Ayers House (Adelaide)

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Ayers House
Ayers House, Adelaide 2015.JPG
General information
Architectural styleRegency
Address288 North Terrace
Town or cityAdelaide
Coordinates34°55′18″S 138°36′34″E / 34.92167°S 138.60944°E / -34.92167; 138.60944Coordinates: 34°55′18″S 138°36′34″E / 34.92167°S 138.60944°E / -34.92167; 138.60944
Construction started1846
Design and construction
ArchitectSir George Strickland Kingston (attrib.)
Official nameAyers House and former Coach House/Stables and Wall
Designated24 July 1980
Reference no.10849

The Ayers House is the modern name for an historic mansion in Adelaide, South Australia located on North Terrace. It is named after Sir Henry Ayers, five times Premier of South Australia and wealthy industrialist, who occupied it from 1855 until 1897. It is the only mansion on North Terrace to have survived. The house has been listed on the South Australian Heritage Register since 24 July 1980.[1]


Plans for the historic two-storey mansion, which for the greater part of its existence was named Austral House,[2] were developed in 1846 for William Paxton, an Adelaide chemist. It is constructed of local bluestone and is Regency period in style. The mansion is well preserved and is thought to have been designed by George Strickland Kingston.[3] It was one of the first properties in Adelaide to be fitted with gas lighting.

In 1855, Sir Henry Ayers leased the property when it was a 9-room brick house. He transformed it into a 40-room mansion over a number of years during the 1860s and it was finally completed in 1876. The architect was Sir George Strickland Kingston who interpreted the work of Robert Kerr, a leading architect of the period in Britain.[4]. Internally, the rooms of the mansion feature hand-painted ceilings, stencilled woodwork and contain memorabilia from the Ayers family, demonstrating the wealth of the owners at the time it was built. Ayers also commissioned the building of a basement to allow him to escape the hot Adelaide summers. During Ayers' parliamentary service, the house was used for Cabinet meetings, parliamentary dinners and grand balls.

The names of the rooms given to many of the rooms, and their functions, were revealed in notes made by Sir Henry when he recorded the temperatures in various house locations during Adelaide's very hot weather. The first such record is dated 1874.


In 1897 Ayers died, and in 1909, following an Adelaide Club ball at the house, Henry Newland proposed the club purchase the property and plans were drawn up then abandoned. Eventually, it was sold in 1914 to Arthur John Walkley and Henry Woodcock's company Austral Gardens Ltd. They built a dance hall "The Palais Royal" on its western side and entertainment areas to the east.[5] Since then, the mansion has had many functions including a club for injured soldiers (from 1918 to 1922) and an open-air cafe (from 1914 to 1932).

The State Government bought the property in 1926 to house nurses and to house a nurse training facility (it is opposite to what was the old Adelaide Hospital). Further dormitories were added in 1946 and were removed in 1973. Austral House was closed as a nurses' quarters in 1969, after they built a residential wing at the back of the RAH.[6]

In 1970 Premier Don Dunstan overrode his Cabinet colleagues to save the historic building from being demolished.[7] With his tourism brief he moved to renovate the mansion as a tourist and cultural centre with a museum and fine dining and bistro restaurants. In additional much of the house was conserved to original condition and today on display in the museum are costumes, silverware, artworks and furniture, as well as a 300-kilogram (660 lb) chandelier and the original gasoliers. The bedrooms became the famous "fine dining" Henry Ayers Restaurant, and the stables a bistro. Today there are 4 private event rooms, and for the last 45 years it has been used as a wedding and event centre.



  1. ^ "Ayers House and former Coach House/Stables and Wall". State Heritage Register. Government of South Australia. 24 July 1980. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
  2. ^ Gunton, Eric Gracious Homes of Colonial Adelaide published by the author 1983 ISBN 0 959 2094 0 9
  3. ^ The Ayers House Story. Sydney : Alfred Dunhill (Australia). 1984. ISBN 9780959550818.
  4. ^ Ayers House Museum Accessed 2017-08-29
  5. ^ Historic Houses of Australia Australian Council of National Trusts (1982) ISBN 0 949155 26 8
  6. ^ https://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/new-royal-adelaide-hospital-has-no-provision-for-accommodation-for-families-of-rural-patients/news-story/5a2ec865dc73d8b22faf52765a2a7efd?nk=a57d5582a5d5c2a2dcbb795485d37ba3-1540535661
  7. ^ Dunstan, Don, ‘’Felicia’’ Macmillan, South Melbourne 1981 p. 181

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