KEYNOTE: Hidden Histories 2021

Enter into the strange world of Sydney’s past and travel on a guided journey into the secret bars on the shadier side of York, Clarence and Kent Street.


Stories of abortionists, midwives, poisoners, secret babies, and baby farmers in the back alleys of early Sydney. Debauchery and prostitution meet racial prejudice, squalor and corruption in this evocation of ‘fan tan hells’ and ‘poppy dreams’. Be entertained by femme fatale husband poisoner ‘Dorris Donnit’ and hear about where the dead were buried; historical plagues; what was on the colonial plate and tales tall and true from another time.

More details HERE.

hidden histories.png

KEYNOTE: Home Heaven Hell Conference 2018

This HHA inaugural national conference had the needs of owners at its core.
The conference heard from owners and others throughout Australia who told their own stories of successes, frustrations and failures. It also heard from state and local governments and experts in the field about what support currently exists. Conference website HERE.


15 May 2021

Walk: Callan Park - Heritage Parkland  

Join us for a walking tour with experienced guides from the Friends of Callan Park, where the beautiful park sweeps down to the foreshores of Iron Cove.  See the iconic walled sandstone 1885 asylum, ha-ha walls, two unique war memorials, WWII air raid shelters, Garry Owen House (now Writing NSW), Gardener's Cottage, c. 1900 cart shed and old stables, Farm Manager's cottage and more.

Enjoy the botanical riches of more tree species than New York's Central Park and learn about the ongoing initiatives to protect and govern the site for the future.


5 May 2021

Special Event - Premiere of the HHA short film 'The Resurrection of St Josephs'. 

Hear from restorer extraordinaire Steve Kavanagh as he recounts the amazing story of how he brought the oldest Catholic church on the mainland back from the brink of ruin to the winner of the 2012 National Trust Best Restored Heritage Building in NSW award.

The premiere is followed by an exclusive private tour of the property and cemetery with Steve and a morning tea spread in this stunning, historic location. 


24 April 2021

Walk: Double Bay & Darling Point - A Celebrated Gardening Family        

Father and son Michael and William Guilfoyle had a huge influence on Australian horticulture. In this walk heritage landscape specialist Stuart Read outlines the story of the Guilfoyle family of nurserymen, horticulturists and landscape designers.

Concentrating on eastern Double Bay and sections of Darling Point, learn about the house of the key patron, Thomas Sutcliffe Mort’s mansion, Greenoakes (later, Bishopscourt) and glimpse remnant plantings from Guilfoyle’s Exotic Nursery, Sir John Hay’s experimental garden and Guilfoyle Park.


15 April 2021

Talk: Domestic Defensive Architecture in Early Colonial NSW  

The inclusion of defensive elements in early colonial buildings and structures in NSW has had little attention from historians and the heritage field. Often dismissed as decorative features, slit windows, stone walls and strong rooms are surprisingly common features in remote homesteads constructed at the time of Frontier Wars conflict or bushranging in the early 19th century. In this conversational talk, Dr Stephen Gapps asks us to revisit some of our well-known historic houses and to rethink the way we look at the context of their construction.

A collaboration with the History Council of NSW.


13 March 2021

Gladesville Hospital Histories

Join Jennifer Farrar for a walk through the grounds of Australia's first purpose built mental health hospital designed by Mortimer Lewis in 1838. See the gardens planted to calm troubled minds and many of the elegant buildings built to reflect the new style of mental health treatment pioneered in Sydney by Dr Frederick Manning, the Gladesville Hospital's first Superintendent.


3 Dec 2020

Seeking Out Walter Liberty Vernon: Monuments of Art and a Distinctly Australian Architecture 

Join an expert panel in conversation on the architectural philosophy, design approaches and progressive ideas of Walter Liberty Vernon (NSW Government Architect, 1890-1911). His built legacy includes the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Mitchell Library (part of the State Library), Central railway station and Newcastle Court House along with private commissions and monuments in nearly every town across NSW.

The panel includes Dr James Broadbent, well known historian, conservationist and author; Dr Noni Boyd architectural historian and heritage specialist whose PhD thesis traces how Vernon created a more informal public architecture, 'an architecture for the people'. Discussion is open to the audience and led by Matt Devine, a registered architect with a passion for architecture, design, community, and history. We’re joined by Charles Pickett, lead curator on the exhibition Imagine A City: 200 Years of Public Architecture in NSW.


11 Nov 2020

Dyarubbin: The Real Secret River  

In 2017, historian Grace Karskens stumbled across an astonishing document in the Mitchell Library: a list of over 170 long-lost Aboriginal names for places on Dyarubbin, the Hawkesbury River. The list was compiled early in 1829 by a young Presbyterian minister, the Reverend John McGarvie, incumbent at Pitt Town. Not only did he carefully record the names given to him by Aboriginal informants, in many cases he included locations.

Almost 100 of these names have been relocated and mapped through a collaborative project, Dyarubbin: The Real Secret River, funded by the State Library of New South Wales’ Coral Thomas Fellowship. Bit by bit, these names are revealing lost geographies of river forests, plants and animals, zones of saltwater and fresh, men’s, women’s and ceremonial places, and areas of profound sacred significance.

Please join us for a fascinating webinar session, as Darug team members Leanne Watson and Erin Wilkins join historian Grace Karskens in a discussion of this significant project.

Available in the Event Library

Photo: Joy Lai’s beautiful shot of Gunanday, the Macdonald River.


28 Oct 2020

RAHS / HHA Online Seminar – Playing Their Part: Vice-Regal Consorts of NSW

Join the RAHS and the HHA for a special online seminar about the vice-regal consorts of NSW.  In this seminar presenters will discuss the consorts’ contributions to the history of NSW and stories about their historic residence, Government House. 

Associate Professor Dr Carol Liston OA, Senior Vice President of the RAHS is the first speaker who will discuss what was expected of the vice regal consort in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with a brief look at the official residences.

Dr Bruce Baskerville, Associate Director, Centre for Western Australian History at UWA joins to discuss scandals in Government House and how they can reveal networks of influence.

The final speaker is Joy Hughes an historian whose research highlights the role of mid-century consorts and the changing of the guard since the end of World War II. 

VRC cover.jpg

11 Oct 2020

Storyteller: From The Heart of Hyde Park 

Hyde Park forms a green heart to the City of Sydney, circled by some of our most significant and beautiful historic buildings.  Join us - safely spread out in the Spring sunshine – as we saunter through the park appreciating St Mary’s Cathedral and the War Memorial, Sydney Grammar and the Australian Museum, the architectural triumphs of Greenway and Macquarie, and many others.  Follow the threads connecting us to people from our past, as Storyteller Jo Henwood shares stories behind the buildings we can see today, as well as what was there before.  The buildings might not speak – but we certainly can!


3 MAR 2020

Coffee Conversation: Author Talk - Sydney's Art Deco 

Peter Sheridan discusses Sydney's Art Deco architecture and presents an overview of Deco styling around Sydney. His talk offers a unique insight into the lifestyle of Sydneysiders in the 1930s and 1940s through examples of fashion and furniture, and with reference to some of Australia's best artists who lived and painted in Sydney - from the paintings of Margaret Preston, Grace Cossington Smith, and Roland Wakelin, to photographers Harold Cazneaux and Max Dupain.

Peter's book, 'Sydney Art Deco', has been long-listed as a finalist in the Illustrated Non-Fiction section of the prestigious Indie Book Awards for 2020.

SAD Cover.jpg

21 FEB & 6 MAR 2020

Walk: Innovative Architecture - The UTS Campus 

After investing more than one billion dollars in the redevelopment of its city campus, the University of Technology Sydney is now home to some cutting-edge educational facilities, dramatic architecture, and stunning interior spaces.

We'll visit the aluminium-clad Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology, the gently curving Vicki Sara Building, the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building (designed by Frank Gehry), and UTS Central - the recently completed glass-encased structure showcasing an elegant double-helix staircase. 

Join Beatrice Scheepers in discovering the marvels of this precinct.


4 FEB 2020

Coffee Conversation: Glebe - From Village to City Suburb

In 1790 Governor Phillip granted Richard Johnson, chaplain with the First Fleet 400 acres of land south / west of Blackwattle Bay to provide a farming income to support the church work. But Johnson was not provided with enough convicts to clear the land. The Glebe remained untouched until 1828 when the Church. financially crippled, decided to subdivide and sell. With easy access to Sydney the lots sold quickly.

Join Robert Hannan as he explains how a village far removed from the hustle and bustle of Sydney is now an inner city suburb. We will explore the church land, the grand villas with their pleasure grounds. The cycle of boom to bust and the impact this had on the character of Glebe. We will touch on the architectural styles the people, the battles to protect the suburb and its future.

This talk will be presented with many images and maps of the area that have rarely been seen.

images (2).jpg

14 DEC 2019

Tulkiyan Christmas Garden Party

We are delighted that the HHA Christmas Party will be held in the beautifully revived gardens at Tulkiyan where camellias flank the entrance gate, the entrance pathway beds are lined with roses and Mona lavender scents the air below the side verandah. 

Enjoy food, wine and music in this glorious setting before a guided preview of all the work we have done, both inside and out, at this wonderful Arts & Crafts style suburban villa designed in 1913 by architect B.J. Waterhouse (1876-1965).

Christmas Garden Party (1).png

3 DEC 2019

Talk: Dharawal, the First Contact People

In 1770 the first encounter between British and Aboriginal people on the east coast of Australia occurred at Botany Bay. For the British it heralded the beginning of endless possibility for Empire. For Aboriginal people it marked the beginning of the decimation of an ancient culture. The traditional country of these people, the Dharawal were the coastal lands from Botany Bay to the Shoalhaven district and some distance inland.

Local historian Bruce Watt offers an interpretation of the first contact between the Dharawal people and the white settlers including the area now known as Sutherland Shire.


23 NOV 2019

Walk: Randwick Ramble

Randwick: racecourse, hospital, university – yes - but also the product of the vision of one man determined to reinvent his English birthplace (Randwick in Gloucestershire, England) with himself now at the top of its social order. Simeon Henry Pearce (1821-1886), six time Mayor of Randwick, succeeded in enticing the more affluent members of society to his leafy suburb and, what was previously home to modest market garden plots, became the site of bustling boulevards and some of the grandest houses of the Victorian era.

Join Graham Spindler to explore Randwick’s unique story through its streets, churches, fine houses and public buildings.


2 NOV 2019

Cockatoo Island: Convict, Maritime, Industrial

Our tour begins with a ferry ride from Circular Quay to the UNESCO World Heritage listed Convict Precinct of Cockatoo Island. Accompanied by an experienced guide from the Sydney Harbour Trust we explore the island’s heritage buildings and distinctive terrain to gain insights into the complex and layered history of this former convict penal establishment. The island also has strong continued ties to the First Nations, having served as a meeting place for the Eora People prior to colonisation. Drawing on many fascinating stories and anecdotes, your guide will paint a vivid picture of the island’s maritime, and industrial past - from being a naval ship dockyard, industrial school for girls and reformatory to rehabilitation of the site and adaptive reuse of the historic buildings. After the tour we enjoy a light lunch at the Marina Café and Bar before returning on the ferry to Circular Quay.


19 OCT 2019

Leuralla & the Majestic Blue Mountains

Follow in the footsteps of royalty and join the upcoming HHA coach tour to Leuralla in the Blue Mountains. See one of the last remaining gems from the grand age of the Blue Mountains and wander through the stunning cool climate gardens, at their peak in the Spring.

Built just before the Great War, between 1910 and 1914, Leuralla is a fine example of an early 20th Century permanent residence for a wealthy family. Enjoy a leisurely stroll through the glorious mountain gardens originally laid out at the turn of the 19th- 20th century. 

We have also arranged a visit to an exceptional house, modified and upgraded by Rick Lepastrier, one of Australia’s leading architects. The house is rarely visited and this is a special opportunity given by the owner who is a distinguished conservationist.

leuralla 1

13 OCT 2019

Open House: Abbotsford House

Join the current owners of Abbotsford House for a tour of one of Sydney’s most magnificent two-storied Victorian Mansions. Built in 1877-78 for Arthur Renwick, a doctor, politician and philanthropist. The house was named in honour of Sir Walter Scott’s baronial mansion Abbotsford in Scotland. It later passed through various owners including Albert Edward Grace (one of the founders of Grace Brothers) and the Nestle company. Today the building retains many original features including spired cupolas, colonnaded verandahs and iron-lace balustrading within a park like setting down to the Parramatta River. Hear from the owners how they have restored this significant part of Sydney’s heritage while you view the details of the interior architecture and design.


28 SEPT 2019

Walk: Chowder Bay, Hidden History on the Harbour

Surroundings, Victorian heritage structures and a name that whets your appetite. The history of Chowder Bay could be described as one long Sydney picnic, but that would only be skimming the surface. Beneath the still blue waters lies a stranger story, a tale of changing tides. Of mysterious military operations, waterfront dancing pavilions and drunken larrikin riots.

On this tour join social historian and speaker Max Burns-McRuvie to explore the hidden past of ‘Chowder’ and bring to life its unique place in Sydney’s harbour-side history. From its Aboriginal walking tracks and American whaling stations, to its notorious Pleasure Grounds and secretive Sub-marine Mining Corps — this tour will uncover that there’s much more to this maritime reserve than the pretty view that remains today.


KEYNOTE: Living Heritage Festival 2019

The Living Heritage Festival was a day-long celebration of forgotten crafts of the past and the heritage skills of tomorrow. On show were diverse craft specialists and producers; pop-up history talks; hands-on craft workshops, and fascinating demonstrations. More details HERE.

DestinationNSW (2).png

5 June 2021
Walk: The Village of Gladesville  

Gladesville is one of the earliest European settlements along the Parramatta River, with land grants from 1795. Our walk will include the earliest buildings along Victoria Road which, as the Great North Road, from 1832 was the main route to the Hunter Valley settlements. We will also walk down Wharf Road to the site of the first post office and ferry wharf past some of the original gentleman's villas which were built in the 1860s on William Billyard's subdivision of John Glades original land grant.


8 May 2021

Tour & Dine: Harbourside Heritage — The Early Birds of East Balmain 

We invite you to wander through the rich history of Balmain East on a walking tour led by Max Burns-McRuvie. With a focus on the harbour-side heritage of this unique stretch of Sydney, this tour will examine its early architecture and recall its colourful characters. From maritime merchants and enterprising ferrymen; to colonial mansions and historic hotels — this is a chance to explore the many faces and charms of this fascinating neighbourhood.  

Round off your tour with a light lunch at the East Village Hotel - historic Balmain pub (est. 1875) and one time meeting place for Sydney’s legendary Tilly Devine and 'Queen of the Underworld' Kate Leigh.


4 May 2021

Talk: Heritage Futures – The Historic Houses Property Network

An event by Woollahra Municipal Council. Part of the Australian Heritage Festival in NSW exploring the theme ‘Our Heritage for the Future.’

Join Dr Bernadette Flynn, HHA General Manager, at Woollahra Library, to hear about the cultural heritage of the HHA Property Network and the growing network of owners who share a significant responsibility for passing on the legacy of historic houses and landscapes of significance.

FullSizeRender (1) (1).jpg

21 April 2021

Online Talk: Tulkiyan, Gordon - Historic House and Collection      

A major aspect of the HHA’s work at Tulkiyan has been the conservation of the interiors of the house and its collections. To give insight into this work and into the extent and richness of the collections, the HHA is presenting a webinar with three of the specialists involved in the project.

Recording of a panel discussion previously held over Zoom on 21 Oct 2020. ​

This special presentation for Ku-ring-gai Heritage Festival will be streamed live and FREE to all over our Social Media


27 March 2021

Watsons Bay - The First Eastern Suburb

For all its now upmarket edges, Watsons Bay retains a sense of its past as a small, isolated marine village of pilots, lighthouse keepers and fisherfolk. This is overlayed by an extensive history of soldiers, sailors, scientists, shipwrecks, suicides, submarine attack, coastal artillery, trams and fish and chips - all crammed into the narrow confines of one of Sydney’s most spectacular scenic settings. Join Graham Spindler to wander Watson’s beaches, cliffs, parkland and byways and explore some of the rich legacy of Sydney’s first ‘eastern suburb’.


6 Dec 2020

Storyteller: Paradise Lost, Paradise Found - Times Before Sydney Olympic Park  

Read Sydney Olympic Park and think Olympics? That’s only the beginning! There is so much more to be revealed in this much-transformed site and this tour is your chance to wander across areas by foot and eras by imagination.

Storyteller Jo Henwood will share tales of the Blaxlands and the Wentworths, and the colonising farmers before them who, from 1788, claimed the tidal wetlands of the Wangal. We will be looking at a site that was often a place for things people didn’t want to see - the industrial workplaces of brickpit and abattoir, storage for explosives in the Armory and the infirm in the Hospital - as well as the Olympics structures that were built to be seen on a grand scale.


29 Nov 2020

Tulkiyan Open

The HHA and the CWA present 'Tulkiyan Open', an event for members to come and see the conservation and restoration work that has been undertaken at this beautiful Arts & Crafts property. The HHA will be offering tours of the ground floor rooms of the house, with rare pieces from the collections on display; tea, scones and other refreshments will be provided by the Country Women’s Association; and there will be a garden stall, selling plants propagated from Tulkiyan’s historic garden – Cane Begonias, including Angel-wing Begonias, Hydrangeas, Justicia, Salvia, Plectranthus, varieties of shade-loving Iris and many more.


8 Nov 2020

Storyteller: The Square, the River, and the Forger’s Foundations  

Windsor is a sort of Eden for anyone who appreciates Australian history and heritage buildings.

Along of the banks of the Deerubbin that the English named Hawkesbury, ten British families arrived in 1794 to establish the village they called Green Hills - 'bread basket of the colony' - which was renamed Windsor as one of the Five Macquarie Towns. Here the farmers strove against floods and fire, here they rebelled against the Rum Corps, here they drank and danced, and here they were taught and married and buried. Their stories lie behind the buildings (including some of Greenway’s masterpieces), tombstones and place names, as Storyteller Jo Henwood will reveal as we wander, safely distanced, through this charming community


21 Oct 2020

Engage With The Experts: The Tulkiyan Collection

The HHA manages one of the few remaining intact Arts and Crafts Houses on the North Shore of Sydney. A major aspect of the HHA’s project at Tulkiyan is the conservation of the interiors of the house and its collections. To give insight into this work and into the extent and richness of the collections, we are holding a special interactive panel discussion with three of the specialists involved in the project.

Curator Robert Griffin will provide background on the house and its collections and introduce furniture conservator Ian Thomson and ceramics expert Alan Landis, who will speak about their work at Tulkiyan and discuss some of highlights of the collection.


Time is allocated for Q&A with the three experts on this fascinating collection and house history.

Available in the Event Library.


14 Mar 2020

Walk: Expressions of Deco - Potts Point & Elizabeth Bay 

Peter Sheridan, author of ‘Sydney Art Deco’, takes us on an Art Deco walking tour of Potts Point and Elizabeth Bay.

Throughout the walk Peter will shed light on a range of architectural gems from commercial buildings, pubs, and shops, including an extraordinary Spanish Mission house and a unique array of more than 100 Art Deco apartment blocks built between 1920 and 1950.

Across one square kilometre Peter will showcase some of the best expressions of Art Deco architecture reflecting an accumulation of decorative shapes and design.

Adereham Hall 71 Elizabeth Bay Rd PP.jpg

29 FEB 2020

Walk: The Curious Case of Greenway & Macquarie 

Two hundred years ago, the Governor of NSW joined forces with a talented convict to transform the penal settlement of Sydney into a handsome colonial town. In a few short years, Australia's first major architectural achievements would rise up from the ground and Sydney's skyline would change forever. But behind the grand structures lay a very human story. One of dreams, defiance, and an unlikely partnership between two proud men.

This CBD tour with Max Burns-McRuvie will retrace the steps of the characters who shaped the colony's constructions and ambitions, highlighting what remains, what is lost and what was never realised.


16 FEB 2020

Open House: Morton House, Woodford

The original owners, the Mortons, were inspired by their early connections to Castlecrag and Walter Burley Griffin himself, to build a house that does not intrude on the natural environment. They built around special trees and mass planted native trees and bushes to attract local bird-life. The house has been described as simply, 'putting four walls around a beautiful place.'

Join us on an exploration of this fascinating and very special example of 'organic architecture'.


21 JAN 2020

Get Involved Volunteer Workshop

Our current volunteers and all those interested in helping our work are invited to our Volunteers Workshop on 21 Jan 2020. Join us to hear about the exciting volunteer opportunities available with the HHA, workshop your interests, and receive an update on all our policies and procedures for the new year.

Free event held at Lindesay, a National Trust property in Darling Point, NSW.


7 DEC 2019

Walk: Literary Lindfield

Join Jennifer Farrer on a walking tour through the leafy streets of Lindfield to enjoy beautiful gardens, historic houses and natural bushland. The first part of the walk views distinctly Federation era houses for which this suburb is famous. One of the houses was the residence of Billy Hughes for much of his Federal parliamentary career. We visit Swain Gardens, a little paradise created over many years by Sydney bookseller Mick Swain. The tour takes in State heritage listed Woodlands, the home where Ethel Turner wrote the children's book Seven Little Australians. We will also see the home of the family who inspired the story.

thumbnail_large (1).jpg

1 DEC 2019

Open House: Pettit + Sevitt MkII, St Ives

On 15 May 1964, Robert Askin officially opened the new Pettit+Sevitt display centre in St Ives, along Mona Vale Road and Richmond Avenue. Brian Pettit described the project as 'An absolute spectacular success. In fact, so successful that the local government authority brought in laws that meant exhibition centres could no longer be built on main roads because of the incredible traffic jams we used to cause on Sunday afternoons on Mona Vale Road.'

Join us to walk through the iconic Split Level Mark II, one of the original four houses of the display centre that literally changed the rule book.


5 NOV 2019

Talk: English Arts & Crafts Movement

Dr James Broadbent will discuss what, arguably, is Britain’s most original contribution to European art.
Arising from the polemics of men like John Ruskin and William Morris, the movement takes its name from the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society founded in 1886 by a group of progressive artists, architects and craftsmen. It influenced greatly the decorative arts and architecture of Europe, America and the British colonies, profoundly influenced the Modern Movement and continues its influence into the twenty first century.


26 OCT 2019

Walk: Trains, Tunnels & Tombstones

For more than 164 years, Sydney’s Central Station precinct has been a prime arrivals and departures point for the living. In earlier times, however, it fulfilled a similar purpose for the deceased: Devonshire Street Cemetery was the arrivals point for coffins, and the departures point for the afterlife. The construction and various extensions of the current station complex was an enormous undertaking, requiring a large-scale refashioning of the landscape and the demolition of a great number of historic buildings. Join Beatrice Scheepers for an exploration of the many stories - some old, some new, and some surprising - associated with one of Sydney’s grandest public buildings.


16 OCT 2019

Talk: Mapping the Massacres

Professor Lyndall Ryan AM FAHA is best known as a historian of the Australian colonial frontier. As a new way of making Australia’s frontier history visible she has developed a digital map of massacre sites across the Australian frontier to 1960 underpinned by a rigorous methodology to investigate and verify the evidence. In her talk, Lyndall will draw on examples of frontier massacres in New South Wales to show how the criteria operates for their inclusion on the map.


1 OCT 2019

Coffee Conversation: All Thanks to the Diarists! 

What was life like in the colonies in the 1830s? Barbara Appleton has recently published a biography of Rev. Thomas Sharpe, a colonial chaplain whose life stretched from the time of assignment of convict servants to the relative prosperity after the Gold Rush. While studying Sharpe’s life and times, Barbara researched a range of colonial diaries to unveil the histories of men and women of the time and reveal their personal lives and experiences.

Join Barbara to hear about the diaries of the Rev. Thomas Sharpe and his contemporaries and gain insights into European perspectives on life in the early colony. Her recently published book, Tracking Mr Sharpe: Hawkesbury to Bathurst in a changing colony will be on sale at the talk.

Sharpe portrait.png