Toll Cottage (formerly Rose Cottage) (under consideration) | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

Culture and heritage


Toll Cottage (formerly Rose Cottage) (under consideration)

Item details

Name of item: Toll Cottage (formerly Rose Cottage) (under consideration)
Other name/s: Rose Cottage, Toll House
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Residential buildings (private)
Category: Cottage
Hectares (approx): 0.256
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
PART LOT394 DP747410


Includes cottage, outbuildings and entire courtyard area including garden. The boundaries follow the edge of the now sunken courtyard area


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Eagle Property GroupPrivate11 Apr 19

Statement of significance:

Toll Cottage (formerly Rose Cottage) is a rare surviving example of Victorian Georgian-style domestic housing in an urban setting of NSWs second largest city. It was built in 1857 at the time of Newcastle’s transition from small town to major port and rail terminus, demonstrating the domestic living conditions of an 1850s working class family. It is one of Newcastle’s oldest buildings.The cottage has been constructed using materials from older building stock with many of its original features intact including Victorian fire grate and oven. The cottage exhibits some of the key characteristics of the Victorian Georgian-style style, such as symmetrical facades, plain uniformity of brick walling, six-panelled doors, the simple rectangularity of twelve-pane sash windows, simple-beaded skirting and fireplace, a rustic balustrade, its gabled shingled roof and stone entrance.
The site represents an early subdivision of Newcastle allotments originally planned by Henry Dangar in 1823 that may yield further information about the building techniques and construction methods of the era, the early urban development of Newcastle and its role in the economic growth of NSW.
Date significance updated: 24 Jun 19
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.


Builder/Maker: Joseph Finney
Construction years: 1857-
Physical description: Toll Cottage is a modest colonial dwelling, symmetrically composed, consisting of four rooms and a loft, with twelve-pane sash windows (four below, two above), a pitched shingle gabled roof, central chimney and no veranda. The cottage is of sandstock brick constructed in Flemish bond with English closers (corner work), now painted, on sandstone rubble footings. It has boxed eaves, architraves, skirting and fireplace (with simple beading), the balustrade is rustic, and 6 panel doors - all of typical Colonial Georgian design and together, a rarity within NSW. The windows (simple with no storm moulds) and the roof pitch are typical of the 1850s/60s. The wall vents are a later addition (date unknown).

The cottage is set within a small courtyard below ground level and completely surrounded by 1985 commercial developments and a car park, so that it is not visible from Bolton Street or other surrounding streets. It is accessed via a walkway forming part of the commercial development on Bolton Street.

The cottage demonstrates the simple design and construction of the early colonial period housing in Newcastle and in the colony of New South Wales. It is a modest structure, exhibiting many of the features characteristic of the Colonial Georgian style.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The cottage has undergone a number of restorations in the 1970s and 1980s and is in good condition, having been repainted and re-roofed. Many of its original features including the twelve-pane sash windows and frames on the ground floor, sandstone step, doorways, staircase, fireplaces and stove remain in good condition.
Date condition updated:15 Mar 19
Modifications and dates: There is photographic evidence the cottage was originally built with a single, north-facing, central dormer window in the loft. It is unknown when this feature was removed.

Photographic evidence also reveals by the 1870s a separate two storey weatherboard structure originally housed the kitchen and domestic accommodation. This has not survived, although records from the 1970s indicate that remnants of the ground floor of the structure existed at the rear of the main cottage. Prior to the 1976 restoration a small brick outhouse stood in the place of the kitchen. In 1980 a single-story brick building with shingle roofing, with toilet and kitchen facilities and a paved courtyard covered by a pergola were constructed in this location. (Newcastle Region Library, Local Studies Collection - Newspaper Cuttings File: 'Newcastle - Historic Houses - Rose Cottage'; Hanley, 1997, p 27)

Restoration work was carried out on the cottage in 1976, 1981 and 1987. The cottage has been re-roofed at least twice - with corrugated iron sheeting and more recently, with shingles. The original twelve-pane sash windows in the loft were replaced by two six pane windows in 1976.
Current use: Professional rooms/office from 1987
Former use: Domestic residential 1857-1976


Historical notes: History
Newcastle history

The Awabakal and Worimi peoples are acknowledged by the Newcastle City Council as the traditional custodians of the land and waters of Newcastle. These two Aboriginal groups inhabited the lower Hunter Valley with the river forming a rough boundary between the territories of the Woromi to the north and the Awabakal to the south. Three clans of the Awabakal lived in or near the site of Newcastle - the Five Islands people at the northern end of Lake Macquarie, the Pambalong clan on the western side of the river and the Ash Island people. In addition, the Garagal clan of the Woromi lived on the coastal strip from Stockton to Port Stephens. Although living in separate areas these people came together on ceremonial occasions and regularly visited each other's territories. From 1801 when the first settlement was made, the Aboriginal peoples of the area were exposed to white settlers with disastrous results. During the convict period they were not deprived of their lands on the massive scale that occurred elsewhere but they fell victim to European brutality and diseases. (City of Newcastle Council website & Suters Architects, 2007 pp23,24&25)

After the convict settlement was wound down in the 1820s, the Reverend Lancelot Threkeld established a mission for Aboriginals at Lake Macquarie. His correspondence records the decline in their traditional way of life. (Suters Architects, 2007 ibid)

In 1801 Governor King decided to establish a small post at the river mouth, Lt Paterson naming it King's Town. However, this first settlement was short lived with Governor King closing the settlement early in 1802.

A settlement was again attempted in 1804 as a place of secondary punishment for unruly convicts. The settlement was re-named Newcastle, after England's famous coal port. It was layed out by Lt Menzies, Superintendent of the new settlement and in 1818 surveyed by James Meehan to impose some order. The town was developed along a track used by the Awabakal to move from the water to the top of a sandy hill. This track became Watt Street.

Up to 1822 coal, lime, timber and salt were extracted from the region by gangs of convicts, and the vast agricultural potential of the well-watered, fertile Hunter Valley was also revealed. Governor Macquarie's decision to open up the Hunter Valley to free settlers necessitated the closure of the penal settlement, and during 1822 most of Newcastle's convicts were moved away to Port Macquarie, (though approx 400 remained on tasks until 1848).

As the town was expected to serve its hinterland as a port, a government surveyor, Henry Dangar, was directed in 1823 to prepare a town plan on the site of the convict settlement. Dangar imposed a regular grid plan on the rather haphazardly arranged settlement of 1804-1823. Making provision for a town of 190 allotments with a church enclave and market place at its centre, Dangar established the layout of central Newcastle as it is today. (Suters Architects, 2007, pp 1-4, 27). (For details see and

Newcastle was declared a free town in 1824, however development proceeded slowly. Dangar's grid plan for the town took effect from approx. 1830.

The Australian Agricultural Company (AACo.) was instituted in London in 1824 and set up coal exporting from the western boundary of Newcastle. AACo brought stability and efficiency to Newcastle's basic industry, but by the terms of its land grant AACo. did not have the right to alienate any of its land and the town of Newcastle was restricted to the land east of Brown St until the early 1850s.

In 1847 the AA Company agreed to abandon its protected position in the coal industry in return for the
right to sell its estates. As a result new coal mines opened on the Burwood estate south of Newcastle
and at Minmi, Wallsend, Tomago, Lambton and Waratah and villages appeared in each of these
locations. These mines began to ship coal through the Port of Newcastle, contributing to its development and fostering commerce in Newcastle, itself. Their miners also visited the town for shopping and entertainment, and as the coal industry expanded and more mines were opened up, this process was intensified. In the mid-1850s, Newcastle was still a small place, home of about 1500 people of whom one-fifth were coal miners. Coalmining also generated industries relating to shipping, railways or the mines themselves. Ships chandleries, ships butchers, ships biscuit making, sail making and shipyards are examples of these businesses. (Newcastle Archaeological Management Plan Volume 1 1997)

Access to deep water loading for the ships that carried coal to intercolonial and international markets was the city's raison d'etre and prime influence on the development of Newcastle. Railways were also influential, and their location helped to shape the CBD. The first stage of the great Northern Railway between Newcastle and East Maitland was begun in 1854 and opened on 30 March 1857. As the railway was gradually extended through the Hunter Valley, Newcastle served as the port of an expanding region. (Newcastle City Wide Heritage Study 1997)

When the AACo. arranged its first land sales in 1853, they were very successful. There were
sales to miners and other AACo. employees on both sides of Darby Street but along Blane Street (later Hunter Street West) the lots were bought at higher prices (about 50%) by businessmen including butchers, shoemakers and publicans. This tended to become the pattern of future sales, but Darby Street was also favoured by hoteliers and Blane Street contained a high proportion of residences, albeit some were combined commercial-residential premises. By 1858 many substantial residences had been erected on the Hill, which was the most prestigious area. (Newcastle Archaeological Management Plan Volume 1 1997)

By 1859 the Newcastle had grown sufficiently to warrant its own local government.

Allotment 37 of Dangar's plan of 1823.

Toll Cottage (Rose Cottage) has previously been attributed as Newcastle's oldest building. All research indicated:
*There was a cottage on the site of the current Toll Cottage as early as 1823, if not before.
*The original cottage on the site was likely to have been rebuilt or possibly demolished for a new build with a north facing/east-west roof alignment
*The location of Toll Cottage could be a reference to the early town plan of King's Town prior to Henry Dangar's 1823 plan of Newcastle being implemented (approx. 1830).
*There was conjecture on the age of the current Toll Cottage due to the lack of primary source material, the cottage imprint being very close but not exact to any early images or maps of Newcastle. Imagery would indicate possibly 1860s however the construction method and material (as evidenced from the restoration records of 1978) is of the 1830-1840 period.
*This simple cottage is a rare and early example of its type surviving in an urban setting in NSW and probably Australia.

Further details of the examination of documented evidence including image analysis can be found at , with the recent findings placing all supposition into context.

1857 Construction of Toll Cottage

In 2018 research by Mr G Steinbeck uncovered a newspaper article that explains all the conjectures surrounding this building. It is a court report on the case of Lochhead and another (Finney) v. McConnell on Saturday, October 26 1878 "This was an action in ejectment brought by William Kerr Lochhead and another [Joseph Finney] to recover possession of a piece of land in Bolton-street, Newcastle." (Maitland Mercury, 31 October 1878, page 6&7, The lot of land in dispute was the former Allotment 39, the northern neighbour of the current Toll Cottage. The plaintiff and defendant were the neighbours Finney and McConnell both of whom had properties at 51 Bolton Street (the former Allotment 37). From this court case the following chronology can be derived.
*In 1856 Allotment 37 was purchased by Simon Kemp, it was clear and open land (indicating the previous convict-era dwelling had been demolished well beforehand).
*In 1857 part of the land (facing Bolton St) was purchase off S Kemp by James McConnell who informed Joseph Finney of the availability of the remainder of the land being available.
*July 1857 J Finney purchased the remainder of the land (with William Lochhead) off S Kemp.
*Dec 1857 Finney had completed his house and moved in by Christmas. The lane (to/from Bolton St) was cut from Kemp's land (Allotment 37) to enable Finney to get to his allotment.
*1862 McConnell built his house facing Bolton St
This explains the absence of any building on the site appearing in any 1830s-1850s images and maps of Newcastle. It also gives evidence how landowners and property developers, such as Kemp were starting to subdivide allotments for profit and the residential growth of Newcastle.
Joseph Finney was a carter, who's trade included acquiring and carting building materials. He stored his horses, drays and building materials (stone and bricks) on the land opposite his front door, across the lane.
The site and north-facing direction of the Toll Cottage can therefore be explained as Finney bought the back section of Kemp's allotment, with the access being a lane from Bolton St (taken from the Kemp allotment). He built his house facing the lane. It was built within a six-month period. Neither he nor his wife described the construction of his house whilst giving evidence. However, it could be surmised that as a carter of building materials he procured salvaged items and materials to construct his house. This would account for the mixture of a) the early colonial vernacular of the foundations stones, sandstock bricks, doors and windows, and b) no storm moulds on the windows (typical of 1850s/60s), Victorian fireplaces, and the mid-Victorian roof pitch. With no further information on cost and builder, this surmising would also explain the remaining features of early Colonial architraves, skirting and boxed eaves. Further investigation through fabric analysis to determine whether or not it was likely that building materials had been reused would assist. In particular to examine the nails and the way the timbers have been sawn in the roof space, if any original fabric remained in the roof space.

Owners and Tenants

The first authenticated transfer of the land was on 30th September 1856, being a grant by purchase to Simon Kemp (1791-1867). At the time of writing this historical summary there was no documented evidence of what transpired with Lot 37 between the allocation to A Beveridge by 1824, the 1829 audit of properties, and the transfer to Simon Kemp in 1856. Kemp was once a carpenter with the Australian Agricultural Company, who became a prominent citizen and landowner in Newcastle. In the 1840s he was part of a group that successfully campaigned for the opening of the Port of Newcastle as a free warehousing port. They wanted the right to export coal, wool and other produce, and to receive imports directly at Newcastle, instead of having to export and import through Sydney. In the 1850s Kemp was also instrumental in campaigning for the establishment of local government in Newcastle and became Mayor of Newcastle in 1866. (Newcastle Region Library, Local Studies Collection - Newspaper Cuttings File: 'Newcastle - Historic Houses - Rose Cottage' - Minutes of Works & Planning Committee Meeting 22/11/1971 & Newcastle Morning Herald 27/10/1971; Turner, 1997, pp 21, 34; Map of Newcastle NSW, [n.d.]. Source:

Soon after the land was transferred to Kemp, James McConnell bought a portion of the land facing Bolton Street and Joseph Finney bought the remainder of the land (at the back of McConnell's and where Toll Cottage sits) from Simon Kemp in July 1857. Finney was an Ulsterman, who made his fortune as a carter. He built his family home in 1857. Access to the cottage was from Bolton Street via a laneway 10 feet wide. This lane was not dedicated as a public thoroughfare and has now been partially built over. Prior to the construction of the surrounding carpark and office tower in 1985, remnants of a cobbled road were recorded on the eastern side of Toll Cottage.
Details of establishing the property and the construction of the house are found in the reporting of an 1878 court case, where a dispute over the ownership of the land was resolved in Mr Finney's side. (The Maitland Mercury, 31 October 1878, see above) This includes Mr Finney's wife's testimony "... in 1857 Finney's house was begun, ..." and "...Mrs Finney, the wife of one of the plaintiffs, went to live in the house on the 17th of May, 1858. ..."
Upon his death, Finney's daughter, a Mrs Charlotte Hodge lived in the house for many years.

The only evidence intimating at how the property came to be known as 'Rose Cottage' appears in the Newcastle Sun article, 26 Jan 1923, page 6 which provides the following; " of the winners of the three principal races at Boolaroo to-morrow. J. Rose, 54 off Bolton-street, Newcastle." See: It is possible this J Rose lived in/owned the cottage behind 51 Bolton St in the early 1920s. Further investigation is required for validation.

From the late 1920s to his death in 1950 the property was leased by a Newcastle identity Clarence 'Clarry' Harris -, aka 'Black Harris' (crimper, alleged shanghaier, boarding master, legendary 'bogeyman', lifesaver and ship's watchman). In the late 1920s the property was owned by a Mr Earl Mortimer Bollinger, a convicted unlicensed bookie. (See court case notice

At some time in the early 1950s (after Mr Harris' death in 1950) 51 Bolton St was acquired by property developer, Toll Investments Pty Ltd from whence it became known as Toll Cottage. The cottage continued to be used as a residence until the mid-1970s by which time Toll had acquired the entire block of land bounded by Church, Bolton, Watt and King Streets. In 1971 the resident was Mrs Betty Perry and family. (most information from Newcastle Region Library, Local Studies Collection - Newspaper Cuttings File: 'Newcastle - Historic Houses - Rose Cottage')

Robert Oliver, the project architect of the 1976 restoration of the cottage had a keen interest that the cottage was conserved properly as he was married to Wendy Toll, descendant of Albert Toll, founder of Toll Investments Pty Ltd.


In the 1970s-1980s there were several development proposals for the land surrounding Toll Cottage reflecting its prime location in the topographically confined space of the modern Newcastle CBD. In 1976 Toll Investments decided to restore the dwelling as authentically as possible as a gesture of goodwill towards the City of Newcastle that had been good to the Toll family.

Some sections of the walls and foundations were replaced with bricks from the old outhouse, which, though a later addition, was of the same hand-made sandstocks. The window frames and much of the internal woodwork was found to have survived under layers of paint and some of the glazing was original. The lathe plaster was replaced by a suitable equivalent and some of the original shakes (axe split hardwood square boards) for the roof still existed, though the roof had been covered with corrugated iron sheeting. (Newcastle Regional Library, Local Studies Collection - Newspaper Cuttings File: 'Newcastle - Historic Houses - Rose Cottage'; Hanley, 1997, p 27). Images taken during and after the work indicate original doors and door locks were retained. It was at this time the loft windows were replaced.

In the 1980s, when the surrounding commercial and residential developments were being planned, it was proposed to either dismantle the cottage and rebuild it on the site after the ground level was raised by 1.5 metres, or else to underpin and jack the building up, which would be less damaging. However, the cottage remained in its original position and the new developments were designed around it. The car park and office block that share Lot 394 DP 747410 on which Toll Cottage sits, were completed in 1985. While its setting has been completely obliterated by the developments that have occurred, the cottage has survived. The cottage is not visible from Bolton Street and has posed a challenge to its owners to find an appropriate use for it. In 1988 the cottage underwent further restoration before being leased as professional rooms for a legal practice. The cottage survives with a much reduced site curtilage, well hidden from the street and accessible via the walkway outside the office block fronting Bolton Street. While its setting has been lost, the cottage itself remains in good condition, with many of its original features, including staircase, timber-mantled fireplaces and fuel stove.

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Toll Cottage is of State significance as an excellent example of early housing construction in Newcastle and New South Wales. It is a surviving example of modest Victorian Georgian-style housing constructed using materials from older building stock, and built at the time of Newcastle’s development from small town to major port and rail terminus. The cottage demonstrates the domestic living conditions of an 1850s working class family and represents an early subdivision of Newcastle allotments originally planned by Henry Dangar in 1823.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Toll Cottage is of State significance as a fine example of Victorian Georgian-style cottage with many of its original features intact. While it is a modest structure, the cottage displays many of the key elements of the Georgian style of architecture, particularly its symmetrical harmonious facades, balanced proportions and simple rectangular forms of its doors and windows. Situated in a courtyard setting below the current ground level, the cottage survives as a simple and elegant reminder of a bygone era within the modern commercial heartland of Newcastle's CBD.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The site on which Toll Cottage stands is of State significance having archaeological potential for remnants of earlier structures including its former kitchen and domestic living quarters, and a previous cottage built on the site in the 1820s.
The site reveals the original topography of this area of Newcastle. It could yield information concerning the earlier patterns of street alignment in Newcastle as there is known cobblestone paving to the east and south of the cottage.
The building itself can reveal construction methods and materials, domestic life and living conditions in the early Victorian era of NSW.
SHR Criteria f)
Toll Cottage is of State significance as a rare example of a simple small scale free standing Victorian Georgian-style cottage surviving in an urban setting in NSW. It is rare as one of the oldest buildings in Newcastle, NSW's second largest city, built at the time of Newcastle’s development from small town to major port and rail terminus.
SHR Criteria g)
Toll Cottage is of State significance as an intact representation of a Victorian Georgian-style cottage, exhibiting some of the key characteristics of this style, including: plain uniformity of brick walling, the simple rectangularity of twelve-pane sash windows, its gabled shingled roof and stone entrance. The cottage demonstrates the simple design and construction of mid-Victorian period housing in Newcastle and in the colony of New South Wales.
Integrity/Intactness: Despite the loss of its historical context by being completely surrounded by an office block and car park the building itself is remarkabley intact.
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - Under consideration for SHR/IHO listing  28 Sep 17   
Heritage Act - Icons Project Nomination for SHR listing  12 Jul 04   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Newcastle City Wide Heritage Study1996 Suters Architects Snell  No
Newcastle Heritage Study1990147Unknown  Yes
Newcastle Archaelogical Management Plan1997 Suters, Lavelle, Doring, Turner  Yes
Review of Items of Potential State Significance in the Newcastle City Area2008 Sue Rosen and Associates Heritage Assessment And History (HAAH)  Yes
Newcastle Archaeological Management Strategy for the City of Newcastle2015 Planning and Regulatory Group, Newcastle City Council  No

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written  'Newcastle - Historic Houses - Rose Cottage'
WrittenApperley, Richard, Irving, Robert & Reynolds, Peter1994A Pictorial Guide to Identifying Australian Architecture
WrittenCoal River Working Party Hunter Living Histories View detail
WrittenEvans, Ian1983The Australian Home
WrittenHanley, Jo1997'Newcastle: Place of History, Landscape of Memory' in 'Hidden Newcastle – Urban Memories and Architectural Imaginaries'
WrittenMaitland, Barry & Stafford, David1997Architecture Newcastle
WrittenStapleton, Maisy & Stapleton, Ian1997Australian House Styles
WrittenTurner, John1997A Pictorial History of Newcastle

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: 5050461
File number: EF17/14373

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