Waverly Historical Society
waverley heritage historical society
Waverley Heritage



Protection of our Heritage

Historical Societies around Australia most often accept the role of guardians of the nation's heritage.

Sometimes, it is natural heritage, as was saved by the good ladies of Hunters Hill who came out in great numbers to save Kellies Bush.

A few years later it was the matrons of Mosman who rallied to save harbour foreshore land from for the benefit of the public. As it was Defence land in the hands of a Federal Government, the Prime Minister of the day created the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust as an arm of the Federal Government, thus putting it beyond the arms of Sydney's dreaded “Urban Task Force”.

Around Sydney, though, the major effort has been the saving of our iconic buildings. One developer, it appears, single handedly sent bulldozers through a number of our prized theatres. One of the most beautiful theatre interiors was that of the Wintergarden Theatre in Rose Bay. A Malaysian firm bought it, demolished the building and onsold the vacated site to a local developer.

Waverley Council, over the years, has a far better record. One family, the Ebsworths, who had held Bronte House and some remaining land for several generations, were anxious to see the land retained for public use and, having campaigned for many years to have various levels of government purchase it, finally sold it at a discount to Waverley Council a most generous deed by this family.

After a shaky start with a lease to an unscrupulous Englishman, a more appropriate form of lease was drawn up with a requirement that, instead of rent, a programme of renovation and restoration be agreed to by each lessee-in-residence with a minimum number of open days when the actual owners (i.e. the ratepayers) could inspect their property along with general public.


The subsequent lessees have, collectively over time, lived up to this very well. Leo Schofield went further and spent generously on the development of a beautiful garden, still a joy to behold. The house is shown in the first picture in our banner gracing the top of this page. Bronte House remains the jewel in Waverley's crown.

The centre picture, of course, is the Pavilion at Bondi Beach. There have been arguments on this for decades, even for its privatisation. A problem is its proximity to the ocean. As it is built of concrete, reinforced with steel for which is, as we all know, water is a constant threat. A canny Mayor with Scottish ancestry bargained successfully with the Olympic Games authorities and the necessary money was put on the table for the Pavilion’s restoration so it was agreed that the Olympic Beach Volley Ball contests took place on Australia’s premier beach – the third icon on our website’s banner!

Heritage protection is the stuff of Historical Societies.

Our northern neighbours, The Woollahra Heritage and Historical Society have taken this role seriously. A number of significant properties have been saved. The best known is Strickland House. Peter and June Poland have led this cause and have gathered a large following. The land around it has been retained for the public enjoyment in the last couple of years. June, who sadly recently passed away, found herself under fire personally by a parliamentarian in this cause of all this.

To date, our Society in our fifty years has not needed to be embroiled in saving iconic treasures in. We have stated our position on just one only last year. We need to re-open discussion on this one.

Peter McCallum, President