Historic places join the National Trust Register

A navigational obelisk and a 19th century house from the gold rush days are just some of the fascinating places to join the National Trust Register, reflecting the ever-growing diversity of heritage sites now listed in New South Wales.

The National Trust has prepared close to 12,000 heritage listings since it released its first list in July 1946. They range from lone graves to expansive landscape conservation areas, individual houses to whole streets and industrial complexes.

The purpose of listing an item is first and foremost for its protection. The main threats to heritage in 2023 are demolition and neglect, insensitive development and environmental risks such as climate change. Listing an item with the National Trust serves as an early, non-statutory warning that it should be conserved, and has often led to legislated heritage protection by gathering important evidence for the historical record, which is ready to hand when challenges arise.  Here are some recent additions that reflect the diversity of culturally significant places across NSW:

Gold Commissioner’s House, Sofala

The Gold Commissioner’s House is located in the historic village of Sofala, often described as Australia’s oldest surviving gold rush town. On the banks of the Turon River near Bathurst, the town exploded into existence after gold w as discovered in 1851.

Both home and workplace for the local gold commissioner, the Victorian-style house was built the same year, making it one of the first buildings in the village. A two-storey dwelling constructed of local stringybark, it features twelve-pane windows and remains substantially intact after more than 170 years, adding significantly to the heritage streetscape of the village.

The Gold Commissioner’s House, Sofala.

Sydney Navigation Obelisks

The listing of six obelisks in the Eastern Suburbs and Lower North Shore provides a rare insight into the history of navigation at the entrance to Sydney Harbour. While contemporary travellers can use satellite navigation systems and the later lighthouses to guide their journeys, the captains and crews of ships entering the harbour in the 1800s had no such luxury, with the treacherous headlands bringing many to grief.

Constructed between 1830 and the late 1850s, the  obelisks at East Parsley Bay, West Parsley Bay, Green Point, Obelisk Bay and North Head were developed to guide ships safely into the harbour and prevent them being wrecked along the Sow and Pigs Reef on the eastern side of the main shipping channel between Middle Head and South Head.

Sydney Harbour navigation obelisk, c 1935. Photo by E.W. Searle, courtesy National Library of Australia.

Harry Seidler Houses, Kurnell

This small group of modernist houses is an example of mid twentieth century heritage now found on the register. Located at the site of the former Australian Oil Refinery in Kurnell, the six houses are seminal early works of the distinguished architect Harry Seidler. With the transport industry booming after the Second World War, Caltex made a controversial purchase of swampland in Kurnell, clearing native vegetation to construct an oil refinery.

Seidler was commissioned to design a group of dwellings as part of the industrial complex to allow technical staff to be housed on site. The National Trust listing card notes that the early modern houses would have been considered daring and futuristic when they were built in 1955, reflecting the bold character of midcentury design. The low-scale group displays the architect’s keen interest in simple, open floorplans and flat-roofed forms, using a limited palette of materials and large areas of glass to create spatial continuity between the interior and exterior.

One of the Seidler Houses in Kurnell, now used as a recycle station. Photo by Sean Johnson.

Is your property eligible for listing?

If you would like to research a listed property, help update the information for your property, or suggest a property for future listing, contact the National Trust’s advocacy team at advocacy@nationaltrust.com.au


Find out more about the National Trust Register.

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Charlotte Anlezark


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