Belhaven, 85 Victoria Road, Bellevue Hill NSW 2023


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Want to live next to Lachland and Sarah Murdoch? That's $26 million


85 Victoria Road Bellevue Hill NSW 2023
85 Victoria Road Bellevue Hill NSW 2023
The Bellevue Hill mansion of long-time Westfield executive and Brambles chairman Stephen Johns and his wife Michele Bender is up for grabs for the first time in almost 30 years for $25 million to $27 million.
  • The 2100 square metre neighbour to the Le Manoir home of media mogul Lachlan Murdoch and his wife Sarah dates back to 1919, when it was rebuilt by Sunday Times newspaper owner and showbiz entrepreneur Hugh "Huge Deal" McIntosh.
  • By 1930 the Victoria Road property was home to the Resch's brewing scion Arnold Resch, and from 1942 to 1948 it was run as the Belhaven Babies Home, run by controversial businessman Leslie Owen Bailey, who sent many of the babies born there to be raised at his Hopewood House orphanage in Bowral.







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Johns purchased Belhaven, as it remains known, in 1989, paying $4.5 million at the time and commissioning a restoration and renovation, since completed by heritage architect Howard Tanner.
  • The historic residence and surrounding manicured garden is richly populated today with the couple's vast art collection set among the home's other impressive, including the glass-framed pool, flood-lit tennis court, a separate guest house and north-facing views over the harbour.
  • The main residence has eight living areas on the entry level alone, including the sunroom and library, and the upper levels are largely given over to the bedrooms.
  • The vast main bedroom has a walk-in wardrobe and en suite, as well as one of the former bedrooms given over to a dressing room, and there is a second study and rooftop terrace on the upper level.
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Stephen Johns and Michele Bender confident of $25m spring sale


Michele Bender and Stephen Johns at their Bellevue Hill home. Picture: Danny Aarons
Michele Bender and Stephen Johns at their Bellevue Hill home. Picture: Danny Aarons
BRAMBLES chairman Stephen Johns and his wife Michele Bender are confident of a spring sale for their $25 million Bellevue Hill mansion.
  • Michael Pallier, the managing director of Sydney Sotheby’s International Realty, is equally optimistic — and has revealed he’s holding a signed contract on Belhaven at 85 Victoria Rd — believed to be from an overseas buyer.
  • “It’s not far off the asking price,” Mr Pallier said.
  • “But the owners are keen to proceed with a spring campaign to see who else is out there.”
  • And why not? The market, he said, was strong, with a shortage of such amazing trophy homes with it all — harbour views, tennis court, swimming pool, the two street frontages and lots of off-street parking.
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  • “The garden blooms are about to happen and the rosemary is flowering,” Ms Bender said.
  • “The garden is very romantic — spring romance is in the air.”
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Brambles chairman Stephen Johns lists historic Bellevue Hill mansion for $26 million


Belhaven, once the home of the late Hugh D. McIntosh, is a three storied building, set in lovely gardens, and with huge glass windows
commanding a magnificent sweep of the harbor.
  • Belhaven dates back to 1919 when it was built by Sunday Times newspaper owner and showbiz entrepreneur Hugh “Huge Deal” McIntosh.
  • By 1930 the Victoria Road property was home to the Resch’s brewing scion Arnold Resch, and from 1942 to 1948 it was run as the Belhaven Babies Home, run by controversial businessman Leslie Owen Bailey, who sent many of the babies born there to be raised at his Hopewood House orphanage in Bowral.
  • It has been called home by Resch’s brewing scion Arnold Resch and controversial businessman Leslie Owen Bailey, who ran it as the Belhaven Babies Home.
  • Set on 2,100 sqm, the three storey home with eight living areas on the entry level alone has six bedrooms, six bathrooms, a sun room, library, two studies and a rooftop terrace.
  • Their giant 17-hand bronze horse sculpture in the grounds by the American sculptor Deborah Butterfield weighs 750kg, and is off to their new apartment overlooking Sydney Harbour.
    Their giant 17-hand bronze horse sculpture in the grounds by the American sculptor Deborah Butterfield weighs 750kg
    Their giant 17-hand bronze horse sculpture in the grounds by the American sculptor Deborah Butterfield weighs 750kg
  • It took a whole day to get it into Bellevue Hill with a crane, the former group ­finance director for Westfield recalled recently.
  • Stephen has owned the five-bedroom Victoria Road mansion for 29 years.
Belhaven, 85 Victoria Road, Bellevue Hill NSW
Belhaven, 85 Victoria Road, Bellevue Hill NSW
  • Given the couple’s plans to downsize to the harbourside, it is listed with Michael Pallier, of Sotheby’s International.

History


Belhaven was set up during World War II in a rented mansion that served as the Divisional Headquarters of the Eastern Command of the Australian Army from 1940 to 1941.
  • The house, on 'Millionaire's Mile', had magnificent views, parquetry floors and a pipe organ, as well as a dairy and vegetable gardens.
  • Bailey lived in the same suburb and took over the lease when the Army moved out.
  • Bailey promoted Belhaven as a charity and set up the Youth Welfare Association to run it. To promote the charity the children were described as orphans, unwanted, born to mothers who could not care for them.
  • In reality, Bailey recruited women with unintended pregnancies, by placing advertisements in magazines and writing to doctors. Bailey also wrote to the Australian Army, which employed large numbers of women during World War II.
  • With the number of soldiers stationed in Sydney, both Australian and American, there was a high rate of unplanned pregnancies and the Army was highly cooperative, even sending soldiers for working bees at Belhaven in 1944.

Belhaven Home for Mothers and Babies, in Bellevue Hill, was a babies home developed by Sydney businessman LO Bailey in 1942 and run by the Youth Welfare Association.
  • Approximately 200 unwed or widowed mothers gave birth at Belhaven or sought assistance there. Bailey also gathered babies from nearby maternity hospitals. In all, 86 babies remained in Bailey's care.
  • Belhaven closed in 1948 and the remaining babies were taken to Hopewood at Bowral.
  • Belhaven was the first stage in an experiment Bailey conducted, using children gathered from birth, to 'scientifically' demonstrate the health benefits of his 'natural health' approach to diet and medicine.
  • The second stage, from 1944, was Hopewood House.
  • The babies have the north-easterly wing on the first floor, with a glass fronted dormitory opening on a porch. On the same floor are well-furnished dormitories for the mothers, and bathrooms for mothers and babies.
  • Bailey offered room and board to pregnant women, so long as the mother-to-be was willing to adopt his diet.

AWW: New Deal For These Babies...Sat 16 Oct 1943
AWW: New Deal For These Babies...Sat 16 Oct 1943

In 1943 Bailey promoted Belhaven to the Australian Women's Weekly in a large photo article called 'A New Deal for These Babies'. The article said the home was 'unusual' but highlighted that Belhaven offered 'ideal conditions' for babies who had come into the world in difficult circumstances:
  • "We aim to do everything for a child that a good father does for more fortunate children," says Mr L. O. Bailey …
  • "We plan to maintain and educate the children until they are 18 years of age, so that they can take their place in the world with as fine a start as any child of a happy secure marriage."

This article also revealed that Bailey's thinking was a combination of White Australia policy, child welfare, and scientific experimentation:
  • There are not many men who would willingly turn their own houses into a mothercraft centre, but Mr Bailey is so enthusiastic about the scheme that he takes it as a matter of course."I and my co-directors feel that by helping these children we are helping Australia, too," he said."We can't hope to hold Australia indefinitely if our population does not increase.
  • "A home such as ours helps to reduce the infant death-rate. There are some mothers who are simply not in a position to give a child proper care.
  • "As we gain experience we hope to reach useful conclusions about child welfare, compile statistics, and publish information."

Bailey soon needed larger premises, so the YWAA purchased Hopewood House in 1944. Belhaven ran as a parallel organisation and appears to have remained open until at least August 1948, as Bailey advertised for staff until that time.
  • Jack Dunn Trop writes that Bailey was dissatisfied with Belhaven, as supervision from the Child Welfare Department meant he was less free to enforce his ideas than he was at Hopewood.
  • He was required to employ qualified staff and the matrons had their own ideas and frequently overruled him.
  • When Belhaven closed the babies were taken to Hopewood, but Bailey said he noticed a difference in the health of the two sets of children.

References