Wednesday, December 14, 2016

"Braemar" Springwood 1882-2016

The story of "Braemar" begins in Scotland, on the southern edge of the Firth of Clyde where the industrial seaport town of Greenock lies in the shadow of the Ayreshire Hills. It was here, in the birthplace of the legendary pirate Captain William Kidd and the pioneer inventor of the steam engine James Watt, that the man who built Braemar, James Hunter Lawson, came into the world on 22 April, 1836.

While little is known of the childhood and youth of the young James Hunter Lawson, by the time he was nineteen and about to embark upon the long journey to Australia he had acquired the trade of a cabinet-maker. These skills were to benefit him in the years ahead but, on arrival in Sydney in 1855, he apparently decided to try his hand at other work. In the first five years of his residence in Australia the number of cabinet-makers operating in Sydney declined substantially and this restriction of employment opportunities may have influenced his decision to apply for a hotel licence in 1858. By this time, too, he was married with a wife and baby daughter to support.

Emma Glen, whom he married at St. Andrews Cathedral in Sydney on 27 November, was twenty years of age, the eldest daughter of Robert Glen a resident of Pyrmont and an engineer with the Hunter River Steamship Company. James and Emma's first child, also named Emma, was born in the year he became licensee of the Royal Oak Hotel on the corner of Union and Pyrmont Streets, Pyrmont.

Braemar plans, 1892
In 1860, when the Lawson's second child James Robert was born, the family was still resident at the Royal Oak. Sometime in the next five years, however, James Hunter Lawson made a decisive career move that saw him return to the furniture business. By 1865 he was in partnership with George Cadell, running a furniture warehouse at 245 George Street, Sydney. His residential address had also changed to 49 Mill Street, Pyrmont.

Over the next fifteen years the business changed location several times (from George Street to Jamieson Street and back to George Street), a couple of partnerships came and went, and the family moved to Queen Street, Newtown. In 1882 James Hunter, well established now in the furniture trade in Sydney, returned to Britain where business and the investigation of overseas trends no doubt took an equal place in his preoccupations with renewal of family ties. On his return to Sydney his business entered upon a period of expansion.

In the Sand's Directory for 1884 the listing reads for the first time as - "Lawson, James and Sons, Cabinet-Makers, Art Furniture Manufacturers and Carpet Warehousemen". The business incorporated both a furniture warehouse on the corner of William Street and Hyde Park and a large modern factory in Newtown where, according to Men of Mark published in 1888, "a large percentage of the goods are manufactured" using "all the modern appliances of the trade".

Lawson's sons, when they reached maturity, were 'conscripted' and given training to fit them for specialised positions within the business. James Robert became a cabinet-maker; William drew designs; Alfred french polished; and Ernest kept the books. The eldest, James Robert, eventually decided that cabinet-making was not the career he wished to pursue and, with his father's blessing and assistance, set up in the auctioneering business in the mid-1880s. The firm he established eventually evolved into the highly respected company of James R. Lawson Pty., Ltd., Valuers, Fine Art, General and Industrial Auctioneers, probably the best known business of its type in Sydney.

James Hunter Lawson in 1922

With his increasing prosperity James Hunter Lawson, like many successful Sydney businessmen during the last half of the nineteenth century, cast his eyes westward to the Blue Mountains and thought seriously of investing in Mountain real estate and building a Mountain retreat. Sydney summers were hot and humid and the air often heavy with potent smells, thought to be disease carrying and unhygienic. The Mountains, on the other hand, stated The Railway Guide of New South Wales in 1886, were "the breezy highlands" where Sydney's citizens could seek "the re-invigoration of mountain air and the refined pleasure afforded by the contemplation of beautiful scenery." For James Hunter Lawson, Springwood in the lower Blue Mountains became the object of his interest.
Coo-ee March in Macquarie Rd springwood, 1915
Seventy-five years earlier, Springwood had been the site of Governor Macquarie's first camp on the Mountains during his tour to the west along the new road only recently completed by William Cox and his convict workmen. Macquarie’s Journal records that, at 3 o'clock on the 26 April, 1815, the party halted and pitched their tents "in a very pretty wooded plain near a spring of very good fresh water ... the place being very pretty I have named it Spring-Wood." The following year a military depot was established there to guard the road and supervise traffic and for almost thirty years the protection it offered attracted numerous travellers, making Springwood one of the popular resting spots on the journey over the Mountains.

In 1845, after the military had departed, Thomas Boland built the Springwood Inn and continued Springwood's role as a traveller's oasis. During the gold rush period thousands passed through Springwood on their way to the Turon fields and at night Boland's Inn would become the centre of a large and animated encampment.

Emma Lawson in 1922

When the railway was opened to the Weatherboard (Wentworth Falls) in 1867 the stimulus was provided for residential settlement. In the following decades the speed, comfort and reliability provided by trains encouraged many of the affluent members of Sydney's ruling class to purchase land and build country retreats in the Blue Mountains. The Springwood area, in particular, became a popular choice: Sir Henry Parkes established "Stonehurst" as his country home in 1877 and several years later built “Faulconbridge House”; the Hon. Charles Moore MLC MLA erected "Moorecourt", later used by the Springwood Ladies College, in 1876; the Hon. John Frazer MLA engaged Varney Parkes to design his residence "Silva Plana" in 1881; and the Hon. James Norton MLC built "Euchora" in 1884.

Not all new residents were wealthy, however. In the 1870s a large number of railway workers responsible for maintaining the western line boosted the area's total population and helped provide the stimulus toward the early introduction of postal, education, police and various business enterprises. Centered at Springwood, these made the town a focal point of the district.

The 1880s saw Springwood, with a population somewhere in the vicinity of two to three hundred, renowned for its rural charm and equable climate. Its scenic attractions - Sassafras or Flying Fox Gully, Madeline Glen, Fairy Dell - obtained regular promotion in the popular railway tourist guides of the day. A writer in The Illustrated Sydney News, 3 October 1889, contrasted "the illimitable grandeur of Katoomba" with "the smiling serenity of Springwood" and described the town in the following terms:

"One's first impressions of Springwood are exceedingly pleasant, and we can honestly state that subsequent explorations only serve to confirm them. Pausing at the station, which, by the way, is one of the prettiest upon the line, and quite in harmony with its surroundings, one's eye rests upon a road of a warm red colour and sidewalks shaded with the dense blue-grey foliage of turpentine trees, the scene flanked at each side with cosy buildings of wood and stone. Even the police station exhibits a display of taste, and everything seems in harmony. Up the road, on the left, is a substantial schoolhouse, from the windows of which issue the sweet sounds of many voices, fresh young tones, that speak of happy homes and healthy climate, a fact still better attested by the blooming cheeks of the youngsters who are romping in the playground.
To the right from the station runs a road faced by a few cottages; in the middle distance the pretty villa belonging to Mrs Hoare, set in the midst of garden and greensward, and, further still, a background of forest trees, between which one obtains glimpses of blue mountains."

Oriental Hotel
This, then, was Springwood at the time James Hunter Lawson purchased sixty acres of land there at the end of the 1880s. His property extended from Raymond Road to the vicinity of the present De Chair Avenue and included the Springwood Hotel built in 1877 by Frank Raymond.

Lawson was back in the hotel business and soon began major rebuilding and renovation work which saw the old hotel undergo a complete face-lift. In the Nepean Times, 22 March, 1890, we read that: "The Springwood Hotel improvements are getting pushed along -the enterprising owner is determined to have plenty of cellar room -twenty feet by twenty and about eight feet high."

Then, three weeks later: "The Springwood Hotel is progressing fast towards completion, and will be a feature in our village, and an attraction for the tourist or searcher for health. Mr Lawson, the proprietor, being in the trade, is going to show us how an hotel ought to be furnished for comfort and ease." The hotel was reopened at the end of January 1891 as the Oriental Hotel - "the most complete in the district."

No sooner had Lawson transformed the Springwood Hotel into the Oriental than he continued to stamp his presence upon the township of Springwood by turning his attention to another project. "He is now carting bricks to the orchard adjoining the hotel", reported the Nepean Times, "where he intends erecting a fine cottage forthwith." This cottage was to be "Braemar" and was completed later that same year.

"Braemar" soon after construction. The Lawson family group includes: J.H. Lawson near fence; Alfred Lawson holding horse; Emma Lawson, her daughter Flora and grandchildren Ethel, Emma and Ernest in the buggy (Photograph courtesy of Blue Mountains City Library)

It is not certain how long James and Emma Lawson occupied "Braemar “but it does not appear to have been for more than a few years. Their grandson, W. G. Lawson, in a letter to the Blue Mountains City Library's Chief Librarian in 1975, remembered that it was "only for a very short period." The couple eventually built "Glen Lawson", next door to "Braemar", which became their home until their deaths in 1926. Just when "Glen Lawson" was erected is also uncertain, though by 1895 when a Presbyterian service attended by some seventy people was held on the verandah of "Braemar" the tenant of "Braemar" was reported to be "Mrs. Urquhart", James and Emma's daughter.

Glen Lawson, Braemar, the Oriental Hotel

If "Glen Lawson" wasn't already in existence by this time the Lawsons may have lived for a time elsewhere in Springwood for, during the 1890s, the family was purchasing and building extensively in the town. In October, 1893, for example, James Hunter Lawson was reported as purchasing "the cottage near Brady's gatehouse, recently erected and occupied by Mr. Joseph Chapman". That same month his son, William, was living in a cottage at Faulconbridge and "has commenced the erection of a neat little cottage next to the railway crossing gate near "Chatsworth". William built again later in the decade: the arrival of building material at Springwood Railway Station and then the completion of a cottage was noted in the press. This was probably "The Knoll", several properties down the Bathurst Road from "Braemar", where William and his wife Isobel lived until they moved into "Glen Lawson" after his parent's death. On the eve of his departure for Europe in May 1900, James Hunter Lawson was praised for having contributed to the progress of Springwood "by erecting substantial buildings that would be a credit to any district".

James Hunter Lawson with Ernest and Ethel Urquhart at the entrance to "Braemar" (Photograph courtesy of Miss S. E. Lawson)

By 1897 "Braemar" was being occupied by Nurse Lonie Treble, a friend of the Lawson family, who conducted a convalescent hospital on the premises. This venture was short-lived, however, and when Nurse Treble's sister, who had come up to Springwood in late March 1897 suffering from consumption, died of the disease. Nurse Treble returned to Sydney to live. In May 1897 James' and Emma's son William and his wife occupied "Braemar" while on their honeymoon.

Nurse Louie Treble

With the departure of Nurse Treble, the next tenants of "Braemar" appear to have been Thomas William Garrett and his family. Garrett was a solicitor who became Registrar of Probates in 1890 and Public Trustee in 1914. He was best known, however, as a cricketer who played with distinction for Australia and New South Wales.

Tom Garrett in 1936
Photo courtesy Wikimedia

T.W. Garrett was born on 26 July, 1858, in Wollongong, the son of politician and newspaper proprietor Thomas Garrett and his first wife Mary Creagan. At the age of eighteen years Garrett was chosen to play for Australia in Melbourne in 1877 against James Lillywhite's team of professionals, a match that has come to be considered the first Test against England. He toured England three times - in 1878, 1882 and 1886 - and represented Australia in seven Test series at home. On the 1882 tour he played in the famous match at The Oval when Australia defeated England for the first time on English soil, provoking The Sporting Times to report in its next issue the death of English cricket. "The body", it declared, "will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia."

Overall, Garrett appeared in nineteen Test matches, scoring 339 runs (highest score 51) and taking 36 wickets. Bearded, tall and lean, Garrett was primarily recognised as a right-arm, slightly more than medium pace bowler with an ability to swing the ball either way. Playing for New South Wales he proved a shrewd and successful captain who also achieved with the bat. In 1897, aged thirty-eight, he knocked up 131 runs against a South Australian team that included the champion fast bowler Ernest Jones.

T.W. Garrett, his wife Helen (they were married on 25 March, 1879) and their family of three girls and four boys probably arrived in Springwood in the first half of 1898. In August of that year the Nepean Times records that he was elected a Vice-President(he later served as President) of the Springwood Cricket Club, the first mention of the Garrett name in the local press.

With the exception of about twelve months, between May 1902 and April 1903, the family resided in Springwood for over ten years. It is, however, uncertain how much of this time was spent as tenants of "Braemar", though by 1908 they had clearly moved to the western end of the town. An advertisement in the Nepean Times concerning the new subdivision of Springwood Heights Estate notes that this land is located "between the residence of J.F. Hoare, Esq., and Thos. Garrett, Esq., and situate opposite Moore Court and the Church of England".

During their time in Springwood the Garrett's involved themselves in the community, the Garrett name appearing regularly in the Springwood news columns of the Nepean Times. Father and sons were active participants in the local cricket, football and golf clubs. In 1909-10 when Springwood Cricket Club won the Nepean District premiership three of the Garrett brothers were in the team, one of them holding the captaincy.

Mother and daughters, too, were reported in various capacities at fetes organised by such bodies as Christ Church of England and Springwood Ladies College. T. W. Garrett also acted as honorary auditor for a number of local organisations including the Church of England, the Progress Association and the School of Arts.

While it is unclear exactly when the family left Springwood it was possibly some time in 1912, for the Garrett name does not appear in the local electorate on the 1913 Commonwealth Electoral Roll. Thomas William Garrett died at Warrawee in Sydney, aged eighty-five, on 6 August, 1943. Tom Garrett's great-grandson is the Midnight Oil lead singer, former Australian federal politician and government minister, Peter Garrett. 

Who followed the Garrett's as tenants of "Braemar" is something of a mystery. In a letter to the Blue Mountains City Library's Chief Librarian in 1975 James Hunter Lawson's grandson, William, says it was "a Jewish family by name of Cohen" who "were there quite a time." Despite this, no reference to the Cohens can be found in either the local newspapers or the electoral rolls available for the first decade of the twentieth century.

In 1908, however, the NSW Government Tourist Bureau's Hotel and Boarding House Directory listed Braemar as a boarding house under the proprietorship of Mrs. Mulvey. Braemar, the directory recorded, could accommodate twelve guests at a charge per person of seven shillings a day or two guineas a week. Who Mrs. Mulvey was and how long she remained in Springwood is not known.

A canary in the front door panel
The next resident of whom we can be certain was Dr Andrew Joseph O'Flanagan who occupied "Braemar" between 1918 and 1923. This was during the period of the great influenza pandemic. As well as using the house as a residence for himself, his wife and two daughters it also became his surgery and dispensary. And, he employed a housekeeper, Mrs. Ruby Miller, who lived in with her own daughter and did all the cooking and housework. Mrs. Miller, now in her nineties, recalls Dr. O'Flanagan doing his rounds in a horse and sulky equipped with a hurricane lamp.

The doctor, apparently, was also wary of dogs. Alfred Sully of Faulconbridge, a schoolboy at the time, remembers a house call to his family. On arrival the doctor stood at the back fence and enquired: "Have you got any dogs?" When young Alfred replied from the doorway, "No, no dogs doctor", he entered with the comment, "Sensible boy, sensible boy". Mr. Sully also recalls him carrying a small pistol in his bag which, he thinks, was used to scare off any canine advances.

Following Dr. O'Flanagan's death, on 3 January, 1923, "Braemar" was converted once again to the role it had been introduced to by Mrs. Mulvey prior to World War 1. For the next four decades, with the possible exception of some brief periods, it functioned primarily as a boarding or guesthouse under a number of proprietors. The three we are aware of were:

1924 - 1926  Marjory and Bert Gillman.
1931 - 1938  Nancy and David Ireland.
1941 - c 1968 Alma and Lionel Platt.

"Braemar" c. 1924. Mrs Gillman is the lady in white standing at the extreme left. 

Bert Gillman was a builder who operated in the early 1920s from Valley Heights and then removed to Robertson, near Moss Vale, for a short period. It wasn't long, however, before he and his family returned to Springwood where they took over "Braemar" after Dr O'Flanagan's death and began running it as a guesthouse. It is interesting that Mrs. Gillman had known Dr O'Flanagan and, because of her experience as a bush nurse, had accompanied him at times on his rounds to assist with deliveries.

Mrs. Gillman's two daughters, Marjory and Bessie, now in their late seventies, remember the house being full of antique furniture, with velvet curtains in the hall and lounge room. A pedestal light in the hallway, known as the 'Pink Lady', and a beautiful painted ceiling in one of the rooms - pools of water with lilies, storks and ducks - particularly took their fancy. They were disappointed when they came back in later years and found the painted ceiling gone.

Staff consisted of Mrs Smith, the housekeeper, two girls, Ruby and Violet, who cleaned the rooms and waited on tables, and a yardman who cared for the animals and the grounds. Mr and Mrs Gillman did most of the cooking, Mr Gillman being a particularly dab hand at certain dishes. Some guests were known to return because of his cooking. Bessie, the eldest daughter, would also wait on tables if one of the regular girls was sick.

The guests were entertained with musical evenings and euchre parties and there was even a miniature golf course of nine holes, erected one year with the help of some of the guests on the paddock between the house and the Oriental Hotel. Bushwalking into Sassafras Gully was also a regular activity.

One guest, an elderly lady whose name was Miss Lewis, was a permanent resident the whole time the Gillmans were at "Braemar". When they moved on to Manly in 1926 she went with them. Miss Lewis was very superstitious and Marjory Gillman, the younger daughter, recalls how she was sometimes required to make up the numbers at dinner time if the official guests seated at the dining table ever totaled thirteen.

It was while the Gillmans were in residence that James Hunter Lawson and his wife Emma both died, within twenty-four hours of each other, in "Glen Lawson" next door. After a period of gradually declining health James Hunter passed away on Friday 23 April, 1926. It was his ninetieth year. "Mrs Lawson", reported the Daily Guardian, in Sydney, "seemed at first to bear the shock very well in the circumstances, and appeared to be in fair health when two of her sons left Springwood by the 7a.m. train on Saturday. Her other son intended leaving an hour later; but in the interim his mother died suddenly." The couple were buried together at Rookwood Cemetery.

During the years of the Great Depression "Braemar" was operated as a guesthouse by Nancy and David Ireland. Mrs Ireland was born Nancy Gardener in Airdrie, Lanarkshire, Scotland, in 1901. In Springwood she was involved for many years with the Presbyterian Ladies Guild. Her husband David died in 1980 and his ashes are in the Columbarium at Springwood Cemetery. His father Charles, who died in 1931, is buried also in Springwood Cemetery.

Enjoying the sun on the verandah of "Braemar" 1930s (Photograph courtesy of Mrs Nancy Ireland)

By the time Lionel and Alma Platt and their two year old daughter Pam arrived from the Sydney suburb of Kirribilli in the early 1940s, a guesthouse tradition was well established at "Braemar". However, Mr Platt, who suffered from asthma, and his wife originally had no intention of carrying on this tradition. They wanted simply to lease the house as a private residence, at least until the war was over.

On their arrival though they were faced with an unforeseen circumstance that changed everything. The two men who had previously been proprietors of "Braemar" and had left at short notice had not left the house empty. The Platts, to their surprise, found about eight guests waiting for them on the verandah. After some intense negotiation and the intervention of the local policeman the abandoned boarders were allowed to stay, at least temporarily.

Mrs Platt takes up the story: "There two lovely old ladies. They came from the back parts, the Pilliga scrub. In those days there were only two trains ... anyway they couldn't get a train till the following Monday ... they asked could they stay and I said yes. ‘Look', said one of them, 'this place is a little gold mine. Why don't you open it up as a guesthouse?".

Despite Mrs Platt's protests that she had no experience, the lady continued: "All you do is get a housemaid, a waitress and a cook ... your husband can stay at home and help you ... you'll make a fortune if you do. I'll show you how." After a month helping the Platts organise themselves and find staff the two ladies returned to the Pilliga scrub, leaving Mr & Mrs Platt as proprietors of "Braemar Guesthouse" for almost the next thirty years. In the late 1940's they even purchased the property from William Lawson who had inherited it on his father's death in 1926.

The Platts found, like the Gillmans before them, they were never short of guests. "Running a guesthouse", recalls Mrs Platt, "was a seven day a week job!" Heavy advertising was unnecessary and during the school holidays "Braemar" was always booked out. "They were just like family, just like friends coming back for holidays."
Bushwalks into Sassafras Gully for afternoon tea, dances on the well-kept verandah, and children's concerts where the adults were charged two shillings and the money used to buy lollies for the children in the Salvation Army Home over the railway line, were among the popular activities that kept the guests entertained.
The Platts, too, attracted their own permanent, slightly eccentric, guest. Captain Howell, an old sea captain, resided at "Braemar" for some seven or eight years before his death. To the consternation of some, his favourite pastime was to 'liven up' any other elderly residents.

Children were specially catered for under the Platts. During the school holidays preference was always given to guests with children. It was not unusual for Mrs Platt to ask a regular guest to postpone their visit until school went back. When guests went bushwalking children under five, who were not permitted to go, were always given a special party instead. But not all the children who came to "Braemar" were well behaved. Mrs Platt relates a story about a lovely inlaid table she kept in the guest's lounge room: "One child, a doctor's daughter, oh she was a big child for her age and they used to call her 'Mony' for 'Monster'. A lady came out to me and she was almost in tears and she said, 'Mrs Platt, I can't stand it any longer.' I asked her, 'What is wrong, what has made you so upset?' She replied, 'That little girl in there, her mother and father are sitting there and they are reading the paper and this little hussy has got a pin, a bobby pin and she's picking all your inlay out of that table.' When I went in all the inlay was out of it and I couldn't find even the bits to stick it back. Oh, they were very upset. They wanted to take it down to Sydney and get it fixed up, but I thought no, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, I'd better keep it. So I kept it and there it is still."

Towards the end of their time at "Braemar" the Platts closed the guesthouse down for a couple of years, using it as a private residence. They then sold it (c.1971) to local real estate agent Charles H. Degotardi. For a time Mr Degotardi, operating as Tropic Gardens Pty. Ltd., considered some major guesthouse additions to "Braemar" but these plans were later shelved.

It was at this point that the history of "Braemar" changed dramatically. In 1974 the house was acquired by the Blue Mountains City Council with Federal Government funds provided through the Australian Assistance Program, an initiative of the Whitlam Government, designed to encourage and assist the preservation of the nation's heritage.

Almost immediately "Braemar" was used to house the newly established Blue Mountains City Library, the idea being that it would fulfill this role temporarily until the planned Library Headquarters building was constructed in the grounds behind it. The construction of the new library during the next two years necessitated the demolition of the detached weatherboard and iron section at the rear of the house that had housed the kitchen, scullery and servants’ quarters; and the original water well on the eastern side was covered over.

The new library building was completed in 1976 and, after the City Librarian had moved the growing collection of books into its new premises, the Council's Electricity Department took up residence in Braemar until 1980. In this year the supply of electricity to the Blue Mountains was taken over by Prospect County Council and this body continued to operate from Braemar, leasing the building from the City Council. In 1984 new premises in Springwood Avenue became available and Prospect County Council vacated "Braemar", leaving the way open for a reconsideration of the role the building might play in the community life of Springwood.

Ever since the Blue Mountains City Council acquired the property there had been strong argument in favour of "Braemar" being used for community rather than commercial purposes. Its initial use as the library headquarters reflected this opinion and it was again brought to the fore when the library re-occupied the building in 1984.

Throughout the 1970's, too, there was considerable interest shown in "Braemar" by the Springwood Historical Society who felt that a role as a local history centre would be appropriate. In 1975 Springwood Historical Society wrote to the first City Librarian requesting "that favourable consideration be given to providing space in 'Braemar for use by the Society for storing its collection of books, historic documents etc."

Though nothing came of this immediately, the idea that "Braemar" should house a local history collection was again raised in 1981, this time by the next City Librarian himself, when the employment of a specialist librarian was being considered. A Local Studies Librarian was appointed early in 1982 and, when the library moved into "Braemar" in 1984, two rooms were occupied by the new Local Studies Collection.

At the same time, a great deal of interest was being shown by local artists in the idea of establishing an art gallery as part of the new function of "Braemar" and much discussion ensued. Dual use of the old building by both the historical and artistic communities began to be seen as a feasible proposition.
Official Opening 1988: Library Manager - Drusilla Wendolowski, Mayor Jim Angel,
Member for Blue Mountains Bob Debus; Lindsay Paish - Braemar Management Committee 

Eventually community use of the building received official blessing when, after some debate at its meeting on 13 November, 1984, the Blue Mountains City Council adopted recommendations that Braemar be converted into an art gallery and local history resource centre. A successful application was made by the Council for a grant from the NSW Bicentennial Authority to assist with restoration of the building and conversion to its new function, this grant being supported later by another from the NSW Heritage Council.

A number of public meetings were subsequently held in response to the initiative of Council and a community based committee - The Friends of Braemar - was formed early in 1985, followed later in the year by a 530A Management Committee to supervise progress towards the fulfillment of the community's vision for "Braemar". Membership of both the "Friends" and the Management Committee reflected the interest of local artists, the historical society and the library and a good number of the office-bearers of those early committees shouldered the responsibility for the general functioning of "Braemar".

In 1985, also, the National Trust of Australia classified "Braemar" and included it in the Trust's Register as a place having "aesthetic, historic, scientific or social significance or other special value for future generations, as well as for the present community."

In 1988 a successful application was made by Blue Mountains City Council for a grant from the NSW Bicentennial Authority to assist with restoration of the building and conversion to its new function, this grant being supported later by another from the NSW Heritage Council.

The restoration work was carried out by Blaxland builders John M. Coyle & Co. under the supervision of Buckwell & Partners Architects, of Mount Victoria.

The official opening of the Braemar Gallery and Local History Centre took place on Saturday 12 March, 1988, with the State Member for the Blue Mountains, Mr. Bob Debus, officiating. The following week the Blue Mountains Gazette, reporting on the occasion, commented that "Braemar now stands to serve the people of this city as a permanent source of cultural endeavour and a receptacle of heritage resources. This achievement is the result of a lot of hard work and dedication by many people...."

Four years later, on the occasion of the building's hundredth anniversary, the successful development of its dual roles was viewed as being well established. The Council's original decision to implement a cultural role for "Braemar" had been validated.

In 2015 the Braemar Management Committee was disbanded and Braemar Gallery came under the control of the City Art Gallery at Blue Mountains Cultural Centre, while a team of volunteers continues to assist with daily operations.

Local Studies Librarian
Blue Mountains City Library
1992, revised 2016

Books, Pamphlets etc.

·         Australian Men of Mark, Volume 2, Series 1, C.F. Maxwell, Sydney, [1888]
·         Macquarie, Lachlan. Journals of His Tours in New South Wales and Van Dieman's Land 1810-1822, Public Library of NSW, Sydney, 1956.
·         Nairn, B. & Serle, G. ed. Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, 1891-1939, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1981. [Entry on T.W. Garrett by K.J. Cable.]
·         NSW Government Tourist Bureau. Hotel and Boarding-House Directory, NSW Government, Sydney, 1908.
·         Pollard, Jack. Australian Cricket: The Game and the Players, Hodder & Stoughton, 1982.
·         The Railway Guide of New South Wales, NSW Government, Sydney, 1886.
·         Ruhan, Carl. The Auctioneers: Lawson's - the First 100 Years, Ayers & James, Sydney, 1984.
·         Sand's Sydney and Post Office Directory, Sydney, various years.
·         Searle, A. & Morony, R. Springwood Notebook 1788 - 1989, Springwood Historical Society, Springwood, 1990.
·         Wise's New South Wales Post Office Directory, Sydney, various years.
2  Newspapers
·         Blue Mountains Gazette
·         Daily Guardian [Sydney]
·         Illustrated Sydney News
·         Nepean Times

3  Oral History Interviews

·         Alma Platt interviewed by Beryl Myers, 10 December 1985 for Blue Mountains City Library
·         Alfred Sully interviewed by Enid Schafer, 4 September 1989 for the Blue Mountains City Library
·         Marjory Stephens (nee Gillman) and Bessie Gillman interviewed by John Low and Helen Halliwell, 19 February 1992 for the Blue Mountains City Library

4 Miscellaneous
·         Blue Mountains City Council Records Department, Files on Braemar", Commonwealth Electoral Rolls.
·         "Friends of Braemar" and Management Committee Records, Local Studies Collection, Blue Mountains City Library.

It is clear that there are some gaps in our knowledge of the "Braemar" story. The authors would therefore be very grateful for any corrections and additional information, photographs etc. If you can help please contact:

Local Studies Librarian,
Blue Mountains City Library,
104 Macquarie Road, Springwood. N.S.W. 2777
Telephone 47235044


The authors express their sincere thanks to the following people: Gwen Alexander, Neil Billington, Stephen Gibbs, Bessie Gillman, Pat Hinchliffe, Nancy Ireland, Sheila Lawson, Alma Platt, Gwen Silvey, Colin Slade, Jim Smith, Marjory Stephens (nee Gillman), Mr & Mrs Graham Stephens.

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