‘Crows Nest Cottage’,

Shirley Road (demolished)

Magistrate and merchant Edward Wollstonecraft built the Georgian-style bungalow ‘Crows Nest Cottage’ in the early 1820s.

It sat high up on a ridge overlooking his vast 524 acre land grant – the so-called Wollstonecraft/Berry Estate.

'Crows Nest Cottage' must have been among the first houses built on the North Shore. That it was located so far from the foreshore and the town may have reflected Wollstonecraft’s desire for solitude and his apparent dislike of fellow colonists. Edward’s business partner Alexander Berry found his temper ‘barely tolerable’. The partners apparently contemplated the sale of the property shortly before Wollstonecraft’s death from a protracted illness in December 1832. Then the Sydney Gazette (24 Nov 1832) described a property with ‘luxuriant’ orchards and gardens and ‘elegant buildings’ that showed ‘the taste and judgement of the wealthy proprietors’. Another reference to the estate referred to its exceptional peaches. (Sydney Gazette, 17 January 1829) Possibly, then, the presence of fertile soil away from the sandy foreshore had influenced Edward's choice of building site.

The cottage that existed in 1904, when it was photographed, was probably bigger than that originally built by Wollstonecraft. Berry referred to having ‘renovated’ it after his partner’s death. The photograph shows plaster fallen away to reveal brick outer walls. In the absence of local brickworks in the 1820s it is unlikely that these would have been used to build the original structure. However, the house still retained the distinctive simplicity and symmetry of a Georgian-style cottage. The broad verandah is of the type that had become characteristic of the bungalow form introduced from India by the merchant Robert Campbell, of Campbell’s Wharf, in the first decade of the 19th century. The term ‘bungalow’ is thought to derive from the name ‘Bengal’.

The property remained with the Berry family throughout the 19th century. It was given to the Presbyterian Church around 1903, who promptly demolished the oldest house in the area to build a church to service the growing population in the recently subdivided Berry Estate. The address, then, was the corner of Shirley Road and Nicholson Street, Wollstonecraft.