The History of John Fairfax and Fairfax House

Often referred to as “the house on the hill” ‘Ginahgulla’ also known as ‘Fairfax House’ is a historic house in Bellevue Hill listed on the Australian Register of the National Estate.

The house was built in 1858 by John Fairfax of the Fairfax media empire and while unconfirmed, is suggested to have been designed by Edmund Blacket who was a specialist in Victorian Gothic architecture. Renowned as one of Australia’s best architects, Blacket designed The University of Sydney and St. Mary’s Cathedral.

Situated on the south side of Ginahgulla Road, Ginahgulla’s beautiful two storey gothic design encourages suggestions of Blacket’s involvement. 

Before relocating to Australia, Fairfax was a tenacious journalist moving up the ranks in London in 1836 when he became involved in a bitter legal battle with a solicitor after criticising the man in one of his columns. Even though he won the first lawsuit, the solicitor wouldn’t back down and Fairfax depleted his life savings fighting and winning following lawsuits made against him, which resulting in him applying to the Insolvency Courts. 

When the case was finally put to rest, Fairfax and his wife Sarah decided on a fresh start and set sail for Sydney, arriving on 26 September 1838 after a 130 day journey, where he set on building his empire.
The Fairfax family continued to use the property until 1945 which was then bought Scots College and used as a boarding house. 

If not for the litigious solicitor vs John Fairfax in 1836, this grand old Dame may have never been built.