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  • Writer's pictureJon Ruwolt

Top price Leura, Bellevue Hill

One of Sydney’s grandest estates:

Leura, 24 Victoria Road, BELLEVUE HILL NSW 2023


"A monument to the Federation Queen Anne style of architecture from the era,” Ray White Double Bay listing agent Michael Finger says.

Leura is a heritage-listed former residence and school boarding house and now a grand residence at Victoria Road, Bellevue Hill, New South Wales, Australia


The historic Federation estate Leura, in Bellevue Hill NSW, has sold to Leo Lynch, of flower wholesaler Lynch Group, for $76 million by Chinese-Australian businessman Wilson Lee and his wife, Baoyu Wu – trading for more than double what they paid for it in late 2015 - $30.8 million.

SMH story by Lucy Macken, May 31, 2023

The historic estate designed by government architect Walter Liberty Vernon and architect Howard Joseland on almost 4300 square metres, set a suburb high the last time it traded, when it was purchased by Chinese-Australian businessman Wilson Lee and his wife Baoyu Wu one day ahead of a scheduled auction.

It returns to the market with no major material improvements since, but a development application was approved in late 2017 for $7.5 million worth of “additions and alterations” designed by Weir Phillips Architects that include -

  • the removal of the existing garage

  • reconstruction of a new underground garage

  • a new caretaker’s apartment.


Wilson Lee is best known for heading up the Chinese wealth management service provider Noah Holdings, but is also a keen yachtsman whose ocean racer Noahs II has been a regular competitor in the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.



The eight-bedroom, eight-bathroom residence with a ballroom, tennis court and swimming pool was offered through Ray White Double Bay’s Michael Finger, who sold it last time, following Mr Lee’s return to Shanghai.


“This property is irreplaceable,” said Mr Finger. “The land, the view, the aspect and the history make it one of Sydney’s finest estates.”

Flower businessman Leo Lynch and his wife Christina’s $76 million purchase coincides with a $61.5 million sale of their nearby former home to freight industry boss Arthur Tzaneros.


Prestige agents were left stunned by the result for Lynch’s home on Wednesday, given it is set on about 1300 square metres.

It topped the suburb high, previously held by the 5700-square-metre Rona estate that sold for $58 million in 2018 to Richard Scheinberg, of the wealthy cattle and property investment family.


Both Rona and Leura are among Bellevue Hill’s finest estates and were built next door to each other on the Bellevue Hill ridge-line more than a century ago for the sons of Sir Edward Knox of the Colonial Sugar Refinery empire, probably both designed by the same architect, Walter Liberty Vernon.


Edward Knox had the Rona estate, and Leura was owned by his brother Tom, who had married into the Victorian pastoralist Ritchie family and who was the managing director of the stock and station agency Dalgety.

  • Of Federation Queen Anne style, the house was gutted by fire in January, 1909 and the wooden shingle roof replaced by terracotta shingles.


Cranbrook purchase

Finger’s Ray White colleague Di Wilson says Leura was purchased in the mid-1950s by Cranbrook School for boarders.

  • In 1956, the house was purchased by Cranbrook School serving as ‘Street House’ for boarders named after the then President of the School Council, Sir Kenneth Street

  • Leura has since returned to the private sector.

  • With privacy at the very end of a circular driveway off Victoria Road, the eight bedroom home combines traditional opulence and modern design.

  • There’s a tennis court and resort swimming pool…and private level lawns overlooked by wide north facing verandahs.

  • It last traded through Michael Finger in 1986 for a then very impressive $7.3 million when sold by the top end home restorer Bill Shipton, who’d engaged building designer, Roderick Learoyd, trained at the Oxford School of Architecture, to assist in its renaissance.

  • The 1986 sale to the New Zealand businessman heralded the brief mid-1980s trend of Kiwi entrepreneurs crossing the Tasman to try their luck in Sydney, all with trophy home acquisition to boot. They included the Goodman Fielder Wattie chairman, Pat Goodman who secured another Shipton home, the 1917 Double Bay mansion, Verona.

  • Most departed after the 1987 stockmarket crash.

Retaining its splendid setting and panoramic views of Sydney harbour, the curved drive passes below in front of the house.


Leura’s Garden:

Over 4260 square meters of established grounds, resort style sanctuary (Ray White Double Bay, 2015).


Retains its splendid setting and panoramic views of Sydney harbour; the curved drive passes below in front of the house (Boyd, unpub., 2010, 226).

  • Site of an old Aboriginal camp and has a natural spring (NTA, 1978).

  • Trees include a Hill’s fig on the house’s western side (Ficus microcarpa ‘Hillii’)(Stuart Read, pers. comm., 19/8/2015).

  • Commanding position to harbour – important in visual catchment from New South Head Road.


Mansion:

Federation Queen Anne style mansion (1891) adjoining ‘Rona’ and probably by the same architect (WMC, 2015).

  • Early Queen Anne style, leading to Federation style.

  • Leadlight doors and window at rear.

  • Timber panelling. Grand stair.

  • Prominent siting to Sydney Harbour.

  • Site of an old Aboriginal camp and has a natural spring.

  • Knox family connection.

A number of the original decorative details survive, such as the wave motif to the dado rail, the blue and white transfer tiles and the fern and sunburst detail to the grate in the dining room.

The decorative motifs used are similar to the interior schemes designed by French-Australian artist Lucien Henry.


Details such as panelled timber ceilings and soffits and the incised Japanese-style curves in the solid brackets to the first floor are details that appear in Vernon’s later domestic designs:

  • the former in his own house at Wendover and in the postal chamber of the Newtown Post Office and

  • the latter in the staff residence in the grounds of Callan Park.

Further evidence that the house is largely Vernon’s work is a surviving (unpublished) tender analysis held by Woollahra Council. Completed by ‘Mr. Vernon’, the list included prices from two of the builders engaged to build a number of the residences in the Neutral Bay Estate.

  • It is likely that detailed supervision of the construction of Leura was undertaken by Joseland; the house was not completed until 1891, by which time Vernon had been appointed Government Architect.

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