Wahroonga mansion: Magnificent Rothiemay home restored to its former glory

Wahroonga mansion: Magnificent Rothiemay home restored to its former glory
Real Estate

The derelict Wahroonga mansion called Rothiemay before its transformation.

Wahroonga trophy home Rothiemay sits restored and resplendent, as an example of how large Sydney ­estates are being adapted for modern day circumstances.

The 1939 manor once ­belonged to the Field family. It was just one of their many ­imposing abodes on the leafy upper north shore that displayed the wealth of the pastoralist clan.

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The home mixed Georgian Revival style with Hollywood Mediterranean elements to a design by F. Glynn Gilling, the society architect of the times.

When it was offered for sale five years ago the home was intact but in decline. About the only thing ­unscathed was its name, which can be dated back to earlier Scottish owners. Meanwhile, locals called it the white Dame of Wahroonga.


The derelict Wahroonga mansion called Rothiemay before its transformation.


During its transformation.

Rothiemay With JC

What the property looks like today. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

Increasingly derelict with tired interiors, peeling paint and collapsing ceilings, Roth­iemay was marketed to its ­potential fifth owner as presenting an incredible restoration opportunity.

Two goats kept the grass on the 8695 sqm estate — one of the largest remaining on the North Shore — below knee level. The grounds featured tiered lawns and a gardener’s cottage. A long-abandoned tennis court was somewhere in the mess.

Agents initially had a guide of $8 million, hoping to snag a nursing home operator, then reduced the guidance of the Fox Valley Rd offering to about $6 million. It finally sold for $4.7 million in spring 2014 by the vendor, mortgagees for a derivatives dealer who’d bought it in 1987 for $2.2 million.

The home had great bones. It didn’t have a kitchen, as we now desire, but rather an ­industrial kitchen and a butler’s room downstairs, set up for the four servants that Field employed.

The current owner has watched its transformation from ugly duckling with The Sunday Telegraph documenting its progress.

House Restoration

Graffiti marked the walls of the mansion.


The grounds were overgrown and unkept.

The owners engaged McCullum Ashby Architects and NBRS Architecture in 2016 to restore the home but in order to offset the significant cost of the project, an ­application was made under the heritage incentives provision of the Ku-ring-gai LEP (local environment plan).

Permission was secured for townhouses in a community title development at the rear of the property along with a communal lot with rejuven­ated Blue Gum High Forest.

Some 4800 sqm of the site was subdivided to make Rothiemay Gardens, with the six townhouses all recently sold at around $2.3 million each.

The two-level townhouses have four bedrooms, a private courtyard and a garage.


It was a huge amount of work for the construction and gardening crews.

Rothiemay With JC

The exterior got a fresh new look while still keeping its historic roots. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

House Restoration

The mansion suffered serious decay.

Rothiemay Final Pic

The renovated staircase. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

After entering the home, from its Corinthian-columned porch, visitors see a gracious staircase with wrought iron detailing, amid curved walls in the foyer. The seven bedroom, six-bathroom home includes a master retreat with sitting room, ensuite and walk in wardrobe.

There are floor-to-ceiling windows in the grand living areas and a smoking room off the main living area; both have ornate fireplaces.

Doors lead from the ground floor rooms to a semicircular portico overlooking the rear garden, with its ­English cottage garden plantings. Upstairs is the restored bathroom with its fish themed mirror intact. The kitchen was installed by De Gabrielle Kitchen.


Bit by bit the landscaping began to take shape.

Home Re-Build With JC

The grounds now look immaculate. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

The restoration, with its decor by Jacinta Preston Design, was praised in the ­Ku-ring-gai Architecture and Urban design competition last year.

“The home was on the brink of no return but the team including heritage consultants, a landscape architect, ecologist, arborist, town planner and structural engineer brought the home back,” Christian McCullum said.

Rothiemay Final Pic

The lounge room and dining area. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

Rothiemay Final Pic

One of the restored bathrooms. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

Townhouses were not permitted so the process involved an application under the Heritage Incentive provisions of the Ku-ring-gai LEP.

“It was a great outcome as the original home was going to be lost altogether,” Mr McCullum said.

“It is ­restored back to its flamboyant self.

“Developers are reluctant to purchase heritage listed properties due to the inability to develop the sites, however this project demonstrates that good outcomes are possible for a developer and the ­broader community.”

Rothiemay Final Pic

A Murano glass chandelier. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

Rothiemay Final Pic

Sitting room in the master bedroom. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

Rothiemay Final Pic

Beth with her dog Zoro sits outside her Rothiemay property. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

A recent visit to the home by The Sunday Telegraph saw the owners busy in the garden as spring flowers bloomed: oyster plants, society garlic, mother’s love roses, goddess lilies, magenta glory and cascading purple bougainvillea.

It was landscape architect Selena Hannan who initially sought to recreate the front garden apparent in early photographs of Rothiemay.

“Rothiemay will always be a house in transition,” said its chatelaine Beth, as she enjoyed the garden with her dogs, Zoro and Magnus.

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