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Martindale Hall Story: 6

Adelaide University's Record Bequest

Record Bequest to
The University for Martindale Hall

In 1979 the Hall came under the exclusive management of the University of Adelaide.

Beside the Hall is a plaque which states the intention for the transfer of property:

Cast in bronze - so it would be remembered in the future - are the following words:

‘In the State’s sesquicentenary year, 1986, the University gave Martindale Hall to the Government in trust for the people of South Australia, to ensure its preservation as a place of heritage significance.'

Bequest Highlights

On 7 December 1948, soon after he was diagnosed with cancer, John Tennant Mortlock married Dorothy Beech at St Peter's Cathedral, Adelaide.

  • John died childless in 1950, only fifteen months after his marriage, and left his estate to his wife

  • He was buried in North Road cemetery.

  • His South Australian estate was sworn for probate at £1,148,124.

  • He left over £73,000 to cultural organizations and charities. 

    • Subjects of the gifts, which helped give national standing to the State Library’s collections, ranged from poetry to Australian flora, thoroughbred horses to paper mills, and French fairytales to book illustrations.

  • Mrs. Mortlock, on her death in 1979, fulfilled his wishes to bequeath Martindale Hall to the University of Adelaide and $1.8 million to the State Library. 

  • The balance, held in trust by his wife, was divided between the Waite institute and the Libraries Board of South Australia.

  • In 1986 the Mortlock Library of South Australiana was established as part of the State Library of South Australia.

1950 Death of Mr. J. T. Mortlock
John Andrew Tennant Mortlock. B-46904.jpeg

Blyth Agriculturist (SA), Wednesday 22 March 1950, page 4

Death of Mr. J. T. Mortlock



ON Wednesday March 15, the death of Mr. John Tennant Mortlock, took place at a private hospital in Adelaide, after an illness of about 14 days.

Aged only 56, his passing is a sad blow to the life of Mintaro and district in particular.

His benefactions to the area in which he lived were innumerable, and wide spread regret has been expressed by many who knew of his kind and generous nature.

The family residence at Martindale Hall, one of the architectural gems of the Georgian period, built in 1878, is one of the show places of the Mid-North.

He also had residences at Palmer Place, North Adelaide, and at Avenue Gardens, Millswood.


One of the chief pastoralists of South Australia his many interests covered a wide range of  activities, not only in business, but in sports, pastimes and hobbies. 

  • The hobby of orchid growing was one of his specialities;

  • also moving picture scenics [movies] of all parts of Australia and New Zealand.

  • Amongst his Pastoral interests were as Chairman of the Yudnapinna Pastoral Coy and Yalluna Pty Ltd.


Benefactions on a State wide basis to the University of Adelaide, the Waite Research Institute, and diversified forms of Agriculture would make a huge total, and it is not improbable that during the lifetime of his late mother and himself that the family donated close upon £75,000 to all kinds of projects.

  • A keen yachtsman, he had one of the best equipped vessels of its kind in S.A. waters [Martindale] and entertained a lot on trips to all sections of the surrounding coasts.

  • Racing of thoroughbreds was at one time one of his sporting outlets, and the name Yudnapinna is remembered as one of the best hurdlers and steeplechasers the State has seen in action.


At Mintaro the late Mr. Mortlock endeared himself to all sections of his native town and district.

  • Of a charming and kindly disposition he never assumed the role of Squire of the Manor, and was never happier than when out among the people or investigating land and animal husbandry problems associated with Martindale Estate.

  • Early in 1949 he was married to Miss Dorothy Beach, of Adelaide, and the widow survives.

The internment was of a private nature at North Road Cemetery, Adelaide on Thursday March 16, when the Revd. Canon Loan officiated, Messrs. George Downs & Sons were funeral directors.

Mintaroites say farewell with regret to a man of wide vision, generous and kindly nature, and a town and district identity whose magnificent

co-operation and personality will live long in memory.

Mr John Andrew Tennant Mortlock 

(Jack) had many interests.

He was an amateur film-maker – the SA State Library has some of his films in its collection, and he was an orchid exhibitor.

He was a keen sportsman.

He drove fast cars, owned racehorses and greyhounds, and spent time at Port Lincoln on his yacht Martindale – which later served in World War II.

The Australian Rules Football competition in Port Lincoln is played for the Mortlock Shield. 

But he was quite shy and bookish.

He only married late in life to Dorothy Beach, also bookish.

A  benefactor in her own right, Dorothy Mortlock was a longstanding member of the Friends of the State Library. She gave an annual donation to the Library for children's books and her support enabled the Friends to purchase many rare books. 

John died childless in 1950, a few years after his marriage, and left his estate to his wife, who on her death in 1979 fulfilled his wishes to bequeath Martindale Hall to the University of Adelaide and $1.8 million to the State Library. 

Jack had many interests
Mortlock Bequests to Uni.
Dorothy Elizabeth Mortlock (nee Beech) and John Andrew Tennant Mortlock standing outside S
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Mortlock bequests to Adelaide Uni

From J A T Mortlock at Adelaide Uni Legal and Risk

In the very highest rank of financial benefactors of the University is the Mortlock Family. 

John Andrew Tennant Mortlock (illustrated left) was in fact the first such benefactor of the Waite Research Institute after it had begun to operate:


In 1926 he gave £2,000 for the purchase of equipment. 

  • The gift was used in 1928 for equipping the laboratories for agricultural chemistry provided by John Melrose. 

  • Ten years later he and his mother, Rosye, jointly gave £25,000 to found the Ranson Mortlock Trust for research into soil erosion and the regeneration of pastures. 

  • £10,000 was applied to the construction of the Ranson Mortlock Laboratories at the Waite Institute and the balance of £15,000 held as an endowment providing income for the pursuit of the Trust's objectives.

Through John's influence, a station at Yudnapinna, some 400km north of Adelaide, was made available for field work associated with the Trust;

  • in 1941 he gave £1,000 to provide a residence for the officer supervising the field work and

  • in 1948 he gave another £2,000 to reinvigorate the field work which had suffered some degeneration during the war years.


But those gifts were minuscule in comparison with the overall value of his bequest to the University on his death in 1950. 

  • From the income of his estate £1,000 a year for fifteen years was paid to the University to support the work of the Ranson Mortlock Trust;

  • his estate provided £20,000 as The John Mortlock Medical Bequest, the income of which is applied to scientific research in the University's medical school; and

  • subject to the life interest of his wife, one half of his residual estate went to the University for the general support of the work of the Waite Institute in the fields of pastoral and agricultural research. 

  • The residual estate was valued some thirty years later, when its distribution became practicable, at $4.25 million. 

  • In the settlement, the land forming part of the estate was transferred to the University

  • And the other assets of the estate went to the other beneficiary (the Public Library of South Australia, now the State Library).


Sting in the Tail

The sting in the tail of the Martindale Hall story came when Mortlock’s grieving wife Dorothy (in 1950) gathered her personal possessions,

locked the mansion’s doors and never returned.

John's wife, Dorothy (illustrated left), supplemented her husband's £1,000 a year with a gift of £10,000 in 1952 for the promotion of investigational work at Yudnapinna, which in accordance with her wish was named "The John Mortlock Experiment Station". 


In the late 1950's she began discussing the possible transfer to the University of about 400 hectares of the Martindale Station at Mintaro, which was part of her husband's estate. 

Negotiations for such a transfer were necessarily extensive and time consuming, and it was 1965 before she could formally surrender her interest and enable the transfer to the University to be legally effected. 

The land transferred had two components:

  • Martindale Hall and about 100 hectares for use as a research station by the Waite Institute. 

  • To the latter, by mutual consent, the name The John Mortlock Experiment Station was transferred from Yudnapinna.


In 1953 Mrs Mortlock gave £15,000 anonymously to support the work of the clinical section of the medical school and

in 1958 she began a series of annual gifts, usually $30,000, for that purpose which over the next twenty years aggregated more than half a million dollars. 

1975 'Picnic at Hanging Rock' Movie
Sting in the Tail
Picnic at Hanging Rock

Picnic at Hanging Rock is a 1975 Australian mystery film 

produced by Hal and Jim McElroy, directed by Peter Weir, and starring Rachel RobertsDominic GuardHelen MorseVivean Gray and Jacki Weaver.

It was adapted by Cliff Green from the 1967 novel of the same name by Joan Lindsay, who was deliberately ambiguous about whether the events had really taken place.The novel was published in 1967.

Reading it four years later, Patricia Lovell  optioned the film rights in 1973, paying $100 for three months.[3] 

She hired Peter Weir to direct on the basis of his film Homesdale, and Weir brought in Hal and Jim McElroy to help produce.[1]

Martindale Hall (located near Mintaro in South Australia), was the location for Appleyard Hall, the school featured in the film.

Filming began in February 1975 with principal photography taking six weeks.[5][6] 

Locations included Hanging Rock in Victoria, Martindale Hall near Mintaro in rural South Australia, and at the studio of the South Australian Film Corporation in Adelaide.

How does the movie end? Follow the link to learn about the big secret.

7 Aug 1975 Gala Opening of the Hindley Cinemas 

by the Premier, the Hon. D.A. Dunstan Q.C., LL.B. M.P.

Adelaide's new $1.5m. Hindley Cinema centre opened last night with the World Premiere of the Australian Film 'Picnic at Hanging Rock'.

Guests were greeted with a guard of honour formed by young actresses in the schoolgirl costumes as worn in the film.

As the guests filed past on a red carpet, hundreds of people lined Hindley Street to catch a glimpse of the film stars and guests.

Guests included the Premier, Mr Dunstan, The Prime Minister's wife, Mrs. Margaret Whitlam, the Governor of S.A. Sir Mark Oliphant and Lady Oliphant, the Chairman of the S.A. Film Corporation, Mr. G.J. Brealey, the Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Tonkin, and Mr. Peter Weir, the film's director.

The street was closed between Leigh and Rosina streets, and there were trampolines, carousels and rotating clowns.

About 7.30 P.M. a procession of the 4th District Military Band, the Mitchell Park Majorettes, horse-drawn vehicles and vintage cars filed past.

The theatre centre was officially opened by Mr. Dunstan.

After the movie a Picnic Supper was served in the Wests Theatre Foyer.

1975 Gala Opening Hindley Cinemas
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1976 Huge Crowd Visits
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1977 Renovation of Martindale Hall
Renovation of Martindale Hall

In 1977 Mrs Mortlock gave $25,000 for the renovation of Martindale Hall and on her death in 1979 she bequeathed to the University one-fifth of her residual estate. 


One half of the funds from the bequest was to be applied to the upkeep of Martindale Hall and the other to support of the work of the Faculty of Medicine.

 Elizabeth Warburton writes 'Martindale Hall'
1979 Elizabeth Warburton: 'Martindale Hall'
Martindale Hall Centenary Celebrations
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1979 ​Martindale Hall Centenary
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The University of Adelaide celebrated the one-hundredth anniversary of Martindale Hall with a 'Martindale Grand Ball'
on Saturday 20 October, 1979.


Delights of the Evening

8.00 PM     Sherries and Hors D'oeuvres in the Marquee,

8.30 - 9.30 A programme of the latest dances from Europe including waltzes, lancers and Alberts,

9.30 - 10.30 Repast, featuring local and seasonal delights,

10.30 'til carriages

More dancing and the heralding of the Belle and the Beau of the Ball

Wines and Ales will be served throughout the Evening

Sponsored by Clare Valley Winemakers and Coopers Brewery

featuring1978 Stanley Clare Moselle, chosen to commemorate the first Centenary of Martindale Hall.

Keith A. Conlon  Esq. will superintend the Evening's Divertisements

Music for Dancing will comprise the traditional joys of the 

Kleinig's Old Style Dance Band,

and for the brighter spirits, an exciting 'modern' ensemble from

The Fair City of Adelaide

During the Evening, perspicacious Ladies and Gentlemen may view the sumptuously appointed Martindale Hall, home of

the late Mr. and Mrs. J.T. Mortlock and previously the late
Mr. E. Bowman.

A musical entertainment will be graciously provided in the Hall by a String Quartet from the University's Elder Conservatorium.

Upon arrival at the Ball, postilions will be directed to appropriate facilities for the resting of carriages.

Dorothy's bequest to the State Library

Dorothy Mortlock was a longstanding member of the Friends of the State Library.

  • She gave an annual donation to the Library for children's books and her support enabled the Friends to purchase many rare books.

  • With her generosity numerous significant publications were acquired, including many fine engraved editions throughout the 1970s and posthumously in the 1980s.

  • Subjects of the gifts, which helped give national standing to the State Library’s collections, ranged from poetry to Australian flora, thoroughbred horses to paper mills, and French fairytales to book illustrations


John had died childless in 1950, a few years after his marriage, and left his estate to his wife,

who on her death in 1979 fulfilled his wishes to bequeath Martindale Hall to the University of Adelaide and $1.8 million to the State Library. 

1979 Dorothy's bequest to the State Library
Private Entrepeneurs lease Martindale
1983 ​Private Entrepeneurs lease Martindale
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1985 Squabble over chandelier
 Squabble over chandelier
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1985 Martindale Hall Gift
Historic Mansion may be given to SA as gift
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1986 Mortlock Wing, State Library SA
SLSA mortlock wing.jpg
Mortlock Wing, State Library SA

Named in honour of a substantial bequest from John Andrew Tennant Mortlock in the state's Jubilee 150 year, 1986, the Mortlock Library of South Australiana opened.


In the major building redevelopment in 2003 the Libraries Board named the building the Mortlock Wing to acknowledge his gift to the people of the state.

In an interesting connection, the architect of the Mortlock Wing, E.J. Woods, also designed the Mortlock family home Martindale Hall at Mintaro.

The Mortlock Wing now accommodates a range of public functions and services, including

exhibitions, conservation and reformatting services, study spaces on the first gallery with wireless internet access,

the Crawford Room and the Sir Josiah Symon Library - a fine example of a 19th Century gentleman’s library.

The Mortlock Wing also provides a home for several tenants:  the Royal Geographical Society of South Australia and the National Archives of Australia.


The Mortlock Wing of the State Library houses the exhibition bays on the ground floor, quiet study areas on level 2 and the Sir Josiah Symon Library on level 3.

The interior of the Mortlock Wing is unique in South Australia, according to the Heritage of the City of Adelaide (Adelaide: Corporation of the City of Adelaide, 1990) and considered without equal as a mid Victorian public library interior in Australia.

There are two galleries, the first supported by masonry columns, and the second by cast iron brackets.

  • The balconies feature wrought iron balustrading ornamented with gold while the glass-domed lantern roof or clerestory allows the chamber to be lit with natural light.

  • Two of the original gas 'sunburner' lamps survive in the office space located on the second floor at the southern end, as does some of the original wallpaper in a room off the ground floor. 

  • The heating vents were fed by hot water pipes connected to a boiler in the basement.  Chairs and metal furniture/structures bear the original SAI (South Australian Institute) logo and are small by today's standards.


The Mortlock Wing is regularly included on lists of the world's most beautiful libraries, and on travel blogs, and is a significant tourist attraction in South Australia.


In 1986 the University gifted Martindale Hall to the people of South Australia to mark the 150th anniversary of the founding of South Australia.

Beside the Hall is a plaque which states the intention for the transfer of property:

Cast in bronze - so it would be remembered in the future - are the following words:

‘In the State’s sesquicentenary year, 1986, the University gave Martindale Hall to the Government in trust for the people of South Australia, to ensure its preservation as a place of heritage significance.'

Martindale Hall Conservation Park

On 5 December 1991, the land on which the building is located was proclaimed as the Martindale Hall Conservation Park under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 for “the purpose of conserving the historic features of the land”.

A Facelift for Martindale Hall
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Restoration begins at Martindale Hall
1999 ​Restoration begins at Martindale Hall
Heritage Newsletter - Repairs at Martindale Hall Jan 2000.png

Two years ago (1998) a stonework conservation program commenced at Martindale Hall, in the Clare Valley.

  • $1.5 million was spent on the  conservation of the facade of the Georgian style mansion to protect its architectural uniqueness, its historical importance, and to enhance its tourism potential.

  • Much of the conservation work involved the replacement of stone-work, deteriorated by rising and falling damp.

  • Conservation also included remedial work to window sashes, screens and shutters, and careful cleaning of the facades .

  • As much as possible of the original stonework and mouldings was saved .

  • Where the stone had decayed an appropriate durable sandstone was sourced, cut and profiled to match the original stones exactly.


To achieve this, today's technology and traditional stone masonry skills were used . The result is a tribute to all the tradespeople involved .

  • The late Bernie Koesters, recognised for many fine projects such as the bell tower extension to St Xaviers Cathedral in Adelaide, undertook the stone masonry work.


To celebrate the renewal of Martindale Hall, The Hon Premier, John Olsen, relaunched Martindale Hall on 3 November 1999 .

  • The day was celebrated at Martindale Hall under a white canopy. Local children from Mintaro Primary School sang a welcome song in different languages reflecting our multicultural society.

  • The Cremona String Quartet played Bach's music, while politicians, media and locals mingled . Hosts Carole and Les Rooney completed the day with sumptuous food.

2000 New Slate Roof for the Coach house

Martindale Coach House and Stables

by Val Tilbrook

The coach house was built for Edward Bowman in 1879-1880.

Constructed of stone, the coach-house consisted of six stalls, eight loose boxes, 2 coach stores, a grooms room and forage store.

The entrance is in the form of a high arch capable of allowing the drag and four-in-hand to drive through.

The front facade is reminiscent of Wren, the architect, with stone pilasters either side carrying a frieze and pediments, all completed with meticulous detail and proportion.

Mr Bowman had a drag built, and used to drive this with four-in-hand to the Clare Race Course. Upon arrival and departure the groom would wind (sound) the horn to announce its movement.

Later on, the Mortlocks used a yellow Rolls-Royce and a number of Packard motors.

New Slate Roof for the Coach house

Martindale Monitor Issue 1, July 2000

Thirteen pallets of new 'Canadian Slate' were delivered to Martindale Hall for the planned re-roofing of the Coach House. 

The Adelaide University re-roofed the Coach House approximately 30 years ago, using local Mintaro slate, but it was unsuitable and needed to be replaced with high quality slate from Canada to halt further deterioration.

Work on the re-roofing was planned for the 2000-2001 financial year.

Martindale Hall’s future in jeopardy

 Friday, 10 December 2004

The University of Adelaide is proposing to manage the broadacre farming and dairy operations of the Roseworthy Farm through its farming company Martindale Holdings Pty Ltd from February 2005.

A professional and competent farming operation, Martindale Holdings already manages four farms on behalf of the University at Martindale, Spalding, Hawker and Glenthorne.

The proposed arrangements result from an independent review last year of Roseworthy Farm that recommended Martindale be asked to takeover as Farm manager.

"The Roseworthy Farm is crucial to our teaching and will be focusing its efforts on combining and integrating resources with campus partners and rural industries to develop the campus as the hub of information transfer, communication, learning and new technologies for the rural community," Professor James McWha, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Adelaide said today.

To this end, the University has committed an additional $250,000 in 2005 to improve fencing and other infrastructure and equipment at the farm.

Read more:

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The imposing frontage of the Georgian mansion..jpg

Step back in time at Martindale Hall

Plains Producer, 11 February 2010 by Lisa Schulz


It’s gone from Bowmans to bust, a land holding stretching from Mintaro to the waters of the gulf.

Now Martindale Hall will lose its last connection to the land. This is its remarkable history, described by LAUREN PARKER

IT was almost 170 years ago when the Bowman family first bought Martindale Station at Mintaro, an 11,000 acre Merino sheep property.


Since its purchase in 1841, the property has gone from the ownership of the Bowmans to the Mortlock family, who eventually bequeathed the property to the University of Adelaide.

One of the best known properties in Australia, Martindale Holdings is now for sale by the university, but the homestead itself remains under the administration of the Minister for Environment and Heritage through the department of National Parks and Wildlife.

Read more:

2010 Step back in time at Martindale Hall
Adelaide Uni sells the farms
Matthew Cranston May 24, 2010

The University of Adelaide has sold part of its prized rural property portfolio in South Australia’s mid north for just under $14 million.

A portion of Martindale Farm at Mintaro was sold to BTG Australasia – a pharmaceutical company that is occupying the farm.

The sale of the 1560 hectares was negotiated by Landmark. It was part of the university’s 73,400 hectares of rural land up for sale.


The university announced last year that it would sell Martindale and two other rural properties, Munduney and Moralana stations, to raise funds to invest in teaching and research facilities in agriculture and animal science.


University of Adelaide vice-chancellor James McWha said the sale was a good outcome for the future of agriculture in the local community and for the state.

“These property sales will help us continue to invest in infrastructure and facilities at our Roseworthy and Waite campuses for the growth and development of this priority area," he said.

The university (had) acquired rural land including Moralana, Martindale and Munduney through family bequests.

Rural property agents regard the Martindale land as among the best in the state, with high rainfall and good native pastures.


The remaining properties are of a slightly lesser quality, but Professor McWha said he believed the sale of the rest of Martindale Farm and of Munduney Station would generate considerable interest from potential buyers.

“Properties with this quality of land and improvements don’t come on to the market every day," he said.

BTG general manager Kylie Sproston said the company was delighted to have secured the Martindale property.


“We’ve greatly valued the long-term supply arrangements we had in place with Martindale, who have been a tremendous support for more than a decade.

“And we look forward to establishing new and productive relationships with other farms in the future," she said.

2010 Adelaide Uni sells the farms

Uni sells farms for $55m

Thursday, 24 May 2012

The University of Adelaide has established a new $50 million endowment fund to support in perpetuity capital works and research in agriculture.

The fund has been set up following the purchase of the remaining 1614 ha of Martindale Farm at Mintaro by a local farmer.


The combination of Martindale Farm (4143ha), Munduney Station at Spalding (7513ha) and Moralana Station, north of Hawker (61,817ha) realised gross proceeds of $55 million, with $3.84 million going to Prince Alfred College as a one-sixth owner of the JS Davies Estate (Moralana and Munduney).

Martindale Farm was part of the Mortlock Bequest.


University of Adelaide Vice-President, Services and Resources, Mr Paul Duldig said investing the proceeds of the three properties into a dedicated endowment fund demonstrates the University's firm commitment to research and education in agriculture and animal sciences, in keeping with the wishes of its benefactors.

Funds from the Mortlock Estate will be spent at Waite Campus on general agriculture, in particular supporting research being done within the Plant Accelerator, a multi-million dollar investment which allows new varieties of crops to be tested.


The JS Davies Estate money will be allocated to research into animal production at Roseworthy Campus.

Some funds will also go to support the new equine facility at Roseworthy, to be built as part of the veterinary science course.

"Teaching and research are our business, not operating commercial farms.


We have been able to turn these assets into serious investment in the future of agriculture and animal sciences," Mr Duldig said.

"This is through expanded infrastructure for research and teaching and increased research capacity at both our Waite and Roseworthy campuses.


"Agriculture remains one of the cornerstones of education and research at the University of Adelaide, and this endowment fund will help us maintain our position among the world's leading researchers in this area, tackling some of the major issues facing the sector."

... "These properties came to the University through generous bequests and we are delighted that the realisation of these bequests has allowed us to invest so significantly in the future of South Australian agriculture and animal sciences, just as they wished," he said.

2012 Uni sells farms for $55m

Adelaide Weekend Notes

Published July 10th 2012
If you happen to visit the Clare Valley for a tour of the wineries you should really stop in at Martindale Hall, a nineteenth century Georgian mansion.


In the warmer weather, it is worth exploring the gardens and having a family picnic in the grounds.

No matter what the season, a tour of the house is a must and will show you a glimpse of our European heritage.

Martindale Station is an 11 000 acre property, Martindale Hall, the manor house, was built in 1879-1880 and is an amazing display of how the wealthy lived in Colonial South Australia.

The 2 storey house is open as a living museum Monday to Friday from 11am-4pm and Saturday and Sunday from noon-4pm.

There (was) an entry cost of $10/adult and $2.50/child.


Opulence at Martindale Hall

As the artefacts are on open display and not in glass cabinets, I would be cautious with taking young children.

My seven year old was absolutely awe inspired and very cautious but it took a few adults to monitor the four year old.

The rooms can be wandered at your leisure and while there is historic information available to read you really get a feel for our colonial history by just observing the contents of the rooms.

Caretaker appointed:
Martindale Hall to remain open to the public


A caretaker has been appointed to run Martindale Hall in the Clare Valley as a museum, while long-term options for the site are considered.


Natural Resources Northern and Yorke Landscapes and Sustainability Manager, Craig Nixon said the Hall would be open seven days a week between 11 and 4 for public visits, as of December 8.

Mr Nixon said the arrangement would maintain public access at the heritage-listed mansion, once the current lessees vacate the property at the end of November.

"Martindale Hall will close for just one week from December 1 to 7 to undertake a stocktake of the collection and assess any significant maintenance issues," Mr Nixon said.

"It will open again on Monday December 8 as a museum. The grounds will also continue to be available to visitors during opening hours.


"Martindale Hall is a beautiful old building with tremendous heritage value and we are committed to ensuring continued public access and we are pleased to have been able to finalise caretaker arrangements to make this happen."

Mr Nixon said with caretaker arrangements in place, the Department of Environment Water and Natural Resources, who are responsible for the management of the site, would go back to the community to explore future long-term options.

"All sustainable options that will best protect Martindale Hall's heritage values will be considered and consultation will continue with representatives from the local community and tourism industry in making a decision about its future."


Built in 1879, the Georgian-style mansion sits on the 19ha Martindale Hall Conservation Park near Mintaro in the Clare Valley and was once part of an extensive sheep run.

The property was gifted to the University of Adelaide by the Mortlock Family in 1965.

Martindale Hall and grounds were later handed to the South Australian Government by the university in 1986.

A recent comprehensive expression of interest process for the future operation of Martindale Hall failed to identify any operators who would make full use of all facilities at the site and reduce the overall cost of maintaining the property to taxpayers.

2014 Caretaker appointed
1985 A Touch of Class Country Style1.png

NOVEMBER 6, 2014 - 7:30AM

Martindale Hall’s future in jeopardy

by Keira James

Rumour and misinformation continue to surround the future of Martindale Hall, as locals seek answers from the government about what lies ahead for this Clare Valley icon.

Following months of speculation, Liberal Party MLC Terry Stephens used question time in State Parliament last Thursday to ask Ian Hunter, Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, whether Martindale Hall would be sold.

“I have asked the department to investigate future options for either the business continuing or otherwise. 

“Once I have that information back, I will be making a determination,” Minister Hunter is reported in Hansard as saying.

When asked to qualify what he meant by ‘otherwise’, he did not rule out that it included the sale of the property.


Representatives of the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, which manages the property, attend an extra-ordinary meeting of the Mintaro Progress Association last Wednesday to provide an update on the government’s position on the hall.

The Northern Argus was not invited to or advised of the meeting, but reports indicate attendees were not permitted to ask questions or participate in discussion, and the meeting has fuelled the fears of some people in the community.


“The Government undertook a comprehensive public expression of interest process for Martindale Hall but no proponents were recommended,” a spokesperson for DEWNR said, in response to a series of questions put to the department by the Northern Argus.

  • “The Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources is now considering future, sustainable uses of the property to ensure its heritage values are preserved and its tourism value recognised and maximised.

  • “The Department is open to all options which will best protect Martindale Hall’s heritage values and will continue to consult with representatives from the local community and tourism industry in making a decision.” 


The spokesperson confirmed the previous lease had expired on June 30, the leasees would be leaving the property on December 1, and caretaker arrangements would be put in place to maintain public access to the Hall while future uses of the site are considered further.

Exactly what those arrangements are remains to be seen.


It’s not fair, I need to know so I can let people know when they phone through to make a booking,” Tracy Waechter said.

  • Tracy has run a Museum and Bed and Breakfast business and lived in the manager’s quarters at Martindale Hall for the past 14 years, but from December 1 she will be without a home and a job.

  • Because she has not been informed of the caretaker arrangements in place from December, she has had to turn away bookings for accommodation and dinner at the hall, and has had to cancel existing bookings that ran well into next year.

“I was led to believe my lease would be renewed, and attended a meeting in Adelaide where I thought I would be signing a new lease,” she said.

Instead, a letter was pushed across the table towards her, giving her three months’ notice to quit the premises.

The stress and recent focus on the issue has exhausted her, but she wants the focus to remain on the hall, not on her.

“The department is not giving any information away.

“I just wish they’d be upfront and honest about it all,” she said.


National Trust Objects

With the right buyer, who can fund ongoing restoration of the hall, and keep it open for public access, selling may be the best option for the Georgian manor.

  • However Executive Officer of the National Trust of South Australia, Dr Darren Peacock (illustrated above), does not think the government would be able to find a private operator who had the resources to take on Martindale Hall, nor is he even sure the government is legally permitted to sell the building.

  • Martindale Hall was gifted to the University of Adelaide by the Mortlock family in 1965, and gifted to the people of South Australia by the university in 1986, and any sale would be dependent on the terms of the gift.

  • He said the government had not yet consulted the National Trust about the building, but “we’d happily take it off their hands to ensure it was properly conserved, operated and continuously open to the public”.


“The State Heritage Listing gives the building some protection, but does not guarantee the building will be preserved and the public given access,”
Dr Peacock said.

“The Minister also has the power to remove a building from the register, and that is a power we would like to see removed.

“DEWNR is a complete failure in managing these properties and promoting them as tourist attractions.

“They are doing exactly what they did with the old Adelaide Gaol – close it, leave it empty to deteriorate, then sell it off – when they were given it to look after for the people, for future generations of South Australians.

  • “Until 2010 there was a Minister for Heritage, but the current government is not interested in preserving or promoting Martindale Hall.

  • “Nowhere in the government’s tourism strategy is there mention of heritage, but that is what appeals to people.

  • “Heritage tourism brings millions of dollars into the state,” 


Sharon Morris, operator of Mintaro Maze agrees if the hall was closed to the public it would have a big impact on tourism in the region.

  • “When I was doing my research when setting up my business, I found even people who were focused on wine might go to three or four wineries on a visit, but then they are looking for something else.”

  • “I’m concerned about the rumours and information that has been going around.

  • “I’ve had tourists coming in here telling me it is closing.

  • “I’ve not been told it has been sold, but even if they had a buyer, I’ve heard it has to go through parliament, which could take ages.”


Another Mintaro resident, Hamish Gosse has been involved in Martindale Hall for over 40 years, including on the board of the former Martindale Hall Conservation Trust.

  • He is pragmatic about the situation and encourages people to think practically about the hall rather than letting emotions cloud their views, a turnaround from his response to the University of Adelaide’s sale of Martindale Farm, when he was reported as being “really up in arms”.

  • “The lease has run out and maintenance costs run at $100,000 more than the government is getting for the lease, so they are looking for alternatives.

  • “The National Trust doesn’t have a cent, the government doesn’t have funds.

  • “I think people are becoming emotional because people think it’s going to happen all at once, but there will be consultation and planning; it won’t happen without a considerable amount of thought.

  • “Selling is a long and involved process and any sale will have certain stipulations such as the hall must be open for day visits,” he said.


In writing this article, the Northern Argus asked many people in the community what their viewpoint was on Martindale Hall.

In addition to those in the story, the following people submitted their comments:

  • “I’m advised that the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources is currently considering future options for the hall, but a decision is yet to be made.

  •  “I wasn’t invited to the meeting between the department and the Mintaro Progress Association, but as the local member I’m happy to work with the association, the council, local residents and businesses to achieve the best  long term outcome for the Martindale Hall site.” 

  •  Hon Geoff Brock MP, Member for Frome

"The Department conducted a public EOI call earlier in the year seeking to attract a commercial operator for Martindale in accordance with the EOI objectives.

  • "The document sought a long term lease and mentioned the possibility of ownership in the longer term.

  • "Council is not aware of the department progressing beyond this stage and the information presented at the Mintaro meeting indicated that the department is still seeking to enter into a new lease/ management agreement for the property. 

  • "I attended the Mintaro meeting on my own initiative as an interested stakeholder. 

  • "Martindale Hall is a key strategic asset for the Clare Valley and is a major drawcard for visitation and tourism business.

  • "Whilst the commercial negotiations are outside the council's jurisdiction it is important for many reasons that this iconic property is managed and presented in a way that is reflective of its status in the history of South Australia.

  • "The EOI issued by the Department reports a strong commitment by the State Government to ensuring that Martindale makes a major contribution to building the State's tourism product. 

  • Roy Blight, Chief Executive Officer, Clare and Gilbert Valleys Council


"Martindale Hall is a jewel in South Australia’s cultural landscape and it is unthinkable that it would be privatised,” said the Shadow Minister for Environment and Conservation.

  •  “The privatisation of Martindale Hall would be an act of vandalism against South Australia’s cultural history by the Weatherill Labor Government.

  •  “The privatisation of Martindale Hall is a direct result of years of financial incompetence by the Weatherill Labor Government.”

  • Hon Michelle Lensink MLC, Deputy Liberal Leader of the Legislative Council, Shadow Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation

National Trust Objects
National Trust's restored chandelier at Ayers House.jpeg
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Sharon Morris, Mintaro Maze.jpeg
Geoff Brock (L), Hamish Gosse (R).png
2014 Martindale Hall’s future in jeopardy
Picnic at Hanging Rock the Advertiser.jpeg
Clare Valley icon Martindale Hall to close and may be sold

THE operators of historic Martindale Hall will close the tourism drawcard after being ordered out while the State Government considers selling the venue.


Left: MOVIE STAR: The cast of Picnic at Hanging Rock in front of the hall during filming.


HISTORIC Martindale Hall at Mintaro in the Clare Valley will close at the end of the month after the operators were ordered out.

The State Government has indicated the Hall may be sold to cover government debts.

The leaseholders of 14 years, who asked not to be named, have put in a tender to continue operating the venue with a 30-year plan they say would increase revenue to the State Government.

Expressions of interest in the lease opened at the start of the year.


Despite being under the impression they were well placed to win the tender, the current operators have been told to vacate the premises, which will shut on November 30.

The hall is open for tours by day as a museum, welcomes guests to stay overnight, hosts about six weddings a year and does a brisk trade in “murder mystery” nights.

The operators said their treatment had been “pretty shoddy” and were unsure what the future held for the hall.


The Georgian-style mansion completed in 1880 on 18ha featured in the landmark Australian movie Picnic at Hanging Rock.

It was built for pastoralist Edmund Bowman Jr, and later sold to William Tennant Mortlock.

His heirs, John and Dorothy Mortlock, bequeathed Martindale Hall and the estate to the University of Adelaide and gave the State Library a $1.8 million bequest – the Mortlock Wing of the Library is named in their honour.

Conservation Minister Ian Hunter told State Parliament an announcement would be made on the hall’s future “at some future stage”.

2016 An Exciting Future for Martindale Hall
An Exciting Future for Martindale Hall

Dave Walsh, Weekend Notes Published June 30th 2016


Martindale Hall was bequeathed to the University of Adelaide by the previous owners, but in 1986 the university gifted it to the people of South Australia to mark the 150th anniversary of the founding of South Australia.

In a letter announcing the gift, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Adelaide said that the gift "is given so that the people of South Australia may be assured that Martindale Hall will be kept available to them for their enjoyment and appreciation of their Heritage".

Until 2014 Martindale Hall was a popular Mintaro attraction for weddings and functions, and much sought after for Clare Valley accomodation.

  • Guests could hire the Hall and stay in the unique bedrooms decorated with period furniture and priceless artefacts.

  • Murder mystery tours were also held at the Hall, with guests served at meals by a butler and maid.

  • Thousands of people flocked to Martindale Hall to take advantage of this unique heritage tourism attraction in South Australia.

Unfortunately South Australia's economy was in a very poor state, and the government began to sell off heritage buildings in a fire sale.

  • The government announced in 2014 that Fort Largs was to be sold to a developer,

  • Z Ward at Glenside Hospital was sold to mining company Beach Energy, and it wasn't long before rumours began that Martindale Hall was for sale.

An unsolicited bid for Martindale Hall was lodged by a syndicate late 2015, wanting to build a luxury resort and wellness retreat for the wealthy.

  • Unfortunately the syndicate's bid would have completely eradicated the character of parts of the heritage building, while providing only minimal public access.

  • When public consultation took place on the unsolicited bid, a storm of protest erupted on the Your Say website.

  • There has been no comment from the government about the syndicate's unsolicited bid since that time.


In May 2016 the National Trust of South Australia announced their  own unsolicited bid to buy Martindale Hall.

  • The National Trust have a long history of preserving heritage buildings around the world and making them affordable for public access, and the SA Branch successfully provides public access to many iconic buildings around the state.

  • Ayers House is a popular venue managed by the National Trust with a museum, guided tours, and the popular Miss Fisher Costume Exhibition that attracted tens of thousands of visitors.


The Trust's plans include something for everyone

  • Martindale Hall to become a classy exhibition venue and events space displaying rare heritage collections

  • an adventure playground to thrill families, with fun activities for kids of all ages

  • enhancing the grounds to include a 19th century pleasure garden, community garden, heritage orchard and olive grove

  • the grand coach house to be restored to display the National Trust own huge collection of horse drawn vehicles

  • delicious local food from a farm shop and licensed cafe on site, making school camps possible in the grounds of Martindale Hall

  • A busy program of events and fun things to do all year round at Martindale Hall will be available.
    Go horse riding, play polo, have a game of cricket or croquet.

  • All of these activities were once a feature of life at Mintaro, and would be welcome Clare Valley attractions.

A key part of the National Trust's proposal is working with the local community and businesses in close relationships.

  • The locals need Martindale Hall to become a more successful attraction, and the Trust sees major benefits in a strong partnership with other Clare Valley attractions.

  • Look forward to a busy event calendar at Martindale Hall. Concerts, live music, food and wine festivals, garden shows, car rallies, antique and collectors road shows and equestrian events will help to spread word of this beautiful place to much wider audiences.


If you're looking forward to seeing Martindale Hall blossom into one of the best Clare Valley attractions, then keep up with the latest news on the National Trust website, or follow their Martindale Hall Facebook page.

2018 Grand gates of Martindale restored
martindale gates Mintaro
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Grand gates of Martindale restored to former glory

Landscape SA 16/04/2018

The entry to Martindale Hall was a hive of activity early this week (Monday 9 and Tuesday 10 April, 2018), as volunteers from the Friends of Burra Parks and staff from Natural Resources Northern and Yorke worked together to give the main entrance gates a new lease on life.

Natural Resources Northern and Yorke Landscape Ranger Darrin Bennett said 12 people participated in the working bee, focusing their attention on restoring the old sandstone and steel gates.

“The group spent two days repointing the original stonework, which was severely weathered, with a traditional lime-based mortar,” Mr Bennett said.

“Some of the volunteers and staff involved in the working bee have been trained in artisan stone masonry, so the restoration works completed will help to ensure that the gates will last for many generations to come.”

Friends of Burra Parks volunteer Rodney Rees said participants leave the working bees with a great deal of pride.

“We are passionate about protecting and maintaining heritage buildings and parks across the region; working on the gates at Martindale Hall was a tremendous opportunity to utilise our technical skills and test our abilities, while working on an extraordinarily unique property,” Mr Rees said.

“Over the course of the working bee we explored the main building and saw what our efforts are helping to support; it’s incredibly satisfying to know that due to the restoration work undertaken on the gates, they will be standing strong for many years.”

"Martindale Hall":

Heritage Listed

Martindale Hall Conservation Park [includes Mortlock Weapons Collection, Billiards & Sporting, Pictorial & Heraldic Collections - Objects of heritage significance]


Martindale Hall, a property including a mansion and its interiors, coach house, stables, and associated structures, is closely associated with the pastoral and economic development of South Australia in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

The main house was constructed for Edmund Bowman Jr., in 1879-1880 to a design prepared by London architect E Gregg, while the coach house was probably designed by Adelaide architect EJ Woods.

The construction of the mansion and other structures was supervised by Woods and main builder Robert Huckson.

Martindale Hall is an outstanding example of the grand country mansions constructed by wealthy pastoralists and represents the `baronial' lifestyle achieved by them.

The property including the mansion, its interiors, and coach house retain a high degree of integrity and illustrate a way of life that no longer exists in South Australia.

The classical styling, proportions and detailing of the external elevations of the mansion and coach house are of a very high quality, and the elaborate detailing of interior features such as timberwork, parquetry floor and plaster work to cornices, ceilings and gallery are finely executed.


Martindale Hall remains as a testament to the successful establishment and ongoing management of the intergenerational pastoral empires created by the Bowman and Mortlock families.

Provisional heritage listing for Martindale collection

 News 26 July 2020  Plains Producer Newspaper Team


Martindale Hall’s extensive Mortlock Weapons Collection was provisionally listed by the SA Heritage Council last week, making it only the third on the SA Heritage Register alongside the Burra Jinker and the Islington Weighbridge.


The listing of the Martindale collection, obviously as items much smaller than the jinker and bridge made it a first for the Heritage Council and is expected to be followed by more than 1000 other items up for State Heritage consideration from the historic Clare Valley landmark.

The heritage listing provides protection for the State Government-owned items, and under Section 14 (2) of the Heritage Places Act 1993, it means obligations apply to owners pursuant to Section 28 of the Heritage Act that objects cannot be moved, altered or sold without permission.

It is expected the Mortlock Weapons Collection will be confirmed on the South Australian Heritage Register at the December meeting of the SA Heritage Council, following a consultation period with the State Government.

Mortlock Weapons Collection 5.png

SA Heritage Council chair Keith Conlon said the heritage listing of the weapons collection provided some security for its longevity and was the first step in determining its provenance.

  • “The provisional listing, and anticipated confirmation, of the Mortlock Weapons Collection on the South Australian Heritage Register is significant as it will protect and conserve the entire collection and its history into the future,” he said.

  • “This collection is one of many originally belonging to the Mortlock family – a prominent and noteworthy South Australian pastoral family.

  • “We hope in future to do some work to establish the provenance of the items, including those that may be linked to First Nation peoples.

  • “This is an important step in the journey of reconciliation and also an opportunity to tell the full story of these items and give the original owners an opportunity to be reconnected with part of their culture.”


Built in 1879/80, and home to the Bowman and Mortlock families, Martindale Hall was State heritage listed in 1980.

The property contains more than 1000 potentially historically-significant items including furniture, furnishings and specialised collections.


With so many items of significance, it is anticipated they will be grouped into a further 13 collections and presented to the SA Heritage Council over a series of meetings for consideration for listing as State Heritage Objects.

  • The Mortlock Weapons Collection includes weapons originating from many different countries and continents including Australian First Nations, Pacific Island Nations, Japan, India, South East Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

  • The collection includes 123 weapons, although some have multiple components, typically a blade and scabbard and includes arrows, spears, boomerangs, woomeras, clubs, shields, knives, daggers, swords, firearms (all now unfirable) and a nineteenth century suit of Japanese Samurai armour.


The Mortlock Weapons Collection was largely acquired by William Tennant Mortlock during his travels in Australia and overseas, and then added to by his son John.

From at least the earliest years of the twentieth century it has been displayed by the Mortlocks on the walls of the room that came to be known as the Smoking Room.

Martindale Hall caretaker Mick Morris said he hoped the heritage listing of the items would protect them for generations to come.

“I’m surprised they weren’t already heritage listed to be honest, but I think it’s a good thing and it means they cannot be sold or moved without permission,” he said.

Now: Please read the S.A. National Trust recommendations.

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