Carrick Hill has the finest collection of antique oak furniture in Australia. Collected by the Haywards to complement their Tudor-style house, it is a fascinating mixture of Elizabethan (1500s), Jacobean (most of the 1600s), Georgian (1700s) with some Victorian (1800s) and early twentieth-century copies.

Since there was never enough genuine old oak furniture available during the various fashion revivals of these styles, it was common for bits and pieces of old and modern furniture to be made up into 'new antiques', either fraudulently or as acknowledged copies. The Victorians often added extra decorative elements to what they considered to be plain originals. Over the centuries as damaged furniture was repaired, new feet frequently replaced the old on tables and chairs after the wood had rotted from standing on damp stone or rush-matted floors. Carrick Hill contains examples of these different types.

The tester bed made up of sixteenth, seventeenth and twentieth-century elements (also a wedding present from Sir Edward to the second Lady Hayward), and the late sixteenth-century Spanish coffer are the centrepieces of this bedroom.

 

 

Three-fold screen: Pomegranate, Vine, Apple Tree

                         

Art and the beauty of the stitch

Embroidered in a combination of stem, chain, satin, straight, laid, and couched stitches by Mary Isobel (Molly) Barr Smith (née Mitchell), an accomplished needlewoman who imparted the love of stitch to her daughter Ursula Hayward, this screen features three intricate designs. Using silk threads on an 1881 William Morris designed green silk damask called Oak, the three-fold screen is a fine example of the intersection between art and craft, beauty and form.

The organic designs on the screen borrow motifs frequently used by Morris & Company. Two of the panels, Pomegranate and Vine are attributed to John Henry Dearle, with Apple Tree believed to be design by Morris himself around 1880. Morris and his designers, which included his talented daughter Mary (May) Morris, frequently utilised their own designs for inspiration as well as those they found elsewhere such renaissance textiles in as the (now) Victoria and Albert Museum. Apple Tree is possibly adapted from or inspired the screen Apple Tree [with wreath], an unfinished example is found in Carrick Hill’s collection.

Embroidery is used by many cultures throughout history. In Great Britain during the second half of the nineteenth century, the craft and artform had a ‘revival’. The patronage by the middle and upper classes of firms such as Morris & Company and the department store Liberty’s elevating this predominantly feminine occupation’s status from craft to art. Such tastes were reflected in the citizens of Adelaide, who saw themselves very much as being a part of the British Empire.



Morris & Company (Firm), John Henry DEARLE (Designer), Mary Isobel (Molly) Mitchell BARR SMITH (Embroiderer)
Three-fold screen: Pomegranate, Vine, Apple Tree, 1890s
Wool, silk damask, walnut, 199.5 x 83.5 cm (panel)
Carrick Hill Trust, Adelaide. Hayward Bequest 1983
Image, Sara Huffen

 

A family passion

When deciding on the décor for their newly renovated Auchendarroch home at Mt Barker in 1884, Robert and Joanna Barr Smith settled on the designs from Morris & Company. It is not certain if the Barr Smiths knew of William Morris prior to renovating this house, his designs were not used for first set of renovations at Torrens Park, but the firm supplied materials for all subsequent homes. It is possible that Neville Ashbee, a London architect contracted for a different project, introduced the couple to the social designer and his company.

The Barr Smiths were extremely wealthy, with successful businesses in Australia. This allowed them to become one of the largest and most important Morris & Company clients outside of Great Britain, with a relationship that spanned four decades. No expense was spared in decorating their properties. Everything from wallpapers and curtains to furniture and shelving were purchased on a grand scale. Embroidery kits were also acquired by Joanna for her daughters, encouraging a love of needlework, and included table covers, portières, screens, and cushions. While many items for their homes were purchased new, others were transferred from previous properties, the Barr Smiths adding as required, or as desired.

Like his parents, Tom Elder Barr Smith and wife Molly lavishly furnished their home from the catalogues of Morris & Company, first Wairoa then Birksgate. They were not the only members of the Barr Smith family to do so, Tom’s sister Jean, who married Tom O’Halloran Giles, also used the firm to decorated her home as did Ursula’s sister, Joanna and husband Sir James Gosse. The Barr Smith children and grandchildren continued purchasing from Morris & Company up until 1929.

This patronage most likely encouraged other affluent families in Adelaide to follow suit, though perhaps not on such an extravagant scale. However, other residents such as the Hon. George Brookman saw Morris’s work at first hand in England, and commissioned their own pieces. Morris & Company clients also utilised the firm to supply items to organisations in Adelaide. Brookman with his stained glass window for the Adelaide Stock Exchange and Tom Elder Barr Smith providing chairs to the Adelaide Club. The result is a wealth of original Morris & Company objects, and photographs of original interiors, in Adelaide for future generations to enjoy.

Morris & Company (Firm), Mary (May) MORRIS (designer), Jean O'Halloran GILES (embroiderer, attributed)
'Firescreen: Rose and Olive', c.1900, designed c. 1880
silk, oak, glass, 94.3 x 66.5 x 25.6 cm
Carrick Hill Trust, Adelaide; Gift of Nigel Giles, 2016

 


Morris & Company (Firm), Mary (May) MORRIS (designer), Jean O'Halloran GILES (embroiderer, attributed)
Cushion cover: [Fritillary], c.1900
Silk, cotton, 59.0  x 59.0 cm
Carrick Hill Trust, Adelaide; Gift of Nigel Giles, 2016

 


Morris & Company (Firm), William MORRIS (Designer), Mary Isobel (Molly) BARR SMITH (embroiderer, attributed)
Panel: Apple Tree [with wreath, unfinished], c.1900
silk on cotton, 61.0 x 61.0 cm
Carrick Hill Trust, Adelaide. Hayward Bequest 1983