‘Most exclusive’ highland estate to join prestige market

Bonnie Campbell

Historic NSW rural estate Hillview has joined the Southern Highland’s prestige market, with the long-term government leasehold on offer for the first time in 24 years with a guide of $7.5 million.

The 1870s-built residence in Sutton Forest was the vice-regal summer retreat for 16 consecutive NSW governors between 1882 and 1957, as a place to escape the Sydney summer – and the machinations of Macquarie Street.

Hillview, as its name suggests, has some of the best views in the Southern Highlands.  

The heritage-listed property sits on about 61 hectares and comes with eight additional cottages surrounded by extensive gardens designed by botanist and early director of the Royal Botanic Gardens Charles Moore.

Long-time Hillview resident Damien Miller was granted the leasehold after undertaking heritage restoration works on the property in the late 1990s. Mr Miller has been running Hillview as a boutique accommodation, wedding venue and sculpture gallery.

Mr Miller, who has a background in building and architecture, told AFR Weekend he was both “naive” and “optimistic” when he opted to restore the property 24 years ago.

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“The property hadn’t been lived in for 40 years and was on the brink of dereliction,” he said. “I looked at it as 15 little semis, as bite-sized projects.”

Hillview was once regarded as NSW’s most exclusive home, says current leaseholder Damien Miller. 

Originally built for Richard Pemberton Richardson, founder of real estate outfit Richardson and Wrench, the sprawling property was built in 10 stages over three decades.

Mr Miller recalled a visit by pre-eminent heritage architect Clive Lucas. “Clive said, ‘this is really a Victorian folly, or more exactly, a marvellous mess’.”

While government business was reserved for Macquarie Street, Hillview, as the private holiday escape for successive governors, was once viewed as the state’s most exclusive home and a benchmark for the region, Mr Miller said.

“This was the genesis for all the other country homes in the district because society followed the governor,” he said. The outgoing resident said Hillview came with more than 2400 square metres of internal space and was steeped in history.

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“There is a cast-iron safe because when the governors were down here for three months in summer, any draft legislation had to be sent down here and stamped. ”

Mr Miller said the time had come to pass on the privilege and responsibility of living at Hillview.

Selling agent Samuel Lindsay, of Drew Lindsay Real Estate, said purchasing the long-term leasehold was a more affordable option, given the property’s freehold value would be north of $15 million.

“Hillview lends itself to a multitude of uses, whether it’s a commercial venture or a legacy piece for a family or a philanthropist,” Mr Lindsay said. There is a legitimate feeling of history when you walk in that can only be understood by experiencing it.”

The Sutton Forest record was recently elevated to $23.5 million with the sale of nearby 40-hectare Rotherwood vineyard, which sold to restaurateur Ian Pagent and his wife, Maryanne, in an off-market deal.

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