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Warrawee is a suburb of Ku-ring-gai. Its name is derived from the Aboriginal language and means 'stop here'. It is 21 kilometres from Sydney, between the suburbs of Turramurra and Wahroonga, and rises 180 metres above sea level. It has an area of 133 hectares. Its boundaries, at least for some residents, blur with the adjoining suburbs of Wahroonga and Turramurra, with which it shares the postcode of 2074.
Timber and orchards
The pocket-handkerchief suburb of Warrawee is part of 2,000 acres (809.3 hectares) granted by Governor Sir George Gipps to John Terry Hughes, a prominent merchant and brewer, on 18 August 1842, for the quit rent of one peppercorn. As early as 1815 European settlers were timber-getting, an industry monopolised by the timber contractor Thomas Hyndes, whose land holdings to the east and west of Lane Cove Road contained vast stands of cedar, mahogany, turpentine, ironbark and blue gum. Hyndes leased 2,000 acres, which was re-leased 20 years later to John Terry Hughes, who obtained the formal deed grant in 1842. Another 640 acres (259 hectares) were leased to John Brown, a pioneer timber-getter, who developed his 'square mile of land' into orchards in the 1860s after it was cleared of timber.
In 1876 the Big Island Estate was purchased by a syndicate of parliamentarians: John Fitzgerald Burns, a businessman and professional politician (postmaster-general 1876–77, colonial treasurer 1887–89), George Withers and Robert Burdett Smith, a solicitor and politician. They planned to develop a portion of what was later known as the Vanceville Estate. Forty-one blocks of between four and seven acres (1.6 to 2.8 hectares) were sold to orchardists and market gardeners. Numerous weatherboard cottages were built and some examples, modernised but recognisable, still stand in Young and Raymond streets.
The railway brings residents
Plans for a railway were proposed from 1882 and it was not long before the landholders of Warrawee began making plans to transform it into a residential suburb. Eccleston du Faur, a statesman and philanthropist, built the first substantial house in the district, Pibrac (1888).
The new landowners were wealthy professionals, businessmen and politicians, though not all prospered. Part of the estate was acquired by the Bank of New South Wales as mortgagee during the depression in the 1890s. Among the notable early residents was the orchardist 'Fred' Chilton, an English immigrant from Reading who purchased seven acres (2.8 hectares) in 1878. Until 1938, the Chilton orchards were prominent and productive landholdings in Warrawee.
Warrawee developed differently from earlier communities built along the railway line. Warrawee had no shops, no post office, no public school, no churches and no railway station until 1899. Perhaps the origin of the name Warrawee was determined by the push for trains to 'stop here'. The distance between the requested site for Warrawee station and the next station at Wahroonga was the shortest between any two stations on the line, which made railway authorities hesitate. However, persistence prevailed and Warrawee station was opened on 1 August 1900.
The exclusive residential character of Warrawee became more significant after the opening of the railway due to the tenacity of residents, particularly Joseph Beresford Grant, who gazumped commercial developers by buying up every site under threat of commercial use and building a house on it.
The area achieved its present pattern of development between the late 1920s and early 1930s, ranging from a few weatherboard cottages originally owned by orchardists to substantial and more expensive buildings built to the design of well-known architects. There are signs that the rustic character of Warrawee is disappearing, with construction of high-rise development on the Pacific Highway signalling modern suburbanisation.
Warrawee is a repository of domestic architecture at its best, with many significant heritage-listed buildings. Houses known by their names rather than addresses, such as Pibrac, Upton Grey, Cheddington, Maiala, Audley, Bangalla and Rowerdennan, were designed by notable Australian architects.
The early houses were often large and imposing, sited within generous grounds incorporating large trees and formal garden layouts. Most houses were two storeys and, between the 1920s and 1940s, brick and stone were the most common building materials. Roofs were tiled, although some of the earlier examples used slate. No single style typified the character of the area, ranging from stately and grander styles on one end of the scale to the distinctive, individualistic styles of more modest architects on the other. These styles included: shingle style, Georgian, Federation, stockbroker Tudor, Romanesque, Mediterranean, Queen Anne, post-modern, Hollywood dream style, arts and crafts, California bungalow, stripped classical and variations or combinations of these.
Warrawee's unplanned suburban development evolved into a charming landscape, where fine gardens blend with exotic and regenerated native trees and plants, and complement the natural undulating topography. The introduced species of plants and trees are more formal in their layout, planted to make up large garden areas and to border extensive lawns. Planted just before the major settlement period of the 1920s and 1930s, the introduced species included maples, jacarandas, liquidambars, camphor laurels and conifers. Almost every garden contains a fine specimen tree. Landmark trees include the hoop pine in Pibrac Avenue, a bunya pine in Heydon Street, and the brush box and camphor laurel plantings in Heydon Street. Stands of remnant eucalypts survive in Oswald Close and Warrawee/Chilton avenues.
Street trees such as jacarandas in Bangalla Street, pines in Young Street, oaks in Hastings Road and eucalypts in Pibrac Avenue were planted early in the subdivision's history and now form canopies which converge overhead and shade the streets. Unfortunately some tree canopies are distorted because they compete with power lines. The tight canopy of liquidambars in Winton Street shades the unkerbed and unguttered streets and double grass verges on each side. Brush box and camphor laurels in Heydon Avenue are not street trees but are boundary screen plantings within the front fences of residential properties. Eucalypts, pittosporums and wattles growing along the railway embankment soften the harsh lines of the cutting. Original shrubs were mainly roses, camellias and privet. Other garden features include courtyards, summerhouses, sunken gardens and formal herbaceous borders and rose beds.
Zeny Edwards, The Architectural Gems of Warrawee, Centatime, Rosebery NSW, 2000