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Published May 13th 2017
Have you heard Valentine's story?
Since first seeing the movie Picnic at Hanging Rock, I have been fascinated by Martindale Hall and have wanted to visit this iconic home for as long as I can remember. I recently got that opportunity and was certainly not disappointed. The home is beyond beautiful, but the most intriguing part for me is the Ghosts of Martindale Hall.
Built in 1879-80 for Edmund Bowman Jnr, Martindale Hall (originally named Martindale) tells a tale of success, survival and tragedy. The Hall is located at Mintaro in South Australia's mid-north is located on the property originally known as Martindale Station; a merino sheep stud. Edmund Bowman Jnr acquired a love of the English lifestyle while studying law at Cambridge. Having lost his father who drowned in the flooded Wakefield when Edmund was just 11, he engaged a London architect to design a home in the style of an English manor house. Edmund brought 50 craftsmen from London and 10 carpenters from Victoria to build the house which was completed in 23 months.
Martindale Hall, photo by Bruce Vandersluis Images
In 1891, Edmund had to sell the Station due to drought, over expansion and the depression of the mid-1880s. At that time, William Tenant Mortlock purchased the Station which included the Hall, as a wedding present for his new wife, Rosye Tennant.
The Hall is located at 1 Manoora Road, Mintaro; a very pleasant 1 hour 45-minute drive north from the Adelaide CBD. I have always been fascinated by the Picnic at Hanging Rock story and absolutely love the movie, and therefore as we approached the front of the Hall, I could feel the girls all milling around waiting to board the coach to Hanging Rock with Mrs Appleyard standing on the porch. They were also present for me in the great hall and the main guest room as I relived many of the scenes from the movie.
Martindale Hall Coach House, photo by Bruce Vandersluis Images
As we entered, we were greeted by a lovely lady who explained the process of visiting the Hall. The cost to visit is $12 for adults and $8 for children and bags (including handbags) are not allowed in the Hall. Photography is allowed providing flash is not used.
As we entered the Hall, I was first drawn to the Smoking Room and then to the Billiard Room. This large room filled with beautifully bound antique books had a wonderfully calming atmosphere. It was easy to imagine this room being full of people, fun and laughter. The fireplaces throughout the Hall are original and spectacular, the one in this room, in particular, being one of the best. It is said that the billiard table was placed in the room prior to the north wall being completed and has never been moved to this day.
Martindale Hall Billiard Room, photo by Bruce Vandersluis Images
We left the Billiard Room from the far door which led us into the back hallway. This was originally part of the servants domain and would have been closed off from the living part of the house; an area where the genteel folk rarely ventured. This hallway houses the kitchen, butlers pantry, the back stairs which includes the stairs to the cellar and a number of rooms which are not open to visitors. The back stairs clearly show the age of the Hall and the number of feet which would have run up and down them while undertaking duty. Unfortunately, the cellar is no longer open to visitors but an area which I would love to have been able to visit.
You can look through the servery into the kitchen and on the wall nearby is the old system used to call the servants when required. The Butler's Pantry gives the feeling of a bygone era and a healthy dash of Downton Abbey. While this is not an area in which there has been any recorded ghostly activity to my knowledge, I did have a sense that there was something or someone more here, again along with a feeling of contentment and happiness. I got the sense that this was a happy home, even for the hired help.
Martindale Hall Back Stairs, photo by Bruce Vandersluis Images
Upstairs you will find a number of rooms from the main guest room which was Miranda's room in Picnic at Hanging Rock, to the main bedroom, other minor bedrooms, the nursery and once again servants quarters. Some of the rooms have been furnished not as they would have been back in the day, but others are furnished to their original purpose.
The main guest bedroom and main bedroom both boast ornate bathrooms, quite fascinating for the era. Despite the feelings experienced in the back hallway, this floor is where it got quite interesting.
Both families which lived at Martindale Hall, the Bowman's and the Mortlock's who lived here from 1891 to 1965, had a number of children many of which did not survive. Edmund Bowman Jnr and his wife Annie (Cowes) had 6 children with only 3 surviving and William Mortlock and wife Rosye also had 6 children with only 2 surviving. However, the most tragic story is that of young Valentine Mortlock, born in 1898 and reputed to have Cerebral Palsy. Whether by necessity or to hide him away, Valentine was kept locked in his room by a gate, the markings of which can still be seen today, until his death at 8 years old.
Valentine Mortlock, Image courtesy of State Library of South Australia, under Public Domain
There have been many reported sightings of Valentine, the most recent being in 2011 when a visitor to the Hall found their three-year-old playing in Valentine's room. When asked to leave the room, the child said he was playing with a little girl. Due to the era, Valentine was known to have long curly hair and could easily be mistaken today for a girl. At other times, when the Hall was used as a B&B, guests staying in Valentine's room have reported waking in the night with a child in their bed, only to turn on the light to find no one present. Valentine was not present for me on the day I visited however, other presences were felt.
Valentine's Room, photo by Bruce Vandersluis Images
As we investigated this floor, we found ourselves in the nursery. This room presented the greatest feelings for me. As I entered this room, a wave of intense feeling enveloped me. It is hard to identify just what this feeling was other than extremely uncomfortable, but it was intense and although I stayed in the room for some minutes to try and work out just what it was, it was a great relief when I walked through the far door into the Nanny's Room and felt that same wave in reverse. There is no doubt in my mind there was something in that room, but just what or who is a mystery other than the knowledge that quite a number of children died in this house and it could be any one or more of them.
Nursery and Nanny's Room, photo by Bruce Vandersluis Images
Whether your interest is in history, homes or ghostly stories, Martindale Hall is sure to delight. When we had finished exploring, we went back and explored again; we could not get enough of the Hall and stood for a long time talking to the caretaker on duty as we simply did not want to leave. The Hall has served its time as a family home and I could feel that it had done so quite admirably. It has seen love and laughter, tragedy and despair.
Martindale Hall has many stories to tell and I have really only touched on a very small portion, but this is a beautiful, intriguing and wonderful part of South Australian history which leaves me wanting more. Why not come along and see what stories Martindale Hall has for you; you never know you might just get a visit from Valentine.
Martindale Hall is open for visitors from 11 am to 4 pm Wednesday to Monday. It is closed Good Friday, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day and on days when extreme weather warnings are in place. The Hall is available for exclusive use for private functions including weddings, birthdays, cocktail parties and conferences.
Further information can be found at the website, by phoning (08) 8843 9088 or 0417 838 897 or you can lodge your enquiry by going to the website and completing the contact form.