Sir Peter Abeles' former Bellevue Hill mansion fetches $15,501,000

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23 Victoria Road, Bellevue Hill bought by Cranbrook School

By Jonathan Chancellor
23 Victoria Road Bellevue Hill bought by Cranbrook School
23 Victoria Road Bellevue Hill bought by Cranbrook School

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Wednesday, 22 May 2013
The former Bellevue Hill matrimonial homeof the late transport tycoon Sir Peter Abeles was sold for $15,501,000 when offered at its invitation only onsite auction tonight.

  • Listed with $11 million-plus hopes, the property presented a rare opportunity as it last sold 45 years ago. The underbidders let it go after their $15.5 million offer.
  • Sundorne, the six-bedroom Victoria Road mansion was home to Sir Peter and his first wife, the arts patron and founder of the Sydney International Piano Competition, Claire Dan during the period when Sir Peter was cementing his place in Australia’s corporate life.[1]
  • The two-storey English Manor-style interiors are still filled with the furniture and fittings installed by Peter and Claire
  • Video Tour:

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SUNDORNE, built in 1925 for about pound stg. 3250 and sold to transport magnate Peter Abeles and his first wife Claire Dan for about pound stg. 60,000 in 1958, sits in splendid isolation at the end of a long drive on 2549 square metres overlooking Sydney Harbour from atop Bellevue Hill.

With Abeles in residence, Sundorne was the scene of many a lively party with regular guests including Bob Hawke and Robert Askin dropping in for a game of poker.

Renovated in the 1960s but not touched since, it's a perfect example of what was then the height of fashionable interior design -- from its lacquered ceilings by Marion Hall Best, a smoking room and maids' wing to the retro Formica kitchen with breakfast nook, Bakelite telephone and double Frigidaire ovens.
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The two-storey home has interior furniture and fittings installed by Peter and Claire (pictured below). With ashtrays on every table, and wood-panelled walls it solicited comparisons with the 1960s-styled series Mad Men.
  • Reece Coleman, director of BHR Estate Agents, said four clients wanted to restore the home while one international client wanted to demolish it, saying "the house is worthless, the land is priceless".
  • Zoning prevents development such as apartments or townhouses, but it could be divided into two blocks.
  • The land was originally part of the Cranbrook estate -- now home to an elite private school for boys -- which was subdivided in 1917 into two lots. One was purchased by Edward Percy Simpson, a solicitor with legal firm Minter Simpson (now Minter Ellison), who employed architect CA Millyard to build Sundorne as a wedding present for his son, Edward Telford Simpson.
  • As part of the Abeles divorce settlement in about 1970, Dan -- founder of the Sydney International Piano Competition in 1977 -- was given life tenancy. She died last October.
  • Proceeds from the auction will go to the Abeles estate.

With its five bedrooms, four bathrooms, triple garage, swimming pool, sauna, tennis court and views from almost every window, the mansion and its contents reflect its owners' Hungarian background. A labyrinth of interconnecting small rooms, panelled walls and dark furniture give it a distinctly European feel. Paintings by Hungarian-born artist Judy Cassab, a close friend of Dan's, feature throughout, and along with all the contents -- including a lamp figured after Hawke -- will be auctioned by Andrew Shapiro on June 22.[2]
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Sir Peter Abeles' first wife, the arts patron Claire Dan . Ms Dan retaining a life tenancy of the home
Sir Peter Abeles' first wife, the arts patron Claire Dan . Ms Dan retaining a life tenancy of the home

  • One can almost image Sir Peter playing poker with his regular guests who included the Premier, Sir Robert Askin.
  • The inspectees can even spot a lamp stand fashioned in the likeness of former ACTU boss and Prime Minister Bob Hawke that stands close to the large leather writing desk in the library that overlooks the water.
Sir Peter bought Sundorne from the well-connected establishment Simpson lawyer family in 1958 through his company P.A. Holdings Pty Ltd for about £60,000.
  • The 2550sq m site has a full-size flood-lit tennis court and in-ground pool with district and harbour views reaching from the city skyline and bridge to Manly in the north.
  • After a long battle with cancer Sir Peter, who relocated to Vaucluse in 1970 paying $450,000 for Villa Igiea, died in June 1999 aged 75.
  • As Sir Peter lay unconscious just hours before his death, Bob Hawke paid a visit to the Vaucluse home to bid his friend of 30 years a final farewell.

"One of Sydney's grandest estates on approx 2,549sqm of blue ribbon land with iconic views, tennis court, pool and self-contained staff quarters"

"One of Sydney's grand estates set upon approx. 2,549sqm in a prestigious location, 'Sundorne' a stately English Manor, offers unrivalled potential. A substantial private holding with two street frontages, this grand residence commands sweeping 270 degree views featuring Sydney Harbour, the CBD, Opera House, Bridge and across to Manly."


The property at 23 Victoria Road Bellevue Hill was part of the Cranbrook estate. Following subdivision of the Cranbrook property in 1917 it became Lot 2 of the subdivision offered for sale as the Cranbrook Subdivision on 1 December 1917. (The house Cranbrook was built for Robert Tooth in 1859. It was used as the State governor's residence from 1902 until the governor returned to Government House and the property was subdivided).

  • The allotment 2 of the Cranbrook Subdivision was purchased by Edward Percy Simpson, of St Mervyn's Double Bay, who in March 1922 lodged a building application with Woollahra Council to erect a house and garage on the site (see BA99/22). The architect or builder for the project was recorded as CA Millyard and Council approved the application on 27 March 1922.[3]
  • Edward Percy Simpson, a solicitor with legal firm Minter Simpson (now Minter Ellison), employed architect CA Millyard to build Sundorne as a wedding present for his son, Edward Telford Simpson.[4]
  • The house at 23 Victoria Road was known as Sundorne and was first listed in the Woollahra rate books and Sands Directories in 1924. Edward Percy's son Edward Telford Simpson was listed as occupant of the house in the Sands Directories in 1924, and was later the recorded rate payer in the Woollahra rate books (having purchased the property in July 1925 for £3,250.) It would appear that the land was purchased and a house erected by Edward Percy for the use of his son Edward Telford Simpson.
  • Edward Percy Simpson (1858-1931) was a solicitor and company director, who joined the company firm Minter Simpson & Co. . Edward Telford Simpson (1899-1965) also a solicitor and company director and partner in the firm Minter Simpson (later Minter Ellison) .
  • In July 1958 the house was purchased by Peter Abeles, of TNT fame for approx. £60,000 and substantially renovated. In 1960 the swimming pool was added; followed by the change room and sauna in 1968 and the maids quarters in 1971.

- Held by the same family for 55 years, 'Sundorne' is a grand residence with enormous potential to renovate, redevelop, or subdivide (STCA)

  • Nestled at the end of a long private drive on approx.. 2,549sqm, it is hidden from the world
  • Substantial street frontage of approx 28.955m to Victoria Road and 70.44m to Rose Bay Avenue
  • Driveway leads to large forecourt providing ample visitor parking and access to double carport and garage
  • Entrance foyer with imposing staircase and reception room leads to formal and casual living
  • Gracious formal living and dining room capture substantial northern harbour views
  • Sun-filled wraparound conservatory captures all day sun and overlooks pool and gardens
  • Substantial in-ground swimming pool, established gardens and full size floodlit tennis court
  • Large eat-in kitchen with adjoining breakfast room and walk in pantry
  • Accommodation comprises five bedrooms including master with ensuite and walk-in-robe
  • Upstairs are a further two bedrooms plus a library (or 4th bed) and a sunroom all with views
  • Full bathroom with separate WC; breakfast kitchenette
  • 5th bedroom with ensuite on ground floor has its own entry
  • Adjoining 1 bedroom self-contained guest / staff quarters with direct access to Victoria Road
  • Separate laundry; workshop and storage; sauna; additional guest WC; security alarm
  • Moments to Rose Bay Foreshore, Double Bay, Redleaf Pool and several elite schools
  • Easy access to the CBD, Eastern Distributor and airport
  • Rates : Council $1,417.40pq : Water $172.55pq

Cranbrook School buys back neighbouring estate for $15.51M

Some of the contents of the former home of Sir Peter Abeles and Claire Dan / Pic: Justin Lloyd Source: The Daily Telegraph
EXCLUSIVE eastern suburbs boys' school Cranbrook has bought a renowned neighbouring estate in Bellevue Hill for $15.51 million.
The grand 1920s residence known as Sundorne is on a 2555sq m parcel of land and was originally part of the private school where fees average almost $30,000 a year.
The significant sale was held behind closed doors at an on-site invitation-only auction event and Macquarie Bank board member and president of Cranbrook, Helen Nugent, was among the last to leave the home late last night accompanied by a group of businessmen.
Transport magnate Sir Peter Abeles and his first wife, Claire Dan, bought Sundorne in 1958, but after their divorce in the 1960s, the grand mansion remained Dan’s home until she died last October.
Cranbrook School Head master Nicholas Sampson confirmed the purchase today.

Luxury house sales

Sir Peter Abeles' former Bellevue Hill home 'Sundorne'

Sir Peter Abeles
Sir Peter Abeles
Copy picture of Sir Peter Abeles. Picture: Sam Mooy
“We are delighted to announce the acquisition of 23 Victoria Road, Bellevue Hill," Mr Sampson said.
"The land was originally part of the Cranbrook estate and this investment offers the School the opportunity to revitalise the Senior School campus, and improve the School environment for present and future generations of Cranbrook students.”
Sundorne, which boasts a tennis court, servants' quarters, swimming pool and panoramic views of the harbour, was sold as part of the Sir Abeles’ estate.
Placed on the market last month with price expectations of “more than $11 million” the 2555sq m estate was handled by Reece Coleman and Daniel Baran of BHR Estate Agents and Michael Pallier of Sotheby’s International Real Estate.

Some of the contents of the former home of Sir Peter Abeles and Claire Dan / Pic: Justin Lloyd
The huge $15.501 million price tag is the highest price paid for Sydney property at auction since La Manoir, a similar-sized estate just a few doors away sold at a private auction attended by Russell Crowe for $23 million in 2009.

Peter Abeles
Peter Abeles
Sir Peter Abeles pictured in 1986. Picture: Archive News Ltd
Sir Peter, a millionaire and one-time owner of Ansett and TNT, died in 1999. The Vaucluse house he lived in with his second wife Lady Kitty sold in 2001 for $12 million.

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