2007Tocal Homestead View detail
WrittenDriscoll, W.P.1969The beginnings of the wine industry in the Hunter Valley
Management PlanEric Martin and Associates1999Tocal Conservation Management Plan
WrittenGillespie, Peter & Brouwer, David2007Tocal Property Plan
WrittenHathway, Jo2003Guide to Tocal
WrittenHunt, E.A.1972Tocal Story
WrittenHunt, Edward Allan Tocal story. How an agricultural College was born in the Hunter Valley / Printed by Erik Jorgensen.
WrittenMartin, Eric and Archer, Cameron1998NSW State Heritage Inventory form
WrittenPhillip Cox, Richardson & Partners Taylor & Partners1987Tocal Conservation Plan Tocal Library
WrittenTocal College, CB Alexander Campus2007History of Tocal View detail
WrittenUnknown Various records
WrittenWalsh, Brian and Hawkins, Ralph2013Convict Tools: working at Camden Park and Tocal
WrittenWhite, Judy1986Tocal : the changing moods of a rural estate

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: 5045676
File number: S90/06254 & HC 32010


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