November 19, 2020
Arts & Culture

Inside Carrick Hill’s $3.3M makeover

Carrick Hill is celebrating the completion of a $3.3 million renovation that has seen the old attic transformed into a permanent exhibition space, several other rooms refitted and opened to the public, and new access installed to all three levels of the historic home.

The new Wall Gallery in the old Carrick Hill attic, displaying works on loan from the AGSA.

The Springfield house, built in the late 1930s for prominent Adelaide couple Bill and Ursula Hayward, has been closed since July last year for the renovation work and was set to reopen this weekend – until the six-day pandemic lockdown was announced.

The major changes to the English manor-style home include the installation of a new staircase and elevator, and the conversion of the previously unused attic into a 75sqm gallery space named The Wall Gallery, in honour of donors Ian and Pamela Wall.

Carrick Hill director Tony Kanellos says having a dedicated exhibition space will add another dimension to the historic house’s visitor offering, enabling it to host travelling exhibitions, display works borrowed from other galleries, and also explore more deeply aspects of the extensive collection acquired by the art-loving Haywards.

“It allows us to tell a story without necessarily playing to the context of the house,” he says.

“The guest bedroom will still be used for exhibitions but it will always be domestic in its context, so you can’t help but imagine how people lived with the artworks. In The Wall Gallery, it will be more of a blank canvas.”

The new gallery’s opening exhibition, which is curated by Kate Davies and was hung this week, explores the influence of British art historian Sir Kenneth Clark, narrator of the 1960s BBC series Civilisation.

Titled Collecting: A Personal View, it features 16 rarely seen works on loan from the Art Gallery of South Australia’s collection, including John Glover’s painting View of Mills Plains, Van Diemen’s Land (1833). The works were acquired by Clark for the gallery after he offered to become its London buyer during a visit to Adelaide in 1949.

Carrick Hill’s guest bedroom, as it is now presented following the recent renovations.

During his visit, Sir Kenneth spent a night at Carrick Hill and rehung a number of works in the Haywards’ collection.

Tony says the exhibition includes a letter from Lady Ursula to her friend, artist Nora Heysen, in which she writes of their visitor: “What a character. After dinner he took off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves and rehung the paintings in our house.”

Given that Sir Kenneth was already a distinguished figure in the art world, he surmises that the couple would have been chuffed to have the benefit of his expertise.

During the exhibition, a number of works collected by the Haywards around that period – including Russell Drysdale’s The Chinaman’s Store will be on show in the guest bedroom in which Sir Kenneth stayed.

“The show explores the idea of ‘a great collection’ by comparing the parallel stories of Sir Kenneth Clark and the Haywards acquiring works for public and private collections,” Tony says.

The guest bedroom previously served as Carrick Hill’s main gallery space but it has now been “reinterpreted”, with the windows and fireplace exposed and pieces of the original furniture on show.

The Haywards were known for their lavish dinner parties and love of entertaining, with other well-known guests who stayed in the room in the 40ha estate’s heyday including actors Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh and Judith Anderson, and choreographer, dancer, actor and director Robert Helpmann.

Tony Kanellos on the new staircase, which offers window views of the sprawling estate.

The new elevator installed during the renovations offers access to all three levels of the historic home, as does the new fire-compliant staircase (the home retains its original grand “Waterloo Staircase” in the great hall).

In addition to the attic, several other rooms will be newly opened to the public, including an old boiler room that now houses the gift shop, the restored 1930s en suite to the guest bedroom and a first-floor room (previously used as an office) that displays a selection of Lady Ursula’s own paintings.

While Lady Ursula may not have thought her work was good enough to display, Tony believes the vibrant flower paintings offer a window into her character.

“To see them all together, the imagination starts running wild – it gives the impression of a very energetic, fun, outgoing person who is passionate about both gardening and painting.”

Lady Ursula’s Hayward’s paintings on display in the newly reopened first-floor room.

Carrick Hill’s cafe has also been given a refit, with Tabel Catering returning to operate both it and the estate’s marquee catering service for weddings and other events.

When the estate is able to reopen, Tabel plans to operate an on-site gin bar from 5pm each Friday over the coming months, with gin having been one of Lady Ursula’s favourite tipples.

The recent renovations – funded by $2.7 million raised by the Carrick Hill Foundation through private donations and a $690,000 State Government grant – are the first step in a $10 million, three-stage plan for the site, the second stage of which will be the construction of a new visitor centre pavilion.

Work on the pavilion is scheduled to begin next year and be completed by the middle of 2022.

Keep an eye on the Carrick Hill website and Facebook page for a new reopening date when the current COVID-19 restrictions ease.

The master bedroom has undergone some changes, with artwork now hanging on a wall previously covered by wardrobes.


The new Carrick Hill gift shop space.


Another view of the first-floor room showcasing Lady Ursula Hayward’s paintings.


A lift now offers access to all three levels of Carrick Hill, including The Wall Gallery.


The original attic – Bill Hayward is believed to have wanted to make it a billiard room.


Carrick Hill sits on around 40ha, including 26ha of native bushland.
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