Historic Houses Association – The UK Experience

The need to protect privately-owned historic houses in the UK started to become clear after the end of World War 1 when many houses were being lost as a result of increasing taxation, economic difficulty and the losses families had suffered in the war. A suggestion in the 1930’s that tax concessions might be offered to owners who opened their houses to the public came to nothing.


With several hundred houses being lost in the decade after the Second World War some owners, led by Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, tried to form an Association but there was a reluctance by most to be involved.  In the early 1970s, however, prompted and supported by the British Tourist Authority, the HHA was created and immediately plunged into its first major campaign to fight a proposed Wealth Tax.


The HHA now has more than 1500 members, supported by over 40,000 Friends. Lobbying on tax, regulation, trust law, grants and at European level through the European Historic Houses Association is its main work, but other services to members are also provided. They include advice on commercial and house management activities such as public opening, filming, safety and security, archives management, licensing, dealing with moth infestation, lake dredging, social media management and IT, marketing etc. The HHA holds regular seminars and a high-profile AGM in London, attended by politicians, officials, advisers as well as Members and Friends.


The HHA collaborates with others in its sector, including the National Trust, Historic England/Scotland etc and is a member of the UK Heritage Alliance. The HHA is consulted by the Government on proposed legislation and regulation and is well regarded in official circles. It has succeeded in representing the interests of its Members at national level and helping to preserve its part of the UK’s built heritage.

The European Experience with an Emphasis on France

The field of historical building preservation has been experiencing important shifts for the last 50 years in Europe. The economy, which is solely based on land income, is no longer relevant for most of land ownerships. New economic models must be developed to guarantee the sustainability of old houses' preservation. On a state level, the main mechanism to support private owners rests on tax law and tax incentives. On the one hand, subsidies for restoration works tend to disappear gradually whilst philanthropy is taking an increasingly important place.


In France, there is a real distinction to draw between public-owned and private-owned historical buildings. Private-owned buildings represent half of the listed buildings in France (nearly 21 000 buildings). Owners have therefore a key role to play in heritage preservation. For many years, La Demeure Historique (an association created in 1924, which aims at helping private owners of historical buildings) has been able to create a system which helps private owners in many different ways.


At La Demeure Historique, we have learned to stop fighting for what we cannot change and start to focus on what we can improve. The French tax law system is beneficial to private owners of historical buildings, even if state control increases on the costs of restoration works. La Demeure Historique thrives to continually adapt measures and safeguard acquired benefits. The organisation has won many victories in the past, but it takes time to bring change. The management of old buildings has become more and more professional and project managers need to acquire a lot of technical knowledge. Moreover, the legislation on the transfer of property has become very complex in France. Laws of succession and inheritance taxes do not favour the conservation of properties, even if a new generation of owners, committed to heritage, slowly emerges. La Demeure Historique is aware of the assets of cultural heritage and tries to make historical buildings become a new space for innovation, with sustainable economic models. Some examples can already predict a bright future!

The Australian Experience and Approach – The Long View: Successes, Failures, Lessons and Issues

Providing an historical overview of private ownership and management of heritage properties in Australia, including from the perspective of the National Trusts, this paper explores the challenges faced by the private owner in an increasingly regulated statutory environment. Maintaining that heritage properties retained in private ownership is to be encouraged, the paper questions whether governments in Australia have sufficiently recognised the benefit, let alone facilitated, private owners taking responsibility for their heritage properties.


With an underpinning belief that the retention of heritage properties, preferably in a restored and well-managed condition, is in the interests of the broader community in addition to the private owner, the paper explores what policy and regulatory tools have succeeded. Further, drawing on successful examples of other approaches in foreign jurisdictions, the paper explores whether there are reforms which should be sought in Australia which might encourage more private owners to share the responsibilities for our National estate of heritage properties. Finally, the paper criticises problematical attitudes which hamper and/or delay the achievement of desirable outcomes.


The author explains that these attitudinal problem are not exclusive, but rather infect, on the one hand, many “front line” officers of local and State authorities, and on the other hand, many owners who reject a sharing custodial approach in preference to a negative “keep out” attitude. Maintaining a thesis that greater public grant funding, financial incentives and government dispensation are warranted in many instances, the author argues that a trade-off must be accepted whereby the owner accepts opportunities to allow greater public appreciation of the private heritage assets being safeguarded. With improved understanding and appreciation, the greater retention and facilitated conservation of privately owned heritage places should be more achievable.  

Anlaby, S.A.: A Case Study Following New Ownership

Settled in 1839 by Frederick Dutton, Anlaby is the oldest continuously running merino stud on mainland Australia. Frederick was an astute farmer and business man. In addition to his farming ventures, he had considerable holdings in the mining industry that developed after his brother Francis and Captain Bagot found copper in the hills of Kapunda. The property grew and prospered. In its heyday, it was a staggering 250 square miles.


The grounds include the main homestead, a manager’s house, manor house, coachman’s and head gardener’s cottages and a variety of other residences, stables, out houses and barns. It presents a unique opportunity to relive an amazing piece of Australian history and learn about the people who had the foresight to pioneer and establish the state of South Australia. 

Guided tours include a stroll through acres of formal gardens, which still reflect, in part, the glory of Anlaby’s heyday and the efforts of the 14 gardeners who once tended them. Anlaby is home to Australia’s largest collection of significant trees on the National Trust register including a beautiful Chinese Elm on the front terrace and Cedars planted in the 1890’s. There are over 500 roses, rare and interesting succulents and agaves, and of course many rare heritage listed trees. 


The massive equestrian complex with its clock tower includes a Clydesdale pavilion, carriage house, harness room, stables and blacksmith’s shop – another list of restoration projects.


Anlaby is also the oldest merino stud in South Australia, and one of the oldest continuous merino bloodlines in Australia. It is this same bloodline that today sustains a limited edition pure luxury woollen products enterprise with a range of bed throws, scarves, baby blankets and wraps exclusively from wool sourced from Anlaby’s flock.


Andrew and Peter purchased the property in 2004. In addition to the long list of the obvious building and garden restorations – work also includes farm fences, sheep genetics, wool production, wool manufacturing and marketing.  With all these competing priorities, the focus is maintaining a coherent business plan.

Camden Park, NSW: A Case Study in Keeping the Family House and Anticipating the Future

My wife & I have lived in Camden Park for 30 years. In one sense we are the most seasoned and battle hardened of custodians, however through another lens we have simply been on a fortunate journey, supported by many outstanding people.

My reflections and advice arising from this period of stewardship are outlined in this presentation. Under four headings I will seek to highlight practical measures that by and large seemed to have worked at Camden Park. The presentation will touch on some of the many building and garden related projects we have undertaken, how we have utilised volunteers and our approach to heritage.

Attitude: A historic house has a custodian rather than an owner.  The need for a long term view, and the importance of enabling others.      

Structure: Develop an infrastructure that supports your objectives and spreads the burden. We have benefited from having both an advisory body & stand-alone operational entity with audited accounts for over forty years.

People:   There are good people out there, respect & utilise them. Passionate volunteers and dedicated tradesman make all the difference to achieving sustainable progress. Camden Park has an active Garden Group and volunteer archivists.

Change:  Understand the changing environment and its risks and opportunities. Urbanisation and changing government policy have and will continue to change the goal posts for a heritage minded custodian. From the changing importance of heritage listing, to the collateral effects of urbanisation, the implications of Bio Banking, and the effects of the internet, managing change is increasingly important.

Bungaree Station, South Australia: A Case Study in Maintaining a Sixth Generation Family and Building New Income Streams

Established in 1841 by the Hawker family, this iconic property became the headquarters of one of Australia’s most successful sheep flocks, at a time when the country was said to ride “on the sheep’s back.” It became a small village, with 50 staff and their families living on the property, with its own church, station store, council chambers, school, woolshed  and a significant homestead, plus staff dwellings and the usual farm buildings.

Today the property is South Australia’s oldest family farming business, and remains home to the 4th, 5th and 6th generations of the Hawker family. While outwardly unchanged since the horse and buggy days, the property has seen significant changes to remain viable, through the collapse of the wool industry in the 1980s and economic downturns. Hospitality now plays a significant role alongside the mixed farming enterprise.

Nindooinbah, Queensland: A Case Study in Change of Ownership and Modernisation

Nindooinbah, near Beaudesert in SE Queensland was one of the initial properties heritage listed, when the Queensland Heritage Act was passed in October 1992. First settled in 1842, the property passed through a number of ownerships until purchased in 1906 by the Collins family, who had Mundoolun and Tamrookum nearby and interests in the Northern Territory and North Queensland through the North Australian Pastoral Company.


Soon after its purchase, William Collins engaged architect Robin Dods to complete and extend the existing homestead on the property which dated from 1858.The building work took more than two years and became the largest house Dods had built. Originally a sheep property, it proved more suitable for cattle and refrigeration made meat export to the UK possible.

When Margaret Hockey died in 2004, the family connection with the Collins family over three generations was over. The property was sold at auction in 2005, with 1100ha of prime pasture fronting the Albert River.


The new owners, Kaye and Euan Murdoch, set about returning it to a leading pastoral operation, and conserving and adapting the homestead as their home. The project took 5 years to complete at considerable cost and extensive conservation expertise. More land was acquired by buying adjoining properties and the holding increased to 2600 ha.


With the assistance of a manager, a business plan and breeding program with Angus, Ultrablack and Brangus cattle, was implemented with state of the art genetic facilities installed. New fencing, roads and yards were added. As a result, Nindooinbah’s  Ultrablack bulls have attained the highest reputation and the property is sustained  through regular auctions of breeding stock.

The genetic program at Nindooinbah, is being undertaken with the University of Queensland Veterinary School. The restored woolshed from the 1850s, one of the earliest in Queensland, is utilised for a range of community events.

Bishops Lodge, Hay, NSW: A Balancing Act - A Case Study in Local Community Action

Managing an historic property in a remote corner of the state is a constant balancing act.  Some of the weights which need to be balanced are community perceptions; management by time poor volunteers; local council staff with little or no experience in oversight of an historic property; desire for best practice; the reality of limited services available in a small town a long way from anywhere; the need for the property to generate income through hire as a function centre; the fragility of its historic fabric and the enthusiasts’ foremost desire: to regard and present the property as the marvellous historic house and garden that it is.  


Why is Bishop’s Lodge important?  It’s a technologically innovative iron home designed by the new chum John Sulman, who later became so well known in NSW architectural circles, in consultation with the first Anglican Bishop of Riverina, Sydney Linton. It was built in 1888 and successfully counters the extremes of climate experienced in the western Riverina.  Bishop’s Lodge is a substantial, elegant residence built in corrugated iron, more usually associated with vernacular Australian architecture such as sheds. 


In 1985 Bishop’s Lodge returned to public ownership and since then its conservation and management has been largely in the hands of committed volunteers whose efforts have allowed the property to charm locals and visitors alike and once again play a significant and integral role in the cultural landscape of the remote, rural Hay district. Over the last 30 years Bishop’s Lodge has been recognised by professionals in the field as a great example of what a bunch of amateurs can do to achieve professional outcomes in a small, isolated local context. Did we get it right? Can it be sustained? How does a glorious nineteenth century house adapt to the fads of the digital age?

The Manse, Moruya, NSW: A Case Study in Temporary
Government Intervention    

The reconstruction and adaptive reuse of the former Presbyterian Manse in Moruya, was a text -book example of using external funding to save a heritage listed building and recycling it for ongoing use, and then to provide funding from the resultant sale for roll-over funding for another conservation project. My presentation will provide an illustrated account of this process.

Do We Want It? An Inherited House

Whether inherited or purchased an historic house will come with certain obligations.


How we renovate, improve or refurbish could have a direct impact on its appeal.


What is our social responsibility to the community & our society as a whole?  Should those who preserve an historic house for the benefit of the community and future generations be compensated for such an undertaking?

Mid-Century Modern: What the Market Wants

Most of the market wants to demolish it. Today, it is Mid-Century Modern that is widely under threat. Once it would have been Georgian, Victorian or Deco. Today, Mid-Century Modern residences are in the developers' sights. The vast majority of these developers are not the suited and booted stereotype but regular mums and dads who are looking for something bigger - much bigger. 


 Built in a time when families shared one bathroom or two, Mid-Century Modern homes are just too small to justify keeping them intact on a large block of land. A large garden is more maintenance but more house equals more real estate = more money. 


The subject houses of the HHA conference are in some ways fortunate. They are the survivors of their time and are now deemed to have historic value.


In fifteen fact-packed minutes, we shall explore, "When does modern become historic"? And reach the key question, "What does the market want, modern or historic"?

Private Values v Public Values in a Conservation Area

Paddington is one of the most significant conservation areas in Australia. It is home for thousands of people in a place with a rich history, famous for its terrace houses, its stepped terraced houses in a steep topography, its streets, places and its lanes. Its 19th Century houses are constantly challenged by modern life.


Perhaps every house should be listed. Perhaps they should not be listed. The listing of one may diminish the significance of its neighbour.


Should we try and protect the 19th Century interiors or just protect the original fabric as viewed from the public domain.


What is the public domain? The streets alone or the places, lanes, corners and everything one views as one walks around Paddington.

Mawallok: Barbarians at the Gate

Being a private custodian of an Australian rural heritage asset is a lonely and expensive task. Indeed at times it can be soul destroying.


Owners of heritage properties in Australia have been under siege since the day their visionary creators built them. What can now be classified as historic houses and gardens, built on the back hard work, often over generations,  have been repeatedly threatened by corporative avarice, bureaucratic indifference, lack of community support and varying degrees of political indifference and malice.


“Mawallok” is a 6,000E acre property 175km west of Melbourne. It is a property on the National Estate Register and Victorian Heritage Register listed as a property of great National Cultural and Heritage Significance. It has a garden designed by William Guilfoyle, Australia’s best-known landscape designer (of Melbourne Botanical Gardens fame).


Despite this recognition of Mawallok’s significance, it and other important neighboring properties have been under siege ever since the land Act of 1862 caused resumption of leases. Then followed compulsory acquisition of land for soldier settlement after two world wars, intrusion of huge power lines across properties, death duties, toxic waste dumps, mining concessions, and appropriation of critical water supplies all of which have placed the heritage value of such properties in jeopardy as well as their commercial viability.


Today it is a massive proposed wind farm which, if  constructed without modification, will destroy much of Mawallok’s heritage value.


Governments, including councils, have always had protection of heritage assets as part of their mandate yet all have been complicit in these destructive activities. Heritage support groups, with limited resources, are often too stretched to render effective assistance.


This leave the fight to preserve cultural and heritage battles and keep the barbarians from the gate, largely to owners and a small dedicated band of cultural warriors.

The State Government Framework: The Stick and Carrot of Protection and Support that is in need of Underpinning

The mixed metaphor in the title of this talk includes a building conservation metaphor to deliberately highlight the often poor physical condition in which our heritage places of state significance find themselves in. This talk will describe the legislative basis for the identification and protection of heritage places of state significance around Australia as well as describing the various strategies used by State agencies to provide support to building owners.


A case study is provided of a project initiated by Heritage Victoria and undertaken by a team led by the speaker in 2015 that described the amazing range and heritage value of places on the Victorian Heritage Register as well as the perilous condition of many both private and publicly owned places. That project assisted the establishment of new grants programs and had findings and recommendations relevant to this conference, in particular to improving communication around the support to owners of state listed heritage places.

Re-Invigorating  Heritage  at  the  Local Government  Level

I believe a new driver, including financial support, to assist historic house owners can emerge from a renewed sense of “ localism “ in our communities. Local government, with all its faults, remains the best level for owners to connect   to and be recognised for their positive contributions to communities.


Heritage support and protection in Australia began with individual owners and enlightened supporters achieving recognition from their local Councils and then from their State or Federal representatives.   Councils have generally remained positive, if somewhat passive, over the last 10 years but during that time we have seen a reduction in State protection to the stage where an “unsolicited” planning proposal can now overturn the strongest heritage controls.


The NSW Heritage Council staggers along as a sub-branch of a developer dominated Planning Department with State financial assistance a faded dream. The Labor Party promises to change all this at the next election but the continuing fluctuations of State politics give no sense of long term improvement.


The recent Sirius decision illustrates the extent to which the State has moved away from what I would call a core heritage philosophy. In contrast, the City of Melbourne has expanded its Heritage Restoration Fund to partner with the State and other Councils to now provide the most comprehensive heritage assistance program in Australia. Sadly the City of Sydney has not followed this example. 


But the example of Melbourne can be a guide for other local governments. A prerequisite is to get heritage owners and enlightened supporters onto local Councils where the decisions are made. I would argue that all owners of heritage buildings should seriously consider that challenge.

A Lot for a Little:
The Heritage Advisors Program – Past and Present

The first Australian Heritage Advisory Service was established in Maldon, Victoria in 1977, and following the success of this program, was established in NSW in 1980, and subsequently in all states and territories in Australia. 


NSW is now the only remaining state where the NSW Heritage Division coordinates a well-funded program, despite heritage advisory services being described as the most cost efficient form of heritage management in the country.


This paper focuses on what is still on offer, and why  - historically - this successful program has been cut back.  It will discuss that there is still some limited help for homeowners through local heritage advisory services where they exist. 

Owners: Connecting and Cooperating

As a not for profit group, Blooming Tasmania has no financial resources of its own to back a festival of this scale so forming strategic partnerships and connecting with volunteers, local service providers and businesses is a key component of the organisation of the What has inspired me over many years was the Landscape Design Office, EDAW .EDAW traces its origins to the studio founded by Eckbo and Williams in San Francisco in 1939 to practice landscape architecture and urban design. Their philosophy was that they were a “Firm without Walls/A World without Frontiers”. They believed that no project was too big –they would just seek partners across the world.

In 2016, Blooming Tasmania made the decision to run an annual, two week, State Festival embracing the theme ‘Tasmania is My Garden’State Festival.

This presentation will explore:

  • Viewing one another as partners not competitors

  • The power of partnerships, networks and connecting to the business world.

  • Connecting people from all walks of life who have passion, energy and are interested in turning ideas into action 

  •  Expanding connections

  • The process of facilitating networks

  • Creating new models  -collaboration & thinking outside the square

Finding Your Way Through the Heritage Maze

Owners of heritage items and properties listed as part of a protected heritage conservation area often find the associated responsibilities frustrating and, at times, daunting. This might be due to their limited knowledge of heritage principles or the expectations of the approval bodies - in most cases local government councils but occasionally the State heritage body.


Sometimes, all that is needed is to talk to the right person at council, but who is that person and when is the right time to approach them? If proposed changes, such as alterations and additions, are minor there may not be a need to have a heritage expert in tow when discussing your plans with the approval authorities. However, if the work would change the external appearance of the property or (in the case of a heritage item) involves major modifications to the interior, the approval body will normally expect the Development Application to be accompanied by a Heritage Impact Statement (HIS) and, in some cases, a Conservation Management Plan (CMP), prepared by a heritage consultant/expert.


Even if you do need to engage a heritage consultant, it may be possible to do some of the required historical research yourself. The local studies librarian at the local library is often a wonderful research resource. Other free sources of information may also be available, for example through the State Heritage Inventory (SHI) database or by asking the local historical society and/or council heritage adviser for assistance.


This presentation is intended to help owners to understand how to find their way through the ‘heritage maze’. The guiding principles for heritage conservation and some of the key considerations will be outlined.

Heritage listing: Road to Heaven or Path to Hell?

Heritage listing is a process that has grown exponentially over the years. There are levels of listing from local to national and from statutory and non-statutory. The statutory differences in control are getting narrower over time.

Is the building a ‘a contributing item”, is it of “local” or “state significance”, are we going to be subject to an Interim Heritage Order and when do we expect to be listed and what does that mean?

Does listing protect us or the buildings we care for or is it an onerous process that doesn’t assist the places we admire?

Conservation Management Plans should be prepared for important listed places. How does this affect the way we manage listings and who pays?

What Technical Support is Available?

Australia ICOMOS is a national not for profit organisation representing those involved in the heritage industry from many backgrounds including the owners and operators of historic sites. It is part of the International organisation of ICOMOS – the International Council on Monuments on Sites – which is affiliated with UNESCO. The Australia ICOMOS Burra Charter is recognised internationally as an accessible guideline promoting best practice heritage conservation.

Australia ICOMOS also lobbies government to promote best practice. Current advocacy issues include the need to raise the quality of physical heritage conservation to our heritage places and the need to address the loss of traditional trade skills which are so important to heritage conservation.

In this talk I will be focussing on the importance of cyclical maintenance and of seeking sound independent “technical heritage advice” including some information on the existing resources available on line. Lastly I will outline some of the technical support that is available in Australia.

Changing of the Guard: New Owners for Old Houses

During the past three years writer Richard Allen and photographer Kimbal Baker have produced two books about notable homesteads and properties of the Victorian Western District (Great Properties of Country Victoria; the Western District’s Golden Age and More Great Properties of Country Victoria; the Western District’s Golden Age, Melbourne University Publishing).


The books cover in depth more than 30 properties of the region, telling stories of the initial squatters – mainly of Scottish heritage – settling in the area, the building up of great wealth from wool, the dramatic increase in Victoria’s population during the Gold Rush, the effect of Soldier Settlement and droughts and fires, and the selling of many of these properties.


Notably, only three of the properties – Murndal, Mount Bonninyong and Meningoort – remain in the hands of the descendants of the original settlers. Richard will speak of the changing challenges of running these properties, most of which have sizeable homesteads, and the many reasons why owners have decided to sell them.

Should we have Bought it?
Trials and Tribulations - Surviving the Process

The Heritage Novices - On the trials and tribulations of doing a major project such as The Abbey, including getting the DA and other approvals.

The Abbey was a smelly, overgrown, dark, dank and damp, tumbling down mansion cum boarding house in Johnston Street Annandale....it was at "the couple of minutes to midnight" stage of its existence, barely alive but still with a pulse. The landscape, such as it was, had all the qualities of neglect and desertification was imminent.

That's when Ann Sherry and Michael Hogan bought it, virtually sight unseen.

Having never been particularly invested in heritage properties other than a passing interest and some general knowledge, The Abbey was most definitely not on their radar.

Looking at the building today, it is hard to imagine its desperately ambiguous state when they took ownership - some beautiful bones and forms riddled with corruption and decay. 

It was the beginning of multiple journeys - the formation of vision, the engagement of architects, the screening of builders, the arrival of expert craftsmen and women, unexpected tragedies, the scramble for knowledge, the roles of Council/local government/state government, heritage policing/mafia, the execution of the vision, the learnings, the enhancement of personal attributes - some known, some grown.


Was it positive or negative? What would the architects say about the journey? What would Michael Hogan and Ann Sherry say? What would (Sir) John Young think of the Abbey in 21C? Was heritage a defining factor in the project?

The Legal Maze

Governments, state and federal, do little to encourage investment in privately held heritage properties (“heritage”).  This paper considers what possibilities exist for owners of heritage to utilize the tax rules to obtain some benefits.  Federal taxes considered are income tax (which includes the “capital gains tax” rules) and the goods and services tax and the State taxes considered are land tax and (stamp) duty in NSW.