But it was through their collecting that I first heard of the Barr Smith family. From the 1880s on, Robert and Joanna Barr Smith were major clients of William Morris' London shop, furnishing seven of their vast South Australian houses almost exclusively from the firm.
Small Barr carpet, William Morris 1890, now in Art Gallery of SA
hand knotted wool pile, 280 x 280 cm
Today the Art Gallery of South Australia says it holds the most comprehensive collection of Morris & Co furnishings outside Britain; the first and finest of its purchases was a Morris & Co tapestry, The Adoration of the Magi, which arrived in 1917. Later the Gallery has brought together furnishings from the Barr Smiths’ richest rooms, including the large Drawing Room at Torrens Park. Embroideries have been conserved for display, including a large 1890s hanging, designed by May Morris, depicting fruiting trees, birds and foliage in silks. And many new items have been acquired directly from London, including the famous Trellis wallpaper, designed in 1864.
Later in his life, William Morris could publish books with the establishment of his Kelmscott Press in 1890s. Some of these beautiful books, catalogues and pamphlets have now been collected together by the State Library of South Australia.
Carrick Hill house and gardens
Bill & Ursula honeymooned for a year in Britain. It was then they came across Beaudesert, a grand old Tudor manor house in Staffordshire , owned by the Marquis of Anglesea. As quickly as they could, the honeymooners acquired much of its Tudor and later panelling, doors, staircases and windows. The house was already being destroyed, and the fittings and fixtures would have ended up in the skip, had the young couple not rescued them and sent them in shipping containers to Australia.
When they returned to Australia, Ursula's father gave the couple the land on which Carrick Hill now stands as a wedding present. This was a very substantial gift - 40 hectares of prime real estate with fantastic views of the city. A family friend in Adelaide, architect James Irwin, designed a house for them around Beaudesert’s fittings.
I wonder if Adelaide society noted the inconsistencies in a moderately sized 1930s Australian house complete with Tudor fitted interiors, Arts and Crafts decorative elements and modernist paintings.
The ground floor is dominated by the large panelled hall. Australia's finest collection of antique oak furniture is to be found in the dining room downstairs, where the Haywards lived a British lifestyle. The Jacobean-style staircase is large, very grand and definitely the centre-piece of Carrick Hill. It leads from the grand entry hall to a very decent gallery above, a gallery covered with paintings.
Tudor panelled hall, staircase and art collection
Nonetheless it is inevitable that the couple would largely support the contemporary Australian artists they were closest to, especially Russell Drysdale, William Dobell, Donald Friend, Nora Heysen, Jeffrey Smart and Adrian Feint. In time William Dobell introduced them to Patrick White, and their creative circle grew.
Upstairs the bedrooms have an unusual mixture of Georgian furniture and Victorian oak pieces, mostly inherited from Ursula's family, and used to fit in as needed. But the bedrooms are also where daddy’s Arts and Crafts objects are most in evidence; in fact the bedrooms signal William Morris’ only appearance in this house. I wonder why did Bill and Ursula not want to fill their house with her parents’ Arts and Crafts treasures.
Carrick Hill was being built from 1937 on, and within two years the couple had moved in. 1939 was also the year in which Ursula started designing the rather splendid garden, trees, water features and external statues. It is worth repeating that these two wealthy and cultured Australians established a stylish British way of life; Ursula and Bill’s parties, music and wine must have seemed rather wonderful.
Dining room, set for 10 guests
The honours rolled in. In 1953 Ursula was appointed as trustree of the Art Gallery of South Australia. In 1961 Edward was knighted for his service to the community and to business. A decade later Sir Edward and Lady Ursula Hayward agreed to bequeath Carrick Hill to the people of the state.