I'm a freelance writer based in Perth, Western Australia, who enjoys writing about the things I love: travel, nature-based activities, the arts, spirituality and creative, fun activities for children.
Published November 22nd 2018
A charming portal to a bygone era
A visit to Miss Porter's House, Newcastle's only National Trust property, is a little bit like entering a portal to a bygone era. Despite its location on modern and busy King Street, once you step inside its neat picket fence, you feel as though you've been whisked through a time warp into a world where life remains permanently fixed in the mid-twentieth century.
When Herbert Porter built his modest two-story brick home on King Street in 1909, Newcastle West was primarily an industrial and commercial area, with very few private residences. Like his father before him, Porter was a local businessman, and his new King Street home was adjacent to the family business on nearby Hunter Street. It was here that Hebert brought his bride Florence Jolley, and where his two young daughters, Ella and Hazel, were raised by their mother after his death in 1919 from Spanish Influenza. The sisters continued to live in the house for the rest of their lives.
When Hazel, the last of the Porter sisters, passed away in 1997, she bequeathed her beloved home to the National Trust, which has maintained its upkeep ever since. Despite the rapid changes that took place throughout the twentieth century, the house underwent very little modernisation over the years. Considering it to be a rare example of typical home life during the early to mid-1900s, the National Trust has aimed to preserve the house as a 'living museum', presenting it and its contents as closely as possible to the way that they would have been when the Porter family were residing there.
A visit to Miss Porter's House is a must for local history enthusiasts, visitors to Newcastle and vintage lovers. Each room contains features typical of the era as well as charming family treasures and bric-a-brac. These include original furniture purchased by Herbert when he and Florence moved into their new home; Art Deco ornaments; unique decorated pine ceilings; original photographs; early twentieth-century glassware, china and silver – and much more.
Miss Porter's House is open to the public from 1pm until 4pm, on the second Sunday of each month (February to December). However, January is an exception to this rule, as the open day is always held on Australia Day. These open days are always extremely well-organised and generally adhere to a particular theme – for example, The Magic of Mother's Day; Threads and Fibres (focusing on textile arts such as crochet and embroidery); Christmas with the Porters and Making Do – Mending and Recycling in the Twentieth Century. From time to time other events are also held, so it's well works checking their website and Facebook page regularly.
Although Miss Porter's House is quite modest in size in comparison to many of the grand historic homes in Sydney, it's full of genuine period charm and visitors can easily perceive how much the Porter family loved it. This sense of warmth is tangible and something that the dedicated volunteers from the National Trust strive to convey to guests – that the house isn't simply a lifeless museum, but a home where a close-knit family once lived, loved and grieved.