Darnley House and stables

Darnley House and stables

The west end of Adelaide was, for its first hundred years, one of the most densely populated districts in South Australia. As early as 1842 the Kingston map revealed that the most concentrated residential population was in Hindley, Currie and Rundle streets. Most of the residents were working class who rented or laboured to pay for small cottages cheek by jowl with workshops, yards and small businesses. Some more substantial houses were also built, usually by local men who had made good as tradesmen, builders or merchants. This two storey house is a typical example, but it also provides one of the best examples of the more general historical processes of residential development and decline in the city.

The house and outbuildings stand isolated amid commercial premises at the western end of Currie Street where they were once surrounded by houses and shop/residences typical of the west end. Residential complexes which include the once common outbuildings, such as the stable, are now scarce throughout South Adelaide.

The complex was constructed in 1874 by James Anderson who came to Adelaide from Scotland in 1851 ' . . . and for many years carried on business as builder and contractor. A number of the large public buildings in Adelaide were erected by him'. For some years he also represented Gawler Ward as member of the Adelaide City Council.

Anderson paid particular attention to the construction of his new house which he called Darnley House. The complex is of architectural as well as historical significance because of the construction technique. The combination of bluestone for plinth and quoins, limestone rubble for walling as well as the brick dressings (with some fine gauged brickwork to windows), is unusual. It is interesting to note the slate damp-proof course in the outbuildings. These were probably constructed at a later date, the stable during the 1890s when the size of the yard was increased.

The property passed to George McNamara in 1912 who owned it until his death in 1971. His long ownership and the substantial construction of the complex may have contributed to its survival when all around, lesser dwellings were being demolished. By the 1930s this part of Adelaide was publicly condemned as a slum where substandard nineteenth century housing conditions were made worse by their proximity to increasing numbers of factories. A survey was carried out in 1937 for a Building Act Inquiry Committee which reported in 1940 on substandard housing conditions in the metropolitan area. Of the 7716 dwellings surveyed in Adelaide, 3009 were described as substandard, many of those photographed in the report were in the west end.

The report hastened the demolition of housing and the destruction of the close-knit residential life of much of the west end which was replaced by industrial and commercial uses. Between 1957 and 1967 the percentage of residential landuse in the city's north-western corner dropped from 50 per cent to 15 per cent.


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Land use changes almost completely transformed Currie Street and nearby West Terrace, so that this two storey house with its high side walls and substantial stable, stands prominently on its corner site as a distinctive landmark and an obvious historical relic.

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Images of Darnley House and stables

James Anderson Architect
James Anderson
Building materials
Stone, Bluestone, Limestone
Architectural styles
2 Victorian Period (c. 1840–c. 1890)
1874 -
Architecture and design features
James Anderson Architect, cast iron railings, Bay window, rendered, quoins
Engineering features
East End
Council Ward
Alternative Addresses
Town Acre
Planning Zone or Policy Area
Original owners
James Anderson
Original occupant
Later occupant/s
Purposes and use
Dwelling, House
AS2482 classification
16010 - House
Public Access
Private residence
State Heritage ID
ACC Reference No.
DPTI Heritage No.
Certificate of Title No.
CT 5842/178 D18741 A6 CT 5842/179 D18741 A7
NTSA file exists
Heritage Status
State Heritage listed
State heritage listing
State Heritage listed
Date of State heritage listing
Local heritage listing
Date of Local heritage listing
NTSA listing
NTSA registered
Date of NTSA listing
Section 23 (4) crtiteria
Risk status
Historic Themes
2.3 City Dwellers: Householders, Boarders and Tenants
3.1 Economic Cycles
3.1.5 Farming Boom
West End
Australian Curriculum references
Year 5: The Australian Colonies


  • ACA, Assessments, Land use surveys, Smith Survey 1880; Garland, T., The slums of Adelaide, c. 1940s; Jensen, E., & R., Colonial architecture in South Australia, 1980, pp. 495, 602; Kingston Map 1842; MLSA, Historical photographs (Town Acre 126); Observer, 18 January 1902; SAPP, No. 32, 1940, Second progress report of the Building Act Inquiry Committee, pp. 8, 21; Town Planning Committee, SA Government, Report on the metropolitan area of Adelaide, 1962.

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