A stately sur­vivor in Syd­ney’s east

The Weekend Australian - Magazine - - LIFE -

new South wales Mil­ford Street, Rand­wick $12m

For 40 years, Nu­gal Hall pro­vided the ideal back­drop for Ellen and John Cam­pion’s vast an­tique col­lec­tion. The fam­ily home in Syd­ney’s east was a ver­i­ta­ble time cap­sule – and that’s how the Cam­pi­ons and pre­vi­ous own­ers dreamed it would stay.

The Gothic Re­vival house in Rand­wick was de­signed by colo­nial ar­chi­tect Mor­timer Lewis and built in 1853 for politi­cian and mer­chant Alexan­der Arthur as part of a larger 80ha land­hold­ing. Sub­se­quent oc­cu­pants in­clude Rand­wick mayor Mag­nus Pe­den; his son, bar­ris­ter and par­lia­men­tar­ian Sir John Pe­den; Coogee Bay Ho­tel owner Dr Fred Tidswell and film entrepreneur Charles Cosens Spencer. In 1919, the house pro­vided respite for sol­diers re­turn­ing from World War I.

At 1800sqm, Nu­gal Hall’s land area may have been sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced but the build­ing’s sur­vival as a stately home is tes­ta­ment to the pas­sion of own­ers such as Nell Pil­lars, founder of the Rand­wick His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety, who made pro­vi­sions in her will that the house not be sold to an in­sti­tu­tion.

Dr John Cam­pion, then a Moree-based GP, and Ellen bought the house from Pil­lars’ es­tate in 1977. “She was con­cerned it re­mained as a fam­ily home, and al­though it has had other uses, I think 90 per cent of its time it’s been a fam­ily home,” says Pa­trick Cam­pion, one of Ellen and John’s six chil­dren.

“My par­ents felt very much like cus­to­di­ans of the house, par­tic­u­larly my mother. When she was near­ing the end of her life there were two de­vel­op­ments pro­posed right on the doorstep and she fought very

hard to stop them, even though it wasn’t her fight. The coun­cil is charged with look­ing af­ter this prop­erty. We will come and go and the hope is it will be there for­ever.”

The man­sion, some­times re­ferred to as Rand­wick’s Down­ton Abbey, has a dis­tinc­tive cir­cu­lar turret and im­pos­ing sand­stone fa­cades. It was in need of re­pair when the Cam­pi­ons moved in; kitch­enettes and poky bath­rooms that had been in­stalled to cre­ate six apart­ments had to be re­moved be­fore any of the “fun cos­metic” work could be­gin, says Pa­trick.

Spe­cial­ists were even­tu­ally en­listed to up­date the plas­ter and paint­ing in keep­ing with the orig­i­nal style. Still in place are a grand stair­case with stained glass ceil­ing, mar­ble col­umns and fire­places, a cir­cu­lar an­nexe card room, ball­room, mo­saic-tiled foyer and six large up­stairs bed­rooms. Later ad­di­tions in­cluded a self-con­tained wing with an ob­ser­va­tory-style liv­ing area and slate roof.

Hid­den stair­ways and se­cret maids’ quar­ters pro­vided John and Ellen’s 17 grand­chil­dren with no short­age of ad­ven­tures and end­less games of hide and seek. “It was al­ways fun to bring guests to the house be­cause they were al­ways amazed that such a lovely big home ex­isted,” says Pa­trick. “Our kids have such won­der­ful in­deli­ble mem­o­ries of creep­ing around and play­ing in this house. They all claimed it was spooky.”

De­spite its na­tional es­tate reg­is­ter list­ing, Ellen was not obliged to dec­o­rate the home in its orig­i­nal style. She chose to im­bue the rooms with her own, choos­ing colours and fur­nish­ings that offset her grow­ing col­lec­tion of an­tiques.

“My mother was a se­ri­ous an­tique col­lec­tor and real mag­pie – she col­lected any­thing and every­thing,” says Pa­trick. “I think my dad kept a lid on it while he was alive but as soon as he de­parted the scene she con­tin­ued col­lect­ing un­fet­tered. By the time she died [in 2017] you could barely move in the place, she’d col­lected so many things. She loved it.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.