A Brief History: Stangate House & Garden


The land on which Stangate House is built was originally granted to Robert Thomas of Robert Thomas & Co., printers. Born in Wales, Robert Thomas came out to South Australia in the “Africaine” in 1836, was the co-founder and proprietor of the South Australian Gazette and the Colonial Register, printed the 1836 Proclamation, and was granted the land on which Stangate House now stands.

Robert Thomas’s son, William Kyffin Thomas and grandson Sir Robert Kyffin Thomas (1851 – 1910) were also newspaper proprietors. His grand-daughter, Florence Emily Thomas (born 1860) had by 1898 inherited land from her family, which she in turn left to her daughter, Florence Gwenyth Thomas (1887-1971).

Samuel Raymond Baron Cornish (1884-1963) was born in the family home, "Beverley", St. Leonards, Glenelg to Samuel and Agnes Maria, neé Kirkpatrick, attended St. Peters College, trained for the priesthood at St. Barnabas College, and was ordained priest in the Church of England in 1912. He served in country parishes in northern South Australia until leaving in 1922 for experience in England. At the end of 1923 he was appointed Chaplain of St. Thomas’ Hospital, Lambeth, a position he held until 1939.

Raymond and Gwenyth were married on 5th August 1927 at Southwark, Surrey, England.

Stangate House

The house was planned in London, and a cardboard model made by the Revd. Cornish. Plans and model were accepted by Adelaide architect Eric McMichael, and excavations began on 18th January 1940. The builder was J.B. Hughes of Prospect, the foreman of works was Martin Tobiason. The house was finished on 30th June 1940, and the Cornishes moved in the next day.

The house was named after STANGATE, LONDON, SE1, situated at the south end of Westminster Bridge, where the Revd. Cornish was quartered during his appointment at St. Thomas’ Hospital.

Stangate House garden

Both Raymond and Gwenyth derived great joy from developing their garden, and delighted in the trees and the bird life there. The garden was already framed by a variety of mature trees, notably the giant English oak tree which still abuts the shaded walkway known as Lovers’ Lane, and which is reputed to have been planted by a homesick gold prospector. The tree has been dated to the late 19th century, possibly mid 1870s.

Mrs. Cornish’s father had been responsible for re-routing the creek and stoning the creek walls, making use of some of the rubble available when the railway came through Aldgate in the 1880s. Along the creek Raymond and Gwenyth planted masses of English blue bells either side of the paths which they called The Glade. Also planted were two Maple Walks within The Glade.

Raymond’s sister, Elsie Marion Cornish (1870-1946), regarded as one of Adelaide’s best known landscape gardeners, helped to develop the garden at Stangate House.

The National Trust of South Australia and the Camellia Society, Adelaide Hills Inc.

The property was bequeathed to the National Trust of South Australia in 1967-1970, and is managed by the Mount Lofty branch, founded in 1964. There has been a written agreement between the Trust and the Camellia Society since 1980 for the Society to establish and maintain a collection of camellias and other plants in the garden.