Statement of Significance
What is significant?
Bear's Castle was constructed in Yan Yean circa 1846 probably by two men, Hannaford and Edwards, who had recently arrived separately from Devon, England. It was built for John Bear an early pastoralist who had migrated from England with his family in 1841. Bear's Lookout (or Bear's Folly as it is also known), is a small, two storey structure roughly square in plan and occupying an area of less than 12 square metres. It is built of mud/clay - a common primitive building material apparently used extensively in the Whittlesea area and utilises a technique known as cob, popular in the builders' home town of Devon. Cob is a walling construction method using clay, straw, gravel and sand. The building was constructed to resemble a castle the result, it would seem, of a cursory remark by John Bear with a pyramid shaped roof and turrets at each corner - one with a stair and another in brick and stone with a chimney. Despite its name, it would appear that the building was never used as a retreat from danger although it might well have been used as a lookout for the monitoring of livestock or forest fires.
How is it significant?
The building is of, architectural, historical and archaeological importance to the State of Victoria.
Why is it significant?
Bear's Castle is architecturally significant as a rare and outstanding example of a cob constructed building, further enhanced by its form and size, and is believed to be the only cob building remaining in Victoria. The building form is believed to be unique in Victoria not only because it is, arguably, Victoria's only example of a castle-keep, but also because of its aesthetic pointed arched openings built around forked tree branches.
Bear's Castle is historically significant because of its early, pre- gold rush construction date and its association with notable pioneering pastoralists, the Bear family. The Bears were responsible for establishing one of Victoria's earliest wineries (at Yan Yean) and are associated with Chateau Tahbilk, reputedly Victoria's oldest extant winery. As manager of John Bear's estate, John Duffy and his family occupied the building briefly from 1865 and this would appear to be the most significant use to which the building has been put. It is an excellent example of the importation of a building technique (cob construction) from another country through the direct migration of skills and the adaptation of that technique to the local environment. Bear's Castle is one of the oldest buildings in the Whittlesea Shire.
Bear's Castle is of archaeological significance due to its potential to yield evidence of its occupation by the Duffy family from 1865. It could also contain evidence of attachment points of building members which could further explain the building's construction and finishes.
BEARS CASTLE - HistoryContextual History:History of Place:
Bear’s Castle was constructed in Yan Yean circa 1846 probably by two men, Hannaford and Edwards, who had recently arrived separately from Devon, England. It was built for John Bear an early pastoralist who had migrated from England with his family in 1841. They were responsible for establishing one of Victoria’s earliest wineries (at Yan Yean) and are associated with Chateau Tahbilk, reputedly Victoria’s oldest extant winery.
Bear’s Lookout (or Bear’s Folly as it is also known), is a small, two storey structure roughly square in plan and occupying an area of less than 12 square metres. It is built of mud/clay-a common primitive building material apparently used extensively in the Whittlesea area- and utilising a technique popular in the builders’ home town of Devon, known as cob construction. It was built to resemble a castle- the result it would seem of a cursory remark by John Bear- with a pyramid shaped roof and turrets at each corner (one with a stair and another in brick and stone with a chimney). Despite its name, it would appear that the building was never used as a retreat from danger although it might well have been used as a lookout for the monitoring of livestock or forest fires. A manager of John Bear’s estate John Duffy, and his family occupied it briefly from 1865.
At least three distinct periods can be discerned in the building. During the first from 1846 to the turn of the century the building retained a brick superstructure complete with battlements of brick parapet walls and at least one castellated tower. These were removed
There were apparently numerous mud houses at Yan Yean in the early days. Experimentation with cob, pise and mudbrick structures occurred throughout Victoria where soils were suitable. Very few structures still stand.
Examples from the nineteenth century can be seen at Donald, on the Ararat/Bendigo highway, and at Ballarat. Many mud buildings were simple small structures later replaced by substantial timber or brick dwellings and allowed to degrade leaving little or no trace of their existence. This building group is even more severely effected by lack of maintenance than timber buildings.
Bear’s Castle is the only known example of the combination of castle building type and cob construction in Victoria.
the turn of the century and, during the second period, the building stood without any major changes (save for a recladding of the roof for a short time in thatch) until the 1970s when the walls of the building were clad in a yellow render of mud and chicken wire. This work ensured the protection of the clay walls but significantly altered the presentation of the building.
BEARS CASTLE - Permit ExemptionsEXEMPTIONS FROM PERMITS:
(Classes of works or activities which may be undertaken without a permit under
Part 4 of the Heritage Act 1995)
All alterations are to be planned and carried out in a manner which prevents
damage to the fabric of the registered place or object.
Should it become apparent during further inspection or the carrying out of
alterations that original or previously hidden or inaccessible details of the
place or object are revealed which relate to the significance of the place or
object, then the exemption covering such alteration shall cease and the
Executive Director shall be notified as soon as possible.
If there is a conservation policy and plan approved by the Executive Director,
all works shall be in accordance with it.
Nothing in this declaration prevents the Executive Director from amending or
rescinding all or any of the permit exemptions.
Nothing in this declaration exempts owners or their agents from the
responsibility to seek relevant planning or building permits from the
responsible authority where applicable.
Maintenance to roads and tracks, and to fencing, gates, and any other forms of
access and enclosure necessary for the continuation of activities in the park
provided that the works do not adversely affect the registered building and/or
Clearing works necessary for fire safety management provided that the works do
not adversely affect the registered building and/or land.