Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Woodhouse Activity Centre

Woodhouse Activity Centre

Located in the Adelaide Hills, Woodhouse Activity Centre has been owned by the Scouting association since the 1950's and used for all kinds of scouting, and public activities, including weddings.
The house is situated on a 54 acre estate located in the Piccadilly Valley, it once covered 1000 acres of the rolling Adelaide Hills. Mount Lofty Gold Course and Arbury Park, nearby, were once park of the illustrious estate.
The house was described rather well in advertisement in the South Australian Register in October 1888 (Thursday October 1888 page 8) which stated that the house comprises a dining room, drawing room, Library, Morning room, Seven bedrooms, A servants
bedroom, Schoolroom, kitchen, Scullery, Storerooms pantry, large cellars and larder and out rooms consisting of laundries bathrooms and W.C. - the entire house is built of white freestone.

The house that is referred to now as “Old House” has long been rumoured a haunted location. The house and estate were first established around 1848, which makes the house one of the oldest surviving opulent homes outside of the Adelaide City boundary.
The house has seem some very important Adelaide people in its residence, and seen some controversy in its surrounding estate back in the late 1800's, the controversy was to do with land dealings and mining by an owner, a former Advocate General and Acting governor in South Australia, Mr George Milner Stephen.
Stephen came to Adelaide in 1838, aged 25 and took up the positions of Advocate General and Crown solicitor, not long later he also was Acting governor in the interim of Governor Hindmarsh returning to England and Governor Gawler's arrival in Adelaide.
Stephen suffered damage to his reputation after a messy legal case over land dealings in the Adelaide Hills, he never really regained his former confidence, nor the trust of Adelaide's elite.
Another famous owner of the house and estate was Sir Richard Hanson. Hanson was the fourth Premier of South Australia and also served in the Supreme Court of South Australia as Chief Judge.
Hanson was also a member of the Freemasons, and founded the South Australian “Lodge of Friendship” of which he later became it's Master.
Hanson also passed an act legalising marriage with a deceased wife’s sister, the first act of its kind in the English Empire, it was however refused by the royal family and not passed into law.
Sir Hanson is responsible for many additions to the estate buildings and for extensively renovating the site. Sir Richard Hanson died of a heart attack in the garden of the estate, not far from “old House” on the 4th of March 1876 (as reported in the South Australian Register on March 6th of that year.)
One of the legends surrounding the house is that if you count the outside windows of the building, there appear to more windows visible than from inside, this led to a rumour that there was a secret room somewhere in the house, this of course led to more rumours and urban legends about a “ghost room” in the house that only appears at certain times.

There are also countless stories of child apparitions, often heard crying, this could be due to the location being a scout owned function location for over 50 years, as we all know, young children camping like a good ghost story, or perhaps this is residual energy from frighten children, but as of yet, I have not come across any records of children dying at the location that could account for such sightings.

One other story that is seen on the internet involves a murder-suicide related apparition sighted in an upstairs bedroom and a story written in the houses guest book that relates the murder suicide. This of course cannot be verified as ever happening at the Woodhouse estate as no newspapers have anything similar linked to the place or anywhere nearby, it remains, at this stage, another of the locations urban legends, perhaps told at scout camp fires over a hot chocolate and marshmallows.

© 2014 Allen Tiller

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