Architect BJ Waterhouse

NSW Architect Bertrand J. Waterhouse
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Bertrand J. Waterhouse OBE, FRIBA, LFRAIA  by William Dargie AGNSW
Bertrand J. Waterhouse OBE, FRIBA, LFRAIA by William Dargie AGNSW

See also pages:

From Australian Dictionary of Biography

Bertrand Waterhouse, 1926  photo supplied by Michael Waterhouse
Bertrand Waterhouse, 1926 photo supplied by Michael Waterhouse

Known as ‘B.J.’, he studied architecture at Sydney Technical College while articled to John Spencer. On 6 July 1898 Waterhouse married 19-year-old Lilian Woodcock (d.1955) at Christ Church St Laurence.

Joining the professional relieving staff of the Department of Public Works in March 1900, he worked in the harbours and rivers branch and became a relieving architectural draftsman. In partnership with J. W. H. Lake from 1908, Waterhousebuilt up a

substantial practice, particularly in the Cremorne-Neutral Bay area.

Until the mid-1920s his domestic architecture drew on the Arts and Crafts Movement, with steeply gabled roofs, extensive use of sandstone in the basements, shingle tiles and roughcast exterior wall surfaces.

  • Thereafter his style showed a strong Mediterranean influence, a notable example being May Gibbs‘s house, Nutcote, with textured stucco walls and symmetrical, twelve-paned, shuttered windows.
Hollowforth sketches by BJ Waterhouse


  • An excellent pencil draughtsman, Waterhouse had exhibited drawings at annual exhibitions of the (Royal) Art Society of New South Wales from 1902. He travelled through Europe in 1926 with Lionel Lindsay and Will Ashton, and in 1932 exhibited his drawings at the Macquarie Galleries, Sydney. A trustee of the National Art Gallery of New South Wales from 1922, Waterhouse was president in 1939-58; he was also State president of the Society of Arts and Crafts.

From NSW Heritage Listing for Tulkiyan

  • His career in domestic architecture was to span some 50 years.
  • In his writing he advocated simplicity and straightforwardness in house planning. Tulkiyan house has a remarkable flow of simple spaces on the ground floor and an economy of planning.
  • Waterhouse had a gift for composing shapes, textures, solids and voids into seemingly casual, informal architecture; he was particularly aware of the needs to build in scale and sympathy with people. Thus his houses have a comfortable and warm character, without fuss or strain, free of unnecessary detail.
  • Waterhouse in his early architecture followed the precepts of the English Arts and Crafts movement and his work has a close affinity to that of Voysey, Bailey Scott and Macintosh.
  • Waterhouse could be described as the Sydney equivalent of English architect C.F.A. Voysey, whose Arts and Crafts houses in England were widely admired in the early twentieth century. A typical Waterhouse residence featured asymmetrical, picturesque massing, strongly expressed roofs, usually with dominant gables; porches, balconies and verandahs; and at least one facetted oriel or bay external wall finish, together with areas of timber shingling or tile-hanging. Inside, the main rooms displayed timber wainscoting on the walls and heavy timber beams below the ceilings.
  • He continued to design in this manner until the early 1920s. \In his later years Waterhouse designed residences in the Spanish Mission Style.
  • Waterhouse died, aged 90, in 1965.

From Wikipedia:

B J Waterhouse OBE

  • Articled to John Spencer, Architecture, Sydney Technical College
  • Born: Leeds, England, 8 February 1876
  • Arrived Australia March 1885
  • Died Neutral Bay 21 December 1965


  • NSW Government Architect’s Office. (1900–08)
  • Waterhouse and Lake (1908-??)
  • Worked in association with Leslie Wilkinson
  • Director, and later Chairman,National Capital Planning and Development Committee, New South Wales (1938–58)

Construction Styles

  • Federation Arts and Crafts
  • Inter-War Mediterranean
  • Inter-War Georgian Revival

Notable Works

  • Ailsa, 33 Shellcove Road,Neutral Bay (1908)
  • Tulkiyan, 707 Pacific Highway,Gordon (1913)
  • Brent Knowle, 31 Shellcove Road, Neutral Bay (1914)
  • Refectory Building, Science Road,University of Sydney (1924)
  • Rowardennan, 5 Warrawee Avenue, Warrawee
  • Nutcote, May Gibbs’s House, Neutral Bay (1925)

Ailsa, 33 Shellcove Road, Neutral Bay

Ailsa, 33 Shellcove Road,Neutral Bay

Shellcove Road (originally called Shelcote Avenue) became one of Neutral Bay’s most select residential addresses, with large architect-designed ‘gentlemen’s residences’ on the waterfront commanding expansive views of the harbour. Architect BJ Waterhouse (of Waterhouse and Lake) designed a number of houses here.

  • Ailisa was built for Captain Robert Craig in 1908, and was one of the first buildings Waterhouse designed after entering private practice.
  • Ailsa is an exceptionally fine example of the federation arts and crafts style of state heritage significance and which was described by architect Clive Lucas as “an extremely important house and one of the most avant grade houses of its day”.

Brent Knowle, 31 Shellcove Rd

On land next to Ailsa, Sydney financier Major Joseph Henry Evans Booker commissioned Waterhouse and Lake to design a house for him in 1914.

Brent Knowle, in Shellcove Road Neutral Bay

Brent Knowle is a large and impressive federation arts and crafts style house designed by noted architect, B. J. Waterhouse in 1914. It was built for Major J. H. Evans Booker and cost a princely sum of £10000 to build at that time.

  • The house was designed with servants areas, coach house and garage wing, on a sloping site with roofs pitched at 45˚. Herbert E. Pratten bought the house about 1917.
  • The house is named after a district near Bristol, England where the Pratten Family came from
  • Brent Knowle, in Shellcove Road, influenced home design in the area for at least the next fifteen years and has a state heritage listing.


The Gables, 16 Spruson Street Cremorne,

was another Waterhouse design and was built after 1920.

The Gables, in Spruson Street

The Gables is a particularly fine Federation Arts and crafts bungalow designed in 1921 by and for well-known architect B. J. Waterhouse and his family.

  • They lived here for 12 years and sold the house in 1933.
  • It was influenced by the “shingle style” which was brought to Sydney by Horbury Hunt, and featured prominent gables and extensive use of shingles.”
  • More Waterhouse designs appeared in Shellcove Road in the vicinity of The Cobbles and Brent Knowle.


Rowerdennan (1913), 5 Warrawee Avenue Warrawee


Silvermere and the Chauffeur’s Cottage

Silvermere and the Chauffeur’s Cottage were constructed in 1923 as a cool climate retreat for one of the three Young brothers who owned Fairymead Sugar Mill in Bundaburg Queensland. They were also responsible for the cultivation of ten percent of the Australian sugar crop in 1890.

Silvermere and the Chauffeur’s Cottage

The Young family and their descendents used Silvermere as a retirement and holiday home, for special events and as a refuge during the war years until the 1950’s when it was sold to the heiress of the inventor of the ‘Ford pill’. In 1962 Silvermere was purchased for the Blue Mountains Grammar School and used as classrooms and a boarding facility until 1981. In 1983, it was purchased by two grandsons of the Young family, one of whom was Canon Broughton Knox then recently retired as Dean of Moore College at the University of Sydney. During those years Silvermere was used as a retreat for church groups.


Blue Mountains Guesthouse
Following the passing of the two brothers, we purchased Silvermere in 1998 and spent two years restoring the house and grounds before opening as a guesthouse in April 2000. Further extensive landscaping inclusive of the northern terrace, the southern pond area and unobtrusive car parking facilities on the western boundary allow us to cater for small functions and weddings. These landscaping elements were completed in 2006.

The original 1923 house was designed by BJ Waterhouse, a well known architect who also designed May Gibb’s Nutcote at Mosman and several other buildings which are now listed as important heritage items.

The 1998 to 2000 restorations involved removing the old boarding school fabric, restoring the original verandahs and fireplaces and exposing the original Queensland kauri or hoop pine wood work and jarrah floors. The kitchen you see today is much the same as when it was renovated in 1950 using new plans developed by the still practising B. J. Waterhouse.


From Wikipedia:

Tulkiyan House is a Federation arts and crafts style house built in 1913 by Bertrand J Waterhouse

Tulkiyan, located on the Pacific Highway was designed by Bertrand James Waterhouse, an architect who was popular for his residential work (he was also responsible for the design of Nutcote, the home of painter May Gibbs).

He designed Tulkiyan in the Arts and Crafts style that he favoured in much of his work. Tulkiyan was built on part of a land grant that went back to 1823. The land changed hands many times until it was acquired by the Donaldson family, who commissioned Waterhouse to design the house.

It stayed in the hands of the Donaldson family until 1994, when it was bequeathed to Ku-ring-gai Council. Tulkiyan has a state heritage listing.

“Tulkiyan is an important, intact example of a fine Arts & Crafts suburban villa, designed by eminent Edwardian architect B.J. Waterhouse of the architectural firm of Waterhouse and Lake, for a prominent local family.

  • The design of the house, together with their contents, represent the taste and lifestyle of the upper middle class in Sydney prior to World War 1, and document the building’s ownership and occupation by the Donaldson Family for 80 years with a minimum of alteration from the original 1913 house.
  • The ownership has remained in the one family from the commissioning of the architect to its bequest to Ku-ring-gai Council by Miss Margaret Donaldson in 1985.
  • The largely intact interior is furnished with most of the original contents of the house. There is comprehensive documentary evidence relating to the house, family, contents and garden. The house and its garden setting also represent the suburban expansion of Gordon during the early twentieth century (Noel Bell Ridley Smith, 1998, 43).

From page on Gordon Heritage

Tulkiyan is of State significance as an important, intact example of a fine Arts & Crafts suburban villa
Tulkiyan is of State significance as an important, intact example of a fine Arts & Crafts suburban villa


Tulkiyan House Museum
Tulkiyan House Museum

Built in 1913, Tulkiyan is an important example of the work of Bertrand J Waterhouse, a prominent Sydney architect. In Federations arts and crafts style, it displays asymmetrical, dominant gables; shingled roof and wall finishes; and bay windows. The interior includes elaborate plaster ceilings, Art Nouveau style gas fireplaces and built-in cupboards – an innovation at the time.
The Donaldson family lived in the house continuously for over 80 years from 1913, during which the original style was maintained. The home and its contents provide an insight into upper middle class life in Sydney during the first half of the 20th century.

Tulkiyan was built for Mary and William Donaldson and their three children, Mary Isobella, William Jnr and Margaret.

Tulkiyan was built on part of the 40 acres of land that had been granted to Michael Ansell on 30 June 1823. In 1824, the 40 acres was sold to William Fowler, who then leased it to Messrs. Giles and Ritchie. It was further mortgaged to Samuel Lyons, an auctioneer, who, in 1843, finally disposed of the property to Robert McIntosh II who was already a landowner and occupier of other substantial properties in old Lane Cove.

  • The house is designed in the Federation Arts and Crafts style by B. J. Waterhouse. Tulkiyan is an important intact example of Waterhouse’s work. The house is asymmetrical with an all embracing roof line covering balconies and verandahs. All major rooms downstairs and bedrooms upstairs have access to verandahs and sleeping out was ‘an activity seen as being conducive to health’. Tulkiyan means ‘gable’ in Gaelic (Anthony, 2008, 1).


  • As in Waterhouse’s other domestic designs, the dominant, all embracing roof is a considerable technical achievement dominating the building. It broods over the general mass of the house unifying all its separate parts. Waterhouse wrote: ‘The cast shadow on rough cast or brick broken by the light on glass and shutter is most beautiful, and the unifying value of the shadow is very great Balconies and verandahs should either be absorbed within the structural bounding lines of the mass, or be large enough to avoid that meagre and disjointed appearance so detrimental to the design, and should provide sufficient space for living or sleeping and out accommodation now so customary.’


  • The principal wall material unlike many of Waterhouse’s contemporary designs is a dark mahogany/brown brick combined with beautiful red/brown plane tiles and gables which are heavily half-timbered and pargetted with rough cast. Interestingly, Waterhouse was to choose a similar brick when he built his own house ‘The Gables’ in Neutral Bay – between 1920-23. The tall chimneys have their own gabled roofs and are almost a trademark of a Waterhouse design from this period. The large semi-circular arch which defined the front verandah of Tulkiyan echoes a favourite architectural motif of the great American architect, Henry Hobson Richardson.

From page:

Nutcote House of May Gibbs, Neutral Bay NSW

The plot of land for Nutcote was found for May Gibbs by her mother, Mrs Cecilia Gibbs in 1922 on the foreshore of Sydney Harbour.


May’s instructions to BJ Waterhouse were to design and build a house which would have compactness,convenience andcharm.
It was purchased for 1,365 pounds with a 500 pound deposit.

The final design, completed in 1924, was one of the smallest residences ever designed by Waterhouse, who later suggested that May name the house Nutcote.
Construction was completed by the builder F E Gray, in 1925, when May was 48 years old and the total investment in the site and house by then was 5,000 pounds, with the property being mortgaged until 1953. The house was specifically designed to accommodate May’s studio and reflected her lifestyle, needs and priorities.

Nutcote from the gate
Nutcote from the gate



The Nutcote house itself is the most precious part of the Nutcote collection. May Gibbs lived and worked at Nutcote until her death in 1969 producing her famous comic strips Bib and Bub amongst other things while there.

Nutcote is nestled on the harbour at Neutral Bay and has great views of the Harbour Bridge too. Nutcote has been preserved for the nation as a historic house museum. This picturesque harbourside cottage has been designed to tell the story of the life and times of one of Australia’s premier children’s authors and illustrators.

May Gibbs lived at Nutcote for 44 years (1925-1969) and it was here that she created her famous characters in the studio overlooking her Australiana garden.

Sitting room at Nutcote
Sitting room at Nutcote

The Nutcote House Museum has been set up in late 1920/1930s style, in keeping with the Arts and Crafts design of the house. Furniture and items on display are from that era relating to photographs available of how May and J.O decorated the house.

On display in the studio is May’s Studio desk that she worked at for most of her artistic life! The collection focuses on her postcard series created for World War 1, first edition books as well as copies and originals of May’s artworks.

Ellerslie, 33 Illawarra Highway, Moss Vale

Sold in 2011 for $1,250,000, “ELLERSLIE” Circa 1922 – Designed By Architect B.J Waterhouse.

Ellerslie, 33 Illawarra Highway

Georgian style with delightful proportions featuring:

  • Three large reception rooms including a billiard room
  • Three bedrooms, office, family room, kitchen and breakfast room
  • quality of detail throughout with a high standard of joinery using jarrah flooring, kauri doors and windows.
  • “Ellerslie” is extremely private and sits on 8498m²
  • 5 car accommodation including carriage house.
  • Parkland grounds located at the rear
  • Central heating and numerous open fireplaces.


Ellerslie Sitting Room


From Nutcote to Elwatan


Notable architectural works

Buildings listed under the NSW Heritage Act

Other Waterhouse designed buildings listed by local government and state agencies

(Either designed by B J Waterhouse himself, or by Waterhouse & Lake Partnership, or as Government Architect)


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