A Church Street house, which was once owned by a well-known art collector William Bowmore, is now owned by a family of four who moved to Newcastle from Sydney more than four years ago.
Their three-storey, five-bedroom, three-bathroom house looks over Newcastle with several stunning views of the harbour. Sweeping views of the city can be appreciated on the second and third floors, from windows, a balcony and a rooftop terrace.
One of the owners says his favourite thing about the view is the variety of chimneys that dot the houses below, including Newcastle’s treasured historic houses, The Boltons.
The view inside the house is just as interesting. Thick brick and sandstone walls surround many of the rooms. The owners say the stone in the hall is sandstone, which was once used as ballast on empty coal ships on their way to Newcastle from America.
The heavy walls are evidence that this is a house with specific, defined rooms.
It is not, in any capacity, an open floor plan.
From the two teenagers’ unique upstairs bedrooms to the tiny hidden bathroom behind the first floor staircase, each of the home’s many rooms has its own style and personality.
“We like that it’s an old house and that it’s not an open plan, it’s actually sort of zoned,” one of the owners says.
“We like having individual rooms.”
A casual tour through many of the different spaces reveals a spa bath, outdoor pool, pool table, foosball table, two-car garage, wine cellar and an attic-like study with low ceilings and a large window with yet another view of the city and the harbour.
A Jack Russell named Murphy cheerfully and energetically greets everyone, while the friendly grey cat, Stevie, often suns himself on the balcony furniture.
The owners renovated the kitchen when they first moved in as it was a tiny space with a laundry room attached. It’s now much more airy and bright white, and the bench tops are an exquisite white marble. The kitchen’s timber floor is laid in herringbone parquetry. The industrial Electra coffee maker is a prominent feature, a “temperamental beast of a machine”, which is put to work every morning.
Fascinating details have been left behind from the art collector, much of which are a mystery to the current owners.
For example, an outdoor awning overhanging an internal window in what is now the downstairs laundry/ping pong room and Stevie’s food spot leaves more questions than answers. However, the current owners do know that this room with the awning was also Bowmore’s dog’s designated room, and the dog had his own four-poster bed.
Traces of Bowmore’s life abound. Another example are the two sculpted Dutch plaques above the rooms’ entrances. These sculpted friezes display humans working in various industries including agriculture, astronomy and science. One of these plaques is above the sitting room which, at one stage, Bowmore hosted intimate piano recitals. The room, adjacent to the dining room, also overlooks the harbour with access to the balcony. It’s fitting that Bowmore played music here, as the room also has a beautiful stained glass window that features a harp. Appropriately, this room is the current owners’ music room, which holds an assortment of instruments and also surfboards and a telescope, serving a variety of needs.
Also, if you can take your eyes off the room’s chandelier, you’ll find ornate cornicing as well as paintings that hold special value for the owners.
“I don’t have a goal with art, I say buy what you love. I don’t buy it to match my furniture,” says one of the owners.
One of the most treasured paintings in the house is in the sitting room. It’s a portrait of the owner’s grandmother by artist Sam Fullbrook. Next to this is the first painting the owners ever bought as a couple while living in Melbourne in 1996. They described it as a slightly irrational decision made after quite a few glasses of red wine at an artist’s home. It’s an abstract reclining nude on a bed, and despite the inebriated choice, the owners have treasured it over the years.
Artwork hangs in almost every room. In the dining room the owners have painting of a cheerful pink caravan by Sydney artist Amanda Penrose Hart, and adjacent is a shocking piece of art by the Lester Cliff. When you look closely at the painting, you notice the roof of a sweet stylised childlike home is made of shark-like teeth.
A few of the many other artists featured in their home include Leo Robber, Luke Sciberras and local artists Andrew Finnie and David Hampton.
Like Bowmore, and the owners before him, this family of four will live in the mysterious and artistic home for years to come. Their story adds another layer to this historic house on the hill.