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Fernleigh Castle
Fernleigh Castle at Rose Bay in New South Wales, Australia.jpg
Alternative names Fernleigh
General information
Status Complete
Type Castle; mansion
Architectural style Victorian
Location 5 Fernleigh Gardens, Rose Bay, Sydney, New South Wales
Country Australia
Coordinates 33°52′05″S 151°16′21″E / 33.8681°S 151.2726°E / -33.8681; 151.2726
Client Frank Bennett (1892)
Technical details
Material Sydney sandstone; cedar joinery
Other information
Number of rooms c. 30
Official name Fernleigh Castle, 5 Fernleigh Gdn, Rose Bay, NSW, Australia
Designated 21 March 1978
Reference no. 2495
Class Historic
Invalid designation
Official name Fernleigh Castle - main building
Type Built
Designated 10 March 1995
Reference no. Local register
Group/collection Residential buildings (private)
Category Mansion

Fernleigh Castle is a historic house in the Sydney suburb of Rose Bay, New South Wales, Australia. Completed in the Victorian architectural style, the house is listed on the (now defunct) Australian Register of the National Estate and the Woollahra local government heritage database.

Gary Jackson describes living in the mansion: "in the 1950s, after Cheverells, our parents bought, renovated and ran an exclusive private hotel high on the hill above Rose Bay. It was already over a hundred years old and was known as Fernleigh Castle because it was a castle, a sandstone copy of a castle in Scotland. It was where the rich and famous stayed, as far back as the 1920s when Nellie Melba rented it until she was thrown out for cutting down some trees that spoiled her view of the harbour. Our old friend Vivien Leigh stayed there, as did many other show-biz people, a famous Russian Spy and the ASIO team that had him under surveillance. So we kids grew up in a hotel, with all that implied … being nice to big-shot guests, doing our share of the work and keeping to ourselves some of the things we saw. A teenager named Sally from New Zealand came over to Australia by ship in 1958 and applied for a job as part-time receptionist. She worked for us for a couple of years before taking a permanent job on the front desk of Sydney's new high-rise Chevron Hilton hotel in Kings Cross when it opened in 1960. The fourteen story building at 81 Macleay Street was crudely built from concrete, steel and ugly anodised aluminium cladding on the site of a demolished elegant home known as Cairo, a minutes walk from Cheverells. Chevron was as ugly as developers in the late 1950s knew how to make a modern hi-rise. Promoted as Sydney's glamour international-style hotel, it was far from it. It was always unfinished, stage 1 ending in a raw concrete wall waiting for a stage 2 that never happened. The owners claimed it was a new concept in accommodation for Australians who until then were used to hotels being pubs with a few dusty bedrooms upstairs. Here was something new with 24 hour room service, state-of-the-art mid-century design with an inbuilt valve AM radio, adjustable air-conditioning with 'fresh-air vents' and even gold toilet seat covers. With a famous night club hosting international acts like Sammy Davis Junior and pianist Winifred Atwell, Eartha Kitt, Johnny Ray, Jerry Lewis, Shirley Bassey, Sarah Vaughn, Nat King Cole and other night-club performers, the hotel aimed for a tacky Las Vegas feel. Given the Kings Cross location, it had a seamy side. There were bars and some claimed there was illegal gambling if you looked for it. The Chevron Hilton was the first port of call for sailors walking up Macleay Street from the nearby Garden Island Naval Base. Always, at all hours, there seemed to be girls in the reception area and out the front, waiting for someone. Despite the marketing and the Hilton name, international guests hated it. The rooms were small, it was noisy, there were alcohol-fuelled brawls outside in the street and that seamy side was a big deterrent. All those dubious features at the Chevron worked to our benefit at Fernleigh Castle. We had an ally with New Zealander Sally at the Chevron front desk. This happened many times: a guest would check in to the highly promoted hi-rise hotel and recoil in horror on seeing their tiny room and hearing the noise from the nightclub Silver Spade Room upstairs and the bars, and the noise and unsavoury people in the halls, call or come down to the reception desk saying, 'Get me out of here!' Sally would tell them all about Fernleigh Castle and call us on their behalf to make a booking for them. She'd have their unopened bags brought down from their room and send them safely off in a taxi to us at the Castle. We gained many long term and repeat guests that way. 'So glad we found you' they would write in our famous guest book.",| || -

A large and intact Victorian mansion built as a product of the 1890's boom. The structure is a highly decorated example of the stonemason's craft using a pink to brown fine dressed sandstone, still in very good condition. Built 1892 incorporating the walls of "The Ferns" a small cottage built in 1847 by C.W. Roberts. Extensively enlarged in 1892 by Frank Bennett, the proprietor of the now defunct Evening News. Date significance updated: 12 Dec 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. Description Builder/Maker: F Construction years: 1892- Physical description: A large (30 rooms) two storey sandstone mansion built 1892 incorporating the walls of 'The Ferns', a nearby cottage built in 1874. The style is a Victorian interpretation of the Neo-Romanesque genre which has been embellished with pseudo Norman battlements and castellated towers. Verandah adjacent to ballroom not original. Built in pink to brown fine dressed sandstone. Much original cedar joinery remains. Internal alterations appear to have been confined to some minor rooms and the kitchen wing, although virtually the side landscape has disappeared. Externally the building appears to be near original apart from the verandah adjacent to the ballroom. The building was bought in 1966 by the C.B.C and is now used by it as a staff training college.

Previous owners: First: Frank Bennet who also built the caretaker's cottage. Mrs E.M.C Watt 1920 W. Buckingham 1950 B.H. Jackson 1954 G.C Lloyd 1962 Mark Cotter 1964 Date condition updated:13 Apr 04 Further information: One of the very few large Victorian mansions still intact in Sydney. A product of the 1890's boom, the structure is a highly decorated example of the stonemason's craft using pink to brown fine dressed sandstone, still in very good condition. The interiors of the main rooms are very decorative contained elaborate plaster ornamentation to walls, piers and archways. Much original cedar joinery remaining and fine crafts example in the main stair. Other notable items include large tiled fireplaces framed by finely carved mahogany mantels with marble pillars supports, intricate stained glass windows, large bedroom (35ft by 18ft) three feet deep porcelain bath in cedar and marble frame, figured of white zinc. Listings Heritage Listing Listing Title Listing Number Gazette Date Gazette Number Gazette Page Local Environmental Plan Woollahra LEP 1995 10 Mar 95 28 Local Environmental Plan Woollahra Local Environmental Plan 2014 309 23 May 15 References, internet links & images None

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images. rez (Click on thumbnail for full size image and image details) Data source The information for this entry comes from the following source: Name: Local Government Database number: 2711140

Every effort has been made to ensure that information contained in the State Heritage Inventory is correct. If you find any errors or omissions please send your comments to the Database Manager.


History and description

Fernleigh Castle was built on the site of a sandstone cottage built in 1874, and incorporates the original walls of that building. Castle-like in appearance, it is constructed of sandstone and features a square Norman-style tower, smaller towers with their own turrets, and castellated walls. Although it also includes wrought iron balconies similar to homes in Paddington. The house has thirty rooms and a number of stained-glass windows.

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