Rostrevor House


Rostrevor House

State Library of South Australia “Rostrevor” circa 1878 B29332

Today we call it Rostrevor College, but back in 1878 when it was completed it was called Rostrevor Hall.  The second parts of the house, the arches, on the Northern side were completed in 1901.

The house was built by Ross Thompson Reid, a most successful business man in South Australia, Queensland, and New South Wales. The Reid family arrived in South Australia in January 1839 aboard the Orleana1.  They were from Rostrevor near Newry, in County Down, Ireland.   Ross’s father, John Reid was the first white person to build a home for his family of eight, in the Gawler district.  The land was situated at the junction of the North and South Para Rivers.  John was advised to build there by Colonel William Light.  The homestead was called “Clonlea2. Nothing remains of the homestead today. When gold was discovered in California, Ross left home to seek his fortune in the goldfields.  He spent four years in America.  Ross, in partnership with his brother, and on his own purchased large landholdings.  He was a pioneer in the Wilcannia area.   Some of his purchases were, Mount Murchison Station, Tintinallogy Station and Tolarno Station south of Menindee on the Darling River.  He built a home on Tolarno Station for his bride, Lucy Reynell, a member of the South Australian wine making family3. He bought and built Paddle Steamers and barges to get his produce to the markets.  Some of the paddle steamers he and his brother owned were, Shannon, Jane Eliza, Jupiter Menindee and Gem.  The barges included Bourke and Venus, all well known on the river between Tolarno Station and Goolwa at the Murray Mouth.4  One of his other loves was Horse Racing. He owned a thoroughbred called “Pride of the Hills.”  It was very well regarded in racing circles but it was a bit inconsistent.  In 1876 it ran in the Melbourne Cup, which was won by Briseis.  ‘Pride of the Hills “ran poorly and did not finish with a place.   Four days later at the same course, Flemington, it beat the first and second place winner of that previous Melbourne Cup5.

Towards the end of the 19th century, Ross Thompson Reid was faced with two simultaneous catastrophes.  The Federation drought, as it was called, was hitting his properties hard.  Not one but a series of consecutive droughts in the Murray-Darling area was taking its toll.  Also in January 1893 the Federal Bank collapsed.  By May 17th eleven banks around the colonies had suspended trading.  The drought and recession was causing borrowers to defaults on bank loans.  Ross decided to address his own borrowing and debt.  Rostrevor Hall was to be sold.

The new owner of Rostrevor was James Smith Reid, also from Ireland, but no relation to the former owner.  James arrived with his family to Bowen in Queensland, where their father was to be the minister of the first Presbyterian Church.  The Rev. Reid had been guarantor on a loan taken out by his brother.  When his brother defaulted, the Rev Reid lost his entire savings.  He decided to seek a new life for his family in Queensland, where they arrived in 1863. James' father died when he was 17.  When gold was discovered at Ravenswood, James and one of his brothers, decided to seek their fortune there.  They established a newspaper on the gold field, the Ravenswood Miner.  The first of seven they were to own, mostly in mining towns.  Only weeks after setting up their newspaper, James was to show he had the courage needed.  A Gympie Bank Manager who had decided to carry a consignment of gold, without an escort, was “bailed up” and shot dead. The perpetrator who was wracked with remorse, decided to turn himself in to a local lawyer named Staples.  The lawyer was to claim the reward of £2,000-£3,000 and the money was to go to the criminal’s wife and children.  The lawyer kept the reward to himself and James reported him in his paper.6 It was whilst James and his brother were establishing the Silver Age newspaper at Silverton, when nearby Broken Hill became the focus of mining activity.  They were encouraged to invest in mining.  James became a director in B.H.P. and the prospectus for floating the company was printed by his newspaper presses.   His other mining interests were Tarrawingee Flux Company, the Chillagoe Company and he was a prime mover in the floatation of the Silverton Railway Company and the Emu Bay Railway Company.  He owned two estates, “Rostrevor” in South Australia and “Duneira” in Mount Macedon Victoria7. He used Duneira as his summer home, when Adelaide became a little too hot.  When he sold “Rostrevor” James donated 633 acres to the state to be used as a public park.  This acreage contained the beautiful gorge and the Morialta waterfalls.  A Company was established to buy increased acreage from the donor.  The company was known as “Rostrevor Estate.”  The Tramways Trust was asked to extend the tram lines into the park, which it agreed to do.  To recoup some money for further development, it was decided to sell blocks of land for housing.  They were not hard to sell, with a beautiful public park and a tram to the city, almost on your doorstep8.

“Rostrevor House” and the remainder of the estate sold to Reginald Sewell.  Reginald was a florist and gardener who owned a florist shop in the Beehive building on the corner of Rundle Street and King William Street, in the city.

He also owned a large nursery in Payneham, and a rose and fruit tree nursery at Marden.  In 1898 he opened another nursery at Aldgate in the hills. His residence and head office was situated at the Payneham property.  Before coming to South Australia in 1865, Reginald had worked for his father as a gardener, in Thame a town in Oxfordshire.  In Adelaide he worked as a gardener at a private residence in North Adelaide.

He then took up a position at the Royal Botanical Gardens under Dr Richard Schomburghk, who was the then director.  In 1871 he then went out on his own in business.  He was a long time member of the S.A. Horticultural Society and served as its President at one time9. In his advertising in the local press it stated “by appointment to the Governor General of Australia10.

In 1922 The Christian Brothers College in the city was operating at full capacity and it was evident that they needed to expand.  Expansion to a size they required in their city college was out of the question, so when Rostrevor House came onto the market it was seen as too good an opportunity to miss.  Before it could open as a college, which it did in 1923, extensive building had to be completed.  The building required was that of, a new chapel, five new classrooms and a chemistry laboratory.  The college underwent another renovation for its diamond jubilee in 1983. Rostrevor College has remained an important seat of learning to this day.  It has been particularly proud of many of its former students who have made their mark in this city. Many of whom are in the arts and the sporting arena.  Among the Notable Alumni are listed:

Anthony Lapaglia Actor
Paul Cronin Actor
Paul Kelly Musician
Jared Crouch AFL Footballer
Luke Darcy AFL Footballer
Ben Hart AFL Footballer
Tom Jonas AFL Footballer
Jack Hombsch AFL Footballer
Neil Kerley  SANFL Football Captain, Coach,

Researched and compiled by Jim Nelson, a volunteer with the Campbelltown Library “Digital Diggers” group.
If you have any comments or questions regarding the information in this local history article, please contact the Local History officer on 8366 9357 or


  2. 1926 'EARLY HISTORY OF GAWLER.', Bunyip (Gawler, SA : 1863 - 1954), 13 August, p. 11. , viewed 29 Apr 2016,
  3. The South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1858 - 1889) Thursday 13 February 1868 p 2
  8. ROSTREVOR ESTATE. (1913, March 29). The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929), , p. 14. Retrieved April 29, 2016, from
  10. 1915 'Family Notices', The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931), 9 July, p. 2. , viewed 29 Apr 2016,


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