Last Sunday I re-visited Carrick Hill, a stately mansion home at the foot of the Adelaide Hills. As my companions and I walked towards the house down the long driveway the opening sentence of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca (1938) sprang to my mind – ‘Last night I dreamt I went to Mandeley again‘. This wonderful evocation, summoning up memory, seemed very apt for a couple of reasons. When I mentioned it, my sister said that my mother had also spoken this line when she and my sister visited Carrick Hill a couple of years before my mother died. She loved du Maurier’s Rebecca; as I did (and do) Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 film, with the South Australian born actress, Dame Judith Anderson (1887-19) giving a definitive, brilliant memorable performance as Mandeley‘s creepy house-keeper Mrs Danvers.
Another reason why the opening line from Rebecca seemed appropriate is in regard to what a place might represent – a place associated with memories and beauty; and as such, in my imagination, Carrick Hill is another Mandeley – a very special place.
Visiting Carrick Hill is like stepping back in time to another world, one full of great wealth, patronage of art, affluence and influence. The entire property is approximately 40 hectares and contains and old mansion-house modeled on 16th Century English Tudor country mansions houses, as well as a truly magnificent garden that surrounds the house, with views over Adelaide. It is one of the few estates of its kind in Australia that remains virtually unchanged from when it was first created in 1939, the same time that saw the publication and subsequent film of Rebecca.
The following is a short photo-record of this visit last Sunday, particularly to the main house and garden. It tries to convey the unique and magical charm of Carrick Hill which is primarily a reflection of it’s original owners.
Carrick Hill was the home of Sir Edward ‘Bill’ Hayward (1903-83) and his wife Lady Ursula Hayward (1907-1970). The land was a wedding gift from the brides family, the Barr-Smith’s – one of the ‘old money’ families of Adelaide. Bill and Ursula Hayward married in 1935, and then embarked on their honeymoon to England. It was during this honeymoon that they started collecting numerous works of art and furnishings that became part of Carrick Hill. This includes a large 16th Century central staircase that they bought from the sale of the old Tudor mansion, Beaudesert House, the ancestral home of the aristocratic Paget family, the Marquesses of Anglesey.
I couldn’t help but smile imagining these two newlyweds driving through the English countryside, buying things that took their fancy. Flashing on images of London and England in the mid-1930s, with young adults that Evelyn Waugh labelled the ‘bright young things’ – all very Noel Coward, Cole Porter and all that (British) jazz; plus, the world of P.G. Wodehouse, Christopher Isherwood, the Mitford’s – and a hell of a lot of others; exciting world in exciting times, and everything ‘frightfully gay’, when ‘gay’ meant happy and not its current usage.
From all accounts it would seem that the Haywood’s had no fixed agenda in regard to what they bought. They simply bought what they found appealing. Subsequently, as will be revealed there is a particular mixing of the ‘old’ and the ‘modern’ that at first seems rather eccentric, however, on closer examination there a ‘method in the madness’, one that places certain humanist traditions and beliefs as paramount.
Carrick House was built between 1937-1939. During this time Ursula Haywood took personal control over establishing the garden. The Haywards, however, did not have much time to settle in to their new home as war broke out in 1939. Bill Hayward signed up, and did active service. It was during the war years that Bill Hayward noticed how popular the relatively new drink of Coca-Cola was with the US troops. After WW2 Bill Hayward secured the franchise contract to sell Coca-Cola to Australians – the first to do so.
The Hayward’s were great art collectors and one of the great pleasures in visiting Carrick Hill is the display of the collection, or part of it, throughout the house, as well as in the garden. The Hayward’s must have had a good eye, or simply knew what they liked aesthetically, as well as a good agent, because the collection contains numerous works by 20th Century English and Australian ‘moderns’, such as Arthur Streeton, Russell Drysdale, Jacob Epstein, Augustus John, and Stanley Spencer. The Haywards knew a number of the artists personally and considered them friends. This included Nora Heysen (1911-2003), daughter of Hans Heysen whose own life story is amazing. There is a lovely ‘still life’ of flowers by Nora Heysen in the upstairs sitting room.
Also upstairs is the ‘gallery’, part of the old house that has been converted for use of special art exhibitions that are generally connected to the house. When we visited there was a exhibition on in the upstairs gallery that contained a number of wonderful pieces, including a beautiful small Renoir, which was once own by the Haywards and is now owned by the Art Gallery of South Australia. Technically, the AGSA owns all of Carrick Hill. The Haywards’ never had any children; Lady Ursula died in 1970 and when Sir Bill Hayward died in 1983 he bequeathed Carrick Hill to the state of South Australia. On the 9th March, 1986, Queen Elizabeth II visited Carrick House and officially opened it to the public; 2016 marks the 30th Anniversary of Carrick House. In August 2016 Carrick Hill will present a retrospective of the works of English artist, Stanley Spencer (1891-1959); this is rather exciting and something I am very much looking forward to seeing. Not that surprising either, considering that the Hayward’s had one of the largest private collections of Stanley Spencer’s work; and artist they patronized and knew as a friend from the beginning of his career.
Driving through the front gate of Carrick Hill the first things one notices are signs warning about snakes in the grounds sharing the habitat. We decided pretty quickly not to get out of the car at this stage. The road meandered through the very Australian bush finally arriving at the relatively large carpark within viewing distance of the main house. From the carpark there is a short concrete pathway down to the main large driveway that leads to the house.
Walking down the driveway one passes through sections of the garden, which includes as well as the massive trees, open lawns and flowerbeds (roses) to the left, leading to the view of Adelaide, and to the right a number of specialist gardens, including a Japanese Garden, with pond, small waterfall, canal and a number of Japanese plants and flowers and a truly beautiful willow tree.
THE ENTRANCE HALL – The Entrance Hall is more like an old ante-chamber, a small square room with dark timber panelling and a high ceiling. There are a number of art works in this room, the first one encounters is a large bust of George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) by Jacob Epstein (1880-1959). There are also a couple of small paintings, ‘still-life’s’ of flowers, and then a sizable beautiful landscape of Venice by Arthur Streeton (1867-1943), which is all light, white, blue, yellow, unlike a lot of Streeton’s more familiar works that are much darker in tone and colour and atmosphere.
Whilst there are many outstanding works of art in the entire collection, not least being a ‘Fan’ painted by Paul Gauguin, it is portraiture that is the dominate genre. This evident in the numerous busts of famous contemporaries of the Haywood’s, some of whom were personal friends. This includes Jacob Epstein, the ‘father of modern sculpture’. As with Stanley Spencer, the Hayward’s were a great admirer of Jacob Epstein and the house contains numerous work by this great 20th century artist. One of my favourite works by Epstein, and is perhaps his best known is Oscar Wilde‘s grave and memorial in Paris.
I was intrigued as to why Epstein’s Shaw and Streeton’s painting were the first major works one encountered in Carrick Hill. Had they always been there? I asked the lady from whom one bought the entrance tickets to the house. As far as she knew, most of the artworks were in their original places, although she did not know exactly if this was also the case for the bust of Shaw. She did say, however, that some works do get moved around from time to time, but somehow they always seem to return to their original position. I thank her, but internally I wasn’t totally convinced – so the answer as to whether or not the displayed works are in their original position when Carrick Hill was the Hayward’s home is unknown. Nonetheless, thinking about Shaw and what he may have represented to the Hayward’s played in my mind as I went through the rest of the house. Furthermore, the juxtaposition of the ‘old’ as exemplified by the Streeton, and the ‘modern’, exemplified by Epstein’s Shaw, in a way set the tone and theme for what was to follow. The remarkable things is that they seem in perfect harmony with one another. Why? Why put these pieces together? Is it just random or is there something else at work?
The answer certainly lies with the personal tastes of the Hayward’s, but this also requires closer examination.They had strong ‘old world’ connection to the ‘mother country’ Great Britain, and at the same time were deeply attracted to the work of the ‘moderns’; and not just any ‘modern’ artist but a very particular English eye that specialized in portraits, busts, and still-life’s. I do not know enough about them as yet, but based on this experience of Carrick Hill and how certain works are deliberately placed within the house made me contemplate certain possibilities – beginning with George Bernard Shaw.
In the theatre Shaw stands, seemingly like a colossus, between the ‘old’ 19th Century world, and the ‘modern’ first part of the 20th Century. You just have to read or see Shaw’s Man and Superman (1902), Major Barbara (1905), Heartbreak House (1917/1920). and St. Joan (1923) to find how remarkably prophetic and accurate Shaw was in dealing with social and political conundrums that are still very much a part of today’s world. Whilst there have recently been professional productions of a couple of his plays, including Arms and the Man (1895), I am not, however, certain if Shaw still holds much place or influence in contemporary Australia. From my experience of teaching young Australians, most have never heard of him, nor I may add the film of My Fair Lady (1964), based on Shaw’s Pygmalion (1912).
As may be gathered, I am a huge fan of George Bernard Shaw. Other plays by Shaw in his considerable canon of work that I particularly like include, Mrs Warren’s Profession (1893), Candida (1894), You Never Can Tell (1895), Caesar and Cleopatra (1898), Misalliance (1909), Androcles and the Lion (1912), Great Catherine (1913), O’Flaherty C.C. (1917), and The Apple Cart (1928). Each of these plays pose respective challenging complex questions in regard to power, gender, and sex, that remain relatively universal.
Shaw’s humour is not the belly-laugh of slap=stick comedy, but rather the wry smile of satire; plus he is a great romantic.
As the above excessive amount of quotes from Shaw exemplify, as well as the universal popularity of his plays, his influence on the thinking of the early 20th century generations was considerable. The Hayward’s may well have been influenced by Shaw. Is there and element of Heartbreak House in Carrick Hill; or is it like Howard’s End (1910) by E. M. Forster, another special place which at the end of Forster’s novel is very like Carrick Hill, maintaining its special otherworldly quality as the city silhouette steadily surrounds it.
I decided to keep Shaw in mind as I went through the house, to see if there was any complementary consistency with the chosen art works and Shaw’s view on life. For example, Shaw was a senior member of the Fabian Society in the first decade of the 20th Century.
The Fabian Society was established in 1894-95 and was intended to promote the ideas and philosophy of Socialism through non violent means. Whilst Shaw was often in a combative position within and without the Fabian Society, nonetheless, he remained a Fabian for his entire life. The Fabian’s emphasis on non-violence in time drew them into conflict with regimental British imperialism and rabid nationalism – ‘old’ verses ‘modern’ thinking.
Were the Hayward’s Fabians? I don’t know – but the works of art they personally selected complement certain Fabian beliefs. This is particularly noticeable in that there are no works that are violent – no bleeding saints or blood drenched massacres, no depictions of torture, horrors, and other nightmares. There is nothing deadly, no death-images, no cruxicfictions, battles, dead animals, etc. This is similar to the Frick Museum in New York that also doesn’t have any violent paintings in its collection. The Hayward’s selected works that were either portraits or sculptures of famous people, some of whom they knew; which suggests a strong ‘humanist’ position, that combined with the non-violence offers a place that is a peaceful celebration of the best of mankind. This is a highly romantic interpretation of Carrick Hill, nonetheless, it is an apt one as peace, harmony, elegance and sophistication reign supreme in what is essentially a family home rather than a rich person’s show pen.
THE MAIN HALL – CENTRAL ROOM
From the Entrance Hall one moves to the left and enters the Main Hall. This is the central room of the house – and it is truly spectacular. The main reason for this is the 16th Century staircase that dominates the room, and leads to the upper level of the house. In keeping with the original concept of such staircases in the Elizabethan world of ‘mansion houses’ there is a wonderful use of sunlight through the large windows, particularly those on the first landing going up the central staircase that looks out over the garden at the back of the house. As with other rooms there is a mixture of the ‘old’ and the ‘modern’. The ‘old’ is exemplified by the magnificent Tudor staircase, as well as the windows that also came from Beaudesert House in England. Against this, but not in opposition, are the ‘modern’ art works by artists such as Epstein as well as Augustus John. On either side of the staircase there a sculptures by Epstein. This is the first room that begins the collection’s paintings by British artist Stanley Spencer, the Hayward’s at one time having one of the largest privately owned collections of Spencer’s unique work and very English style and artistry. Spencer’s paintings in many ways stand as representative of Carrick Hill, in content, tone, and colour.
THE SITTING ROOM & THE LIBRARY
From the Main Hall one can access other rooms in the house – beginning with the Sitting Room and Library in the left wing of the house. Both room a different in tone and feel, primarily due to the furnishings, textiles, and light.
The Sitting Room, to the left, is more formal as well as darker than the Library. It is a very curious room in many ways, with a terrific mixture of ‘modern’ works in what is essentially a very old room; dominated to a certain extent by a grand piano set agains the large windows, and an enormous fireplace, above which sits the Gauguin ‘Fan’. In the left hand corner near the fireplace is a cupboard that was designed specifically to hold old phonograph records.
The Sitting Room the room feels rather spacious, compared to the Library which is cosily cluttered with books and armchairs and basking in beautiful sunlight. In the Library there is also a hidden bar behind one of the bookcases. Great use of space in this relatively small space, and very stylish – G & T’s anyone?
THE DINING ROOM
Walking back across the Main Hall, through a door on the left side of the room, one enters the Dining Room.
This is a beautiful room, dark oak paneling, a magnificent table, chairs and settings, a large fireplace, carefully chosen works of art, and all light by sunlight from the Tudor windows that also came from Beaudesert House. Above the fireplace is a Russell Drysdale, which is slightly at odds with the other art work, and yet, and yet….?
There is a darkness, a formality, and a relatively sombre atmosphere in this room – suggesting that fine dining in this house was a serious affair. This is somewhat supported by the presence of a couple of semi-religious works, which are unusual as the collection has no overt religious art.
To me and my fervent imagination, this is the darkest room in the house. Despite is elegance there does seem to be a battle going on in here. Look at little closer at the detail and content. There is hint of violence in this room that you don’t find in the others. This partly exemplified by the wooden lion statues that sit one a sideboard at one end of the room. If the Haywards were Fabians then it is highly likely they were also vegetarians. Is there a subliminal message here; I don’t know; but there is an uncomfortable unresolved tension in the room.
THE KITCHEN & UPSTAIRS PANTRY
Moving through the Dining Room one comes to the relatively modern 1930s Kitchen. This is connected to an upstairs Pantry. There are a number of interesting features about the two rooms, primarily because they are very much ‘modern’ kitchens. Both rooms also feature examples of some of the fine china tea and dinner service that is also part of the Carrick Hill collection.
MAIN HALL – UPPER GALLERY, THE ‘MASTER’ BEDROOM & ENSUITE BATHROOM & DRESSING ROOM
From the Kitchen one moves back to the Main Hall and climb the central staircase to the upper gallery and then to the Master Bedroom.
THE MASTER BEDROOM
This is a very elegant room, yet also a delightful mixture of the old and the ‘modern’. The room is dominated by a large old four-poster bed, which has sitting on top a breakfast-in-bed- service. There are some large screens with stunning patterns (tapestries, I think), and the whole room is full of light. Along one side, however, there is this rather large white ‘modern’ set of cupboards, which I assume once housed Lady Ursula’s wardrobe. As piece by itself it is very smart and impressive. Set in this room, however, I wasn’t convinced and kind of just blocked it – haha!
On top of the chest at the foot of the impressive four-poster bed were two Bible Boxes, one from the early 17th Century, and the other ‘modern’. The juxtaposition between the two complementing the rest of the house. The 17th Century Bible Box was of particular interest to me in that it was built for and would have housed a copy of the King James Bible, the first official English Bible published 1612-13. Along with Shakespeare, the King James Bible is one of the pillars of the English language.
There are also a number of art works in this room, small works that have a distinctive bawdiness – very appropriate to a bedroom.
To the right of the bed there is a beautiful large ensuite bathroom – pretty in pink. It contrasts with the bedroom in being very 1930s ‘modern’.
Moving through the Bathroom, which occupies a corner of the upper level of the house, one enters what was once a Dressing Room. It is a small room, and if the bedroom is ‘feminine’ then this small dressing room is quite ‘masculine’ in its feel. Again – a bit of a surprise considering that most dressing rooms in such mansion homes are distinctly feminine.
THE MAIN HALL – UPPER GALLERY
From the Master Bedroom one moves back into the Main Hall walking along the Upper Gallery, which has number of modern works, including a sculpture by Jacob Epstein of Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965), a self-portrait of the painter, Augustus John (1878-1961) and another portrait of Bill Hayward.
SITTING ROOM – UPPER GALLERY
In the left corner on the upper level there is a tiny ‘Sitting Room’. Inside this room are a number of treasures that in many ways encapsulate Carrick Hill. There are two works by Stanley Spencer, Jacob Epstein’s Albert Einstein, and a ‘Still Life’ of flowers by Nora Heysen. There is also a beautiful panel of flowers that is placed in front of the fireplace. It encapsulates Carrick Hill and the Hayward’s aesthetic in the muted order of Spencer, the humanitarianism of Einstein, and the beauty of nature, the solace and reward of gardening as in Nora Heysen’s painting.
THE EXHIBITION ROOMS
The rooms next to this small sitting room have been converted to a small gallery, which holds special exhibitions. The subject of these exhibitions are very often linked to aspect of Carrick Hill. The current exhibition involved the ‘Mancini Pearls‘, a pair of drop earrings that have been owned by a number of extraordinary women, including Queen Mary I, Queen Elizabeth I, and Queen Henrietta-Maria, wife of King Charles I, and in the 20th Century, Dame Elizabeth Taylor.
In the same exhibition room that is focused on the ‘Mancini Pearls’ there was also a small painting by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) that was once owned by the Hayward’s.
In the second exhibition room there were works and other objects that were primarily concerned with Bill Hayward. This included the official royal charter for his knighthood in 1961, as well as a ‘modern’ water colour of the John Martin building in Adelaide, the home of the family business.
It also included the controversial painting by Sir William Dobell ( 1899-197) of the Australian artist Joshua Smith (1905-1995).
This painting won the Archibald Prize in 1943 but was subject to a number of court cases at the time, being considered a caricature and not an actual portrait. If my memory serves me correctly, either the Hayward’s or the SA Art Gallery were the owners of this painting. Whilst popular at the time it has not been seen for a while, due to it being severely damaged. The presence of this painting brings in a darkness to place, the painting being like a ghostly spectre of the real Joshua Smith who hated the portrait, it being more famous than his own work. He said of it, that it was a ‘curse, a phantom that haunts me. It has torn at me every day of my life. I’ve tried to bury it inside me in the hope it would die, but it never does’.
THE CORRIDORS – MAIN HALL
The corridor next to the exhibition room runs the full length of this side of the house. It also contains numerous paintings and drawings. Walking back into the Main Hall and down the staircase is also full of more ‘modern’ art works, that are distinctive due to the number of floral ‘still-life’ paintings.
As previously stated, Ursula Hayward was the person who was primarily responsible for establishing the garden that surrounds the house. There are a number of different sections, beginning with the short walk from the carpark to the house. The main garden area, however, lies in the front of the house overlooking Adelaide.This too has numerous sections to it and is a sheer delight to walk through. The front area has both formal and informal gardens. The informal gardens often contain ‘modern’ statues that stand in contrast, and yet in harmony, with their respective environment. The house is truly wonderful, but the garden area, for me anyway, it what makes Carrick Hill a truly magical and special place. The mood changes as per the gardens manner and style and content.
Through a gate in a wall you come to the top area in front of the house, with open lawns tumbling down to the formal gardens in front, and the informal garden to the left.
A perfect place to stage an Open-Air Shakespeare.
The two sides to the formal garden are separated by a enclosed vine pathway; like a tunnel that leads to the lower part of the formal garden.
Moving further down and through an opening in the large hedge reveals another wonderful vista of tree lined avenues and the city of Adelaide.
Coming back through this opening – to explore more of the formal garden.
Then moving to the right across the open lawn in front of the house.
The progressing up along side more hedges with informal gardens, and pond in front and formal gardens behind that lead back up to the driveway and entrance to the house.
This marks the end of this journey to Carrick Hill. This journey began with George Bernard Shaw and it seems fitting to end with him, or at least a statement that in way encapsulates the Hayward’s and their unique offering to the Australian public, a glimpse into the beauty of their souls, and as such a source of solace and inspiration.