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Arthur's Seat: a Hidden Secret in the Adelaide Hills

Home > Adelaide > Escape the City | Free | Fun Things To Do | Historic Houses | Walks
by Dave Walsh (subscribe)
I enjoy writing about Adelaide and its many attractions. If you think Adelaide is boring, the problem is not with Adelaide. adelaideunearthed.blogspot.com.au/
Published March 30th 2015
Once proud Adelaide heritage, now abandoned ruins
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Arthur's Seat - One of the Abandoned Mansions in the Adelaide Hills Near Cleland Conservation Park


Arthur's Seat is one of several historic properties built in the Mount Lofty and Stirling area of the Adelaide Hills by wealthy families to take advantage of panoramic views over Adelaide.

Built around 1858, Arthur's Seat was a victim of the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires which destroyed many historic properties near the Cleland Conservation Park. Some abandoned mansions were rebuilt, but like nearby St Michael's House it remains a ruined part of Adelaide heritage today.

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Bay Windows Took Advantage of Magnificent Views to the West


Construction of the house was originally begun by prosperous banker George Tinline, who was acclaimed as having single handedly saved South Australia from ruin during the Victorian gold rush. It is thought that a coach house to the north may pre-date the house.

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Wild Blackberries Near Arthur's Seat


In 1871 the unfinished Tinline Court was advertised for sale:
The Auctioneers wish to draw special attention to this very desirable property, which is beautifully situated within 10 miles of Town, and surrounded by magnificent scenery. The House was built by Mr. George Tinline for a Summer Residence, the walls being of unusual thickness, and the rooms large and lofty. The Garden has been tastefully laid out. The original Plans of the Building can be seen at the Offices of the Auctioneers.

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Inside the Ruins of Arthur's Seat Coach House


The house and 20 acres of land were bought for 300 pounds by Gavin Young, who hired architect Edward John Woods to complete it in 1875 when it was renamed Arthur's Seat.

The History of Crafers records in 1939:
Mr. Young had zig-zag paths made to the gully below, where there was a spring and many ferns grew. He was a botanist and had many plants put in at the side of the paths.

In 1906 after Mr and Mrs Young had both died the house was again sold.

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Beautiful Gardens Complemented the Views of the City


Prominent timber merchant Henry Teesdale Smith was living at Arthur's Seat by 1913. With his partner Joseph Timms, Teesdale Smith built the Adelaide electric tram system about Adelaide (1908-10) and was credited with building several railway lines about South Australia's mid north and interstate. These lines included the Gawler-Angaston (1911), Nurioopta-Truro (1917), Balhannah-Mount Pleasant (1918) and Palmer-Sedan (1919) railways.

After Teesdale Smith's death in 1921, Arthur's Seat was advertised in 1926 as the Stawell School. It was a boarding and day school for girls from all about South Australia which opened in 1927. The State Library of South Australia has a 1930 photo of pupils, and some film of the Cornell family at the school.

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Adelaide Heritage: Historic Properties in the Adelaide Hills - Now Abandoned Mansions


The Stawell School closed in 1941 and the property was again for sale, although it was used briefly as an Army convalescent home and rookie camp by Australian Womens Army Service. One local newspaper gleefully reported It's a gay scene when army girls go on parade.

Neighbours of the time report that solicitor Basil Harford had moved in by the 1950's. Well to do Harford was active about Adelaide in literary, art and conservation circles, and also a founding member of the National Trust SA. The neighbours particularly remember his fine antique collection

Robert Stephen McLeay was reported to have owned Arthur's Seat briefly in 1950 but it is likely to have been the coach house that he occupied.

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Forgotten Relics of an Earlier Age


Local residents say that the next occupants of the coach house at Arthur's Seat were Professor and Pam McFarlane, who changed the property's name to Wychwood. After the original house was ravaged by the Ash Wednesday bushfires in 1983, owner Nancy Harford sold it to the state government, and much of the land was incorporated into Cleland Conservation Park.

While the original coach house is now being sensitively restored and incorporated into a new dwelling, Arthur's Seat remains abandoned ruins owned by DEWNR in the Adelaide Hills.

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Wild Blackberries Around This Adelaide Heritage Property


It is not known whether Arthur's Seat is listed by the National Trust SA, although it is on the Local Heritage list.

I am grateful to Scott McCarten for his suggestion that I write about Arthur's Seat, which has had such an interesting part in South Australian history. Scott travels all about Adelaide in search of interesting subjects, and has taken an atmospheric photo of Arthur's Seat by starlight which brings out the character of the ruins - see it here.
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Why? One of the abandoned places scattered about South Australia
Where: Crafers, SA
Cost: Free
Your Comment
Hello, Dave. My parents live next door to Wychwood and I spent many happy hours in the house as a child, being a friend of Pam and Victor McFarlane and particularly Ingereth (not Ingrid), their daughter.
Wychwood also has a rich history and I believe the oldest part of the building also used to be a school at one time. A split-level extention was built onto the original stone building, but was not two-storey as shown in your photos.
The house pictured is therefore not Wychwood, but the house next door to it, which was owned by Nancy Harford before it was destroyed in the Ash Wednesday fires. I gather that she'd just had part of the house renovated prior to the fires, but was unable to afford the insurance. Very sad.
Pam McFarlane had also installed some expensive equipment in her new art studio in the lower part of the extension to Wychwood just before the fires.
The Harford's house had its own private driveway, which was accessible from Summit Road, but also by driving past Wychwood along Pam Street, which ran off Owen Street (both not bituminised), which in turn ran off Summit Road.
I now live in Perth, but I was devastated when I visited Adelaide in 1987/88 during a very hot, dry summer and was confronted by the destruction of all my childhood memories of living in Crafers in the Adelaide Hills. A great deal of history went up in smoke on the day of the fires. Some historic buildings, for example the castle and Mount Lofty House on Summit Road, were rebuilt, but many like the monastery across from the castle (which lost a large collection of very rare books) remain in ruin.
I've posted a few photos (not very good, I'm afraid) of my visit, here: http://twitpic.com/photos/OzMerry
The two better photos of the castle were taken by a work colleague when he was on holidays there.
by merry (score: 1|19) 616 days ago
Hi Dave are you able to give a better pin point location of the exact road and area its located because I don't understand where it is on the map ??
by caitl (score: 0|8) 645 days ago
Great well reserached article as always Dave. When I hear stories behind these sort of places, it makes me curious to visit it in person.
by Yin-Yin Ow (score: 3|1577) 720 days ago
Great article with historical references. Any chance of including the location details?
by simon (score: 0|8) 717 days ago
Hey Dave,

We went down here to have a look recently. It's pretty much overgrown with weeds and such - still an excellent site for an hour or so to check out. There was a worker there who was working on the other property and allowed me in to take some photos. He told me about the history - asked him about the place using the information you've provided here and he said Arthur's Seat and also the smaller homestead have been bought out by some private buyers for re-development in the near future.

Arthur's Seat itself (the massive mansion) is an interesting place to get inside. The set of drawers immediately springs to mind at how ominous it looks just hanging precariously over the collapsed hallway floor. Didn't get to the second level but had there not been so many weeds and collapsed walkways I'd probably have taken the risk.

Thanks for the heads-up on this place before it gets re-development orders - was a great Saturday afternoon trek - and another thanks for the 'follow' on Twitter.
by Ash Lee (score: 0|8) 579 days ago
The McFarlane's daughter Ingrid may have some photos if anyone knows her whereabouts....
by chris (score: 0|8) 715 days ago
That is a BRILLIANT photo Scott's taken - the trees resemble a painting!
by Jenny (score: 3|1134) 720 days ago
Wow - what history. You did a lot of research on this one. When I read 'Arthur's seat" I immediately thought of castles, arthur, knights...and I was pleasantly surprised to see the castle. Pity that it is going to runs now, but those things really require a lot of money to restore.
by Gillian (score: 2|300) 705 days ago
Great article! My hubby and I will definitely have to check this place out next time we're in Adelaide. I loved the photos and all the historic information too. Scott's photo was great too, although the house looked rather spooky in it...
by Carolyn Hopping (score: 2|857) 716 days ago
Thanks Dave for your efforts in providing us with another interesting look into our history.It is always fascinating to see ruins of such magnitude and to know a little bit about their history.Noel.
by noelp (score: 2|160) 93 days ago
Hello Dave,
Another amazing story about Adelaide and its environs. We have so much to offer here in SA, there are some who think there is nothing. I think it is such an amazing place to live !
by phil. (score: 1|44) 92 days ago
Hello there - where exactly can I find these old ruins?
by mara. (score: 0|7) 89 days ago
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