• Jon Ruwolt

Lady Mary Fairfax's luxury home Fairwater to be Sold!

Updated: Aug 12, 2019



Australia's most expensive home has hit the market which has reignited the optimistic obsession about a $100 million sale.

It's the Double Bay offering by the executors of the late Lady (Mary) Fairfax.


The home, Fairwater, has been in the Fairfax media dynasty family since 1901 when Sir James Oswald Fairfax paid £5,350.


The two-storey mansion - which was designed by architect J. Horbury Hunt for stockbroker, Francis Joseph in 1881, is set on five subdividable blocks on exclusive Seven Shillings Beach.

NSW Heritage notes that "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 mature garden landscaping including notable trees."


"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 window glazing, in addition to the predominant use of clear glazing, also includes diamond patterned leadlight, 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 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 (Clive Lucas, Stapleton & Partners Pty Ltd, 1999).


"Fairwater represents an extraordinary opportunity to acquire Australia’s most desirable residential holding," Jacobs said.

"The property’s appeal reflects its unquestionable position as Australia’s most revered and significant home.


"It is remarkable that an estate offering such rare and unrepeatable features still exists in Australia today; this opportunity will not come again.

"A revered harbour side estate of this size, 5.5 kilometres from the CBD of a major international city is rare by any standard.


For a brief time, the property was to be gifted to the people of NSW, but this proposition was later ditched.

"What is Fairwater without the garden, it's just another big old house," Lady Mary Fairfax said in 1990 when faced with $350,000 annual land taxes.

By 1996 Lady Fairfax said a trust of seven was being established to oversee the estate, headed by her close friend, the former chairman of National Australia Bank, Sir Rupert Clarke.

Lady Fairfax made the announcement at the 1996 Monaco National Day celebrations but later declined to comment on her intended gift.


"Fairwater is a world class showpiece offering unprecedented attributes of historical significance, design circa 1882 by famed architect John Horbury Hunt."

Nine years later there were additions completed in the Arts and Craft style.


No price expectation or sales date have been issued, however Jacobs will be hoping to sell it for quicker than Elaine which took three years to sell.


Fairwater, on 8000sq m of harbourfront land, is larger than Elaine, and the house is apparently in better condition.

Confusing matters further: it’s not exactly clear who owns it. The record suggest Warwick Fairfax, later Sir Warwick, was born there in 1901, and took possession in 1968, nine years after he made Lady Fairfax his third wife.

Sir Warwick died there in 1987, after which Lady Fairfax called herself the owner. She had four children and 10 grandchildren.

Fairwater has often been referred to as likely to fetch more than Elaine.

Jacobs will be hoping for a quicker sale than Elaine, which took three years to sell.

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