Estcourt House has been a landmark along the seafront, on Military Road, since 1882. It was built by Frederick and Rosa Bucknall and reported to have cost £15000. Estcourt house was given Frederick's second name. 

The House

Estcourt House was built for the large Bucknall family, with 17 rooms to accommodate eleven children and eight servants. The house is in the area now known as Tennyson, but when it was built the suburb was part of Grange. It was reported that the location was chosen because of Frederick Bucknall's interest in a scheme to connect the Port River to the sea by constructing an artificial canal, and the house was built with a view to the location of the planned canal. 

It was designed by architect Ernest Bayer, built 'in the English style', with walls over 18 inches thick constructed from Dry Creek stone. A large slate verandah surrounded the house. The Bucknall family coat of arms was installed in the hallway. 

Frederick Bucknall 

Frederick Bucknall was a well known local businessman. He arrived in South Australia around 1860, and set himself up in Port Adelaide. Here Frederick built a boatshed and established the South Australian Club Hotel. He married Rosa Haussen, the widow of Henry Haussan of the brewers, Haussen and Company, in 1874. The marriage led to Frederick's partnership in the Hindmarsh Brewery, and also to his growing family's need to relocate. 

While the canal scheme never came to fruition Frederick was also involved in various projects that saw the development of Henley Beach and Grange, including the building of their jetties. Along with his business interests Frederick played an active role in local sporting communities, acting as President for Hindmarsh Cricket Club and establishing what is now the Royal South Australian Yacht Squadron. He served as Mayor of Hindmarsh Corporation from 1881-1883, and was an MP from 1881-1884.

A home to Many

Frederick Bucknall sold Estcourt House to the Australian Mutual Provident Society (now AMP) in 1886 due to financial difficulties. The building was then empty until the James Brown Memorial Trust purchased it in 1894 and turned Estcourt House into a home for the elderly and for disabled children. A long write up in the Adelaide Observer that same year extolls the virtues of the home, detailing the arrangements made for the 27 'inmates'. Schooling was provided for the children staying at Estcourt House, and over the years the number of children resident increased.  

By 1931 Escourt House was operating as a convalescent home for children, with no elderly residents. The home provided a place for children recovering from medical treatment, or suffering from a serious illness or medical condition. It is referred to in various newspaper reports with reference to the 'Children's Hospital', which built a new ward at Escourt House that year to accommodate 28 patients. After several years of working closely together Escourt House was formerly taken over by the Adelaide Children's Hospital in 1955. 

The House continued to provide a home and care in various forms for most of the twentieth century. In 1978 the government-run Strathmont Centre took over Estcourt House to accommodate adults with intellectual disabilities. In 1981 Ru Rua Nursing Home took over and renovated the building to house children with intellectual disabilities. Estcourt House closed in 1989.

Recent Years

Estcourt House remained empty for some years following its closure as a home. The building received heritage listing in 1990. Epic Group owner Peter Jurkovich substantially renovated the building in the late 1990s. His recent development plans to knock down the building have sparked an outcry in the local community and media. 

Catherine Manning's picture
Catherine Manning says:

That's a fantastic image Anne, kids climbing the sand dunes. Thanks for sharing your dad's story.

Anne McMenamin's picture
Anne McMenamin says:

My Dad spent a number of years there in the 20's and 30's - much of it in plaster from neck to knees. Apparently the kids used to get themselves over the sand dunes, and the staff could never work out how they got so much sand in their casts. Later, they did a lot of swimming.

Catherine Manning's picture
Catherine Manning says:

Thanks for sharing Ian, I wonder what Bucknall would have made of Westlakes?!

Ian Modjo's picture
Ian Modjo says:

Researching Estcourt House area for a novel I am writing. I grew up in Glen Osmond, now retired, & living in Indonesia . I did live for a while on the foreshore at West Lakes, in 1974/5, in a flat in a block that was one of the very first buildings there. Interesting that Bucknall's dream of a waterway did eventuate in the form of West Lakes. Not quite what he envisioned though.

Catherine Manning's picture
Catherine Manning says:

Thanks for sharing those memories Christine, it would have been interesting work.

Christine Bodfish's picture
Christine Bodfish says:

I worked at Estcourt House as an R.N . in 1968 & 1969 with Matron Wright and I have very happy memories. We also had children like Ernest but not in plaster for so long - and when the plaster was removed we carried them down to the sea; for what is now known as hydrotherapy. Early pioneers?? Taking the children to the Christmas pageant all decked out in brand new clothing that Matron kept upstairs in the beautiful room with marble fireplaces. Great days.

BRENTON Thorogood's picture
BRENTON Thorogood says:

What was up the top of the stairs,I remember going inside this house in the 1990s and remember it had a set of stairs that must have gone up to this glassed skylight.was this a space where patients were?

Catherine Manning's picture
Catherine Manning says:

That must have been a difficult experience to go through Ernest, glad you have some good memories of that time.

Ernest Alfred Leedham  (born 1934 at Glenelg)'s picture
Ernest Alfred L... says:

I spent 7 years in Estcourt House., 6 of those stapped in a frame unable to move my body or legs . I learned to draw and paint and do craft work there. I had some good experiences there and the staff very good.

Ernest Alfred Leedham  (born 1934 at Glenelg)'s picture
Ernest Alfred L... says:

I was a patient at Estcourt House. though the 2nd world war years

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Adelaide Observer, 8 September 1894, 'A Philanthropic Institution: A Visit to Estcourt House', p. 43

The Advertiser, 10 September 1902, 'Far from the Maddening Crowd', p. 6

The Advertiser, 6 January 1931, 'Estcourt House Patients Entertained', p. 5

The Advertiser, 13 January 2018, 'Historic mansion Estcourt House at Tennyson may have to make way for retirement village', accessed 16 January 2018

City of Charles Sturt, 'Local History Factsheet: A brief history of the suburb Tennyson', , accessed 16 January 2018

Daily Herald, 15 December 1921, 'Estcourt House', p. 3

The Daily Telegraph, 15 January 2018, 'Housing and Urban Development Minister Stephen Mullighan and Opposition Leader Steven Marshall pledges to save Estcourt House', accessed 17 January 2018

Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources - State Heritage Branch, South Australian Heritage Places Database, accessed 16 January 2018

The Express and Telegraph, 5 June 1896, 'The late Mr FE Bucknall', p. 3

Find and Connect, 'Estcourt House (1894-1989),, accessed 17 January 2018

The Narracoorte Herald, 8 November 1948, 'The Story of Estcourt House and Kalyra', p. 2

News (Adelaide), 4 March 1931, 'New Matron on Duty', p. 8

News (Adelaide), 10 December 1931, 'Treated 8,000 in Past Year: The work of the Children's Hospital', p. 13

News (Adelaide), 27 February 1937, 'Historic Links with Henley: Canal Projects of 'Eighties recalled', p. 5

Register, 5 June 1896, 'The Late FE Bucknall', p. 5

The South Australian Advertiser, 3 October 1874, 'Family Notices', p. 4

Tiller, Allen, The Haunts of Adelaide, 'Estcourt House',, accessed 16 January 2018

University of South Australia, Architecture Museum, Architects of South Australia Database,, accessed 16 January 2018