With harbour views, sweeping staircases and spectacular landscaped gardens, Elizabeth Bay House was Sydney’s ultimate trophy home. Built for colonial secretary Alexander Macleay in the early 19th century, after the governor, the most important public official in Sydney, it was by all accounts the finest house in the colony. Yet it tells a familiar story: of ambition and passion, of riches to ruin.
Macleay’s property covered an expansive 54 acres (22ha) of prime harbourside real estate, and took in spectacular views east up the harbour towards the heads. It was in fact the textbook picturesque location, surrounded by rugged sandstone outcrops and cliffs, rich vegetation and bustling activity on the water – all desirable features for a gentleman keen to show off his position and taste.
Macleay engaged the most fashionable architect in Sydney at the time, John Verge, who had already designed a number of handsome villas for other wealthy colonists. Before arriving in Australia in 1828, Verge had been a successful builder in London and was able to build to a style and standard not seen before in Sydney – and indeed, in the few years he spent here, he built several houses that are still regarded as the pinnacle of colonial era design.1 To Macleay’s instructions, Verge produced a design for a splendid ‘marine villa’ in the Greek revival style, which was then at the peak of popularity.
See link to book your visit to Elizabeth Bay House: mhnsw website
Elizabeth Bay House @ 7 Onslow Avenue, Elizabeth Bay, Sydney
Visit MHNSW website