Lost and found

These homeowners brought colour and light back to a pre-Federation home that had lost its sparkle.

Lesley and Martin have family connections to the Dungog area and knew the Hunter and Williams River Valley pretty well when they decided to go on a caravan trip to Dungog, on to Gloucester and the Barringtons, then back to the Hunter.

“But Dungog is as far as we got,” Martin laughs. “It started raining, and we wanted to wait out the wet weather, but it didn’t stop for three weeks and all we could to do was to walk the streets, meet locals and look at some of the fantastic old homes.”

They eventually returned to their freshly renovated home in Nelson Bay, but realised they’d been so enchanted by Dungog they wanted to move there. “We liked the look of this house, even though it was rather inconspicuous,” recalls Lesley. “People would just drive past and not notice that it was there. It has a cottage feel to it, but once you step inside you realise how big it is.”

According to title records, Catherine Russell – listed as a “Laborer’s Wife” –bought the block of land for four pounds in 1878. In the early 1890s a dwelling was built, with an 1894 photo showing a well-established house on the site.

“We later found out that it was one of my ancestors, Thomas Holmes, who gave the license for dancing at the 1853 wedding of Catherine and John Russell,” Martin shares.

The house occupies a commanding, elevated position on a corner block with sweeping views to the Barringtons. Near the old courthouse and a few streets back from Dungog’s main thoroughfare, it’s in a prime location. The house had been built according to the standards of the time, using local hardwood with cedar door frames and doors. Lofty 3.3-metre-high ceilings feature wide cornices, original pressed metal and ornate cedar embellishments.

There had been renovations in the 1950s, with large picture windows replacing the original sash windows and fluted instead of coloured glass in the entry doors. One owner, William Garland, even added a tennis court at the rear. The Mackaway family bought the house in 1958, enclosed the front facing verandah and sold off the by-now disused tennis court as a separate sub-division.

“We bought the house from the children of Agnes Mackaway who was quite the personality and well known in town,” Lesley says.

Renovation rollercoaster

“The house was liveable and solid,” adds Martin, “but had had little maintenance for years. The kitchen and bathrooms had the charm of the 1950s and we had to re-wire, re-pier and re-roof.

The Experts

Lesley knew that the team at GJ Morgan would create a flawless, stunning kitchen for her new home.
gjmorgankitchens.com.au, 02 4982 1247

Sorensen Design & Planning specialise in unique building designs to suit their clients’ needs and budget.
sorensendesign.com.au, 02 4984 9955

The professional team of stone masons at Vivid Stoneworks supplied and installed the stone benchtops throughout the home. vividstoneworks.com.au, 02 4088 7117

Wideline Windows & Doors have been producing Australian made windows and doors to the highest architectural standards for over 50 years. wideline.com.au, 1300 943 354

Story by Cornelia Schulze, photography by Joshua Hogan

Read more about this beautiful home in our Summer Edition of Hunter & Coastal Lifestyle Magazine or subscribe here.