Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Estcourt House

Estcourt House 

Frederick Bucknall, Founder of The South Australian Rowing Club and one of the men involved in the acquisitions and subdivisions of land that eventually became the suburbs Grange and Henley Beach near Adelaide.
Frederick was a businessman who, in the late 1860s ran The South Australian Boating Company from Port Adelaide in an old Malthouse in Grey street. He converted the shed into the “Australian Clubhouse hotel” in 1869, known locally as “The Kerosine Tin” because of its galvanised iron walls.
Frederick placed a lot of money in placing boats on the River Torrens just after the first dam had been built, but the river flooded and washed the majority of his boats away, leaving him out of pocket.
In 1874, he met Rosa Haussen, the widow of Henry Haussen of the brewers, Haussen and Company.

With his new found bride came a large sum of money, estimated to be around 40, 000 pounds, and a new job at the family Brewery, plus nine children to look after.
Frederick and Rosa built Estcourt house at Grange in 1883 on the foreshore at a cost of 12, 000 pounds, but three years later, the family were facing financial difficulties and were forced to sell the house.

In 1886 the new owner of Estcourt was the Australian Mutual Provident Society, better known to us today as AMP. AMP owned the house for quite some time, in that time it remained empty, its isolation and size made it unwanted and unaffordable to most.
Eventually, the house was sold and in 1892 was purchased by the James Brown Memorial Trust, a trust fund set up by the widow, Mrs Jessie Brown, in her late husband's honour. The house was to help people in need. It officially opened in 1894, and by December of that year had eight children aged between four and twelve, and twenty-three visually impaired or blind people elderly people in its care.
Eight years later, in 1900 it had grown to forty-five people in its care.

By 1931, the facility was provided with a teacher from the education board and had become a convalescent home for children suffering from TB, polio, rheumatic fever and other ailments.
In 1978 the Government bought Estcourt House and it became part of Strathmont Centre, then in 1981 the house was upgraded and children were moved from North Adelaide, Estcourt House became known as Ru Rua Nursing Home until its closure in 1989.
With Tb, Scarlet Fever and other such ailments, death was not too far away for some children, and unfortunately many did die in Estcourts walls, one story of a young man named Anthony Nolan, a sufferer of bone marrow disease, was well documented in a 1979 issue of Woman’s Weekly, unfortunately Anthony died at just 8 years of age.

Another tragic death was that of a 17-year-old nurse, Hazel Fryar in 1939. Young Hazel contracted laryngeal diphtheria, a rare disease that eventually blocks the airways.
South Australian Register Tuesday 9 June 1896, page 7
These tragic deaths are just two I found quickly whilst searching on the National Library website “Trove”, there were many, many more deaths from Tuberculosis, children with heart problems, amputees and other ailments.

After the closure in 1989 the house stood empty for many years, attracting ghost hunters and thrill seekers, the majority of ghost stories surrounding this location extend from this period and can most likely be dismissed as the hypersensitive, adrenalin rush state someone trespassing might endure, but there is always the possibility that the little ghost children seen playing hide and seek at the time might not be stories.

Estcourt house was eventually sold to a private buyer and the hospital wings removed, the house now looks like many other mansions on the street, as for the ghosts, as of yet, the new owners have not stated anything publicly.

© 2013 Allen Tiller

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