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Martindale Hall Story: 3a

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Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA), Saturday 18 December 1880, page 2

The wealthy squatters of the present live under conditions very different from those which ruled in the earlier days of colonial enterprise, when hard fare, hard work, and primitive appliances for household comfort were the characteristics of the times.

Now splendid mansions take the place of the humble structures of former days, and all the luxuries of life are to be found even in the outlying stations.

Among the fortunate young men whose lines have been cast in pleasant places is Mr. E. Bowman, a young South Australian sheep farmer, who has succeeded to a princely inheritance, and seems to possess the power of administering it judiciously.

Most young men of twenty-three having command of even less than £140,000 in hard cash and real estate to a higher tune would be tempted to lead a life of luxury and ease in other climes; but Mr. Bowman is of a different stamp, and to his credit he has decided to settle in South Australia, where his wealth was made, and continue the pursuit of sheep-farming with vigour and energy, proving that he is of sterling stuff.


He has had built upon his estate of Martindale—about two miles south of Mintaro, eighty-two miles north of Adelaide —a magnificent mansion, which has cost little short of £25,000.

The mansion, which is situated upon a slight eminence facing the east, is surrounded by a park-like expanse of undulating country, and as far as the eye can reach the land belongs to Mr. Bowman, so that it is a grand estate, fitly completed by a grand mansion.

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From City to Country


​Have you ever heard and read about a place, and then found it in an entirely different situation from what you had pictured it in your mind's eye? Well, so it was with my imagined picture of Martindale.

The wrought iron gates crowned with the family coat of arms, were, we thought, surprisingly tall and narrow until we were told of what at the time could not have been an amusing mistake.
The measurements for the gates had been forwarded to England with the order, and the gates arrived true to these measurements—but, unfortunately, the wrong way round. The width to-have-been is now the height, and the height-to-have-been the width.

Design of Martindale

The plans of the building were obtained from England, and were drawn by Mr. E. Gregg, of London.

  • To some tastes the house is almost severely simple in its exterior, but it is a most substantial and admirably built place.

  • The style is pure Italian, and regard has been given more to thorough solidity than to elaborate ornamentation.

  • The mansion, which is nearly square, being 90 feet long by 75 feet wide, and of proportionate height, contains over forty rooms, and is built of a fine light buff coloured stone, a sort of bastard granite, obtained from the hills close by.

  • The dressings are of freestone from the Manoora quarries.

  • The sharp cutting of the stone, and the accurate way in which each block is fitted show the perfection of workmanship.


The front of the house is rather imposing with its massive entrance, tall, deep windows, admirably designed architraves, latel heads, and stone carving; while this effect is increased by the wide terrace and massive stone steps, flanked by large and gracefully formed vases of carved stone.

The sides of the building have the same solid appearance as the front, but with less carved stonework.

The top is surmounted by a beautiful balustrade in keeping with the other ornamentation, and giving a finish to the whole structure which makes it remarkably handsome as a piece of architecture.

Below: Photographs of Martindale Hall by Interior Designer Justin Bishop


by Val Tilbrook

This room contains artefacts from all over the world collected by the family on its travels, mostly J.A.T.Mortlock.

The skull is of a dugong shot on the Great Barrier Reef in 1942 by J.A.T.Mortlock. The long spears are aboriginal from Arnhem Land and the short ones from the pygmy tribes of New Guinea.

On the sideboard are 3 opium pipes, a work box mother-of-pearl inlaid, an Indian workbox made of porcupine quills and other artefacts. On the wall next to the dresser are many aboriginal artefacts as well as gurkha knives from the north of India.

The engraved swivel Chinese chair is of cherry wood. Then we have the Japanese 19th century Sumarai suit with sleeves of chain mail, very valuable.

The large Chinese Foo Chow lacquer cabinet against the front wall was once the property of Lord Kitchener.

 In the far corner of the room is a writing desk of the Jacobean era made in England in 1700 for the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). This was brought out with the family from England in 1842. It has a good collection of Royal souvenir china.

The musical instrument under the window is a metallaphone from the south China seas and is played like a xylophone.

The carved shrine above the fireplace came from Ceylon and was once used in devil worship. It depicts human sacrifice. The appliqué work from Egypt is copied from a freize  on an Egyptian tomb. Three Coats of Arms are here.

On the back wall are three devil masks from the South China seas. The round wooden pot is a kava pot from Fiji. The bamboo loop is a New Guinea head hunters weapon. The crocodile is from New Guinea or north Australia.

There is a collection of guns; one same as used in the American Civil War; one owned by Sir Edward Stirling, the famous Australian scientist. Note the hooka pipe on the small table.

Read much more (SA Heritage)

Interior of Martindale

The interior of the building is replete with almost every modern convenience, luxury, and artistic decoration that refined taste could suggest and unlimited command of capital purchase for a gentleman's residence.

  • All the windows are fitted with Venetian shutters, and also inside shutters of wire gauze or landscape wire, sliding smoothly into the wall instead of opening outwards.

  • The basement measures 75 feet by 40 feet and 12 feet high, arched upon iron girders.

  • In the basement are separate cellars for ale and wine; the larders, storerooms, milk-pantry, and rooms for other purposes all fitted with every needful appliance that modern experience suggests, and built in the most finished fashion.

Drawing Room

On the south side of the front entrance on the ground floor is a drawing-room measuring 28 ft. x 18 ft. 8 in. and 16 ft. high, with very handsome cornices of a thoroughly unique design.

  • This room is furnished with exquisite taste, and the ornaments are such that only wealth can command.

  • Most of them are magnificent Japanese bronzes and beautiful specimens of chinaware.

  • The mantlepiece is a most elaborate piece of workmanship in statuary marble, and cost over 120 guineas.

  • It is the one that took the prize at the Paris Exhibition.

  • The shelf is supported by two exquisitely executed classical figures, and the fender is marble, with encaustic tile hearth.

  • The whole is surmounted by a magnificent mirror and clock to match of surpassing excellence in workmanship, and very costly.

  • The doors of this room are cf handsome woods enriched with mouldings, carvings, and other adornments, and finished in blackwood.

Dining Room

Folding-doors give communication with the dining room, 28 ft. by 13 ft. 8 in., in which is a mantelpiece cf black marble, which is a marvel of artistic carving.

  • It is surmounted by a pier-glass 14 ft. high, framed in black marble to match.

  • The mantelpiece is in the Grecian style, and in a wide recess in the western end of the room is fitted a carved oak sideboard with a back of plated silver, and 14 ft. in height.

  • This piece of furniture is in itself a source of admiration.

  • The other furniture of the dining room is in keeping, being polished oak.


On the north side is the library, also furnished in most luxurious style, in polished oak and Morocco leather.

The chimney piece in the library is a splendid specimen of sculpture. It is composed of black marble, inlaid with Sicilian marble, and has a duplicated raised shelf.

There are upon it two bronze statues, one of Cortez and the other of Columbus, each standing about three feet, and most artistically executed—in fact they are perfect gems of art.

The clock on the mantelpiece is also a most beautiful piece of artistic workmanship.

Design of Martindale
Drawing Room
Interior of Martindale
Dining Room
Entrance Gates problem
Smoke Room contents
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At the rear of the library is a spacious billiard-room, richly adorned in perfect taste.

This has a chimneypiece of Bredella marble, and is furnished in the best style.

Notes by Val Tilbrook --

This billiard table is the only piece of Bowman furniture in the Hall. It was placed in the room before the north wall was completed. It weighs about 1.5 tonnes and has an interesting return ball system. It was re-felted about 60 years ago. It was fully imported from England.
The scoreboard above the marble fireplace was supplied with the table and was used for the game of Devils Pool and players could gamble on the game. The original rules of the game are framed beside the fireplace.
The wallpaper is probably from the 1892 period when the Mortlocks redecorated the Hall. It was hand blocked in this room. The colours on the ceiling are original in these four main rooms except for the flat panels which were retouched in 1948. The floor linoleum in here is original.
The original gasolier fitting incorporates griffins in the design and is the only original gasolier fitting in the Hall. The two cane seats have been recovered.
Many of the library books were given to the State Library and the University when Mrs Dorothy Mortlock left to live in Adelaide in 1965. A lot of these books have been brought in to fill the shelves. Some of the books have the book plate of John Andrew Tennant Mortlock, the last owner. 

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The lofty doorway, with its coat of arms of the Mortlock family, "Hic labor, Hoc opus"
'Mighty Labor, Great Achievement'


The main entrance to the mansion leads to a vestibule with folding doors of polished blackwood, and beyond this is a hall with handsome curtains, which screen it from the saloon.

  • The floor of the saloon is inlaid with parquettaire, and the walls are panelled.

  • Round the top of the saloon runs a picture gallery supported upon handsome girders.

  • A broad staircase of polished blackwood inlaid, with carved enrichments, leads up to this picture gallery, the walls of which are finished with Corinthian columns and pillasters.

This gallery gives access to the various bedrooms, which are spacious, handsomely furnished, and attached to each is a bath and dressing room, with every luxury which taste can suggest.

  • The principal front bedrooms measure 18 x 28, and all have handsome marble chimneypieces fitted for an ordinary drawing-room.

  • There is also a lady's boudoir, magnificently furnished and elaborately adorned.

Valentine's Room


by Val Tilbrook

Originally the boudoir and later a sewing room, during the Mortlock period it was used as Valentine’s bedroom. Valentine was born on Valentine’s Day in 1898 with cretinism and, as they did in those times, was kept out of sight.

You can see a gap in the floorboards at the door where there was a wooden gate to keep him in the room.

Valentine died at the age of eight in 1906 and has been seen a few times by staff and visitors. He has been mistaken for a girl at all times as in that period little boys were dressed more like little girls with their long curls etc.

The last sighting was in 2011 when he was playing with a three year old boy visitor. The little boy’s mother could not get him out of the room and he said he wanted to play with his new friend and told his mother that “she” looked like an angel.


Upon the roof of the building is a lookout commanding a splendid view. The ventilation, drainage, &c., are simply perfection.

  • Hot and cold water supplies the baths.

  • The kitchen is a model one, and is supplied with one of the best ranges that could be procured in England.

  • The pantries, china closet, laundry, and servants' offices are admirably designed.



The mansion is supplied with water from a reservoir at an altitude of 132 feet, containing 90,000 gallons of water, pumped up from the river a quarter of a mile distant by a steam-pump.

There is also a freshwater tank. The water from this is lifted by a double-action pump to the roof of the house, and goes through a filter into the building.

The sewage is conveyed through pipes to a distance of a mile from the House.


The stables are a quarter of a mile away, and are fitted with accommodation for six carriages and quite a number of horses.


The contractor who has carried out the construction of this magnificent mansion is Mr. R. Huckson, who has done his work in a style that reflects the highest credit upon him.

It has taken close upon two years to complete the edifice, and it now stands a. credit to the colony and a source of pride to its wealthy owner.

Mr. Huckson entertained a number cf leading gentlemen at luncheon in Sir. Bayfields Hotel, Mintaro, on Wednesday, December 15 1880, on the occasion of his leaving the district after finishing his contract, and various toasts were honoured. 

Next pages:  3b Martindale Sports

    4. The Mortlocks of Martindale

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