History & Restoration
North Bundaleer was the last hurrah of the golden age of the great pastoral homesteads in South Australia. It took the new owners three years of dedicated work in association with heritage authorities, and the attention to historic detail in the house is evident at every turn, from period wallpapers to the magnificently restored arts & crafts Dado Rail in central ballroom. Made from gold-leaf embossed Lincrusta, a 19th English paper designed to simulate pressed leather (but which can actually look like pressed metal), it features a gorgeous band of horn-blowing cherubs chasing dolphins and a fish-tailed Pegasus around the walls of this finely proportioned space.
Australian Financial Review 2008
Bundaleer had been farmed under occupational licences since 1841, following the reports of explorer Edward John Eyre that good pastoral land was located in the mid north of the colony. The property was originally selected by J B Hughes under occupational licence in 1841, and he became the first settler beyond the River Broughton. Subsequent owners included Charles B Fisher and Robert Barr Smith. The ownership of the property eventually ended up with Robert John Maslin, who divided Bundaleer, encompassing approximately 60,000 acres in 1898, between two of his sons. George Edward Maslin became the owner of the northern portion of the property, comprising 23,000 acres, which became known as North Bundaleer.
George Maslin immediately initiated the construction of a home, engaging the services of Adelaide architects Charles Thomas Good and David Williams to design a substantial new home for his family. Despite the call for tenders in September 1898, the house was not completed until at least 1901, and possibly 1902, as evidenced by dates located under the paintwork in the house. Upon completion the homestead was described in ‘Our Pastoral Industry’ as ‘one of the finest in the north’, and was described as ‘an imposing declaration of success and standing’, reflecting both the wealth and optimism in the future of the pastoral industry at the time.
George Maslin lived at North Bundaleer only until 1911, when the property was purchased by the Government for Closer Settlement. The property was subdivided, with the house remaining with approximately 1,500 acres. It appears that that amount of land never allowed subsequent owners to make a successful living from the property, as records show a continual struggle to repay loans and leases. This may explain the original condition of the homestead, with only essential maintenance work and minor alterations being undertaken. North Bundaleer was entered in the State Heritage Register 1983 and on the Recorded List of the National Trust of South Australia in 1984.
Described in ‘Our Pastoral Industry’ (published 1911) as ‘one of the finest in the north’, only essential maintenance work and minor alterations had been undertaken until the early 1970s, when the Homestead was completely abandoned. The property was purchased by Marianne and Malcolm Booth in 1998, and restoration of the buildings and interiors commenced in 1999 and were carried out over a period of three years involving many craftsmen, builders and labourers (the owners, amongst others)! Some of these tradesmen were sourced from Adelaide, but many came from the local Jamestown area.
A Conservation Management Plan was prepared by the National Trust of South Australia in 1999. It identified the significance of the internal and external fabric of the building and recorded the condition of the fabric before restoration began. The restoration of the verandahs was carried out with the assistance of funds made available by the Commonwealth of Australia under the Cultural Heritage Projects Program.
The layout of the house had remained largely unaltered, dominated by a central ballroom leading off the formal entrance. A large number of rooms open off the ballroom, and there can be no doubt that the level of decoration and ornamentation throughout the ‘public’ rooms of the house was exceptional. Remnants of original wallpapers, Anaglyptas and Lincrustas remained in a number of rooms, with those in the entry and ballroom considered highly significant. Wherever possible, the original paint colours were identified, with the entrance, drawing room, dining room and library retaining extensive original colours and wood graining.
COMMENTS FROM OUR GUESTBOOK
Your investment of time & energy has uncovered the soul in patient walls. They absorb the angst and one leaves in peace. Your triumph is every visitor’s gain.
Lembit Opik, MP UK