Peter Freeman's grand designs

Well known AND local heritage architect Peter Freeman‘s latest book The Wallpapered Manse was reviewed in the Sydney Morning Herald on 17. 5.14. Don’t miss Peter’s session at the Batemans Bay Writers Festival when he joins Patricia Sykes in presenting  Historic places ─ remarkable stories behind two historic Australian buildings.

Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 10.33.06 pmTHE WALLPAPERED MANSE
By Peter Freeman. The Watermark Press. $49.95

Almost 150 years ago, in 1865, the people of the little coastal town of Moruya were reading in their newspapers of the end of the American Civil War and the assassination of president Abraham Lincoln. But that was an auspicious year for the Presbyterians of the Moruya district because they finished building their church, erected a fine bell to call the faithful to worship, and began the building of a manse for the minister. On the wider scene, the year marked the union of various factions in the Presbyterian denomination.

Peter Freeman is an architect who has for 50 years been involved in architectural conservation, historical research, illustrating and sketching, with 12 books on the Australian architectural heritage, especially in woolsheds and homesteads, to his credit.

Peter Freeman, author of <i>The Wallpapered Manse</i> lives in Moruya.
Peter Freeman, author of The Wallpapered Manse lives in Moruya. Photo: Mark Roper
The Wallpapered Manse gives a beautiful display of his talents in these areas, and is a fascinating read.

The author has written far more than a history of one seemingly insignificant and neglected building in Moruya. In order to understand the manse it is necessary to explore the history of the township and the district and links to the traditional lifestyle and ”contact history” shared by Kooris and the Europeans along the Moruya River and the Moruya Lagoon.

This area has provided economic and spiritual sustenance to Koori people for thousands of years. Archaeological items such as stone artefacts, shell middens and scarred trees reflect this heritage.

Freeman records that there were often close relationships between newly arrived Europeans and the Koori clan, with the latter helping the settlers with gifts of fish and oysters. Sadly, these good relationships did not endure in later years.

The story of the arrival of Presbyterian clergy in the area, led by the famous, or notorious, John Dunmore Lang, is well covered. I found one small factual error. The Reverend William Hamilton of Goulburn did not arrive in Australia with Lang on the ship Portland. He came on the North Briton and later, like so many, clashed with Lang.

There was an old saying that the pioneering Scots stuck together like bricks and in Moruya they intermarried and worked together to build a Presbyterian church and manse.

By 1865, the newly completed manse was ready for the newly arrived minister, the Reverend Mr Fitzgerald. Freeman describes it as it then was, as a “smart and diminutive colonial Georgian cottage sitting high on a granite knoll to the south-west of the small settlement of Moruya.” The residents of the cottage and the church parishioners shared the toilet behind the church.

peterf+studioredPeter Freeman is an architect and his discussion of the plan, the building and the decoration of the manse is masterly. Traces of the old wallpaper that decorated the interior have been discovered and placed in their historical context, and the importance and significance of the wallpaper gives the title of this book.

As well as the fortunes of the Presbyterian parish, the author explores the history of the town and what the author calls the mighty Moruya River, which shaped the town over the last century and a half.

The Presbyterian cause declined over the years and eventually there was no clergyman left in the manse.

In 2009 a For Sale sign appeared and Peter Freeman and his wife Tanny inspected the neglected building and contacted the Historic Houses Trust in Sydney.

The project to restore the manse started. The author has documented in remarkable detail every phase of that restoration with many splendid photographs and careful research.

The Wallpapered Manse is an outstanding example of the skills of a leading conservation architect. Peter Freeman has recorded not only a chapter in church history, but also the story of a town and district on the south coast of NSW.

Sydney Morning Herald
17 May 2014



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