A Remarkable History
In 1836, South Australia was ‘free-settled’ by British colonists who wanted freedom of worship and a chance at a prosperous life. Lincolnshire man Stephen King was one of these settlers, sailing aboard the ship Orleana in 1839. After alighting in Adelaide, he joined a syndicate in acquiring a parcel of newly-sectioned land north of the Para River – the beginnings of a settlement called Gawler.
King was an educated man, a pastoralist and an entrepreneur. He built the town’s first steam-powered flour mill and settled a 500-acre parcel of land to the north on which he ran 3,250 sheep. His first house was a small property of stone (‘Mincalta’, which still exists to the west) but business was obviously good and in 1856 he commissioned the construction of a substantial two-storey house – one built to reflect his new status and success.
It’s believed King himself was influential in its design, working with a very able stonemason. Much of the house exterior you see today conforms to the original build, a sandstone structure in Georgian style. The stone is thought to be from Edinburgh, brought out as ship’s ballast.
Original features within include the splendid cedar staircase in Gothic style, the slate flagged entrance hall and the cedar ‘buffet’. As you will see, this large Gothic-style feature opens to reveal steps down into the stone cellars, used to store produce (delivered through a chute) and said to have once held bushrangers who’d ‘bailed up’ the homestead.
The original coach way to the property came from the east, ultimately serving the entrance to what is now your dining room. When a track from the west became the preferred access, the turreted porch – also in Gothic style – was added to form the main entrance.
Kingsford was a watering point for coach companies, drovers and bullock teams passing through the region, but the property lays claim to a special part in Australia’s pioneering history. In 1861, John McDouall Stuart left on his third and final expedition in a bid to cross the continent from north to south. The party went through Kingsford, for reasons other than water and rest: 19-year-old Stephen King Jr, one of Stephen and Martha King’s 11 children, made the epic 3000km journey with Stuart, as did King Jr’s cousin, William Billiatt.
South Australia’s history is very much one populated with boom and bust and the 1860s saw a severe drought. King was forced to sell the property, thereafter moving to the Northern Territory.
Kingsford was acquired by John Howard Angas, the son of South Australian founding father George Fife Angas, who raised Hereford cattle on the property. It then went to a syndicate of owners and back to the Angas family in 1924, this time under Sir Keith Angas.
Subsequent owners continued to raise livestock and crops on the property, up to Tom Fotheringham who owned the place until 1998. Mr Fotheringham’s son, Tony, is a tremendous source of knowledge on the property and we’re delighted he occasionally visits to share his expertise with guests.
Kingsford was bought from Mr Fotheringham by the government and run briefly as an Agricultural Research Facility, before being sold on to Channel Nine under Kerry Packer.
It then embarked on perhaps its most unusual role, standing in as ‘Drover’s Run’ on the hit TV show, McLeod’s Daughters.
The set was closed off from the public for seven years of production and run like a working farm for the purposes of filming, complete with 100 cattle, 250 sheep, 15 horses, working dogs and a team of stockmen. Interior scenes were all filmed inside the house; outbuildings on the property were also used, including ‘Meg's cottage’ next to the main house.
It’s not widely known, but the show was going to be called Drover’s Run until Packer vetoed the name for the one it went to air with. A total of 224 episodes of McLeod’s Daughters were viewed in 41 countries.
The Ahrens family purchased the property in 2009, carefully converting the property to the five-star retreat you are enjoying today.
Kingsford is listed on the State Heritage Register and Register of the National Estate.