Ochiltree - House

Ochiltree - House

South Australian pastoralists often preferred to quit the scene of their labours in the bush once their wool clip fetched profits sufficient to maintain a gentleman’s lifestyle. A good number erected mansions in and around the city. One of these pastoralists was John Rounsevell.

Ochiltree House was built in 1882 and sits in the fashionable section of South Adelaide at the corner of East and South terraces. Ten years previously, Rounsevell had built himself a large 20-room mansion in Hutt Street now known as the Naval, Military and Air Force Club. Perhaps he chose to have another large mansion built so soon because of his personal tragedies: three of his four wives predeceased him.

John Rounsevell came out to Australia in 1839 when he was three years old and his career spanned the same coaching business and pastoral interests as his father’s. In the 1850s he entered his father’s business, W. and J. Rounsevell, the principal coaching operation in South Australia, later taken over by Cobb and Co. and then Hill and Co.

Rounsevell’s coaching business in Pirie Street assumed gigantic proportions, securing contracts for carrying nearly all the mails in the province, with about a thousand horses in harness. John Rounsevell gained quite a reputation when it came to showing off his skills with horses: “Always a famous whip, he made a striking figure behind some of the best horses ever seen in harness in Adelaide. During a visit of Burton’s Circus, Walter Burton was announced to drive 12 horses from Bay Road (now Anzac Highway) through the streets of the city. John Rounsevell in a spirit of emulation, drove nearly double that number over the same track and created quite a sensation by the skilful way he handled the reins.”

Rounsevell took up the 756-square mile Mooloolroo Station near Blinman in 1871, and later Cowarie north-east of Lake Eyre, Anabama in the north-east, and Taunta on the Coorong.

He held public office in several capacities in his long career, among them on the Mount Crawford District Council and the Adelaide City Council. He was also a member for the seat of Light and Gumeracha.

In 1920 Ochiltree House passed into the ownership of Violet Betsie Ritchie, who had married into a family of Murray River steamboat owners. Her father-in-law James and his four sons, James, John, George and David, were all river masters and owners.

Ochiltree House is unusually decorative and flamboyantly detailed. The combination balcony and projecting veranda, and the mansard roof, highlight the main entrance, which is set between the two large bow- windows. The building is distinguished from many other town houses of the same period, yet epitomises that boom period and the upward social mobility of the wealthy pastoralists who built these grand mansions.

The architect was possibly G. Jaochimi, as his tender appeared on January 2, 1882, the only one for the erection of a large villa within an eight-month period for East or South terrace. Despite a number of additions to the side and rear, the architectural quality of the complex has been upgraded to suit the subdivision of the house into individual residential units.


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The house is a landmark, situated as it is at the junction of South and East terraces and overlooking the east Park Lands. Its visual significance is enhanced by the setting and the open space that surrounds it. The cast-iron fences to South and East terraces are also of major townscape importance. Its historical significance lies in its trend of wealthy pastoralists constructing grand town houses.

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Featured in
East End Promenade, Whose house am I?

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Images of Ochiltree - House

  • Ochiltree House, 2014
G Jaochimi
Building materials
Iron, Cast iron, Render, Stucco, Stone, Bluestone
Architectural styles
2 Victorian Period (c. 1840–c. 1890), 2.6 Filigree
1882 -
Architecture and design features
spandrel, frieze, bow window
Engineering features
South East Corner
Council Ward
Alternative Addresses
Town Acre
Planning Zone or Policy Area
Original owners
John Rounsevell
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 5110/903 F16088 A11
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
2.4 City Dwellers: City, state and business leaders
3.1 Economic Cycles
3.1.5 Farming Boom
Cobb and Co
Australian Curriculum references
Year 5: The Australian Colonies


  • ACA, Assessments, Digest of Proceedings, 1881-82; Austin, K.A., The lights of Cobb and
  • Co., 1967, p. 92; Cockburn, R., Pastoral pioneers of South Australia, Vol. 2, 1925, pp. 202-
  • 3; Coxon, H., et al, Biographical register of the South Australian Parliament 1857-1957,
  • 1985, p. 194; MLSA, Historical photographs (Town Acre 662); PRG 103, The Ritchie
  • family, RN 264; Morrison, W.F., The Aldine history of South Australia, Vol. 2, 1890, p. 787;
  • Observer, 1 March 1913; South Australian Register, 2 January 1882.

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