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Pirralilla Estate

A mansion of many memories.

Wind back the clock 121 years and a wealthy pastoral family were beginning to make memories in their grand residence at 17 Arkaba Road, Aldgate.
The 4ha property with orchards, manicured gardens, and a double-storey mansion was a summer retreat for Mid North pastoralists Michael and Bessie Hawker, two of the State’s most prominent figures of their time.
Fast forward to 2023 and family of eight, the Savvas, have made new memories at Pirralilla Estate, renovating and refurbishing the home over the past 13 years to make it their own.
George and Esme Savva raised their six children on the property, spending their time reconfiguring the main house and often reflecting on the property’s former occupants, which also include a convent of Catholic nuns.
“It’s such a beautiful building,” says Esme.
“I can remember coming to the open inspection before we bought it and just being overawed by the size of the dining room.”

With sprawling staircases, stunning stained-glass windows, and ornate ceilings, the mansion has retained many of its original features.
These include classic fireplaces, one of which has the Hawker’s initials branded onto the mantel – a reminder of the people who once warmed their hands above the flames.
A number of other buildings surround the main residence including a gardener’s cottage, governess’ cottage, caretaker’s cottage and apartments.
But for Esme, the beauty in her home is found in the simplest of places.
“I love the light that comes through the kitchen window overlooking the magnolias in the mornings,” she says.
“It’s really beautiful.”

One of the main reminders of Pirralilla Estate’s history is the chapel, built around 1950 by the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart.
For the next two decades St Joseph’s was a boarding school for girls training to become nuns.
Esme says she has learnt a bit over the years about the history of the convent and the women who walked its hallways.
She tells of tales of the strict requirements of the order including girls only being allowed on the grand staircases if cleaning them, and sleeping in the cold dormitories upstairs.
In 1972, a 30-room dormitory was built on the property around about the time St Joseph’s became a retreat and conference centre.
Over the years the Savvas have turned the old church into an impressive playroom for their children, complete with toys, games, a library, TV and slide.
Every festive season the family prides itself in dressing the home in Christmas decorations, including multiple Christmas trees, displays and ornaments scattered throughout.
“George is a big kid so he gets the decorations out every year and the kids will pull it all together,” Esme says.
Pirralilla Estate is now also a destination for couples or solo travellers wanting to escape to somewhere private and secluded, with the Savvas opening their property as a bed and breakfast.
There are five spaces to choose from: the gardener’s cottage, governess’ cottage, caretaker’s cottage or apartment-style accommodation in the King Apartments.
Despite Pirralilla’s many inhabitants and uses over the years, Esme says a sense of serenity has always remained.
“It’s amazing how quiet the gardens are,” she says.
“Our guests have always felt a sense of calm and peacefulness.”


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