Miss Porter's House | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage

Heritage

Miss Porter's House

Item details

Name of item: Miss Porter's House
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Residential buildings (private)
Category: House
Location: Lat: -32.9277459126 Long: 151.7648033130
Primary address: 434 King Street, Newcastle, NSW 2300
Local govt. area: Newcastle
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Awabakal
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT441 DP998073
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
434 King StreetNewcastleNewcastle  Primary Address

Owner/s

Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
National Trust of Australia (NSW)Community Group 

Statement of significance:

Miss Porter's House, 434 King Street Newcastle, built in 1909, is rare because it is a highly intact entity that incorporates the house, grounds, interiors and contents. It has historical significance as a residential property continuously occupied by the one family - the Porter family - over a ninety year period. The house with furnishings is a poignant insight into the design and organisation of Edwardian homes and demonstrates the quiet urban lifestyle of the Porter family in the regional urban district of Newcastle. The collection has high research potential as it contains a complete set of accounts, invoices and other paper based ephemera.

Miss Porter's House has retained many original features. The interiors have aesthetic significance as they are very intact and demonstrate two layers of interior decoration - the original fit out in 1909 and a second round of furnishing between 1935-1939. Of particular note are the stencilled timber ceilings, fine Queensland maple staircase, art deco rugs, linoleum, and art deco light fittings.
Date significance updated: 16 Oct 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

Builder/Maker: J T Orpen
Physical description: Miss Porter's house is a free standing two storey Federation terrace. It is constructed of stretcher bond brick and has a corrugated iron hipped roof. The first floor features a balcony with cast iron balustrade. The house, located in the business district of King Street, has landmark qualities as a distinctive residential home in an otherwise non-residential area.

Miss Porter's House is a highly intact entity that incorporates the house, grounds, interiors and contents. The interiors are very intact and demonstrate two layers of interior decoration - the original fit out in 1909 and again between 1935-1939. Of particular note are the stencilled timber ceilings, fine Queensland maple staircase, art deco rugs, linoleum, and art deco light fittings. The collection has high research potential as it contains a complete set of accounts, invoices and other paper based ephemera. Such a collection that illustrates the lives of one family over a ninety year period is extremely rare in Australia.

From the entrance hallway, a sitting room opens to the right, furnished with the crocodile velvet lounge suite and coffee table on the carpet square with its 'feltex' surround, purchased by Florence in 1935. The 1940s radiator still gives out heat in winter. The fireplace and chimneys were not restored after the 1989 earthquake.

The hallway opens into a large dining room furnished with table, chairs, sideboards and palm stand, much of it purchased by Herbert Porter to furnish his new house in 1909. The quality of the property's internal decorative features is outstanding. A richly decorated linoleum floor covering leads from the dining room to the hallway. A fine timber staircase leads to two upstairs bedrooms. The stencilled timber ceilings of the hallway and two principal downstairs rooms are exquisite. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Florence Porter stencilled the ceilings. Further research is being undertaken to confirm this theory.

From the dining room, a door leads onto a verandah, adjacent to which is the 'bush house'. Together the verandah and bush house provide a delightful, protected outdoor living area which visitors to the family remember as being well used. From the verandah one can enter a rear kitchen with a large fireplace. A table, sideboard and couch furnish this room. An adjacent scullery has been converted to a kitchenette. A large bathroom and laundry open from a small hallway.

A small yard extended from this area, where a water tank, outdoor toilet, storage space for the oddments of a house-hold and garden are to be found.

Cynthia Hunter, p24
Modifications and dates: 2008: fundraising towards reconstruction of a glasshouse (National Trust, 2008, 11).

National trust Magazine NSW November 2008-January 2009:
Miss Porter's house: $7,097 was contributed to the cost of running the property, allowing a surplus to be generated for reallocation towards the reconstruction of the glasshouse.
Current use: House Museum/ Headquarters-Hunter Regional Committee
Former use: Aboriginal land, mining land, town lot, Residence

History

Historical notes: In the early 1860s, the seventeen year old James Porter travelled from his native England and took up farming on the estuary islands of the Hunter river. He married Eliza Lintott and, by the early 1880s, was ready to set himself up as a general storekeeper and carrier in Blane Street (now Hunter Street West). Here he and Eliza reared their family, while James became a well known figure in local business and social life of the community.

In 1906, James Porter purchased from the Australian Agricultural Company an allotment of land facing Langford Street and at the rear of his shop for 350 pounds. This was conveyed in 1909 to his second son, Herbert Porter and his new wife, Florence Evelyn Jolley, who were now ready to establish their own home and family. That very year, Herbert contracted J T Orpen to build his house for 498 Pounds. The final payment in December 1909 included 14 Pounds for extra gasfittings.

Built in 1909 'Miss Porter's House' has always been a distinctive Edwardian home in an otherwise non-residential area. It stands on land known prior to its subdivision as 'Lock's Paddock', a stonemason's yard. The extensive buildings of the Gas Company occupied most of the land opposite while the Steel Street produce markets and homes of the Chinese market gardeners were in nearby Devonshire Street. As the century progressed, the industrial nature of the area gave way to commerce and administration. However Miss Porter's house remains as the sole residential building.

Herbert and Florence Porter set about to furnish their home and, in February 1911, Florence gave birth to the Porter's first daughter, Ella. Later in the year, Galley & Frogley of Charlton Street, Wickham, constructed a 'bush house' at the property.

On the death of James Herbert senior in 1912, Herbert Porter and his siblings each inherited over 1000 Pounds. Herbert also received two horses and a lorry. The principal Porter business continued after the death of James, probably under Herbert's management. Hazel Mildred, second daughter of Herbert and Florence Porter, was born in August 1914.

In the aftermath of World War 1, a serious epidemic of influenza swept the world. Australia was not excluded and among the Newcastle victims was Herbert Porter, aged only 41 Years (in 1919). Florence Porter and her two daughters Ella and Hazel, the latter only five years old, were left on their own. These were sad years for the family. Eliza, Herbert's mother died in July 1919 and his sister, Elsie May followed in September 1921.

Herbert Porter's estate seems to have provided an income for the maintenance of the family, while Florence's own family who owned land, produce and livestock in Singleton also helped to support Florence and her two children. Ella and Hazel were enrolled at Cooks Hill Public School. With reports of good work and good conduct Ella is known to have subsequently found work as a typist, however this ceased during the Depression. Less is known about Hazel, save that she too worked for many years in a clerical position.

A highlight in the lives of Mrs Porter and her daughters was the selection of Hollingwood, the homestead near Singleton where Mrs Florence Porter was born, as the location for the 1947 Australian film 'Eureka Stockade'. Produced and directed by Harry Watt, this was said to be the most ambitious Australian film attempted to that time. Australian actor Chips Rafferty played Peter Lalor and 140 people were on location. The Porter women came to Hollingwood to share in the general excitement of this unusual episode. Their photographs and press clippings attest to their enjoyment of this significant occasion.

Miss Porter's House became the lifelong home of the two daughters, neither of whom married. Florence Porter died in August 1970 at the age of 91, after a long widowhood of almost 50 years. Ella and Hazel continued to live at 434 King Street where, in1975, they renewed the bush house. Ella died in 1995, aged 84 years leaving Hazel to continue alone in the house until her own death in 1997,aged 83.

Prior to her death, Hazel contemplated the future of the family home. The inner-city site had been long sought for redevelopment, however Hazel decided to bequeath the house, its contents and an endowment to the National Trust of Australia (NSW). The house and its contents are representative of the middle-class urban lifestyle of the early twentieth century. The Porter family enjoyed modest prosperity during the working lives of their menfolk. The womenfolk carefully managed the home during their long occupancy from 1990 to1997. Theirs was modest, quiet and private lifestyle. The Porter sisters steadfastly retained their personal possessions and the Trust has been intrigued by the collection of clothing, fabrics, craft materials, linen and general household items that remain in the cupboards and sideboards. The house is a living home, offering today a rare and privileged visit into others lives, others times (Hunter, p22-23).

When Hazel Porter left her family house to the Trust in 1997 she also left their furniture, furnishings, clothes, books, accounts and invoices and their personal correspondence and photographs. THere are cupboards full of textiles, a collection of needlework and millinery made by Hazel and her mother Florence and sister Ella, Christmas cards and decorations, school reports, school magazines c.1920 and in the bathroom, combs, soaps, ointments, bandages and dentures. Sadly there is little evidence of Herbert, the man of the house, as he died when his children were young. There are some 6000 items in all and together they tell the story of everyday life in this Newcastle family from 1910-97 (Bannister, 2011, 8).

Since 1997 National Trust of Australia (NSW) Volunteers have maintained the building itself, the gardens and valuable collection of artefacts houses there, raising money towards its upkeep.

The Trust must protect the collection, accession and catalogue it and ensure it is accessible to the public. Volunteers are progressing all three of these goals. Accession records are being computerised (off decade-old paper records). Family documents are being scanned with a grant, to take individual photographs of each item in the collection. Prior to each open day or special visit, volunteers clean and organise each item. Pre-planned visit themes have included China and Glass, and Needlework, Christmas with the Porters, Mothers' Day at Porter's House. The Porter women were great needleworkers and the garments they made attract much attention. When considered as a whole, the collection is awe-inspiring: objects and artefacts from across most of the 20th century, all owned and used by the one family, of four (Bannister, 2011, 8).

The West End of Newcastle where Miss Porter's House is has been characterised by decline in the twentieth century - buildings falling derelict, being demolished and spasmodic development of a few new buildings of low quality. Australia's largest Kentucky Fried Chicken now occupies the site of the former gracious Palais Royale and, under that, an important Aboriginal midden. A proliferation of cheap pubs, tattoo parlors, sex shops, brothels and small optimistic businesses that rise and fall within a season.

A number of fine heritage buildings survive, despite the general decline. As well as Miss Porter's house, there is the former Police Station, the TAFE Art School buildings, the Royal Theatre, the Bank Corner, the old Water Board Building, Stegga's Arcade and several commercial buildings in Hunter Street. Miss Porter's House is the only heritage building to retain its original form, house its original contents and continue to function as a going concern (Bannister, 2013, 7).

On 28 December 2014 Newcastle commemorated the 25th anniversary of the devastating earthquake which hit the city on 28 December 1989. Miss Porter's House is close to where most of the quake's 13 deaths occurred. Photographs and contemporaneous reports show that the damage to the house was great. The external skin of brick and the balcony roof had fallen; daylinght was visible between walls and ceilings. 90 years of industrial soot had gathered in the ceilings and wall cavities was now spread across the furniture, floors and walls. Some argued the house should be demolished, but Ella and Hazel Porter thought otherwise. Hazel drafted letters to the insurance company and the Town Clerk asking that their home be saved. Her case was convincing. During the rebuilding period, the sisters lived in rental premises. Don Barnett, the architect at the Water Board offices next to the Porters, and his wife befriended the women and helped them in this period. Don, who thought the building beyond repair, was assigned to talk to the women about the construction of a brick fence between the Board offices and their house. He eventually became the architect responsible for the repair, a task he carried out without charge (Bannister, 2015, 12).

Ella and Hazel Porter were very private, single women in their late 70s, who had lived in the one house all their lives. The need to live elsewhere seems to have provided an opportunity - a necessity - to reassess their lives and interface with the wider world, to a modest degree. Seizing the opportunity, the women installed an indoor toilet in their newly renovated bathroom, along with the earthquake repairs. During the rebuilding, some of the original architectural detail was lost, probably in the interests of economy. Other Water Board employees also took some interest in the Porters' welfare. Such was the relationship that in 2005 the Water Board sponsored a new rainwater tank in the Porters' back yard. Since 1997 volunteers have been cataloguing the more than 5000 Porter family objects and documents that form the collection in the house (Bannister, 2015, 12).

A Museums and Galleries NSW grant in 2015 allowed the Trust to undertake photography for Miss Porter's House (NTA< 2015, 7).

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. Changing the environment-
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 and gardens of domestic accommodation-
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. Building settlements, towns and cities-National Theme 4
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. Town Houses-
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. Edwardian 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. 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 (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. Housing (inner city)-
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 for merchants and dealers-
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. Owning and occupying a house-
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 townsfolk - terraces and cottages-
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 ordinary families-
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 Housing-
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 Living in the City-
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 20th 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 urban 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 Developing suburbia-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Architectural styles and periods - Federation Arts and Crafts-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Landscaping - Federation period-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Landscaping - 20th century interwar-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Interior design styles and periods - Edwardian-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Interior design styles and periods - Edwardian-
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-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Domestic life-Activities associated with creating, maintaining, living in and working around houses and institutions. Ornamental Garden-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Domestic life-Activities associated with creating, maintaining, living in and working around houses and institutions. Valuing women's contributions-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Domestic life-Activities associated with creating, maintaining, living in and working around houses and institutions. Living in suburbia-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Domestic life-Activities associated with creating, maintaining, living in and working around houses and institutions. Living in, adapting and renovating homes for changing conditions-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Activities associated with relaxation and recreation-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Visiting heritage places-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation house museum-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups (none)-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with James Porter, farmer, storekeeper and carrier-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Eliza Porter, gentlewoman-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Hazel Porter, gentlewoman-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
It has historical significance as an example of a 1909 family home in Newcastle with interrelated house, gardens, outbuildings, interiors, including a collection of well provenanced furnishings and personal items remaining in their room and spatial arrangements. The house is a poignant insight into the design and organisation of Edwardian homes. In addition to documenting family life in Newcastle from 1909, the house demonstrates changes to family circumstances with the loss of the principal breadwinner after the 1920s influenza epidemic and the efforts of the Porter women to sustain a comfortable if modest lifestyle until the 1990s.

The intact 1930s living room and the other furniture acquired in 1935 and 1939 provides evidence of Florences’ changing tastes in line with the streamlined art deco fashions of the 1930s. Her updating of the living room suggests her desire and financial ability to maintain the family’s comfortable standard of living.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The house also has sensory appeal for its well maintained and homely appearance with the orderly arrangement of personal items and furniture allowing us to experience the private domestic world of the Porter women.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The house, including its contents and spatial arrangements, has research significance for the study of Edwardian and 1930s interiors. It also has research significance for the study of domestic life in Newcastle from 1909 and the Porter women until 1997 and their achievement in maintaining a modest but comfortable family home after the loss of the main breadwinner. Further research into the clothes and textiles in the house are likely to provide information on the shopping, dress making and social activities of the women. The remaining accounts, invoices and other paper based ephemera provide insight into both the lives of the Porter family, and their contemporaries in Newcastle.
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
A rare example of an intact Edwardian home with a particularly well provenanced collection of furnishings and personal items which give a rare insight into domestic life in Newcastle and the lifestyle of the Porter women. The interior finishes, including linoleum and the intact kitchen and other rooms showing material evidence of domestic and family activities from 1909 to 1997 are rare.
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
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 0144517 Nov 00 15011886

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Tourism 2007Miss Porter's House View detail
TourismAttraction Homepage2007Miss Porter's House View detail
WrittenBannister, Roland2015'The Misses Porter, their House and the Newcastle Earthquake'
WrittenBannister, Roland2011'Managing Miss Porter's Collection'
WrittenBannister, Roland (Chair, Miss Porter's House Management Committee)2013Miss Porter's House
WrittenCynthia Hunter2000Miss Porter's House: Guide to a Living Home in Reflections, July-September, 2000, pp.21-24
WrittenNational Trust of Australia (NSW)2015'Supporters & Partners', in Annual Report 2015
WrittenPatricia R. McDonald2000Draft Policies and Procedures Manual, Miss Porter's House, Newcastle
WrittenSilink, Richard & Hayes, Gerry2014'Miss Porter's House, Newcastle'
WrittenStephenson, Ian2000Miss Porter's House Conservation/Management plan

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: 5051310
File number: H00/00217


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