david coombe history


S.T. Gill and Prospect House


This article and interactive map adds to our historical understanding of S.T. Gill's pictures of Prospect House of December 1849 and (likely early) 1850.

Appleyard, Fargher and Radford (1986) dealt extensively with these works. So what do I add here? (35 years later I can take advantage of access to high-resolution images and an abundance of online resources.)

I add some detail of time and place – a spatial relationship between the pictures; the Hand and Heart Inn (possibly its only portrayal); a distant Port Adelaide; and an agricultural (not a "desolate"1) landscape. A remnant she-oak is a reminder of what was once there.

I also include another picture (AGSA 0.1347) omitted in 1986.

S.T. Gill's watercolours of a house may (of necessity) lack the life of most of his contemporary works but he makes up for this with fascinating detail, even if it is around the edges.

You can use the interactive map (below) (and click "See full screen") to see the views as Gill saw them.

Prospect House and Gill's Pictures

Prospect House was a castellated mansion owned by J.B. Graham, a wealthy shareholder and founding director of the South Australian Mining Association. Also known as "Graham's Castle", it was a complex of buildings on section 372 to the east of Lower North Road (now called Churchill Road). Graham added to the original residence of John Richmond by constructing from late 1846 a perimeter wall, coach house, stables, offices and extensive landscaping.

Prospect House is first pictured in S.T. Gill's lithograph of a fete marking the consecration of Christ Church, North Adelaide on 20 December 1849. The lithograph was printed by Penman & Co. and was reported in the press just five days later. Given 300 sat down for lunch (in addition to 300 to 400 children), GIll would have expected a siztable market for his effort.

The print has the artist's portfolio leaning against a folding seat - the artist is ready for business. More business was forthcoming and, possibly on the strength of this picture, Gill was commissioned to paint Graham's property.

In 1850 he painted five watercolours of the house, its expansive landscaped grounds and its setting for its then absent owner. They are a portayal of wealth and taste. Three of the five are views from the roof ("leads") of the house, looking southwest, northwest and east. There are also two ground level views of the house and grounds. The gardens are highlighted, an outstanding feature being the blue copper waste edging of garden beds1.

The manicured landscape included two pyramids on the western side of the grounds (identified as hessian shade structures by Appleyard). They were visible to travellers on the Lower North Road and were described in 1851 as "the two incomprehensible pyramids erected there, which however still stick up in the premises like a couple of gigantic pastiles." Near one pyramid is a large remnant tree. The tree appears to be a she-oak by comparison with another picture so titled by Gill (Dixson Library, SLNSW, DL Pd 132).

Three paintings include the resident greyhound (or kangaroo dog). In another Gill's Newfoundland dog guards his portfolio.

The Property Described

Graham's house and property was thoroughly described when it was put up for sale or let in January 1854: "The House contains a large entrance Hall, Breakfast, Library, Dining-Rooms, Four Rooms on the upper floor, large Kitchen, two Pantries, Washhouse, &c., an Underground Room, excellent Cellarage &c. The Stabling and general accommodation are very complete, consisting of a Four-stalled Stable, Harness-Room, Coach-House, Large Outhouse, Hen-House, &c., &c. Adjacent to the House is a neat Cottage, well adapted for a Nursery; and a small Cottage in the rear of the grounds suitable for a Gardener's residence. The Grounds consist of Fifty-two Acres of Land, thirty-two of which are tastefully laid out as Flower, Fruit, and Kitchen Gardens, Shrubberies, and Enclosed Paddocks, &c., containing a great variety of Trees of the choicest descriptions, and enclosed with a substantial stone wall, with front and back entrances, with folding Gates. The remaining twenty acres of ploughed land are enclosed with a substantial red-railed fence, with Gate, &c. The proximity of this valuable Property to the City, being only about twenty Minutes' drive over a good Road, renders it a most desirable abode for a mercantile or professional gentleman, having to transact business in Adelaide daily."


Trove list: S.T. Gill's pictures of Prospect House (Graham's Castle) and J.B. Graham ,


1. Fargher in Appleyard et al, 1986, 95-96.

Interactive Map

See full screen

David Coombe, April 2021. (Original March 2021).

CITE THIS: David Coombe, 2021, S.T. Gill and Prospect House, accessed dd mmm yyyy, <http://coombe.id.au/S_T_Gill/S_T_Gill_and_Prospect House.htm>