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

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

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Posted 2013-07-15 by Dave Walshfollow


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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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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214935 - 2023-06-16 07:12:04

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