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Lost Worlds of Kuringai : Ruined Castle Of Calabash

Lost Worlds of Kuringai : Ruined Castle Of Calabash

On a peninsular overlooking Calabash Bay stands the tall imposing stone ruins of what appears to be a castle. It is referred to as "the ruins" or "the haunted house" and is sometimes confused with Rats Castle, s natural formation further down the creek.

A survey plan of the area on 27th July 1893 shows 40 acres belonging to Sarah Dalton and a reserved road. In the 1890s it was purchased by John Fretus - a champion axeman. The Fretus family were well known hoteliers and sanitary contractors. They owned a hotel in Rocky Point, Sans Souci called the Sans Souci Hotel. It is now known as the Prince of Wales Hotel. The license was removed and they decided to demolish the hotel. They moved the stone up to Calabash Bay by a coastal steamer called the Miramar which had a shallow draught.

They carried the stone blocks up to the ridge top and built the castle. Local stone was also needed. It was a very large and imposing building. The year was 1900, give or take a year. The plan was to operate it as a hotel/guest house because a road was partly surveyed from Berowra Railway Station to the creek. A ferry service would link it to Berrilee and beyond. The road from McCallum's Ave, Berrilee down to John Fretus' property at Calabash was the other half of this surveyed road which was never made official.

However, the surveyor at the time made a terrible blunder with his survey as he did not cover the whole route personally through the rough terrain but relied on local's information for the survey. They had their own interest in seeing the road go down to dinner point (later called Cunio point) almost opposite Calabash Bay. The surveyor was led to believe that the ridge line continued to that point in an even descent. In fact there is a deep gully behind the last hairpin bend.

When the Dept of Works and Main Roads came down to begin they saw this and realised they would need a very expensive bridge. It was cheaper and more practical to cut a hairpin bend int he rock at that point and wind the road down directly, and this was done from 1899. The road was completed in 1902 when the ferry commenced running across to Dust Hole Bay. Bay Rd led to Berrilee. This left the magnificent Fretus Hotel as a folly with no road access.

It was used as drying-out place for alcoholics but in other years it was used for "booze-up" weekends. The Fretus family established an orchard, hence all the terracing still to be seen.

The Atkins family also had an orchard further up Calabash Bay, growing apples, pears and citrus. There were old remains of a wharf in Calabash Bay, relics of its Orchard era. Fretus made the mistake of introducing Angora goats whih went wild and ringbarked all the orchard trees during a drought.

There was a caretaker who used to run out and shoot at them. They would run off and then return when he went inside - having learnt his routine.

Thomas Claydon bought the property. Fretus was going bankrupt and Claydon had earlier lent him money. He and his wife had their honeymoon in their new castle. A daughter was born to them there in 1917. Unfortunately during the 1920s and 1930s the building was extensively vandalised and many homes were furnished with its contents. Derelicts used to come and squat in it. They vandalised it shockingly, smashing up the cedar fireplace surrounds and throwing the marble wash basins from the bedrooms through the windows. Lots of cedar furniture was carried down the hill, as well as the roofing. It was a very solid, lasting type of iron roofing, not seen today. Someone got the grand piano down.

The castle was burnt out in a bushfire some time later. The property passed to Claydon's children and then to various investors. If they are to develop this still magnificent property they face a task as monumental as John Fretus had when he carried the stone from the Sans Souci Hotel up the hill.

The point at Calabash Bay in 1937. The Fretus Hotel can be clearly seen on the right :

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