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The Home of Mary Louisa Ramsay and Alexander Learmonth



Yasmar was the house built by Mary Louisa Ramsay and her husband Alexander Learmonth on land which had been part of the Dobroyde Estate. The house stands on what is now 185 Parramatta Rd, Haberfield. This portion was given to them at the time of their marriage. After the death of David Ramsay, Sarah Ramsay drew up plans for the subdivision of the estate among her children, including the land which was to be conveyed to the Presbyterian Church.


Mary Louisa married Alexander Learmonth in 1850 at the Scots Presbyterian Church in Sydney. Learmonth had been born in 1810 in Linlithgow in Scotland, and came to NSW in 1842. He was a senior partner in the Stock and Station firm of Learmonth and Dickinson, a Director of the Australian Joint Stock Bank and also of the United Insurance Company. He was committed to the Presbyterian Church, and became the first Superintendent of the Sunday School at what was to become St Davids Church.


Yasmar was built between 1856 and 1858 on land which was transferred to Mary Louisa and Alexander Learmonth in 1855. The architect was John Bibb, and the plans dated 1856. The 1858/59 Sands Directory shows Alexander Learmonth living at Parramatta Road, which would suggest the house was complete by then. Yasmar is set well back from Parramatta Road. The house is built in a symmetrical Georgian style of sandstone blocks, with a large flag stone verandah. The site incorporated a large stable complex and carriage house. The house was built well back from the Parramatta Road, and an elaborate garden was established in the grounds surrounding it, and paddocks behind. Much of this garden has survived in the area between the house and the road, although the land behind was long since subdivided into residential blocks. A portion of the land was used for the construction of Haberfield Public School.


Alexander Learmonth was 16 years Mary Louisas senior, and he died in 1877. It would seem that Mary Louisa lived on in the house, until leasing it to Robert McCook in 1902, and to Joseph Neal Grace in 1904. Mary Louisa and her daughter Mary had taken out an Indenture Mortgage on the 1894, which was still current in 1903. At this time Mary Louisa was living with her daughter at Concord.


In 1903 a Primary application to bring the land under the Real Property Act transferred the land to Mary Ramsay Learmonth, Mary Louisa's unmarried daughter. The allotment was a little over 8 acres. In 1904 the original home site was transferred to Albert Edward Grace, including a covenant to allow access to St David's Avenue so that further subdivision could take place.  In 1904 Mary Learmonth was still the proprietor of 49 acres, land which had been her mothers portion after Sarah divided it among her children. From 1904 onward, the property was subdivided, and a large portion was resumed for Haberfield Public School.


Albert Grace transferred the property to Miss Sarah Selina Smith on her marriage to Joseph Neal Grace in 1911. Miss Smith was the Lady superintendent of the Presbyterian Ladies College, Croydon. During World War II the property was taken over by the military, though it is not known when Miss Smith left Yasmar, although when she died in 1949 she was a widow of Macquarie Street, Sydney.


In November 1944 Yasmar and the land remaining were transferred to the New South Wales Government. In 1946 the house was converted into a Children's Court, and a remand Centre built nearby. The house had been listed on the State Heritage Register, so the outer appearance was not altered


In August 2003, Ashfield Council acquired Yasmar, and is planning restoration work. The Remand Centre will be moved to Lidcombe in 2005.




Mary Louisa and Alexander Learmonth had 6 children. One of these, McCheyne, died in 1879, aged 14. A graphic report of the death was given in the Sydney Morning Herald the following day, including a description of the smashed and mangled body.


  1. Sarah (1851-1920) married George John Scale, and went to live in England. She died in Bath, and there is a memorial to her on the Learmonth grave in the Ramsay Graveyard.

   2. Annie (1854-1925) married Lewis Potter Bain in 1876. He was born in Aberdeen Scotland in 1846. He had experience working for the Union Bank of Australia in London, and joined the Sydney Stock Exchange in 1877. He was Chairman of the Stock Exchange on four separate occasions. The firm of Bain and Co. are still operating in Sydney. In 1984, a grandson Jim Bain was Chairman of the Sydney Stock Exchange. Annie and Lewis Bain lived all their married life at Dalsemar, Bland St., Ashfield.


  1. Alexander (1855-1929) married Caroline Lawson in 1866

    4. Ramsay (1857-1910) was unmarried.


    5. Mary (1859-1914) was unmarried


   6. McCheyne (1865-1879) was killed in an accident at Croydon railway station.


A Press Release about the future of Yasmar by Carmel Tebbutt can be seen at


This link no longer works. Promises by many politicians have led to nothing being done, and Yasmar is falling down as they watch. 


Mary Louisa Ramsay

Alexander Learmonth

You can find out more about Yasmar at the Australian Heritage Data Base.
The Ashfield Self Guided Heritage Walk
State Records , NSW Agency Report on Yasmar

Red Arrow 2
Ramsay and Robertson Family Home Page