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The Rise and Fall of Cobham Hall

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by Dave Walsh (subscribe)
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Published August 21st 2018
Have your say on heritage in SA
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Cobham Hall in Morphettville. Leadlight Windows Boarded Against Vandals

Cobham is Born
Joseph Bell was an early English settler in South Australia, arriving via Tasmania in 1837. After working as an undertaker and carpenter in Gawler Place, he "retired to the country" in 1841. He settled in the area we now call Morphettville and built a house on his 160-acre property "Cobham" - named after Cobham in Kent, England.

After farming at Cobham for 30 years Bell died, and the property changed hands several times before the house burned down in a fire: only some bluestone walls and brick foundations remained. In 1927 Cobham Hall rose from the ashes, built on the ruins of the old house. It was described as a Gentleman's Residence by Adelaide architect Philip Claridge and built in Grand Tudor style - one of the grand mansions of Adelaide.

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The Original Cobham Residence in 1880

A Grand Home
A newspaper writer described Cobham Hall enthusiastically: "Tapley's Hill bluestone in the base has a pleasing contrast in the white stucco, and the long frontage of four rooms and a wide hall is broken by the massive blue chimney. The layout of the living rooms is a model of compactness, while the roof contains ample attic accommodation with a balconette facing west and lit by dormer windows in the rear elevation.

All the verandas have been finished with terazzo floors and the same material has been used in a white and blue tiled bathroom. A feature of the frontage is the diamond-leaded windows, which break the glare of the summer noon day sun but give sufficient light even in the depth of winter".

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Cobham Hall For Sale in 1937

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Newspaper Advertisement For Cobham Hall

The Glittering Life of Socialites in Adelaide
Pastoralists Mr and Mrs Bennett owned Cobham and its large estate in the 1930's and parties at the house were regularly reported in newspaper social pages. It's believed that the upper floor was a ballroom in those days.

In 1948 Mr. H.C. Nitschke bought Cobham Hall, converting it from a dairy farm to a horse breeding stud farm. The need for more housing after the war saw most of the remaining 80 acres of Cobham estate sold to the SA Housing Trust, and subdivided for 300 homes in 1951. Cobham Hall survived on a modest landholding.

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Amber Lodge Aged Care Home at Cobham Hall

Cobham Hall Under Threat
Around 1980 Cobham Hall became Amber Lodge - an aged care home, and additional new accommodation was built for residents. Sadly in 2017 Amber Lodge closed and the property was sold. After being left vacant for a year it has been infested with vandals and graffiti artists who have caused much damage to the house.

The new owner of the property has applied to demolish the Local Heritage listed Cobham Hall, with plans to replace it with high-density housing. This is despite a 1990 heritage report which described it as a "fine example of the Tudor style of residence in the grand manner. The house stands as a good example of its kind, certainly the best in the City of Marion".

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Side View of Cobham Hall Morphettville

Local residents and neighbours of Cobham Hall agree: everyone that I spoke to was vehemently opposed to the demolition of this historic heritage building. They feel that it complements the neighbourhood and adds value to it, and would love to see it returned to use as a private home.

Heritage buildings are only listed after a rigorous and thorough assessment of their historical value. Despite that, in recent years an increasing number of heritage buildings in Adelaide have been demolished - or refused listing on minor technicalities. The previous government attempted to gut local heritage but was overwhelmed by National Trust led opposition from the community.

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Parliamentary Inquiry Into the South Australia Heritage System

Your Chance to Have a Say
The previous government pushed the line of "demolition on merit" for heritage buildings, but we must resist that. There is no point having a heritage system if it does not protect the buildings that we treasure.

The South Australian Parliament's Environment, Resources and Development Committee (ERD Committee) is currently holding an Inquiry into the Heritage System in SA, and the Local Government Association of South Australia has produced a discussion paper in response.

Individuals and organisations are invited to put submissions before the ERD Committee by Friday September 14, and it's our chance to have a say. You can make your voice heard in Parliament.

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Heritage Buildings Must Not Be Demolished

Will we let the grand heritage buildings and rich history of our past be demolished? If countries overseas can earn massive incomes from heritage tourism, why can't we? Or will we look back in 40 years and wonder why Adelaide suburbs are filled with ugly and dilapidated housing, that was never built to last like the buildings they replaced?

It's your call.

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Why? Tell the governement: heritage buildings must not be demolished
Where: Adelaide, SA
Cost: Free!
Your Comment
Our heritage needs to be protected, but making lots of money always seems to be the driving force behind decisions to demolish. It's a sad world
by Paula McManus (score: 3|3770) 1230 days ago
Thank you for your article on Cobham Hall. When I was a child I lived in Cliff Street, Glenelg East (I have recently restored this house which has been in our family for 5 generations, built C1880 but not heritage listed). To visit my grandparents at Parkholme or to go tadpoling in the Sturt Creek before it became a cement drain, I used to cut through the Cobham Hall property, running through stubble paddocks and over a little wooden bridge. I was horrified to read of the intended demolition of the grand house and feel this is heritage vandalism. I despair of the mentality to erase all remnants of our history in Adelaide. Too much has gone already and been replaced by collections of ill-designed boxes crammed together, with no character or sense of belonging. I was told I would make a small fortune by demolishing our old family home which is on a large block, and building town houses. But I felt this is one original house which will not be knocked down and even though it has been a costly exercise, what a wonderful feeling to see the old home, which holds so many wonderful memories for our family, restored and loved. Thanks again for your articles ... best wishes Suzanne Laslett
by suzan (score: 1|30) 1235 days ago
Perhaps small units for aged car could be built around site leaving original building to become a center for socializing, meals and day car for older people both in and out of the community. I live nearby and would be sad to see more box type units being built on such a lovely site. We have enough "little boxes" taking over our suburb already adding to the congestion on local roads. Our local history is slowly being eroded by "big money" to the detriment of the community.
by criss (score: 0|6) 1225 days ago
I grew up in a house across the road from Cobham Hall. I used to dream of living there. The first owner I remember used to have lawn bowl parties in the front garden and the house seemed massive to me.
In thelate 60's? early 70's the local Doctor purchased it and I occasionally played in the front yard with his two daughters. I was fascinated by plants in the glass house and swimming pool that had fish water spouts to fill it. I was disappointed to see the garden broken up into aged care facilities and then the vandalism that occurred after it was sold and abandoned. I would hate to see it demolished. If restored to it's early glory it could be a gorgeous spa retreat with accomodation or venue for weddings etc. (Like Mt. Lofty House or Partridge House). Hopefully it isn't too late.
by catbat (score: 0|6) 709 days ago
I do hope it can be saved. What lovely memories you have of Cobham Hall. I remember when it was on farming land as I used to cut through there to get to Sturt Creek to go tadpoling. Now the creek is a cement drain. Adelaide should lift its game regarding historic properties. So sad to hear the garden has been vandalised.
by suzan (score: 1|30) 709 days ago
Isn't it wonderful that Dara School took over and made the building beautiful again! No falling for Cobham hall here - not yet anyway, and hopefully not at all now that the school intends to be there for the long term.
by ammee (score: 0|3) 427 days ago
I was sad to find this article relating to Cobham Hall. For I was involved in the Auction of the property whilst working for the firm of Carlyle Jones. I can recall our initial inspection of the property prior to the offering in 1970 and was enchanted by such a magnificent property and I know that these same feelings were held by the late Hylton Hayes the Auctioneer. People travel overseas to see properties of this style and we just disregard the historical importance..Yes .Sad!
by penil (score: 0|3) 505 days ago
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