Babworth House apartment languishing on market

by AF

Apartment Three, Babworth House
1 Mt Adelaide Street, Darling Point, Sydney
Price Upon Application

Babworth House was built between 1912 and 1915 for Sir Samuel Hordern, a fourth generation member of the family that founded the Anthony Hordern stores. Sir Samuel was a well-known and influential member of Sydney society.

The grand 2-storey home was built in the Federation Arts and Crafts style and designed by architectural firm Morrow and De Putron. The walls were originally finished in unpainted cement render with Art Nouveau decorations around openings and chimneys. The living areas were paneled in English oak and Queensland maple. Plaster ceiling panels were decorated with Art Nouveau motifs. The home originally had a total of 40 rooms including a grand ballroom, billiard room and 24 bedrooms. The total cost of the project was 30,000 to 40,000 pounds (about $3.2 ~ 4.3 million in today’s terms).

Babworth House Front Elevation, 1912 – State Library of NSW

The garden was said to contain a private collection of plants dating from the nineteenth and early twentieth century, along with various rare and uncommon plants and rare indigenous species that have persisted since before site development.

Described as “one of the largest, finest and most intact examples of an early twentieth century grand house in Australia. It is of national significance both historically and aesthetically. The quality and uniqueness of the exterior and interior detailing, incorporating both Art Nouveau and neoclassical motifs and forms is of a standard and scale rarely seen in domestic architecture. The workmanship and detailing of the external cement render work is of national significance technically. Babworth’s garden is an integral part of the design for the whole estate and, although the estate is reduced in size, the gardens and grounds provide a substantially intact and highly appropriate setting to the grand mansion. The built garden elements such as stairs, balustrades, grottoes and faux-rockwork amplify the scale of the mansion and demonstrate high technical accomplishment by using the same high standard of construction as the house. The Babworth estate, including house, garden and outbuildings, is representative of the large villa estate established by the wealthy elite of Darling Point during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It demonstrates an affluence and lifestyle which could only be supported by a very large range of live-in servants and which was rare following the First World War.” – Statement of Significance by the NSW Government Office of Environment & Heritage.

This was not the first house to be built on the site. When Sir Samuel purchased the site in 1910, it included an old estate called Mount Adelaide which was built in the 1840s and altered over the years through various additions. The home was reported to have been one of the finest houses in Sydney for its time, but at the time of Sir Samuel’s purchase it was dated and lacking modern conveniences. Sir Samuel would have purchased it for the land and views as it was located on the highest point of the Darling Point peninsula. Shortly after purchase, the house was demolished to make way for the new home for the Hordern family.

Mount Adelaide c1880 – Historic Houses Trust

The Morrow and De Putron architects also designed Hopewood House in 1914 for Lebbeus Hordern, son of Sir Samuel. The house was just meters away from Babworth House and next door to Retford Hall, owned by Sir Samuel’s father. Unfortunately Hopewood House and Retford Hall were demolished by developers in the late 1960s to make way for apartment towers. Lebbeus Hordern also owned the “Hopewood” stud farm in Bowral, which is now also confusingly called “Hopewood House.”

The Hordern’s lived in Babworth House for the next 40 years. Upon Sir Samuel’s passing in 1956, the house and contents were auctioned off. Major Rubin purchased the home to convert into a private hospital, but the Woollahra Council refused the change of use application on grounds that it was in a residential area. The matter went to court where it was decided that 1.5 acres of land would be subdivided for residential purposes, and the hospital was approved but on the condition it was to be a convalescent hospital.

Between 1961 and 1980, the home was used as an after-care unit of St Vincent’s Hospital. The hospital added a lift adjacent to the ballroom. The joinery, including door and window hardware had also been moved around in many instances. A government rationalization of hospital accommodation in 1979 put Babworth House out of use and it was unoccupied between 1981 and 1985. It was, however, used as a location for two films: Kitty and the Bagman, and Careful He Might Hear You. It was then used as a temporary location for the Sacred Heart Hospice, before being converted into nurses’ accommodation up until the late 1990s.

Babworth House in 1998.

Architect Alan Croker on the oak panelled stairwell in 1998.

In 2000, the house was purchased for just $5.25 million by developers. It was split into 5 apartments – four in the main house and another in the cellar/servants quarters. The total gross sales for the developer reached $25.6 million.

The architect firm for the project was Conybeare Morrison. Personally I am not a fan of stratified estate homes, but sometimes it is the only economically viable way for such grand homes to survive. In this case, they had done a wonderful job of preserving the original features of the home and gardens.

Apartment Three for sale

The apartment currently on the market is a 2-storey ‘garden apartment’. It was first listed in mid-2010 with a price of $8 million+, so it has been on the market for at least 2 years. Apartments in this price range don’t exactly sell overnight.

It last sold in February 2006 to a Hong Kong-based expat for $8.1 million, and described as a ‘record price for a unit without harbor views’. It originally sold off-the-plan in 2001 for $5.6 million when purchased by recruitment industry executive Phil Keery and his Fox Sports presenter / 1984 LA Olympic Games gymnast wife Ann-Maree Kerry.

The highest recorded apartment price in Darling Point was $10.35 million paid for 27/85 Yarranabbe Road in September 2007.

The internal area is 560 sqm (6,025 sqft) and there is an additional 390 sqm private garden.  The formal living area is the original home’s ballroom and has 6 meter ceilings, wood paneled walls, fireplaces, a billiard room and a gentleman’s smoking corner. The casual living area has a pitched glass ceiling. The apartment has 6 bedrooms, 4 marble bathrooms, and 3 secure car spaces. The body corporate, or strata fees, in 2010 were $39,160 a year.

“Apartment three was designed to incorporate the original ballroom and a glass-roofed conservatory that links the east and set wings of this grand Sydney mansion” – masterplan designer Judith Rintoul of Conybeare Morrison architects.

There is a Roman-style indoor swimming pool in the basement for residents


1 Mt Adelaide Street, Darling Point, Sydney, Australia
10 min drive to Sydney CBD

Listing information and apartment images from

NSW Office of Environment & Heritage
“Escape of good Hope”, April 7, 2012., July 17, 2010.
“Strictly ballroom: record $8 million for unit without view” The Sydney Morning Herald, February 25, 2006.