Babworth House - Full LEP listing - Description in Further Comments | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

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Babworth House - Full LEP listing - Description in Further Comments

Item details

Name of item: Babworth House - Full LEP listing - Description in Further Comments
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Residential buildings (private)
Category: Mansion
Primary address: Mount Adelaide Road, Darling Point, NSW 2027
Local govt. area: Woollahra
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Mount Adelaide RoadDarling PointWoollahra  Primary Address

Statement of significance:

Babworth House is 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. Babworth House is an excellent and rare example of the Federation Arts and Crafts style in grand domestic architecture in Australia. 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. Babworth House was built as the home of Sir Samuel Hordern, a fourth generation member of the notable Sydney Commercial family who founded the famous Anthony Hordern's stores. Sir Samuel was a well-known and influential member of Sydney society. Babworth represents the continuing association of the Hordern family with Darling Point from 1864 through to 1956. The garden is a major extant private collection of plants dating from the nineteenth and early twentieth century. It also contains various plants which are rare or otherwise uncommon in cultivation in Sydney as well as rare indigenous species that have persisted since before site development. (Babworth House Conservation Management Plan, Design 5 Architects, p. 50)
Date significance updated: 17 Aug 17
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.

Description

Designer/Maker: Morrow and De Putron
Builder/Maker: Messrs W Gawne and Son
Construction years: 1912-1915
Physical description: Babworth House is sited on the highest point of the Darling Point peninsula. The house itself is two storey with walls finished in finely worked, unpainted, cement render with beautifully detailed Art Nouveau-inspired decorations around openings and chimneys. A series of very crisp and precise indented lines surround the house, adding strength and balance to the numerous and varied openings, balconies and other architectural elements. The house assymetrical with broad gabled areas juxtaposed with bold projecting covered balconies, some with bowed or circular fronts. The east, north and west elevations are each different but use the same architectural language and decoration. The joinery is all timber with french doors generally containing tapered glass panels. The windows are usually double hung with single panes to the lower sash and six panes to the upper sash. The eaves are broad with ventilated soffits supported on tapered timber brackets or joists. The roof is broken into many parts and covered with slate, mostly with terracotta ridges and occasionally copper. The guttering, rainwater heads and downpipes are all in copper and of consistent detail designed especially for the house. Internally the house displays a variety of architectural styles, from Edwardian, Classical Revival to Art Nouveau and early Art Deco. The ground floor principal rooms comprise entry hall, stair hall, dining room, drawing room, ballroom/billiard room with attached bays and attached library/smoking room. All of these, with the exception of the drawing room, are heavily panelled in English oak and Queensland maple with finely detailed door cases and beamed ceilings. The plaster ceiling panels between the beams show bold Art Nouveau decoration and in the main rooms the ceilings show a subtle curve down towards the wall around the perimeter. The drawing room is entirely painted, even though it contains extensive areas of carved timber. Walls are panelled in a Classical Revival manner, reminiscent of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries with carved door cases and a strongly articulated dado. The alcove to the fireplace is entered through a large columned opening and contains a fine white and green serpentine marble chimneypiece. The stair is heavily carved in the Art Nouveau style with large newel posts at each change of direction. The lower posts now support modern white ball light fittings. The other ground-floor rooms display varying degrees of lesser decoration down to the minimal work in the south-west servants’ wing. The principal bedroom and dressing room are finished in a similar but simpler manner to the drawing room and without the wall panelling. The other rooms show clear differentiation between family/guest use and servants’ use in their scale and detail. The hospital use has introduced a lift adjacent to the ballroom and an upgraded dumb waiter adjacent to the kitchen. The joinery, including door and window hardware has been moved around in many instances. As with the house the garden also displays a certain stylistic eclecticism: Italianate garden terrace balustrading and cypress-lined walks; highly sculptured faux rockwork walls and grottoes clad in an array of succulents and rock garden plants; the use of palms and clumps of Schefflera and Strelizia to give an exuberant and tropical character to parts of the garden; the retention of areas with a strong nineteenth sombreness and richly varies plant list throughout the estate. (Babworth House Conservation Management Plan, Design 5 Architects, 1998)
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Physcial condition is excellent [01 Jul 99 ]
Date condition updated:19 Apr 04
Further information: Full LEP description - Babworth House - building including interior, grounds, gardens, gateposts to Darling Point Rd, small-leaved Fig Babworth House has been adaptively reused as five apartments. The house and upper gardens have been conserved - the works were was designed by Conybeare Morrsion. The garage has been adaptively reused as a residence and ten new residences have been built within the grounds during 2002-4.
Current use: Residential flat building
Former use: Residence and hospital

History

Historical notes: In 1833 ‘Villa allotments’ were advertised for sale at ‘Mrs Darling’s Point’. The land was auctioned on 11 October and the largest allotment No,10, 13 acres3 rods won the eastern side of the point was purchased by William Macdonald, an emancapist (transported for life for forgery) turned successful businessman, dealing in general hardware. Macdonald named his purchase Mount Adelaide and spent considerable amounts of money on it, although no residence had been built by the time he put it up for sale in 1837. A major purchaser of Macdonald’s land was Mortimer William Lewis, the Colonial Architect. Lewis constructed a house on the northern most edge of the Mount Adelaide estate taking advantage of views of the harbour. The main feature of Lewis’ simple but elegant design was the semicircular bay window of the drawing room, a feature of Lewis’ other work at Fernhill, Mulgoa and Richmond Villa. Burdened with mortgage commitments in the difficult financial conditions of the depression of 1840s, Lewis filed his Insolvency Schedule in November 1849. In 1849, John Croft, a businessman and partner with T W Smith in the firm of Smith, Croft & Co purchased mount Adelaide. By 1857 when the house was again up for sale, it had not only been finished but apparently enlarged and changes made to the outbuildings. Henry Mort purchased Mount Adelaide in 1858. After years of living in mount Adelaide House and coping with its limited facilities, it was only as his family was diminishing in size that Henry decided to make substantial additions to the house. These were designed by E T Blacket (now in practice with his son Cyril as Blacket & Son) who had first made the house habitable after it had been left unfinished by Mortimer Lewis. Due to financial problems in September 1893 henry Mort transferred his mount Adelaide property to his daughter Eliza and his eldest son the Reverend Henry Wallace Mort. From 1893 to 1910 Mount Adelaide house was let and the grounds gradually reduced by subdivision. In 1910 Samuel Hordern purchased Mount Adelaide. When he purchased Mount Adelaide, Samuel had been married to Charlotte (daughter of shipping magnate and leter premier of New South Wales, Sir John See), and he and his wife had three children. As Samuel Hordern already enjoyed the benefits of a modern home at Strathfield, it is unlikely that the house was the reason for his purchase of the Mount Adelaide property. Mount Adelaide House was an old house in a modern age, lacking domestic convenience, modern plumbing and sanitation and in an architectural style with which his grandparents would have been more familiar. It was scarcely a suitable residence for the succesful modern businessman. It did however have a wonderful position, views and large grounds. Moreover it was here in the neighbourhood of Darling Point, that a new generation of prosperous merchants and businessmen were building their twentieth century houses much as a previous generation had done before them. Mouint Adelaide would be demolished and a new home built for Samuel and his family. The Horderns favoured the work done by the architectural firm Morrow and De Putron and a new residence was designed at Mount Adelaide in 1912. In 1912 the old house had been pulled down and plans prepared for the new residence. A brief description in the Sydney Morning Herald gave some idea about the character of the new house: 'The building, which will contain about 40 rooms including a magnificent billiard room will be finished with the most up-to-date appointments and all the latest labour saving devices. The furnishings throughout will be of the richest character. The joiner's work will be in English oak, cedar and Queensland maple, higly polished. The plaster enrichments will be on a lavish scale and everything will be worked pout in special details. The design throughout will be in modern Renaissance, and when complete the building should be one of the finest residences in Sydney.' The estimated cost of the work was from 30 000 to 40 00 pounds. The house was on a grand scale with high quality finishes and it appears that it was not until 1915 that Samuel Hordern and his family took up residence in their new home, called Babworth House. Its style and location were sure marks of a class of commercail entrepreneurs which had established itself as part of the Sydney social elite. For just over 40 years Babworth House was Samuel Hordern's family home. Built on exactly the same spot as the earlier Mount Adelaide and replicating its orientation, the main aspect of the house faced north-east towards Double Bay. The furnishings of Babworth House, like the house itself, reflected an eclectic choise of style and period but of high quality, a mixture of antique and reproduction furniture and ornaments, much of it spurchased overseas. From the onset of his father’s last illness in 1906 until 1926 when the company was sold to private investors, Samuel II was the governing director of Anthony Hordern and Sons. Despite his many committments to the family business and associated boards and organisations, he was also active in recreational and sporting pursuits, agricultural interests and philanthropic causes. Following Sir Samuel Hordern’s death in 1956 the contents of babworth House were sold by the auctioneers, Lawson’s. Major Rubin purchased Babworth House with the mind for using it as a private hospital and a Rememberance Trust established. Woollhara Council refused permission for the use of the site for a hospital on the basis that it was a proclaimed residential area. The matter went to the Land and Valuation Court where a compromise was reached whereby one and a half acres of land was subdivided for residential purposes but the hospital was allowed to use Babworth House for a convalescent hospital. The first stage of works for the conversion of Babworth House for use as a convalescent hospital was drafted by the Government Architect’ Branch of public Works in 1959 and provided accommodation for 30 patients. From 1961 until 1980 Babworth House was used as an after-care unit of St Vincent’s Hospital. In 1979 the State Government announced a radical rationalisation of hospital accommodation resulting in the closure of Babworth House as an after-care unit. Following the closure a range of options was considered for the use of Babworth House and from 1981 until 1985 the house remained essentially unoccupied. During this period the site was used as a location for two films, Kitty and the Bagman and Careful He Might Hear You. In 1985 the Trustees of St Vincent’s agreed that Babworth House would be made available for the relocation of the Sacred Heart Hospice during the estimated three year period in which a new hospice was built in Darlinghurst. The hospice moved patients into Babworth house in July 1986. When it vacated the site plans were drawn up in December 1989 for the conversion of Babworth house into nurses’ accommodation. It continues to serve this function at the present time. (Babworth House Conservation Management Plan, Design 5 Architects, 1998)

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Health-Activities associated with preparing and providing medical assistance and/or promoting or maintaining the well being of humans Hospitals-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Accommodation-Activities associated with the provision of accommodation, and particular types of accommodation – does not include architectural styles – use the theme of Creative Endeavour for such activities. Grand houses 1900-1940-
6. Educating-Educating Education-Activities associated with teaching and learning by children and adults, formally and informally. Primary level education organised by small privately funded enterprise for local boys of the Woollahra area-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Events-Activities and processes that mark the consequences of natural and cultural occurences Historical-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The place is historically significant as the site of the nineteenth century house Mt Adelaide, reported by several to have been one of the finest houses in Sydney at the time, as well as the site of Babworth house, probably the finest house built in Sydney during the twentieth century. Babworth House was built as the home of Sir Samuel Hordern, a fourth generation member of the notable Sydney Commercial family who founded the famous Anthony Hordern's stores. Sir Samuel was a well-known and influential member of Sydney society. Babworth represents the continuing association of the Hordern family with Darling Point from 1864 through to 1956. The Mt Adelaide and Babworth estates have associations with significant architects of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. (Babworth House Conservation Management Plan, Design 5 Architects, )
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
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.(Babworth House Conservation Management Plan, Design 5 Architects, p. 50)
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
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.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The garden is a major extant private collection of plants dating from the nineteenth and early twentieth century. It also contains various plants which are rare or otherwise uncommon in cultivation in Sydney as well as rare indigenous species that have persisted since before site development.
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
Babworth House is an excellent and rare example of the Federation Arts and Crafts style in grand domestic architecture in Australia
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanWoollahraLEP 199510 Mar 95 281351
Local Environmental PlanWoollahra LEP 201410323 May 15   

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenDESIGN 5 Architects1998Babworth House Conservation Management Plan

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Local Government
Database number: 2711222


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