Auchendarroch House, Mount Barker
Originally opened in 1860 by Scottish migrant Lachlan MacFarlane as the Oakfield Hotel, this magnificent heritage listed mansion became Robert Barr Smith’s family’s summer retreat from 1878-1922 and then a convalescent home and Air Force hospital. Restored in 2002, it was turned into a function centre by the Wallis family. Its name is Scottish-Gaelic for “holy place of oaks”.
Auchendarroch House is the perfect venue for weddings, corporate seminars, business meetings, product launches, engagements and birthday celebrations. They cater for both formal and informal occasions; stand up cocktail parties or elegant sit down dinners. In conjunction with the Wallis Tavern and the Mt Barker Cinemas complex, this project employs in excess of one hundred local people from the Mt Barker and Adelaide Hills area, and represents a major commitment made by a South Australian owned and operated company – Wallis Cinemas.
Originally named The Oakfield Hotel, “Auchendarroch” derives its origins from the Scottish-Gaelic term ‘holy place of the oaks’ and was built in 1860 by Scottish immigrant Lachlan McFarlane.
Another Scottish ex patriot, Robert Barr Smith, purchased the property in 1878 and commissioned a young English architect, John H. Grainger, to “build around the old hotel a thirty roomed mansion in the French Renaissance of the Modern School style”. These extensive renovations took some twelve months, cost 6000 pounds, and featured characteristics such as the hand blocked ‘Spring Thicket’ wallpaper that still adorns the Ballroom (formerly the Drawing Room) today. Grainger then divided the forty-two acres into gardens, orchards, farming land and the property became the Barr Smiths’ summer residence, opposed to their Adelaide home, which is now the site of the prestigious Scotch College. Following his wife’s death (Joanna) in 1919, Auchendarroch was sold at auction ending almost forty-one years of family ownership.
In June 1922 the Memorial Hospital of North Adelaide purchased the property for 7,000 pounds, the aim of which was to provide an “ideal Rest and Convalescent Home where, at reasonable cost, weary worn humans may be strengthened for life’s duties”. However, increased demand for accommodation in the 1930’s led the hospital board to commission major alterations, which became the first substantial change to the fabric of the property since the end of the Barr Smith family’s occupation and development. In 1940 the Red Cross took over the operations of the Rest Home for the purpose of convalescing servicemen, and in 1942 it was requisitioned by the RAAF as a hospital for Air Force personnel. By the end of the war, the RAAF relinquished its ownership and the House reverted back to the Memorial Hospital. By the early 1970’s, the combination of diminishing clients and ever increasing costs meant that Auchendarroch’s role as a Methodist Rest Home was nearing its end. In 1976, the State Planning Commission purchased the land, while the House became the property of a private company who divided the building into individual family living areas. What followed was a period of neglect for many years during which time the condition of the building drastically deteriorated.
The Wallis family purchased the property in 2000 and made a vast financial commitment to restore the House to its former glory whilst providing a much-needed entertainment complex for the community.
The heritage listed property was in need of major upgrading, not only to make it commercially viable but also to give the community access to an important landmark, whilst retaining the areas of cultural significance. Four rooms including the Oakfield, Dining, Joanna’s rooms through to the majestic Ballroom with its rich décor, featuring William Morris wallpaper and leadlight windows were all beautifully restored. In 2009, further additions to the functions facility were completed with the upgrading of the Barr Smith Billiard Room which now features both William Morris wallpaper and luxurious swags and curtains. The Robert Charles Room named after late Managing Director Robert Charles (Bob) Wallis displays Swarovski Crystal curtains and ceiling lights while handmade forged iron “vines” creates a Wisteria-like feature around the bar. This elegant room overlooks the award winning gardens.
Auchendarroch House now provides a functional entertainment venue along with the Wallis Tavern and the seven screen Mount Barker Cinema Complex. The Wallis Tavern Bistro provides restaurant quality food and offers full table service in an a la carte bistro. The bistro’s wall of glass overlooks their award winning gardens, relaxing by day and stunning by night. Auchendarroch House now provides function rooms that cater for conferencing, corporate training days, business dinners, birthday parties, family reunions, school reunions, wedding ceremonies as well as receptions, engagement parties and anniversaries.
Painting, Decorating & Artistic Work
In August 2009 we performed beautiful painting, decorating and artistic work for Michelle Wallis in the function centre of Auchendarroch House. Two three dimensional Trompe L’Oeil murals in the entrance to the main function centre were meticulously hand painted using environmentally friendly paint finishes from Milan, Italy. We stained and revarnished timber around the columns, and applied Porters Paints Duchess Satin and an antiquing finish to the mouldings of the columns.
All the woodwork in the main function centre was revarnished. In the function centre small hallway, we cut a stencil for a waratah flower and hand painted it in each corner of the ceiling. We then hand painted lines of green on the outside with burgundy in the middle to join the flowers together.
Featured On “Building Ideas” Show
The Master Builders Association “Building Ideas” TV show showcases the work of GD & JA Lancaster, now Lancaster Painters Australia Pty Ltd. It boasts filmage of the heritage decorative work and the beautiful trompe l’oeil murals we painted for Michelle Wallis in Auchendarroch House.