Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Carclew House, Montefiore Hill: "Sinister By Design Part 2"

Today we trace the origins of the land and building that is known today as “Carclew House” a Gothic styled mansion that sits adorning Montefiore Hill in North Adelaide.

"Sinister By Design Part 2"

Last week we were introduced to it's designer, Mr John Quinton Bruce, this week we delve into the house's history and a little of the history of the family that resided in it's walls and named this South Australian icon “Carclew House”.
Long before the iconic house was built, a much smaller residence sat upon the hill, that of James Chambers and Family.
 Mr Chambers, was a very successful business man in Adelaide in the late 1800's, much of his families success came from buying a town acre in the first Adelaide land sale, and importing horses from Van Diemens Land in conjunction with his brother John.
The two men secured themselves a small fortune through their business dealings, and become philanthropists in the small Adelaide community.

James opened a livery stable in Adelaide, purchasing coaches from Cape Town and England, soon he gained the mail contract to Burra (around 1845) and built a large business carting people and mail to the mining communities in Kapunda and Burra and Mid North.

Hugh R Dixson
The house on Montefiore Hill was eventually sold to Mr Hugh R. Dixson, a Tobacco manufacturer and merchant, who knocked it down and commissioned local architect, John Quinton Bruce to build an imposing mansion, which he named “Stalheim” in 1897
Mr Dixson worked for his father from 1885 and in 1889 went to Perth, Western Australia, where he married. On the death of his father in 1891 he bought the S.A. and W.A. businesses from his father's estate and returned to Adelaide to live.
In 1903 the Dixson company merged and become known as “The British Australian Tobacco Company, of which Dixson was elected the director, he smoved his family to Sydney to live in 1905
In 1908, Stalheim was sold to Sir Langdon Bonython, who renamed the building “Carclew”.
State Library of South Australia photo by Ernest Gall 1867

Bonython was 16 years old when he took a job at “The Advertiser”, one of Adelaide's daily newspapers. In 1879, he entered the business as part proprietor and by 1894 owned the newspaper business outright. He went on to own the newspaper for another 35 years, establishing a number of other media ventures in that time as well.
It was reported in another Adelaide paper, “The Mail” in 1929, that Bonython sold his stake in the Advertiser for £1,250,000 to a Melbourne consortium, at the time, this deal made him the wealthiest man in Australia.
Bonython entered politics in 1901, and in 1903 was elected unopposed in the division of Barker. He retired from politics in 1906
 South eastern facade of the Carclew House 1910
n 1908 he was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George(CMG) "In recognition of service to the Commonwealth of Australia".
Sir Bonython was well known for his good deeds and philanthropy, in 1916 he donated £50,000 for the construction of a hall at the University of Adelaide.
He also donated £100,000 towards the construction of Parliament House in Adelaide.
In 1919 he was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) "In recognition of service to the Commonwealth".
The Bonython family lived happily in the newly named Carclew House from 1908 until its sale to the State government in 1965.
Sir Bonython was a distinguished looking gentlemen, short of stature but well groomed, he was said to a very stern and strict man with his children, possibly even a little harsh for the time he lived in, but he expected much from his offspring, and drove them to strive for greatness themselves.
Sir Bonython was said to be a man of extreme cleanliness and had a distaste of anything that may harbour germs. He lives a long life, dying at the age of 91 on October 22nd 1939.
He was honoured with a State Funeral, with a service at ST Peters Anglican Church, and was interred in West Terrace Cemetery.
His estate was vast upon his death, with a net worth estimated at around £4,000,000. He included as beneficiaries in his will, The Pirie Street Methodist Church and St Peters Cathedral, to which he had donated the cost of the canons and choir stalls in 1925 in memory of his wife who had died in 1924
State Funeral of Sir Bonython

Of the stories of ghosts and haunting associated with Carclew House, one tale is of Sir Bonython killing his wife. The story goes that Mrs Bonython found out Mr Bonython had a mistress and grew incredible angry, a fight ensued, it is told that he incapacitated Mrs Bonython, carried her to the spire tower and threw her out the window in a fit of rage.
When he got down to the grounds below to his wife, he found her still alive, so he carried her back up the spire and threw her down again!

Wether or not the story is true has not seemed to matter in the annals of South Australian history, people never let a the truth get in the way of a good story, and this is a story that has it all.
That said, what did happen to Lady Bonython?

Lady Marie Louise Fredericka Bonython died on the 9th of February 1924. It is reported in “The Register” obituaries that Lady Bonython had been an invalid for many years before her death.
Obituary of Lady Bonython in 1924
She was jovial woman, always in high spirits who showed a great deal of compassion and consideration for other, this earned her much respect.
She had spent 20 years serving on the board of the States Children Council and was a founding member of the District Trained Nurses Society.
Up until her death, she worked tirelessly as the Vice-President of the Kindergarten Union.
In 1920, She celebrated her Golden wedding anniversary with her husband having married him on December 24th 1870
She was survived by her Husband, her son, Mr Lavington Bonython, Lord Mayor Of Adelaide, and three daughters.

So was Mrs Bonython murdered, thrown from the tower by her husband? It would appear not, as one would expect police and coroner reports, as well as media scrutiny with a family so much in the public eye.
From a conspirators point of view though, such a tragic murder could easily have been covered up, with Media control of local newspaper source, a Son in the Mayors office, an abundance of money and power, Sir Bonython could have easily covered up such an event, but as we all know, the truth has a way of exposing itself, and if such an event did occur, it will find its way into the public forum eventually, but for now all we have is speculation as to Wether or not such an abominable event occurred in the grand old House named “Carclew”
Other persistent rumours include stories of a man being buried inside the walls of one of the rooms and of a man being buried in a wall near the front door, there is no evidence at the moment that confirms of either of these events ever taking place.
Carclew house 2010
So what of the Carclew house today?
In 1965 the house was bought by the Adelaide city Council.
In 1971, then premier, Sir Donald Dunstan announced Carclew would become a performing arts centre for youths.
In 1976 the program was expanded, and Carclew became a place of multi-arts activities for youth.
In October 2006 Swanbury Penglase Architects prepared an extensive report on the condition of Carclew House – making a series of recommendations to ensure the long-term structural viability of the building. These works were undertaken by the Government of South Australia and completed in October 2009.

© 2012
The Haunts of Adelaide

All photos retain the rights of their various copyright holders and only shown here for the purpose of education,

All reference materials available upon written request.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Sinister By Design

Sinister By Design?

John Quinton Bruce

Whilst today's blog title is probably a little dramatic, and maybe a little misleading, it is a good foray into today’s topic, three buildings in South Australia, and one of their designer's, architect, John Quinton Bruce.
While today I will touch briefly on the house designs, I will not go into depth on any one building in particular, nor the ghost story associated with it, instead I will save that for future writings, where we will cover the history of these locations, instead, today's blog will be a brief biography of the buildings architect, John Quinton Bruce.

Mr Bruce was born on the 17th of April 1865, born at sea near the island of Tobago in The West Indies, the son of a ship-master  and arrived in Adelaide in 1869. Bruce was educated at Pultney Grammar School (of which new buildings he would later design), and was a well rounded athlete in his youth, enjoying competition rowing and swimming.
A member of the Adelaide Racing Club, The Adelaide Turf Club and a lifetime member of the Adelaide Rowing Club.

Headstone North Road Anglican Cemetery
In 1880, Bruce became and apprentice of E.H. Bayer of Architectural firm, “Bayer & Withall”, he remained with the company after finishing his apprenticeship, and took the job of Drafts-man.
In 1884 he moved on to study surveying with Evans and Evans, and then spent some time with William Cumming, only to eventually return to Bayer & Whitall as their chief drafts-man,
from 1894 until 1912, he worked as his own boss, taking on an employee, Louis Laybourne Smith as a draughtsman. Soon he found himself at “Bruce, Wooldridge & Harral”, but was soon to return to being an independent practitioner again (from 1916 – 1919)
John Bruce was welcomed as a member of the South Australia Institute of Architects in November of 1894, gaining his Fellowship in 1897. He held the position of Vice President from 1905, and held the office of President from 1909 to 1911

Soldiers Memorial Hall - Renmark, South Australia
The Architecture of John Quinton Bruce is somewhat flamboyant, He designed a number of Adelaide's buildings and residences in the “Federation” style.
Some of his building designs include the Woodville Institute, Electra House (131- 133 King William Street), The Soldiers Memorial Hall and Hospital in Renmark.

Bruce is also credited with three buildings that have long rumoured to be haunted in South Australia , “Carclew House” built on Montefiore Hill in North Adelaide in 1901, The Freemasons Grand Lodge, found at 254-164 on North Terrace in Adelaide, and the house of Fred Scarfe, founder of Adelaide business “Harris Scarfe”, building found on Robe Terrace in North Adelaide.
House built for Frank Scarfe on robe Terrace, Noth Adelaide

There are a number of ghost stories associated with these buildings in Adelaide, (we will be profiling them separately at a later date). One has to ponder the influence the Freemason had over the architectural designs that Mr Bruce eventually built, as an active member of Adelaide's Freemason society, and a past “Master”, there are aspects of Freemason symbolism in almost all his designs.
Grand Freemason Lodge, North Terrace, Adelaide.
It is probably not fair to say that this symbolism is linked to the haunting that are rumoured in each building, as other works of Mr Bruce have not had the stigma's associated with ghosts and haunting attached, however, with claims of supernatural goings on dogging the Freemasons for decades, it isn't hard for many to believe that there could be other forces at work, possibly in the very design, or layout of these three buildings claimed to be haunted.

Mr Bruce died on the 8th of January 1930 at the age of 64, he suffered a stroke whilst sleeping 3 years prior, and eventually succumb to pneumonia.
He left a Widow and one daughter, Mrs H Clark of Eden Hills.
Now long after his death, his influence is witnessed with his grand designs that still present truly inspiring facades upon Adelaide's skyline

© 2012


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