• Jon Ruwolt

Saving Queen Anne 'Seacroft'

Embarking on a historically-sensitive renovation project is a tough task for anyone, but throw a TV crew and health issues into the mix and it gets even more complex.

Such was the case for Pieter and Nettie, whose family home 'Seacroft' in Fernhill, Wollongong is the latest property to feature on the ABC's Restoration Australia program.

Seacroft stands frozen in time amid the new homes of Fernhill, a suburb of Wollongong first established to accommodate the miners and managers of the once booming coal mines of the Illawarra.

  • Seacroft was weary, neglected and crumbling and when Dutch-born couple Pieter and Nettie first saw it they thought it might have been destined for demolition.

  • Thankfully it was protected by heritage orders and once they stepped inside it quickly became clear that it was a perfect project for the newly retired but enduringly practical engineer Pieter and his artist wife Nettie.

They vowed to restore the existing structure – a stunning example from Queen Anne Federation period – and to add an extension including workspaces to accommodate the interests and passions of two very busy and active people.

Then came the crushing blow. Just as plans for their project were approved Pieter was diagnosed with Stage 4 liver and stomach cancer and given months to live.

  • Incredibly, the couple decide to proceed with their project.

  • Pieter is determined to remain involved in the renovation even as he undergoes punishing chemotherapy treatment.

And when COVID hits, sending immuno-compromised Pieter into strict isolation, he remains focussed on Seacroft, constructing a scale model to stress-test plans and colours and working on small restoration elements in the safety of his garage.

  • Restoration Australia presenter Anthony Burke joins this stoic and determined couple as they race against time to complete two deeply challenging projects,

  • restoring Pieter’s health, and

  • restoring an important local landmark.

This is a Gallery of the original condition of the house 'Seacroft': (Click <, > to view)

Here are some of the wonderful results they achieved:

Restoration Australia – Series 4, Episode 5 aired on Sunday 24 October 7.40pm on ABC and is available on iView for one month.


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