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

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Fairwater - Full LEP listing - Description in Further Comments

Item details

Name of item: Fairwater - Full LEP listing - Description in Further Comments
Type of item: Complex / Group
Group/Collection: Residential buildings (private)
Category: House
Primary address: 560 New South Head Road, Double Bay, NSW 2028
Parish: Alexandria
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Woollahra
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
560 New South Head RoadDouble BayWoollahraAlexandriaCumberlandPrimary Address
560 New South Head RoadPoint PiperWoollahra  Alternate Address

Statement of significance:

Fairwater, is a large domestic residence constructed in 1882 with additions made in c.1901 and 1910, with former stable (c.1900s) and garage (1930), situated on a large suburban allotment fronting Port Jackson with garden landscaping. The property is of rare historic, aesthetic, social and scientific significance in consideration of its continuing association with the Fairfax family, and as a large late-nineteenth century residence (with Edwardian era additions), of high integrity, designed by John Horbury Hunt.

Statement of significance - trees

This property contains a particularly fine specimen twin-trunked Bunya Pine and an unusually large Southern Magnolia of note in the lower rear garden to the beach. The front garden and driveway is a private glen of trees of massive proportions and scale. This area is dominated by the Camphor Laurels in the central turning area to the residence, while the upper area to the front property boundary is dominated by large Port Jackson Figs with massive coalesced aerial roots and extensive buttressing. The canopies of these trees extend to the carriageway. The intertwined and entangled canopies of all these trees form a closed and wild woodland garden of great aesthetic appeal. In addition, this canopy is topped by two very tall emergent Silky Oaks which are amongst the largest in the Municipality. These trees are native to the subtropical rain forests of northern New South Wales and south-eastern Queensland. Another specimen of this species of similar age and structure is located in the neighbouring property of 574 New South Head Road.

All these trees are notable as typical of plantings in the 1gth and early 20th century. Their size and scale lend themselves to grand landscape schemes appropriate for early large estates. The lush green foliage of these trees continues a general theme throughout the harbourside suburbs and their position and size make them visually significant from the harbour, local environs and particularly on the approaches along New South Head Road. Moreover, the large neighbouring, estate of "Elaine" 550 New South Head Road and especially the neighbouring Council Chambers/ Blackburn Gardens property have important collections of historic species also and they visually support this planting theme (Refer to Listings).
Date significance updated: 07 Feb 00
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.


Designer/Maker: John Horbury Hunt (1882) & J. W. Manson (c.1910/11)
Builder/Maker: Post 1910 alterations undertaken by Stuart Bros.
Construction years: 1882-1970
Physical description: The residence is a double storey structure of brick construction with a timber-framed roof originally constructed in 1882 with additions c.1901, and in particular from 1910s. The exterior appearance is characterised by the use of a brick, which is pale yellow in colour. The roof is covered in slate tiles. Additions made c.1910/11 often include the use of sandstone (i.e. in the verandah and carriage porch) which is very reddish in colour. The windows throughout are timber framed, being either single or double hung sashes, with some casement windows. Most windows are fitted with a set of timber louvred shutters. The window glazing, in addition to the predominant use of clear glazing, also includes diamond patterned leadlights, and stained glass. The roof is a series of timbered gables with battened ends and pebble dash finish. These gables are the work of Manson and Pickering, architects, c.1910/11 and are in the Arts and Craft style embellishing Hunt’s simple form by a series of projecting bay windows, and balconies. The south elevation fronting New South Head Road includes a rusticated large sandstone carriage porch, and the north elevation fronting Double Bay has a wide verandah with a colonnade of sandstone columns in the Doric order. Manson and Pickering added both of these features in c.1910/1911. The interior of the house is characterised both by the need to provide service and living wings, and the fact that the house is principally a conglomeration of the work of two architects - John Horbury Hunt and Manson and Pickering. The lower floor is a suite of living and service rooms, and the upper for the living and bathrooms for both staff and occupants. Individual elements of note are the stained glass picture windows of 1882, chimney-pieces, door furniture, a painted ceiling of 1882, and mosaic floor of 1882. The stable is of brick construction with a timber-framed gable roof. The bricks used in the construction, being a dark red, are different in colour to that found in the main house. The retaining walls are of rubble construction with no mortar in the bedding joints. The stone is sandstone, probably local. The front (carriage) drive is surfaced in asphalt with brick edging. The brick edging is contemporary with the retaining walls. The grounds could not be considered particularly interesting examples of a formal garden style. It does however retain a number of mature natives and exotics such as a Bunya Pine (Araucaria bidwillii), Port Jackson figs (Ficus rubiginosa), silky oaks (Grevillea robusta), camphor laurels (Cinnamomum camphora) and jacarandas (J.mimosaefolia), which are indicative of earlier phases of occupation from, conceivably, the 1870s. (Clive Lucas, Stapleton & Partners Pty Ltd, 1999).

Summary of Listed Trees located within this Property Description:
1 No. Bunya Pine (Araucaria bidwillii)
3 No. Camphor Laurels (Cinnamomum camphora)
2 No. Port Jackson Figs (Ficus rubiginosa)
2 No. Silky Oaks (Grevillea robusta)

Botanical Name: Araucaria bidwillii
Common Name: Bunya Pine
Significance Attributes: Component of Mixed Informal Group, Historic, Visual Dominance (Harbour/ District/ Local)
Origin: Ornamental/ Cultivated
Location: Located near the eastern boundary of the lower lawn terrace of the rear northern garden. property boundary with "Carthona".
Height: 22 metres
Canopy Spread: 10 metres
Trunk Diameter: 1.2 metres (@ 1.0 metre above ground level)
Estimated Age: 100+ years
Condition/ Health: Very good condition and health.

Botanical Name: Cinnamomum camphora
Common Name: Camphor Laurel
Significance Attributes: Informal Group, Historic, Visual Dominance (District/ Local)
Origin: Ornamental/ Cultivated
Location: Located in the front southern garden, main central vehicular turning area and entry to the residence.
Heights: up to 26 metres
Canopy Spread:up to 25 metres
Trunk Diameters: multi-trunked, 1.5-2.0 metres (@ 1.0 metre above ground level)
Estimated Age: 100+ years
Condition/ Health: Generally very good condition and health. One tree has been severely lopped.

Botanical Name: Grevillea robusta
Common Name: Silky Oak
Significance Attributes: Two Specimens, Historic, Visual Dominance (Harbour/ District/ Local)
Origin: Ornamental/ Cultivated
Location: Located within the densely wooded front southern garden and approximately 3-5 metres below carriageway level.
Heights: up to 25 metres
Canopy Spreads: 12-15 metres
Trunk Diameters: 900mm-1.0 metres (@ 1.0 metre above ground level)
Estimated Age: 100+ years
Condition/ Health: The smaller specimen is in very good condition with a dense canopy. The larger specimen has a damaged crown, possibly from the effect of storms and in need of tree surgery.

Botanical Name: Ficus rubiginosa
Common Name: Port Jackson Fig
Significance Attributes: Two Specimens Component of Mixed Informal Group, Historic, Visua Dominance (District/ Local)
Origin: Ornamental/ Cultivated
Location: Both specimens located in front southern garden, 3-s metres below carriageway level.
Height: up to 16 metres
Canopy Spread: up to 25 metres
Trunk Diameter: 1.0-1.5 metres (@ 1.0 metre above ground level)
Estimated Age: 100+ years
Condition/ Health: Both specimens in very good condition and health. The larger specimen has received major pruning to the crown.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Physical condition is excellent. Archaeological potential is medium. (Clive Lucas, Stapleton & Partners Pty Ltd, 1999).
Date condition updated:07 Apr 04
Modifications and dates: Addition of the library and relocation of the stair hall, c.1900s. Construction of stable, c.1900s. Additions of the ground floor drawing room, port-cochere, verandah on harbour side, and an upstairs sitting room, c.1910/11. Manson and Pickering, architects. Alterations to the upper floor of the servant’s wing, 1924. Weston and Hoare, architects. Additional verandah on the second floor on the elevation fronting Double Bay. 1926. Stuart Bros. builders. Construction of garage, and alteration to stable. 1930. Neave and Berry, architects. Additional first floor bathroom off main bedroom and sitting room. 1936. Stacey A. Neave, architect. Alteration to the window of the library. 1952. Stuart Bros., builders. Alterations to upgrade bathroom fittings, staff quarters, etc., c.1966 Construction of swimming pool and reinforced concrete retaining wall, 1970. (Clive Lucas, Stapleton & Partners Pty Ltd, 1999).
Further information: Full LEP description - Fairwater - main building, stables, grounds, Seven Shillings Beach, Bunya Pine, 3 Camphor Laurels, 2 Port Jackson Figs, 2 Silky Oaks, gardens, excluding swimming pool and associated walls on north side. Land title is in one lot, and closely approximates original leasehold title issued in 1863, with additions made in 1924 and 1936. Land title is inclusive of Seven Shillings Beach. Listing should exclude swimming pool and associated reinforced concrete wall.
Current use: Residential
Former use: Residential


Historical notes: Crown grant was part of Captain John Piper’s 190 acres Point Piper Estate officially granted in 1820. This grant was subsequently acquired by Daniel Cooper and Solomon Levy in 1830. The subdivision of this part of Cooper’s estate, known as the Point Piper Estate, commenced in the mid 1850s. The first leasehold title to the allotment, which was to become Fairwater, was made in January 1863 to Edwin Thomas Beilby. Beilby (c.1822-1906) was a businessman associated with many of the prominent Sydney financial institutions of the nineteenth century. The leasehold title was for a period of 99 years 9 months, of an area of 2 acres 13 perches, with an annual rental set at £52 for the duration of the lease. During the mid 1870s Beilby was bankrupted, and in June 1875 Beilby’s official assignee, F.T. Humphreys, sold the allotment through the auction house of L.E. Threlkeld.

The purchaser of the leasehold allotment was James White of Cranbrook. White (1828-1890) was a member of the pioneering Hunter Valley family of pastoralists. After a short period as a member of the Legislative Assembly between 1864 and 1868, in 1873 White bought Cranbrook (which was built for Robert Tooth in 1859), directly opposite Fairwater.

In March 1882, Francis Edward Joseph purchased the leasehold title from James White for the sum of £500 (plus the annual rental of £52). Joseph (1858-?) was the only son of Samuel Aaron Joseph (1824-1898), MLA and MLC. Joseph is generally referred to as a stockbroker by profession. Joseph adopted his wife’s family name (Carnegy) in 1915 on inheriting the feudal barony of Lour in Angus, Scotland. Fairwater was constructed for Joseph in 1882 to a design by arguably the most original architect to practice in Australia in the last quarter of the nineteenth century - John Horbury Hunt.

Hunt (1838-1904) was a Canadian born architect who arrived in Sydney in 1863. Closely affiliated with the Bishop of Armidale and Grafton, and the White family of pastoralists, Hunt’s work is particularly evident in New England and the Hunter Valley. The Josephs resided at the house, which was called Fairwater from c.1884, for the period 1883 and 1887. During 1888 to 1889 the property was leased to Thomas Forster Knox (1849-1919), son of Sir Edward Knox, the founder of the Colonial Sugar Refining Co., and later chairman of this company. The Josephs returned to occupy the house in 1890 and continued to reside there for most of that decade up to 1897 when the house was again tenanted, initially in 1897 by Thomas Buckland (the son of the merchant, pastoralist, and banker - Thomas Buckland), and then by the Royal Navy for the years 1899 and 1901.

The Fairfax family ownership of Fairwater, which continues to this day, commenced in late 1900 with the assignment of the leasehold of 2 acres and 13 perches to James Oswald Fairfax. The purchase price of the leasehold title was £5,350. James Oswald Fairfax (1863-1928) was the third son of the proprietor of the Sydney Morning Herald Sir James Reading Fairfax (1834-1919), and grandson of the founder of that newspaper – John Fairfax (1804-1877).

In March 1909 J.O. Fairfax bought out the leasehold title to the 2 acres 13 perches from the Cooper family. Following the acquisition of freehold title Fairfax engaged the Sydney architect John Williamson Manson of Manson and Pickering to further remodel the Hunt house, with alterations being undertaken sometime after 1910. Manson (c.1863-1922) was Scottish born and trained in Glasgow in the office of Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson (1817-1875). He arrived in Sydney in the mid 1880s. George A. Taylor’s (the publisher of Building) obituary of Manson stated that ‘he was one of the greatest architects of our time’.

After the death of Sir James Oswald Fairfax in 1928, the title to the property was transferred in 1930 to his widow, Lady (Mabel Alice Emmeline) Fairfax (1871-1965), son, Warwick Oswald Fairfax (1901-1987), and brother and power of attorney, Geoffrey Evan Fairfax (1861-1930). Following the death of Lady Fairfax in 1965, the title to the property was transferred to Warwick Oswald Fairfax in August 1966. Warwick and family moved permanently into Fairwater in late 1968. Warwick O. Fairfax (1901-1987) joined staff of Sydney Morning Herald in 1927, and was appointed director in 1927. Following the death of his father in 1928, Warwick was appointed managing director and chairman of directors in 1930. Following the incorporation of John Fairfax Ltd. in 1956 he was appointed chairman, a position he retained until 1977. He was knighted in 1967. Following the death of Sir Warwick in 1987, the house continues to be lived in by his widow, Lady Fairfax. (Clive Lucas, Stapleton & Partners Pty Ltd, 1999).

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Commerce-Activities relating to buying, selling and exchanging goods and services (none)-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Land tenure-Activities and processes for identifying forms of ownership and occupancy of land and water, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Development of the early estates 1830s-1870-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Fairwater is of historical significance in consideration of its long association with the Australian publishing family company founded by John Fairfax in 1841, whose descendants have lived in the house since c.1901 to the present. It is also historically significant for it association with the Joseph family of merchants who built the house in 1882, and the architect they employed to build it - John Horbury Hunt. (Clive Lucas, Stapleton & Partners Pty Ltd, 1999) .
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Aesthetically, Fairwater is an excellent and rare example of the combined works of John Horbury Hunt and James Williamson Manson, the architect who sympathetically enlarged the Hunt era house to a form that is basically seen today. The exterior includes excellent examples of face brick work with rusticated sandstone details, while the interior retains period finishes and fittings such as stained glass picture windows, painted ceiling, decorative mosaic floor, door leafs and door furniture, panelled walls, and chimney-pieces which are now rare in consideration of their integrity and quality. The grounds contain an extensive system of sandstone retaining walls which is significant in consideration of its age and rarity, and a number of mature trees (such as a Bunya Pine, Port Jackson Figs, Silky Oaks, Camphor Laurels, and Jacarandas), dating, in part from the initial European improvement of the area following subdivision. (Clive Lucas, Stapleton & Partners Pty Ltd, 1999).
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
Fairwater has social value in that it is recognised by the community as a place of high historic interest in consideration of its association with the Fairfax family, and as a place which demonstrates through its siting, scale and quality, a style of living of the upper middle classes which has now largely vanished. (Clive Lucas, Stapleton & Partners Pty Ltd, 1999).
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
Fairwater has research value as a rare example of a large Victorian/Edwardian domestic residence and grounds, which retain a high degree of integrity in both its individual components and planning. (Clive Lucas, Stapleton & Partners Pty Ltd, 1999).
SHR Criteria f)
The association between Fairwater and the Fairfax family in view of the longevity of ownership and occupation by two generations, Sir James Oswald Fairfax (1863-1928) and Sir Warwick Oswald Fairfax (1901-1987), of managing directors of this family publishing company. The association between Fairwater and the Joseph family in view of the family’s notable commercial and political achievements. The association between Fairwater and the retention of a land title boundary, which fronts Port Jackson. The location of Fairwater within an area of heritage items and its contribution to this waterfront precinct of high aesthetic value. The location of Fairwater on the foreshore of Double Bay in consideration of the views of Port Jackson. The hard landscaping feature of the stone retaining walls being both part of the earlier build of the house and as an element which set the garden and house within the land allotment. The plantings within a large land holding situated on the foreshore of Port Jackson. (Clive Lucas, Stapleton & Partners Pty Ltd, 1999).
SHR Criteria g)
The association between Fairwater and J.W. Manson in view of the house being one of a number of new buildings undertaken by Manson and Pickering in the local area during the period c.1900-1912. (Clive Lucas, Stapletopn & Partners Pty Ltd, 1999).
Integrity/Intactness: Of high integrity in view of the retention to date of the original leasehold (made in 1863) allotment size. Of high integrity in view of the continuation of the historical use of the house with principal and staff quarters. Of high integrity as a large family residence which at its core is John Horbury Hunt’s simple, but avant-garde design, embellished by the Manson and Pickering alterations. (Clive Lucas, Stapleton & Partners Pty Ltd, 1999)
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.

Recommended management:

Preparation of a CMP prior to any proposed change of use, and /or change in ownership.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanWoollahraLEP 199510 Mar 95 28 
Local Environmental PlanWoollahra Local Environmental Plan 201428123 May 15   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Register of Significant Trees1991 Landarc Landscape Architects  No

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenClive Lucas, Stapleton & Partners Pty Ltd1999Fairwater, Assessment of Significance
GraphicDavis, W. H1901Photograph Album
WrittenNesta-Griffiths G1970Point Piper - Past and Present
WrittenSimpson C Australian Dictionary of Biography - Fairfax Family Entries
WrittenSouter G1981Company of Heralds

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: 2711251
File number: H99/00531

Every effort has been made to ensure that information contained in the State Heritage Inventory is correct. If you find any errors or omissions please send your comments to the Database Manager.

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