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Eurilla Estate

An Adelaide Lord Mayor and a State MP are among the past owners of this stately home built in 1884.

A little more than a decade after the catastrophic Ash Wednesday bushfires tore through the Adelaide Hills, the century-old mansion, Eurilla, still stood on the eastern slope of Mt Lofty, a shadow of what it once was.
The former summer residence of SA politician and wine and spirits merchant Sir William Milne had been gutted when the fires struck on February 16, 1983, and, while many of the rooms had been restored, only the distinctive stone tower remained of the upper storey.
“When it burnt down, they had a few issues rebuilding it and they had to knock the top storey off,” current owner Chris says.
“So when we bought it, it was minus the top storey.
“The tower was still there, but the bedrooms had gone.”


The home was built in 1884 for Milne and was later owned by former Lord Mayor of Adelaide Sir Lavington Bonython and then his son Kym, who sold it in the 1980s, shortly after the fires.
It changed hands a couple of times before Chris and his now-wife, Jacquie, bought it in 1998, drawn to its age and “potential”.
“I love old homes and I love the stonework and I loved the fact that the rooms were nice and big,” Chris says.
“I loved what was left of the garden, even though it had significantly changed – you could see that it had great potential and in the following 10 or 20 years it would sort of come back to life again.
“And of course it had been on the market for a year, so it was relatively cheap in those days, so I think it was a combination of all of those things.”
Over the past 25 years the couple has converted an enclosed verandah into a conservatory, renovated the kitchen and re-landscaped the garden.
But it was the year-long project to rebuild the top storey of the home that returned it to its former glory.


“We found the original plans (for the home) in the Victorian Art Gallery,” Chris says.
“Isidore Beaver, who was the architect, I believe became quite well known in Victoria and they bought a lot of his early architectural plans, so I don’t know how I fluked it and I’ve tried to find them again and they’re no longer there, but I got a hit ‘summer house Mt Lofty architectural drawings’ and I thought ‘what are the chances’.
“There were three summer houses up here, Mt Lofty House, Eurilla and Carminow.
“So I paid the $20 or whatever it was and sure enough it was this place, so that assisted us to a degree and we built the top storey back on again.”
The centrepiece of the house is a stately staircase that exudes grandeur – a replica of the original and a window into a bygone era when Adelaide’s wealthiest and most influential spent their summers in the cooler Adelaide Hills.
But it almost didn’t make it into the final design.
“We were thinking we would just run a narrower staircase up the passage,” Chris says.
“That all changed when Kym Bonython sent us a photograph in the mail, with a little note attached to it just pinned to the photograph, saying, ‘I heard you were building up’ and it was a photograph of Kym and (his wife) Julie standing at the foot of what was the staircase before it burnt down.
“And Jacquie and I looked at this and we just thought how can you build it back to try and get it back to how it was without this staircase?”

There were three summer houses up here, Mt Lofty House, Eurilla and Carminow.

Chris, the house’s current owner.

Craftsman Don Grinstead came out of retirement to build the staircase faithful to the original design, using castings from an original balustrade salvaged from the ruin after the fire. “The balustrades are an interesting story in themselves,” Chris says.
“So when we had moved here in the early days, the gardener lived in the stables and I never went in there … but when I did go up there on one occasion … I remember seeing a couple of balustrades that I assumed were the old ones from the staircase.
“So I went up there (when we were building the staircase) and I took everything out and they weren’t there.
“And I was working in town and I just got this inkling to go into this one shop in Waymouth Street and I walked in there an lo and behold there’s two of the balustrades hanging on the wall and I said to the guy ‘do you know where these came from?’ and he said ‘some old codger came in and sold them to me and they’re the only two they’ve got’.
“And I’ve never had anything confirmed but I suspect I know who the old codger was.
“So I bought one and we got them all recast at a place up at Callington.”
Today Eurilla is every bit the stately home it was before the fires, with sweeping views over the Piccadilly Valley and expansive manicured lawns.
The old stable has been converted into a cosy apartment, which is used as a bed and breakfast, and it’s one of the few historic properties in the area that has retained the original gatehouse within the estate.
But while it still guards the secrets of the Adelaide Hills’ colonial history and the influential families who summered there, to Chris, Jacquie and their two children, Eurilla is simply “home”.
“It’s a very homely type of building,” Chris says.
“We find it warm, we find it comfortable we find it great for entertaining, but it can also be a family home as well.”

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