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Nugal Hall
SLNSW 14093 No 8 Milford Ave Randwick taken for LJ Hooker Ltd.jpg
Nugal Hall in 1951
Location 16-18 Milford Street, Randwick, City of Randwick, New South Wales, Australia
Built 1853
Built for Alexander McArthur
  • Mortimer Lewis (east)
  • Oswald H. Lewis (west)
Architectural style(s) Gothic Revival
Official name: Nugal Hall
Type State heritage (complex / group)
Designated 2 April 1999
Reference no. 173
Type Mansion
Category Residential buildings (private)

Nugal Hall is a heritage-listed Gothic Revival style former residence, convalescent hospital and embassy and now residence located at 16-18 Milford Street, in the Sydney suburb of Randwick in the City of Randwick local government area of New South Wales, Australia. It was designed by Mortimer Lewis (east section) and Oswald H. Lewis (west section) and built during 1853. The property is privately owned. It was added to the New South Wales State Heritage Register on 2 April 1999 and on the (now defunct) Register of the National Estate.


Colonial history

One of the earliest land grants in the Randwick area was made in 1824 to Captain Francis Marsh, who received 12 acres bounded by the present Botany and High Streets, Alison and Belmore Roads. In 1839 William Newcombe acquired the land north-west of the present town hall in Avoca Street.

Randwick takes its name from the town of Randwick, Gloucestershire, England. The name was suggested by Simeon Pearce (1821–86) and his brother James. Simeon was born in the English Randwick and the brothers were responsible for the early development of both Randwick and its neighbour, Coogee. Simeon had come to the colony in 1841 as a 21 year old surveyor. He built his Blenheim House on the 1.6 hectares (4 acres) he bought from Marsh, and called his property "Randwick". The brothers bought and sold land profitably in the area and elsewhere. Simeon campaigned for construction of a road from the city to Coogee (achieved in 1853) and promoted the incorporation of the suburb. Pearce sought construction of a church modelled on the church of St. John in his birthplace. In 1857 the first St Jude's stood on the site of the present post office, at the corner of the present Alison Road and Avoca Street.

Randwick was slow to progress. The village was isolated from Sydney by swamps and sandhills, and although a horse-bus was operated by a man named Grice from the late 1850s, the journey was more a test of nerves than a pleasure jaunt. Wind blew sand over the track, and the bus sometimes became bogged, so that passengers had to get out and push it free. From its early days Randwick had a divided society. The wealthy lived elegantly in large houses built when Pearce promoted Randwick and Coogee as a fashionable area. But the market gardens, orchards and piggeries that continued alongside the large estates were the lot of the working class. Even on the later estates that became racing empires, many jockeys and stablehands lived in huts or even under canvas. An even poorer group were the immigrants who existed on the periphery of Randwick in a place called Irishtown, in the area now known as The Spot, around the junction of St.Paul's Street and Perouse Road. Here families lived in makeshift houses, taking on the most menial tasks in their struggle to survive.

In 1858 when the NSW Government passed the Municipalities Act, enabling formation of municipal districts empowered to collect rates and borrow money to improve their suburb, Randwick was the first suburb to apply for the status of a municipality. It was approved in February 1859, and its first Council was elected in March 1859.

Randwick had been the venue for sporting events, as well as duels and illegal sports, from the early days in the colony's history. Its first racecourse, the Sandy Racecourse or Old Sand Track, had been a hazardous track over hills and gullies since 1860. When a move was made in 1863 by John Tait, to establish Randwick Racecourse, Simeon Pearce was furious, especially when he heard that Tait also intended to move into Byron Lodge. Tait's venture prospered, however and he became the first person in Australia to organise racing as a commercial sport. The racecourse made a big difference to the progress of Randwick. The horse-bus gave way to trams that linked the suburb to Sydney and civilisation. Randwick soon became a prosperous and lively place, and it still retains a busy residential, professional and commercial life.

Today, some of the houses have been replaced by home units. Many European migrants have made their homes in the area, along with students and workers at the nearby University of NSW and the Prince of Wales Hospital.

Nugal Hall

The land on which Nugal Hall was built was originally part of a land grant to Alexander McArthur, in 1851 by Governor Fitzroy, of 84 hectares (207 acres). The land granted McArthur extended from Judge Street to Belmore Road, from Alison Road to Mear's Avenue. Milford Street was not in existence until the 1850s. The driveway to Nugal Hall swept back from Avoca Street (then called Frenchman's Road) around the north side (now the back of Nugal Hall) to the coach house and stables (in what is now Milford Street). The east end of Nugal Hall was the original front entrance.

Nugal Hall was designed by the Colonial Architect, Mortimer Lewis who came to Australia and worked from 1830 to 1861. This would have been one of his last buildings. Earlier Lewis was responsible for designing Randwick Racecourse, Darlinghurst Courthouse and Bronte House. Ticket of leave men were most probably employed in the building of the house, the stone being quarried on the spot.

The southern portion of the house was completed in 1853 to Lewis' design in (mainly) the late Gothic Revival style, for politician and businessman Alexander McArthur. McArthur arrived in Sydney in 1840 from Derry, Ireland, with his brother Sir William McArthur KCMG. He was a businessman, merchant, and shipping magnate, and Member of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales during two Parliaments and Magistrate of the Territory until he returned to England in 1863.

It is believed construction of the southern portion of Nugal Hall was commenced around 1854 by Judge Thomas Callaghan.

Famous residents of Nugal Hall include barrister and Cobargo farmer, Sir John Peden KCMG, MLC who was born there. His father Magnus J. Peden was Mayor in 1869 and resided there from 1865 to 1872.

Sir John Beverley Peden (1871-1946), barrister and professor of law, was born on 26 April 1871, second son and sixth child of Magnus Jackson Peden, merchant and farmer, and mayor of Randwick and of Bega, and his wife Elizabeth Neathway, née Brown. In 1902 John Peden was appointed part-time Challis lecturer in the law of property at Sydney University. He practised law until he succeeded Pitt Cobbett as Challis Professor of law and Dean of the Faculty in 1910. Under Peden the law school grew steadily in reputation and influence. He was President of the Sydney University Law Society, examiner for the Barristers' Admission Board and ex officio chairman of the Solicitors' Admission Board. Although Peden, who took silk in December 1922, would have made a distinguished judge, he always declined offers. An executive-member of the Universal Service League in 1915-16, he favoured conscription for military service overseas. In May 1917 he was nominated to the Legislative Council.

A painstaking legislator and an authority on parliamentary forms, Sir John Peder showed lively interest in such subjects as living wages, industrial arbitration, matrimonial relations, capital punishment and workers' compensation. He eventually considered that his most important contributions as a legislator had been his defence of free speech that led to the sedition bill being dropped during World War I and his modification of the (ne temere) Marriage Amendment Act of 1924. In 1921-31 Peden served as sole royal commissioner on law reform in New South Wales. In 1930 he was appointed K.C.M.G.

The northern section of the house was built between 1880 and 1903, and most likely in the 1880s. The design elements from this phase include the curved bay window with balcony over and conical roof, facing the ocean. While responding to the Gothic Picturesque style of the southern section of the house, and built of similar sandstone, this section incorporated stylistic elements of the Arts & Crafts and Federation eras. These include the circular tower on the eastern end with the candle-snoff roof, the timber balcony detailing, shingled balcony skirt and rounded form of the bay window.

The northern section was completed by Dr Fred Tidswell, the owner of the Coogee Bay Hotel, whose family occupied the house from about 1883 until 1903. The architect is thought to have been Oswald H. Lewis, who carried out work for the Callaghan family in Randwick and who practised as an architect with his father, former Colonial Architect, Mortimer Lewis.

Cousins Spencer, the first person to show films in the Lyceum Theatre lived there in 1911. Two Mayors of Randwick and two diplomatic consuls were also residents of Nugal Hall. In 1918, Nugal Hall became a Red Cross hospital/convalescent home for Australian military personnel returning from World War I. The house returned to private ownership in 1921.

Additions to the house are cited as occurring in the 1920s and 1930s. These include the additions to its western side under a sloping skillion roof. Documentary evidence indicates the additions were built prior to the aerial photograph of 1943. These additions include that made on the western side of the house.

The property was eventually purchased in 1952 (1953 say the Randwick Historical Society, 26/9/1981) by Mr J R Pillars, the owner of a successful engineering firm. In 1957, his wife Mrs Nell Pillars founded the Randwick Historical Society in 1957 while living at Nugal Hall and as such it became the Society's first headquarters during her lifetime.

Mr. F. J. Campion acquired Nugal Hall in 1978. In 1981 an application for a Permanent Conservation Order over Nugal Hall was made by the owner. When Mr Campion purchased Nugal Hall it was divided into 5 flats and he subsequently returned it to a single dwelling. To offset restoration costs rating and taxation concessions were sought under the Heritage Act.< In 1994 house, balcony, shutters, windows and roof were severely damaged by a heavy hailstorm.

Nugal Hall was transferred to the State Heritage Register on 2 April 1999. Further damage to the property was done by heavy rain and more hail in November–December 2001.

The current grounds of Nugal Hall have been subdivided from their original 81 hectares (200 acres). As a result of the reduction of the curtilage the entry is now from the rear side rather than from the original front entry. The original front entry faces the ocean and is located on the eastern end of the house.


Grounds, setting and views

The house sits well in its grounds and is visually important locally. Although its grounds have been subdivided from their original 81 hectares (200 acres), resulting in the house's entry being now from its original rear side, the house's original front address facing the ocean and wide views remain nonetheless.

Nugal Hall has an established garden surrounds the house which includes palms such as a line of Canary Island date palm (Phoenix canariensis) along the Milford Street frontage, a Californian desert fan palm (Washingtonia robusta) as well as pollarded plane tree (Platanus x acerifolia), sandstone retaining walls and shrubberiesincluding Hydrangea macrophylla.

Progressive subdivision of the original Nugal Hall estate has seen its boundaries redefined and original setting compromised. Increasingly dense residential development has been built up to the eastern boundary, obstructing a large component of the original ground floor terrace and garden views to the east. Development to the east also poses a significant obstruction of views to Nugal Hall, most significantly from the eastern approach to the building on Milford Street. Regardless, views to Nugal Hall are still achieved and the building retains expansive district, ocean and iconic views from most east facing internal and external living areas.

In the existing situation, Nugal Hall achieves iconic views to Wedding Cake Island and the Coogee land-sea interface, from a ground floor terrace and gardens, ancillary to the east-facing ballroom.

On either side of Nugal Hall's original main entrance are a ball room and a dining room. An entrance porch and terrace is accessed by french doors from the ball room. The dining room to the north of the entrance has views across the Coogee basin and Coogee Bay, partially obscured by a tree on a neighbouring property. Earlier views of the southern headland of Coogee Bay have been reduced by construction of the three storey building at 20 Milford Street. The ball room and terrace to the south of the entrance has views across the Coogee basin and Wedding Cake Island.

Close up views towards Nugal Hall from the opposite side of Milford Street are largely screened by its elevation above the street, the generous front setback, the heavily planted front garden, and by the adjacent three storey building. "Nugal Hall" also has some visibility from the surrounding area, (particularly with night time floodlights) for example from St. Brigid's Church in Brook Street, Coogee and from the Carrington Road/Coogee Bay Road corner, but is not prominent from these distant locations. Any earlier landmark status of the building has been considerably diminished by the volume and scale of surrounding development, including the Sacred Heart Church and the residential flat building at 12 Milford Street.

House (16-18 Milford Street)

Very fine impressive example of Picturesque Gothic Revival sandstone, two storey mansion completed in 1853. Has some outstanding decoration and its magnificent upper floor rounded Juliet balcony has views to Coogee Basin and out to sea.

Despite some 1920s and 1930s decorative additions, the twelve principal rooms retain their original forms. Of special interest is a stairwell/staircase of balanced proportion, above which is an exceptional stained glass skylight. Stonework, joinery, copper turrets and domes in good repair. Elegantly shaped windows, fireplaces and interior columns of marble. Ceiling rose, fireplaces, continental ceramic tileware immaculate.

Although not of the very high quality of a few Sydney Gothic Revival houses, Nugal Hall is nevertheless impressive. It is of particular importance in Coogee/Randwick where increasing high rise development has deprived the area of much of its architectural history.

On the western side of Nugal Hall is a single storey skillion-roofed addition with brick walls. The western side additions have been cited as dating to the 1920s and 1930s. The physical evidence indicates that the rooms on the southern side of this addition are earlier than the covered northern section of the addition. This addition has no architectural merit and does not contribute to the architectural character of the house.

Carriage or Coach House (14 Milford Street - adjacent to, all included in same Lot & DP)

Other buildings on site include the former (plastered) carriage house located on Milford Street adjacent to the entrance. The coach house building at the front was originally a lodge for horse-drawn vehicles. The interiors have been adapted to a residence. ('Restored or rebuilt in such a way that it (sic: does not) resemble...a building of the same period as Nugal a "mock feudal" style seen in England and Europe, except on a small scale').


There is a 20th-century garage with a pitched roof north of the former carriage house.

Modifications and dates

  • Original estate 200 acres. Subdivided (resulting in the entry now being from the house's original rear: its front door faces the sea, with attendant wide views / outlook.
  • 1890s Waterboard Maps indicate the grounds of Nugal Hall extending to the east as far as Judge Street including what is now Milford Street within the grounds of Nugal Hall" It appears that the main entrance to Nugal Hall was relocated from the east to the south, when Milford Avenue was constructed.
  • 1920s and 1930s decorative additions, but the twelve principal rooms retain their original forms.
  • c. 1980 - when the Campions bought Nugal Hall it was converted into five flats. They have returned it to a single dwelling.
  • Until 20 Milford Street was constructed between 1955 and 1961, 22 Milford Street was the closest dwelling to the east of Nugal Hall.
  • c. 1960 stables block demolished (on Our Lady of the Sacred Heart school site, subdivided off)
  • 1994 house and roof severely damaged by hailstorm. Stonework is in good condition.

Heritage listing

As at 30 July 2014, Nugal Hall is of State significance as an example of an impressive two storey mansion constructed of stone in the Gothic Revival style. Designed by the Colonial Architect Mortimer Lewis it was constructed in 1853. The land was a grant to Alexander Arthur, in 1851 by Governor Fitzroy, of 81 hectares (200 acres). Although not of the very high quality of a few Sydney Gothic Revival houses and despite some 1920s and 1930s decorative additions Nugal Hall is nevertheless impressive. It is associate with a number of significant people. It is significant in Coogee/Randwick where increasing high rise development has deprived the area of much of its architectural history. The house sits well in its grounds and is visually important locally.

Nugal Hall was listed on the New South Wales State Heritage Register on 2 April 1999.

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