“Lochiel House” is currently best known as a restaurant, with long time residents also remembering its time as an art gallery. It was originally known as “Ivy Lodge” and was built by Joseph Douglass in c1825. Joseph was the first settler on what is now known as Kurrajong Heights. Joseph was borne in 1782 in County Down, Ireland. He married Mary Orr Burgess in c1803. They moved to Scotland in c1807. However in 1814 he was convicted of theft, and sentenced to transportation, arriving in Sydney Cove in September 1815. He was assigned to Sir John Jamison, on his estate near Penrith called “Regentville”. He was granted his “ticket-of-leave” in January 1820, but remained at “Regentville”. Meanwhile, his family eventually arrived in the Colony, in June 1823, joining Joseph at “Regentville”. Joseph sought a land grant which was eventually granted, with 50 acres at the “Kurrajong Brush”, now known as Kurrajong Heights. Following Alexander Bell Junior’s “discovery” of a shorter route across the mountains via Kurrajong in September 1823, Joseph presumably saw the potential of this area. Extensive details on Joseph Douglass can be found in “Joseph Douglass 1782-1865: First Settler at Kurrajong Heights NSW”, by Tricia Downes – members.pcug.org.au/ ~pdownes/douglass. Joseph named his property “Ivy Lodge”. Also, his son Orr received a grant of 80 acres across the road, on a property he named “Orville”.
“Ivy Lodge” started as a farmhouse for Joseph and his family. In the 1830’s it offered accommodation to passing travellers but was not licensed as an inn. In 1832 Joseph had written a petition to Governor Bourke, seeking a publican’s licence, where Joseph stated that “Ivy Lodge” had two sitting rooms and two bed rooms. While a licence was approved, there is no record of Joseph actually obtaining a licence. By 1834 their boarding house business was established, with “Ivy Lodge” listed in the Post Office directory of that year. Over the years, many guests sampled the delights of the Heights, staying in “Ivy Lodge”. In October 1861 the Governor of the colony, Sir John Young and Lady Young and their party of four others were guests.
Mary Douglass died on 21 December 1857. Joseph died on 21 September 1865. Their son John became the head of the family. In 1867 John built the building next door, now known as “The Hitchin’ Post Restaurant”. At that time it was known as “Douglass Cottage”. When the Post Office business was transferred from “Lochiel House” to “Douglass Cottage” in 1918, the latter became known as the Kurrajong Heights Post Office and General Store. However this expansion of the premises was possibly intended to make the property more valuable to sell. In an advertisement in the Sydney Mail of 16 November 1867, the property was described in the following terms:
“DOUGLASS HOUSE KURRAJONG
TO LET or SELL that old-established BOARDING HOUSE, on Douglass Hill, North Kurrajong, containing 10 rooms; also, the new House now being completed containing 10 rooms, spacious verandah round three sides, commanding magnificent views, with two kitchens, servants rooms, outhouses, well of water on the premises, and a spring of water within four hundred yards; also a small orange orchard, a kitchen garden, and about 25 acres of land adjoining, fenced off as paddocks.”
John Douglass sold “Ivy Lodge” to George Bowman in December 1868. George was one of the principal donators for the construction in 1867 of St Davids Presbyterian Church. George was also interested in developing community facilities near the new church, with “Ivy Lodge” being mentioned as a suitable site for a ladies’ boarding school. While the latter did not come to pass, a Post Office was established at “Ivy Lodge” in 1875.
In May 1875 George transferred ownership of “Ivy Lodge” to the families of his daughters, Eliza Sophia and Mary Ann, who had married brothers, James and Andrew Cameron respectively. James was a Presbyterian clergyman, well known in the Hawkesbury, while Dr Andrew Cameron was a medical practitioner. After the property transfer, James and Eliza Sophia initially lived in “Ivy Lodge”, with Andrew and Mary Ann living in “Douglass Cottage”. However Andrew and Mary Ann both died in 1876. The Rev James Cameron subsequently built a house in West Market Street, Richmond, next to St Andrews Presbyterian Church.
The guesthouse business was not continued in this period, with the Post Office being the main use of “Ivy Lodge”. It became known as “Lochiel House” after the homeland of the Cameron Clan and its chief, Cameron of Lochiel. The property was subsequently sold to Thomas Walker in February 1907. Thomas Walker had become the Post-master in 1884. Thomas also farmed the property. The duties of Post-master were passed onto Thomas’s son William Thomas Walker. In 1918 the Post Office was moved from “Lochiel House” to “Douglass Cottage”, William’s residence. However Thomas died in May 1922 and William died in January 1923, leaving his widow Maria May Walker to continue the general store and Post Office business in “Douglass Cottage”.
After many years of ownership, Maria May Walker sold the property to Percy Freeman in September 1949. Freeman owned the “Allambie Guest House” opposite. In his ownership, “Lochiel House” was used for the accommodation of staff from “Allambie Guest House”. Freeman sold “Lochiel House” to Alice Walters in February 1959. This sale did not include the Kurrajong Heights Post Office and General Store. In March 1979 the property was leased to Neville and Marion Sharp, who operated “Lochiel House” as a well known art gallery. This business continued to about 1993.
In June 1993 the property was sold to Anthony Ryan, who promptly obtained development consent for the use of the property as “refreshment rooms”. The consent covered the original building plus a staff room attached to an earlier fireplace at the rear. The plans show 32 seats in two of the rooms, with two other rooms used as an office and entry area, with no use of the courtyard. The corridor between the kitchen and the staff room was not shown, nor was the shed at the rear of the site. Photographs of the site when used as an art gallery show open spaces where the staff room, corridor and rear shed now are located. A building had previously been where the staff room is, probably a kitchen.
Steve and Corinne Tropiano purchased “Lochiel House” in February 1996, and immediately opened as “Lochiel Café”. This was essentially a steakhouse, with Italian influences.
After the property was sold in July 2003 to John Fomiatti, it was operated as an award-winning two hat restaurant (“Good Food Guide”) leased to Monique Maul and Tony Milroy. In both the 2011 and 2012 “Good Food Guides”, it was judged the Best Regional Restaurant.
Maul and Milroy left in 2012, with new tenants starting in May 2012. These tenants were not able to achieve the same standard, with the “Good Food Guide” of 2016 ranking them well off the mark for a “hat”. The ambience of the restaurant remained excellent. The property was sold to Christopher Hallam & Associates Pty Ltd in September 2014. New tenants arrived in June 2016, but to date have not reached the standard of Maul and Milroy, with no “Good Food Guide “hat” yet, with the emphasis in restaurant operation being to increase the patronage through a broadening of the business, incorporating live music in the courtyard on Sundays. With up to 30 patrons seated in the courtyard, plus up to 40 inside patrons, service can be stretched. With the current tenants having offered to surrender their lease in early 2017, the long term situation beyond the current lease term is uncertain.
In July 2017 the ownership of “Lochiel House” was transferred to Wright & Mahboub Pty Ltd, with the same tenants remaining.
Next door to “Lochiel House”, the old Post Office and General Store has been reborn as “The Hitchin’ Post Restaurant”. A new building blended into the rear of the site has become a small IGA supermarket. These works have made this group of buildings again the centre of village life at The Heights. Perhaps over time “The Hitchin’ Post” will receive the high praise that “Lochiel House” received under Maul and Milroy, or even a change at “Lochiel House” will achieve that earlier standard, instead of the pre-occupation of the current “Lochiel” tenants in maximising patron numbers. One could reflect on the foresight of Joseph Douglass when he selected his land grant at this location, with the current two restaurants and shop again forming the village centre.
“Lochiel House” and the adjoining “Douglass Cottage” (now “The Hitchin’ Post Restaurant”) are the core elements of the village centre of Kurrajong Heights. This centre has remained relatively undeveloped, with the small IGA supermarket behind “The Hitchin” Post” blending in and serving a useful convenience role to local residents and passing travellers. St Davids Uniting Church (formerly Presbyterian) was built in 1867 and is the third core element of the village centre. Extensive research was undertaken by Graham Edds for a Masters thesis. The recommendations of his report were generally adopted by Hawkesbury City Council in its Kurrajong Heights Village Development Control Plan. Development standards include fence types, building styles, appropriate signage and the conservation of the historic character of Kurrajong Heights. On-going vigilance is required to ensure that this historic character is maintained.