The house was built by Charles Farr at a cost of £3000, a substantial amount in 1865. It is an excellent early example of a mid-Victorian “town house” in a style commonly termed Italianate. The wings on the east and west are later additions. The grounds at the front of the house are enclosed by the original elegant and substantial cast-iron railings, piers and gates.
The next owner was Edward Meade Bagot, who bought the house in 1869 and owned it until his mysterious death in July 1886. The Bagot family’s early financial success with the Kapunda Mines enabled E.M. Bagot to follow their interest in pastoral pursuits. In 1846 he took up Murthoo Run and extended his holdings into New South Wales. Between the 1850s and 1866 he owned the Beefacres Estate, and Neds Corner Cattle Run until 1873. In 1860 he entered into business with Gabriel Bennett as a stock and station agent. His meat extract became well known when he began a boiling-down establishment at Thebarton in 1870. As many as 70,000 sheep were boiled down in one year.
But for his poor judgement in Northern Territory goldmines Bagot may well have become one of South Australia’s wealthiest men. In keeping with his “gentry” status, he was a member of the Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society and an ardent “supporter of the turf” as secretary of the South Australian Jockey Club and an owner of racehorses. He was also one of the “four gentlemen” who met in 1879 to discuss the formation of a Tattersalls Club in Adelaide (see Tattersalls Club). However, his greatest achievement was the successful completion as contractor for the southern section of the overland telegraph line between Adelaide and Darwin which was finished in 1872.
Bagot’s tragic death in July 1886 attracted much media attention as foul play was not ruled out. He failed to return home on the evening of July 24, 1886, although witnesses had seen him on a tram travelling in the direction of Brougham Place. His body was found nine days later in a quarry near Yatala Prison. The case was never satisfactorily resolved and to this day many believe he was murdered.
A later owner was Marion Alderidge, widow of George Sydney Alderidge, president of the Adelaide Stock Exchange. During Mrs Alderidge’s ownership Kingsmead acquired a good reputation as genteel private accommodation. Indeed this use was already established when she bought the property in 1915; a reference in the weekly Green Room, 1 July 1913 mentions that Miss Hodgkins, the English artist whose collection of paintings was on view at the Society of Arts, lived at Kingsmead during her stay in Adelaide.
By 1928 Kingsmead had been converted into self-contained flats. In January 1930, Australian Homes and Gardens recorded that the conversion was designed by Guy St J. Makin, and carried out by Arthur Owen: “The co-operation between architect and builder has successfully remodelled ‘Kingsmead’ without losing any of its character. It was important that this should be the case for ‘Kingsmead’ has an international reputation amounting almost to a tradition. Many people who have come to visit South Australia for extended periods have found a home from home at ‘Kingsmead, with its old world atmosphere. Consequently, in modernising the group of flats and making extensive additions thereto, the architect has endeavoured to modernise the facilities without disturbing the character of the house.”