In 2003, Collins and Turner were engaged to carry out the restoration of Bowles house, a 200+ year old convict-built former post office at Gentlemans Halt, previously owned by renowned architect, urbanist and educator Col James.
The site is on a remote east facing waterfront site, on the Hawkesbury River, 15 minutes by boat from Brooklyn. The location is reminiscent of the character William Thornhill’s settlement in Kate Grenville’s remarkable 2005 novel – The Secret River. The remote location has no road access or mains services.
Externally, works to the derelict property included the substantial restoration of stonework, a new roof, and works to balconies and external stairs. Extensive landscape works were carried out in the form of bush regeneration a jetty repair, and new sandstone retaining walls.
Internally the house is largely rebuilt with new floors to the upper living level and substantial reconstruction of all spaces. The renovation combines natural material such as stained blackbutt hardwood for floors, joinery fronts and custom furniture pieces, with black stove-painted iron to hearths and metalwork detailing. Natural stone, and select details of stainless steel and white Corian complete the restrained palette.
Challenges in the construction included managing the logistics of the remote location, with all construction access only by water. Local tradesmen who were familiar with the waterways and tides carried out the work.
The house is carbon neutral and has no connection to the mains grid. All power is generated via roof-mounted photovoltaics. Low energy lighting and refrigeration are installed. The thermal mass of the building’s stone structure is used as primary method of cooling and heating. An absorption trench is used for waste and water management and all water captured from the roof and stored in storage tanks below the lower deck for re-use.
Following the restoration, the house was heritage listed by Hornsby Council.
- Taylor Thompson Whitting
- Steve Penn and Mark Hughes