Statement of Significance
What is significant?
Construction of the house later known as the Old Curiosity Shop commenced about 1863, the year bricklayer, James Warwick obtained a miner's right for a residential block on the edge of the exhausted Eureka diggings in the newly proclaimed municipality of Ballarat East. James built a modest 4-roomed timber and brick house for his expanding family and continued in the bricklaying trade until retiring around the early 1880s. By then he was pursuing his gardening interests in the local Horticultural Society and was supervising the gardens of many East Ballarat residents. It was during these years that his gardening and building interests converged to find expression in the marvellous permutations of decoration that extend over the house and garden. Using cast-off crockery, glass, ceramic figurine and mirror shards, shells, wallpaper samples, architectural ornament and slag, a place was found for all manner of things, large and small. Children would bring broken china dolls and bits of crockery, and the patient mosaic work preoccupied James and his wife Caroline for the rest of their lives. The work has its origins in the grottoes and shellhouses that ornamented the gardens of large English estates from the 1730s. In the few years before James' death in 1898, the house had become known as the 'Old Curiosity Shop', inspiring associations with the Charles Dickens novel of the same name. By then professional photographs had also been taken and thousands of tourists were visiting it yearly. Caroline obtained copyright for 2 of the photos and began issuing her own postcards before she died in 1903. The Shop passed to their son Charles and then to a succession of owners who added their own mythology to the story of the Warwicks and their work. After attracting tourists for more than 100 years, the Shop closed to the public in 1999.
How is it significant?
The Old Curiosity Shop is of aesthetic, historical and architectural significance to the State of Victoria.
Why is it significant?
The Old Curiosity Shop is important for its exceptional aesthetic characteristics and rich, diverse and unusual integration of decorative features. Created outside the aesthetic norms of the period, the embellishments in their marvellous permutations conjure a fantasy world, a special environment that was home and sanctum for its elderly owner-makers and a source of wonder to its many visitors. It is unique in Victoria, if not Australia as a late nineteenth century example of the unusual medium of shell and shardwork. The imaginative arrangements are similarly unique, with mosaic patterns of shell, crockery, glass as well as small everyday objects and architectural ornament embellishing the house, fence, paths, garden and grotto. The ornament is historically important as an index to a myriad of everyday domestic things used and discarded by a late nineteenth century community. The wallpaper samples inside the house comprise an important catalogue of late Victorian popular styles that extend our knowledge on the detail of interiors of the period.
The Old Curiosity Shop has further historical importance as an early house museum, a privately-run tourist enterprise that operated from the late nineteenth century, drawing visitors from all over the world.
The house is architecturally significant as an early and intact example of the modest class of dwellings erected in this vicinity of Ballarat by holder's of miner's rights, and it contributes to an understanding of the cultural landscape of the East Ballarat goldfields and their haphazard settlement pattern.
OLD CURIOSITY SHOP - Assessment Against Criteria
The historical importance, association with or relationship to Victoria's history of the place or object.
The old Curiosity Shop is a long standing tourist arttraction dating as it does from the late 19th Century. The place could be considered a naïve and private work of art created as a tourist attraction and as such possibly the oldest developed attraction in the state.
The importance of a place or object in demonstrating rarity or uniqueness.
The old Curiosity is unique in Victoria.
The place or object's potential to educate, illustrate or provide further scientific investigation in relation to Victoria's cultural heritage.
The importance of a place or object in exhibiting the principal characteristics or the representative nature of a place or object as part of a class or type of places or objects.
The importance of the place or object in exhibiting good design or aesthetic characteristics and/or in exhibiting a richness, diversity or unusual integration of features.
The old Curiosity Shop is composed of a series of concreted walls into which remnants of found objects have been permanently cemented. TAlthough considered naïve, it is its extensiveness that is astounding, incorporating as it does thousands of pieces of objects into a whole building. There are few such pieces of work in the world. The most celebrated are the Watts Towers in Los Angeles.
The importance of the place or object in demonstrating or being associated with scientific or technical innovations or achievements.
The importance of the place or object in demonstrating social or cultural associations.
Any other matter which the Council considers relevant to the determination of cultural heritage significance
OLD CURIOSITY SHOP - Permit ExemptionsGeneral Conditions: 1. All exempted alterations are to be planned and carried out in a manner which prevents damage to the fabric of the registered place or object. General Conditions: 2. 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. General Conditions: 3. If there is a conservation policy and plan approved by the Executive Director, all works shall be in accordance with it. General Conditions: 4. Nothing in this declaration prevents the Executive Director from amending or rescinding all or any of the permit exemptions. General Conditions: 5. 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.
DRAFT - NOT YET CONFIRMED BY HERITAGE COUNCIL
* Repair where the replacement component matches the original in size type layout and material.
* Rewiring of the place
* New plumbing services provided the work does not destroy the original paving and objects in the landscaping around the building.
* Replacing external weatherboarding providing the new work matches the type, size and timber of the original work.
* Replacing and patch renewal of the plaster work on the interior
* Re-papering of the walls where there is no original paper work
* Repair and replacement of the subfloor structure and the flooring with boarding of similar size, type and layout.
* Removal of asphalt from the pavements of the pathways
* Those works which are in accordance with an endorsed Conservation Management Plan.
OLD CURIOSITY SHOP - Permit Exemption Policy
Exemptions are made for works which do not affect the cultural significance of the place.
The cultural significance of the place is one firstly related to the place as an intact cottage built in the later part of the 19th century and more importantly related to the naïve decoration of the exterior of the building. The exterior is one that has long been in the public eye being both photographed and publicised over a long period.
The primary elements of the site are the cottage (both weather-boarded and brick sections), the grotto, the fence to Queens Street, and the pathways immediately surrounding the house. The brick and timber outbuildings on Glazebrook Street are contributory to the history of the site.
SYNAGOGUEVictorian Heritage Register H0106
FORMER BALLARAT EAST FREE LIBRARYVictorian Heritage Register H1493
MONTROSE COTTAGEVictorian Heritage Register H0108
'Altona' Homestead (Formerly 'Laverton' Homestead) and Logan ReserveHobsons Bay City