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Published May 8th 2016
One of SA's most treasured historic houses
Martindale Hall, a Grand Mansion at Mintaro in South Australia's Clare Valley
Martindale Hall is a magnificent Georgian style mansion at Mintaro, north of Adelaide. The grand design and intact interior with original furnishings make it one of the popular South Australian attractions in the Clare Valley. It's one of the finest historic houses in Adelaide and an important part of heritage tourism in SA. Martindale Hall was the perfect setting for one of Australia's favourite films, Picnic at Hanging Rock.
Completed in 1879 with the help of fifty tradesmen specially recruited from England, Martindale Hall was the playground for wealthy bachelor Edmund Bowman. The property boasted a cricket ground and a polo ground, and the stables housed polo ponies and thoroughbred horses which raced on Martindale Hall's own track.
The Martindale Hall Coach House Housed Thoroughbred Horses
Inside the house is opulently furnished with an imposing Tasmanian Blackwood and oak staircase dominating the entrance hallway that was hand-carved on site. The mansion walls are around a metre thick, while ceilings are five metres high to keep the interior cool in Mintaro's hot summer.
Edmund married after five years, but he and his wife only had a few more years to enjoy the beauty of Martindale Hall. Droughts in the late 1880's nearly ruined Bowman and he was forced to sell the Hall in 1891 to the Mortlock family. The Mortlocks owned the property until 1965, when Dorothy Mortlock bequeathed the Hall and estate to the University of Adelaide. It's likely that Martindale Hall could have survived on income from the estate, but the University gave the mansion and some land to the South Australian government in 1986.
Until 2014 it was possible to hire the Hall for heritage accommodation, weddings and other functions, but it is no longer possible to stay there. In 2015 the state government received an unsolicited bid to purchase or lease Martindale Hall for a luxury wellness retreat offering very limited public access, but this was overwhelmingly opposed during public consultation.
Today Martindale Hall remains open to the public and is operated by the owners of Mintaro Maze in the Clare Valley. The interior of this grand mansion is much as it was when Dorothy Mortlock left after her husband's death in 1950, with many rare and unusual furnishings, antiques and collectables. The Smoking Room contains a treasure trove of souvenirs from John Mortlock's travels in Africa and Asia: a sixteenth century ceremonial Samurai suit, spears from New Guinea, devil masks from Sri Lanka, and many Australian Aboriginal spears and artefacts.
Martindale Hall Smoking Room Houses Antiques and Collectables
As you wander the rooms of Martindale Hall you are transported to a different time and place. The bedrooms are hung with period paintings and photographs, and look as if the original owners could return any minute. The massive 1.5 tonne slate table in the billiard room was imported from England, and is set up ready for a game. There is even a ghost - Martindale Hall is reputedly haunted by the ghost of Valentine Mortlock who died in 1906. Guests have awoken in the night convinced there was a young child in their bed - something that I could live without.
Check the Martindale Hall website for opening hours and to book group tours or as a wedding venue. While the website says that photography is prohibited, it is only the use of flash photography that is banned. If you haven't seen this amazing place in the Clare Valley yet, then visit it while you still can.