Heritage Spotting on the ABC

Tessa Boer-Mah, Sarah Mané 3 Jan 2020


What does Newcastle’s built heritage have to do with bad hairdos, bad swearing and bad jokes? They all feature in the ABC’s comedy series “Frayed”. Set in the late 1980s, the show follows the story of Simone, a wealthy London woman forced to return to her hometown of Newcastle, where she must face her past. The scene is set with suitably daggy clothing, hairstyles, music, and a cringeworthy relationship with her bogan brother. The typical Aussie flavor is added with shots of our beautiful beaches, tons of sunshine and snort-laugh humour. A bonus for Novocastrians are the familiar historic and iconic landmarks, such as Nobby’s Lighthouse, Newcastle Cathedral, the Obelisk, the Newcastle Ocean Baths and the Grand Hotel, flashing on our screens. If you’ve ever wanted to know more about some of these interesting buildings, read on. Then you can impress your friends with your local knowledge!

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The Grand Hotel, on the corner of Church and Bolton Streets, was designed by architect James Henderson and built in 1891. Together with the 18 adjoining terrace houses running eastward along Church St and down Watt St, and the 32 roomed boarding house on the corner of Church and Watt St, this building group comprised the largest commercial venture seen by the city at the time, and is a fine example of late Victorian Italianate architecture. The developer was Mr Henry Buchanan, a popular alderman. The Grand Hotel has both local and state significance, as it is the only intact example of a late Victorian hotel still operating in Newcastle, and is a significant townscape corner item and forming part of terrace group.

Did you know… tenants also had access, via a lane to the rear of the buildings, to a large livery stable with 16 stalls and several coach houses in which to keep their private means of transport? Can you imagine these finely dressed ladies and gents, riding by horse and coach to an evening at the Victoria Theatre?

Newcastle Ocean Baths, on Shortland Esplanade, is an iconic Newcastle landmark. Designed in 1911 by city engineer B. Blackwell and then remodeled in 1922 by the architect F.G. Castleden, the bathing pavilion is of Federation character but with Art Deco features, such as the central tower. Art Deco style came to be associated with public leisure and entertainment. In a city uniquely nestled between harbour and sea, the building and the baths are significant for their demonstration of the values placed on recreational bathing by the people of Newcastle.

Did you know… the ocean baths were carved out of the natural flat shelf of rock? Can you imagine Newcastle without it?

Nobby’s Lighthouse is another well known and loved Newcastle icon. The lighthouse itself was designed by colonial architect Alexander Dawson and built in 1858. It features a tapered circular tower of dressed sandstone supporting a twelve sided glass and metal lantern. The breakwater, which joined Nobby’s island to the mainland has its own history and forms an important part of the Newcastle cultural landscape. The Nobby’s Lighthouse cottages are also a prominent part of the iconic landmark, and are listed on the NSW State Heritage Register for their historic significance.

Did you know… in the mid 1800s, a Colonel Barney tunneled and packed the island with explosives, intending to blow it up?! He wanted to eliminate the wind turbulence it caused which troubled the sailing ships as they entered the harbour, but concerned residents put a stop to it. Lucky, because Newcastle wouldn’t be the same without it. These buildings are just a small part of what makes Newcastle special. If you fancy a trip down memory lane and few laugh out loud moments, check out “Frayed” and see what Newcastle streets or buildings you can spot. Still available on iview: https://iview.abc.net.au/show/frayed



Written by

Tessa Boer-Mah, Sarah Mané