It’s called the ‘house with no walls’ and it’s part of ‘the North Street group’ of Victorian buildings in Windsor, saved by the National Trust in 1973.
It also is purported to have the friendly ghost of a little girl.
The cottage’s owner Ann Chilman is downsizing, and regrets having to leave the house that “folds around you” as she described it, after living there for 20 years.
Stan Stevens’ 1984 book ‘Hawkesbury Heritage’ said the North Street group, which comprises the Swallow house (used in A Country Practice) on the corner of North and Arndell, this cottage and the duplex cottages next to it, are historically significant vernacular buildings.
The Swallow house (its local name derived from the swallows or martins which nest under the eaves of its top storey each year) was the Peninsula Inn, built in 1841. It provided accommodation for magistrates visiting the court house across the road.
The house with no walls at 35 North Street is so named because the buildings either side of it pre-dated it, and it was built about 1860 using the side walls of its flanking buildings, Ms Chilman said
It now has three levels due to previous resident, well-known local artist Greg Hansell, who built a beautiful slab extension out the back with a kitchen on ground level and a lounge and dining room above it. He also built a charming slab barn in the backyard which looks like it has always been there.
Mr Hansell said he bought the cottage from the National Trust and lived there 1980-91. “It was terrific,” he said. “It’s said to have been a schoolhouse and to have the ghost of a little girl. Very friendly though. The boys of the family after me talked about playing with a little girl. Ms Chilman said it’s reported that someone else asked who the little girl was who lived there, after having seen her sitting out the front.
“It’s a very friendly ghost,” Mr Hansell said. “When I moved the house had been vacant for 18 months. On the first night when I moved in, when I turned the light on in three different rooms, the light bulb fell out. A friend said to me ‘sit down, have a drink and a smoke and introduce yourself [to the ghost]’. I did!”
He said the only other manifestations he experienced were seeing things move out of the corner of his eye, “often when you’re half asleep”. Ms Chilman said one night the lights kept going on and off, on and off but that was all she’d experienced. “But I say ‘hello little house, I’m home,” when I’ve been away. It wraps around you. I’ll be very sad to leave it.”
Mr Hansell said the National Trust had bought the four buildings as part of the Small Houses scheme. “They were in shocking condition and they got the architect Clive Lucas to restore them inside and out,” he said. “The back section I built. And the barn. And the back garden – there was nothing there.”
Ms Chilman said the block of land the house was on sold for 62 pounds in 1841 when the land was subdivided. It has other historic touches. The bricks around the downstairs fireplace are from the demolition of a terrace in Kings Cross which dated from 1806. The mantle and hearth stones were from another old building. “And the two-storey barn was from an 1806 slab cottage from Pitt Town,” she said.