Urrbrae Gatehouse relocation could nullify its heritage value, Adelaide archaeologist warns

Relocating the historic Urrbrae Gatehouse to make way for contentious roadworks could wipe out its heritage value, an archaeologist has warned, as the State Government continues to dangle $4 million in front of the University of Adelaide to take the building elsewhere.

The 1890 Gatehouse, as part of the Waite Historic Precinct, was bequeathed to the university by pastoralist and businessman Peter Waite nearly 100 years ago in one of the biggest philanthropic gifts in South Australia’s history.

The State Government wants to compulsorily acquire some of the land and remove the heritage-listed gatehouse, along with several trees, to upgrade the Fullarton and Cross roads intersection.

“There’s a suggestion they should uplift and shift it. But even if you do, it means the original intention of the building, its location, is compromised,” said Robert Stone, an associate lecturer in archaeology at Flinders University.

“Some are saying it should be shifted near the main house, but then it loses all its significance because the stables and carriage house are near the main house as well and you’ll get the impression this is just a workers cottage.”

A 1913 photo of the stately Urrbrae House, which was occupied by Peter and Matilda Waite.(Supplied: State Library of South Australia [B-14975])

Gatehouse a heritage ‘package’

Mr Stone said the Gatehouse, and others like it pocketed about Adelaide, were only significant when “packaged” with their associated stately home and the long driveway between them.

“The gatehouse was the first barrier to going into one of these stately homes, and then the driveway was second because they were never straight,” he said.

“They meandered so you could never see the house until you got there to afford them more privacy.”

He said they were usually occupied by “important members of the staff” who would operate their gates to let visitors in and out and lock them at night for security.

Gum trees with pink trunks line a long driveway.
The curved driveway and trees obscures Urrbrae House from its gatehouse.(ABC Radio Adelaide: Malcolm Sutton)

A University of Adelaide spokesperson said it had not been given specific advice about the impact of a relocation.

“However, we have seen comments in Hansard about the heritage advice received by the Department for Infrastructure and Transport (DIT) from Heritage SA,” he said.

$4m offered for relocation

DIT Minister Corey Wingard originally told media in December that a Government-commissioned report found relocation was not feasible due to the cost and engineering involved, meaning the gatehouse would be demolished to make way for road-widening.

That same report, however, found that relocation was feasible and detailed how it could be done to minimise structural damage.

A bluestone wall fronts an intersection where cars wait at a traffic light.
The Government wants to widen Cross Road and Fullarton Road to upgrade the intersection.(ABC Radio Adelaide: Malcolm Sutton)

Mr Wingard in mid-January offered the university $2 million to relocate the building, which he said would be in addition to about $2 million compensation the university would receive from the land acquisition.

“After meeting with representatives from the University of Adelaide, which owns the gatehouse and the land it sits on, we’ve now made available to them the option to attempt this themselves,” he said.

The university spokesperson said it remained “entirely opposed to the acquisition of the land” and would pursue its legal rights to oppose acquisition.

Gatehouses repurposed

Mr Stone in 2010 completed a doctoral dissertation entitled Stately Homes: The Mirror and Metaphor of Colonial South Australia after a question was put to him — “what happened to the houses of the rich guys?”

A man wearing a hat and a high visibility coat smiles with rocky hills in the background.
Flinders University archaeology associate lecturer Robert Stone has also worked extensively at sites overseas in places like Jordan.(Supplied: Robert Stone)

He said a similar gatehouse for nearby Torrens Park House, now part of Scotch College, had been “beautifully restored” in its original location as a bed and breakfast from where it offered visitors an “understanding” of its significance.

Mr Stone said a second gatehouse for Torrens Park House also remained standing on Belair Road, although it was a private residence that had been renovated.

He said many gatehouses had been demolished over the years, replaced with signposts, or forgotten, “because people think the big house is the important thing and don’t take into account the impact on the landscape of all the other buildings”.

A sandstone house sits among trees and vines.
The East Lodge Gate House, adjacent what is now Scotch Cottage, has been restored to offer accommodation.(ABC Radio Adelaide: Malcolm Sutton)

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Wallabies’ game plan to nullify Clarke

The Wallabies have outlined their game plan to contain All Blacks weapon Caleb Clarke in Saturday night’s must-win Bledisloe Cup clash in Sydney – and it’s a full-on 15-man operation.

Clarke was nigh-on unstoppable on his Test debut two weeks ago, bumping off defenders like Jonah Lomu in his pomp as the All Blacks routed the Wallabies 27-7 in Wellington to take a 1-0 lead in the four-match series.

“He’s obviously a pretty impressive specimen, a pretty impressive athlete,” Wallabies utility back Reece Hodge told AAP.

“I watched the Super Rugby Aotearoa and he was carving up then, carving in the north-south game and the common theme there is you can’t give him too much space.”

Hodge believes it’s not only the backline’s responsibility to keep Clarke in check, but the entire team and says defensive line speed and squaring up at the collision was critical in nullifying the 21-year-old sensation.

“We were guilty there on the edges a little bit of turning our shoulders too much towards the sidelines and giving him too much room to either step off that left foot or allow him to use his big frame,” Hodge said.

“It can have a flow-on effect from so many areas of the game. A couple of times he made breaks in Bledisloe II was when we kicked poorly and allowed him too much time and space with the ball.

“So we’ve got to be better in that regard, as well as our set-piece D. They like to use him off lineouts as well.”

Used off the bench in the first two Tests, Hodge has put his hand up to mark up directly on Clarke.

“I think anyone would,” he said.

“Any jumper and any time you’re in a Wallabies, you’d always relish the challenge of whoever you come up against and he’s obviously a class player and someone who’s in some great form.

“In saying that, we’re not just focusing on one player. They’ve got a very dangerous backline and team as a whole.”

If he doesn’t get a start on the wing, Hodge would also happily have a crack at inside centre as a replacement for the injured Matt Toomua.

The versatile 26-year-old has played every position in the backline for Australia, except halfback, during his 40-Test career and feels he’s equally effective in each.

“I’ve always learned 10 to 15, whether I’m starting or on the bench, and have just always had the ability to cover any position,” Hodge said.

“I feel like the more involved I can get, the better.”

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