The Moreton Bay Fig (Ficus macrophylla), located on the upper north-east facing terrace is a magnificent tree. This native rainforest fig is significant within the context of the City of Sydney local government area as an individual specimen with special aesthetic, visual, cultural, historic and social values. The fig has achieved massive proportions and its canopy completely dominates the upper eastern terrace lawns of ‘Tresco’.
The Carob Bean (Ceratonia siliqua) is single specimen in the western upper front garden adjacent to the sandstone boundary wall fronting Elizabeth Bay Road. It is a relatively small tree 6-7m in height with a spread of approximately 8-10m and a trunk diameter at 1m above ground level of 0.7m
The American Bull Bay Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) is located adjacent the driveway in the western upper front garden, approximately 10m in height with s spread of 7-8m. The 2005 Register noted the tree as a sparse open canopy and some deadwood. This is still the case, with relatively extensive tip dieback evident in the tree.
Tresco including its grounds and trees, is significant as a substantially intact example of a Victorian waterfront villa and estate. The original Italianate style villa was designed by prominent architect, Thomas Rowe (1867) with later additions by George Westgarth, including garden layout and landscape elements (1883). The property was the principal residence of the Captain-in-Charge of HMAS Naval Establishments in Sydney from 1903 and the Flag Officer-in-Charge of the Royal Australian Navy since 1913.
Tresco has further significance in terms of its historic, cultural and social links with the original land grant to Alexander Macleay. From the 1820’s period until subdivision in 1867, the grounds were part of Macleay’s Elizabeth Bay House estate. Tresco remains as one of the few surviving original land parcels dating from this time of subdivision by George Macleay.
‘Tresco’, including the residence, grounds and trees, is scheduled on the State Heritage Register, the Sydney Local Environmental Plan 2012, and classified by the National Trust of Australia. The Moreton Bay Fig (Ficus macrophylla), located on the upper north-east facing terrace is a magnificent tree and one of the most outstanding individual specimens to occur on private property within the City of Sydney LGA. It is a particularly prominent specimen in this elevated location on Macleay Point and is clearly visible from many public vantage points around Rushcutters Bay.
The Carob Bean (Ceratonia siliqua) and American Bull Bay Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) are likely to have been planted after Tresco’s construction but are likely to be from the late 1800’s.
Tresco is significant as one of the few surviving original land parcels created in the 1867 subdivision of the Elizabeth Bay Estate at Macleay Point, and for the unusal manner in which the Estate was sold. The property is significant for its historical associations with George Macleay who was responsible for the subdivision and James Macarthur-Onslow, who held the title until 1922. It has state significance as a Victorian villa in the Italianate style which retains its architectural integrity as an intact and rare example of the fine residences that once characterised Macleay Point. It is significant as an example of craftsmanship and construction techniques used in the mid to late nineteenth century and relatively recent conservation and restoration works (1991-1997).
The house, garden and waterfront structures make an important contribution to the character of the area, forming a prominent element in the landscape of Elizabeth Bay from the Harbour. The property is associated with prominent Sydney architect Thomas Rowe and also George Wesgarth. Rowe designed and constructed the original house in 1867 whilst Wesgarth was responsible for the only significant additions and alterations to the villas as well as the garden layout and landscape elements in 1883.A terraced garden to the north of Tresco slopes down to the harbour. The garden features a tall timber mast and a well landscaped and established garden, including four mature fig trees. There is the summerhouse and fernery at the western boundary, as well as concrete and brick pathways, which lead down to the bay, and the former boat pound, boathouse and jetty (Brooks, 1997, 76).
The Moreton Bay Fig (Ficus macrophylla) was a key element of many early planting schemes on larger estates prior to subdivision (refer to other listings in Elizabeth Bay Road and Billyard Avenue in this Register). The other two scheduled Moreton Bay Figs are much smaller in stature and may be associated with later foreshore reclamation works to the property. Nevertheless, these two figs have group significance within the overall composition.
It has been previously suggested that the largest Moreton Bay Fig, together with the Carob Bean (Ceratonia siliqua) and American Bull Bay Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), are the last surviving remnants from the former gardens of the Elizabeth Bay House estate. A photo of the Elizabeth Bay mansions (American & Australasian Photographic Company, Holtermann Collection, ON 4 Box 74 No 199, NSWSL c. 1870-1875) would suggested that the upper Moreton Bay Fig may date from the period following construction of ‘Tresco’ (1868) at which time there was significant landscaping of the grounds, including terracing, with a number of young trees evident in the location of the fig. Although not visible in the above photo it is assumed the Carob Bean (Ceratonia siliqua) and American Bull Bay Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) would have also been planted after Tresco’s construction. Aerial photos from 1943 indicate relatively small trees in these positions, commensurate with these species slow growth and a planting in late 1800’s. The Fig is clearly a very large and established tree at this time, as are the two lower but smaller figs.
The Carob Bean or St John’s Bread was introduced to Sydney as grafted specimens brought from Cyprus in the mid-nineteenth century (NSW Horticultural Magazine, Volume III, 1866). This species was often planted in churchyards and large church-owned estates in the Colony. This was due to its biblical associations within the Holy Lands and its use as a food source (edible pods) by St John the Baptist during his time in the wilderness. This species is now relatively uncommon in the City of Sydney LGA. The other scheduled specimen, an American Bull Bay Magnolia, with its very large fragrant white flowers, was a highly-prized ornamental tree during the nineteenth century. It remains a relatively common remnant of larger former gardens throughout the City of Sydney LGA.