For some sev­enty years Wairoa was the sum­mer res­id­ence of three Adelaide gentry fam­il­ies — the Horn, Barr-Smith and Gosse families.

Early photo of Wairoa house

House at Wairoa

Wil­liam Aus­tin Horn (1841 – 1922) pur­chased the Wairoa site in 1888 and by the early 1890s he had com­pleted con­struc­tion of most of the house. Horn was a not­able and some­what eccent­ric char­ac­ter in South Australia’s his­tory. He amassed a con­sid­er­able for­tune from min­ing and pas­toral leases and he was a mem­ber of the South Aus­tralian House of Assembly from 1887 until 1893. Horn was also a phil­an­throp­ist, a clas­sical scholar, a bush­man, a sculptor (his stone sculp­tures are fea­tures of the Wairoa garden) and an author.

Photo of William Horn's Stonework

Wil­liam Horn’s Stonework

The archi­tect and builder of the house are not known, how­ever George Spar­row was engaged by Horn to design and lay out the garden. Spar­row con­tin­ued work­ing at Wairoa as head gardener until his death in 1913.

Photo of Staff Picnic

Staff pic­nic circa 1910. Photo provided by Carol and Uwe Groth

In early 1896, Horn decided to live in Eng­land and sold the prop­erty to Tom Elder Barr-Smith. Tom and his wife Mary Iso­bella (Molly) and their five chil­dren used Wairoa as their sum­mer house for the next thirty years. Dur­ing this period the Barr-Smiths made a num­ber of alter­a­tions to the house, includ­ing the build­ing of an adjoin­ing guest house and smoking room, the gate­house and a new drive­way. They also refur­bished the interior of the house with Wil­liam Mor­ris wall­pa­pers, cur­tains and rugs. In the garden too, Tom and Molly intro­duced new plant­ings and made exten­sions — not­ably the con­struc­tion of the pick­ing garden.

The house was passed to their eld­est child, Joanna (Gosse) in 1941. Lady Gosse was very fond of Wairoa and spent much time there. Upon her death in 1965, the prop­erty was sold to Screen­ings Pty Ltd.

Photo of Joanna Barr-Smith circa 1905

Joanna Barr-Smith circa 1905. Photo provided by Carol and Uwe Groth

Between 1972 and 2004, Wairoa served as the cam­pus for a small inde­pend­ent pro­gress­ive school, Mar­bury. Over those years hun­dreds of chil­dren and adults enjoyed Wairoa and many con­tinue to have a spe­cial attach­ment to the place.

In 2007, the ori­ginal thir­teen hec­tare prop­erty was com­munity titled. Now the prop­erty is owned and occu­pied by a group of fam­il­ies who con­tinue to care for the old house and garden.

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We would like to thank Mark Wick­man of Wickman’s Fine Wine Auc­tions for help in identi­fy­ing and auc­tion­ing some old port wine found in the cel­lar at Wairoa.

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