A Titanic rebirth

Huck and Gary spent seven years rejuvenating the worst house on one of Mayfield’s best streets, turning a derelict ruin into a showpiece inspired by their love of Victorian architecture, the late Queen and grand Edwardian cruise liners.

It was cabinet maker Archibald Hay for whom this home was built in 1887, a Scotsman who first settled in Morpeth then moved to Newcastle as river trade shifted to the railway and Morpeth faced its rapid decline.

He commissioned renowned architect James Henderson, whose designs included the Victoria Theatre and the Ireland’s Bond building in Newcastle East as well as numerous private residences, such as Jesmond House on Barker Street.

Hay’s furniture business was thriving and while well off, he probably couldn’t compete with the Scholeys or Lysaghts, the wealthy scions of Mayfield’s heyday as a rural haven for the local high society. Or maybe, not unlike homeowners today, he tried to make smart decisions to get the best bang for his buck.
“We think he chose his battles and spent his money where it had the most effect,” remarks Huck.

Although we don’t know whether he couldn’t or didn’t want to pay for a massive Victorian mansion.”
“He built the house on a high base, so it looked more substantial even though it didn’t have two storeys. He added embellishments, such as iron work and lacework columns, all around the house when the Victorian standard would have been to decorate the façade only.

“Some of his wealthier neighbours would have had views of the back of his house from their own, palatial homes so maybe he wanted to show off a bit.

“The details of the bay windows at the front weren’t extended across to the windows of what would have been the main bedroom as was customary at the time. Yet they used unusually large glass windowpanes, probably the biggest they could get. Hugely expensive, they must have been used to signal his wealth.
“On the other hand, he didn’t have a slate roof installed and went with much cheaper corrugated iron instead. Whether he really didn’t have the money, or was simply a bit Scottish about his budget, we don’t know,” he chuckles. “After the Hays family left in the 1920s, the home went through several owners. By the 1970s, the residents, a brother and sister, died in short succession – intestate and without offspring. During the lengthy probate process, the home sat empty, and things got bad rather quickly,”
continues Huck.

“Squatters moved in. Someone lit a fire in one of the bedrooms which thankfully didn’t take hold on the old-growth hardwood and was quickly put out.”

Love it or lose it?

“By the time we bought it in 2010 it had been stripped out and was barely a shell. All the ceilings had crashed, the doors were gone and the plaster and flooring were beyond repair. Everyone said it was a definite knock-down.”

However, Huck and Gary weren’t so sure. Huck had fallen in love with the house when driving past one day and subsequently approached the owner about buying it, only to be knocked back several times.

More about this beautiful home in the Winter Edition of Hunter & Coastal Lifestyle Magazine or subscribe here.

Story by Cornelia Schulze, photography by Joshua Hogan. Supported by the Business Improvement Association for Mayfield and City of Newcastle.