For generations of State governors, Hillview (at Sutton Forest) was a secluded country house where, free from public expectation or scrutiny, they could spend time with their families, relax, and, like Lord Wakehurst, potter about the property in a baggy cardigan and moth-eaten tennis shoes.”
With these words Sydney Morning Herald writer Geraldine O’Brien introduced a heritage article on the proposed restoration of Hillview in 2001.
Hillview stands on a knoll 5km south of Moss Vale, where the Old South Road (now the Illawarra Highway) approaches the village of Sutton Forest.
In 1819 Governor Macquarie commissioned Dr Charles Throsby to survey a road through the district and to grant land to settlers. This included Charles Wright and Benjamin Crew, who each received 60 acres in 1822 and a lesser acreage to John Larkham.
Their grants occupied the land that was later to become the Hillview estate.
From the earliest days of the colony, the governors had felt the need for a residence outside of Sydney to which they could move for a change of air and a relief from the oppressive summer heat.
One governor, the Earl of Belmore, had spent some time at Throsby Park in 1868 as a country retreat, he being quick to realise the advantage that the just opened railway to Moss Vale provided in terms of access to the area.
When Lord August Loftus arrived as governor in 1879, the question of an alternate vice-regal residence outside of Sydney became even more pressing. Since the governor at that time could not afford a private house, it was decided that the colony should buy a house at Sutton Forest for use as a vice-regal villa.
In 1881 the Henry Parkes Government bought a property at Sutton Forest called Prospect for £6000 from RP Richardson, who had built it as a country residence for his family and had retired there.
Richardson had tired of retirement and decided to return to Richardson & Wrench, the stock and station real estate firm he had established.
In 1850 Richardson had come to NSW from Liverpool in England, where his father had trained him in the wool merchant trade. He joined Mort & Co, the well known firm of auctioneers and wool brokers in Sydney, where he soon became a valued employee and was promoted in 1855 to land manager.
His work brought him to the Sutton Forest district, where he met and married Violet Alston, of Woodside, a prosperous Moss Vale property. They lived in Sydney.
At the end of 1857 Richardson resigned from Mort & Co and set up on his own, soon building quite a reputation for his integrity and the sound and efficient manner in which he handled his client’s affairs. In 1860 he took Edward Wrench as a partner.
The firm of Richardson and Wrench began to specialise in stock and station sales with the emphasis on country estates. In 1866 Richardson acquired Benjamin Crew’s 60 acres and later bought Wright’s and Larkham’s acres. He called the property Prospect and had a two-storey house with detached stables built from stone quarried on the estate.
So well did Richardson prosper that he retired from his firm in 1875 and took up residence at Prospect. By then the Sutton Forest district had become a tourist destination as the railway that opened in 1867 brought visitors attracted by the healthy climate of the Southern Highlands.
Moss Vale grew into a busy town located around the railway station that had first been called Sutton Forest North.
Richardson sold Prospect to the Government in 1881, returned to active business undertakings and built himself Glenview, another country residence.
Prospect, set in beautiful surroundings on 143 acres, was renamed Hillview and after the purchase the colonial architect, James Barnet, proposed plans for additions to the house to make it suitable for a vice-regal residence.
It was extensively remodelled, the staircases and woodwork being done by William Barnsley of Sutton Forest. When completed in 1883 the house had 46 rooms, including nine bathrooms, and more than three acres of landscaped gardens where many trees and shrubs were planted.
The alterations to the property and mansion cost the Government £10,000, which caused a furious debate in the Legislative Assembly.
The history of Hillview will be continued next Monday.
Sourced from the archives of Berrima District Historical & Family History Society, corner of Old Hume Highway & Bowral Road, Mittagong. Contribution of information and photographs welcome. Contact 4872 2169 or email email@example.com