Sitting on the highest part of the Darling Point peninsula, at 1 Mount Adelaide Street, is Babworth House, a grand, early 20th-century home of state and national significance.

In the years before World War I, Australia was flourishing. It was a time of social change and endless possibility in the new federation, with Sydney its beating heart. The city was the fifth-largest port in the British Empire and business was booming.

Home of the Horderns

Establishing a name and reputation to eclipse all others in this mercantile city was one family: the Horderns. Making their mark and their fortune as merchants and retailers, before branching out into other pursuits, numerous Hordern family members built homes in Darling Point. And in 1912, Sir Samuel Hordern would join them.

Sir Samuel bought a property known as Mount Adelaide, situated on Darling Point’s highest spot and consisting of terraced vineyards and an older home. Here, he would create an immense property, Babworth House, in the contemporary Arts and Crafts style, with gardens to match the building’s grandeur.

To design his grand vision, Hordern employed the architects Morrow and De Putron, who had designed the nearby Hopewood House for family member Lebbeus Hordern. Other notable designs by the company include Broadways’ iconic Grace Bros buildings.

A talent with timber

Babworth House was constructed on a glorious scale, with 26 bedrooms, a large ballroom and a billiard room.

Its interiors showcase the highest craftsmanship and quintessential design features of the era. Such is the importance of the home that its Heritage NSW listing states, “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.”

Elegant timber joinery features throughout the home. Living areas include panels of English oak and Queensland maple, while the coffered ceilings are decorated with plaster Art Nouveau motifs that place the building’s heritage squarely in the early 20th century. An ornate staircase, carved in Art Nouveau designs, forms the spine of this impressive home.

The exterior and gardens

The gardens of Babworth House were designed to amplify the home’s impact. They included elements such as grottoes, faux rockwork and stairs, all nestled among sunken gardens of rare and native plants.

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Garden platforms and enclosures led down to a rose garden, and a glade of oaks was under-planted with bluebells. Other plants used included succulents, umbrella trees and Bird of Paradise. The collection of plants, many of which are still with us, is itself considered historically significant.

Babworth House reimagined

After Sir Samuel’s death in 1956, the home and its contents were sold. The property was eventually put into service as a convalescent hospital, and it remained in use by St Vincent’s until 1980.

The house was then variously used as a film set, hospice and nurses’ accommodation. In 2005 it was bought by developers and reconfigured into five apartments by architectural firm Conybeare Morrison. Their work on the project resulted in numerous awards to recognise their success in conserving the heritage significance of both the house and gardens.

Today, these apartments represent the ultimate in luxury living. All are spacious and sophisticated, with the largest flowing across three levels with wraparound harbour-view terraces. Some properties include unique facilities such as steam rooms and wine cellars, and all residents can enjoy the Roman-style heated indoor pool.

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Photo credits: Wikipedia