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Heritage & History

The cultural story of Woodhouse began with the Kaurna and Peramangk traditional custodians who have cared for and met on this corridor of shared country for millennia. We acknowledge their continuing connection to country, and pay respect to their Elders past, present and emerging. Set in the beautiful Piccadilly Valley of the Adelaide Hills, Woodhouse is also the meeting place of waterways which attracted colonial settlement. Since its purchase by Scouts SA in 1957, Woodhouse has been a meeting place for Scouts coming together for training, camping, events, service, adventure and friendship.

The 54-hectare Woodhouse property and its original stately home (the two-story heritage-listed mansion now known as Old Woodhouse Manor) are an important part of South Australia’s history, having been owned and developed by distinguished early colonists soon after the state was settled. The property had a variety of uses, from apple orchard to sheep farming. Over the past 65 years Woodhouse has evolved through the hard work of so many people to become an invaluable asset for the Scouting community and the people of South Australia.



When walking in the hills in 1847, blacksmith John Chambers noted iron ore present near Cox’s Creek, and he applied for and was granted relevant sections the same year. John was an early colonist, having arrived in South Australia in 1837.


In 1848 portions of the land on which Woodhouse stands passed from John Chambers to George Stephen, who had been appointed Advocate General for South Australia by Governor Hindmarsh and also served as South Australia’s Acting Governor and Commander-in-Chief. He was married to Governor Hindmarsh’s daughter and added to his holdings by acquiring further Sections of land.

When John Chambers sold the land to George Stephen, it was Chambers’ understanding that it was on the condition he retained the mining rights. George Stephen started working the property for minerals and Chambers naturally protested. George Stephenson, the editor of the ‘South Australian Gazette and Mining Record’ published an account of the land transaction that implied George Stephen had acquired land from John Chambers under false pretences. That led to George Stephen successfully suing George Stephenson for libel in 1849 (sounds confusing, right?). This is an important part of the story as George Stephen engaged Richard Hanson as his legal advisor and it is widely understood that the 1200-acre Woodhouse property (and the beginnings of the original homestead built in 1848 now known as Old Woodhouse Manor) were transferred to Richard Hanson as part payment or full settlement for his work on the libel case.


The simple summer residence that Stephen had built for himself (consisting of two rooms on the south west corner of the present house with the foundation stone dated 1848) became the beginning of the house Richard Hanson added to over the years. In 1861 Hanson set about completing Woodhouse, with the completion stone bearing the date 1863 which is the year Hanson left his East Terrace home in Adelaide to reside permanently at Woodhouse with his wife, two sons and four daughters.

Born in London in 1805, Richard Hanson was a strong advocate for Wakefield’s South Australian colonisation scheme and was instrumental in garnering support for the passing of the South Australian Act through the parliament.

Following a distinguished career as a lawyer and writer in England and New Zealand Richard Hanson settled in Adelaide just ten years after the foundation of South Australia. A respected member of the English Bar, he played a big part in the life of the colony. He was the state’s Attorney-General, Premier (1857-1860), Chief Justice (appointed 1861), knighted by Queen Victoria in England in 1869, Acting Governor (1872-1873), and Chancellor of the newly-founded University of Adelaide (appointed 1874). Politics and law were his life’s work but he was also a lover of nature and much of the beautiful layout of Woodhouse is due to his early work.

Richard Hanson died due to heart failure in the garden at Woodhouse in 1876 and was given a State funeral and buried in West Terrace Cemetery. Lady Hanson’s death followed in 1895 by which time the property had reduced to 300 acres of grazing land and scrub, with a stone mansion of 19 rooms.


Woodhouse Summertown B 10647 State Library of South Australia taken 1872 by Samuel Sweet

'Woodhouse', Summertown [B 10647] - State Library of South Australia - taken 1872 by Samuel Sweet



The property was then owned by other families; Richard Verco (14 years), Alfred Weaver (22 years), Walter Fowler-Brownsworth (10 years) and Cedric Warren (16 years). The Warren family oversaw rapid transformation, with electric lighting and hot and cold water services.


Much of the land on which Woodhouse Adventure Park now stands (the original 58 acres) was purchased by the Boy Scouts Association (now Scouts SA) in May 1957 for £20,000 through a successful six-week appeal for public donations.

Woodhouse opened as the Woodhouse Memorial Campsite, perpetuating the memory of Scouts who died while serving in World War. It was officially opened for camping and leader training on 9 November 1957 by Lady Olave Baden-Powell, the World Chief Guide and widow of Scout movement founder, Lord Robert Baden-Powell. Lady Baden-Powell wrote in the Woodhouse Log Book: “Woodhouse will be the centre of all that is good in the progress of Scouting in the years that lie ahead. All that is best in scout-craft will go radiating out from these beautiful acres with a new spirit of goodwill and high endeavour”.


Opening 1957 Lady Baden Powell

Lady Olave Baden-Powell officially opening Woodhouse - 9 November 1957


Opening 1957

Opening ceremony for Woodhouse, 9 November 1957


Since then it has been used as a training centre for Scout Leaders and Scouts, and is also a favourite camping spot for Scout Troops and Patrols, Scout gatherings, training, adventure activities and camping.

The property was extended from 58 acres (23.5 hectares) to 115 acres (46.5 hectares) by further purchase of land (previously known as the Piccadilly Stud) in 1965, ahead of an appeal for member funding in 1966. Another addition of 5.5 acres was purchased in 1982.


Early Scout Training 1

Early Scout Training


Woodhouse has been the site of many large Scout gatherings starting with the 1966-1967 Australian Corroboree, followed by Australian Jamborees (10th in 1973-1974, 15th in 1988-1989, 20th in 2004 and 25th in 2019)… with Rover Moots and other events in between. Large events like Jamborees have seen more than 10,000 campers pass through Woodhouse at a time, with the property set up like a village with chapel, shops, banks, a post office, clubs and medical centre.


1966 Corroboree 1

Corroboree at Woodhouse, 1966


1974 10th Australian Jamboree2

10th Australian Jamboree at Woodhouse, 1974


1989 15th Australian Jamboree2

15th Australian Jamboree at Woodhouse, 1989


Rymill Centre opened in 1973, named after Henry Rymill, Chief Commissioner from 1936 to 1971 in anticipation of the upcoming Australian Jamboree. Its bunkhouse accommodation (sleeping 80), activity/dining/conferencing spaces and commercial kitchen are used every week by school, Scout and community groups.

Woodhouse's famous Challenge Hill obstacle course was also established at this time, spearheaded by Harold Chenery and Harold ‘Woody’ Woodward.

Some people remember volunteering when Woodhouse was a Cyclone Tracy Transit Centre in 1974, providing shelter, food and clothing for 80 people in the Rymill Centre.

Woodhouse Adventure Park and Old Woodhouse Manor continue to be used by the Scouting community and welcome everyone from schools and community groups, to families and corporate groups for outdoor adventure activities and experience-based accommodation.

Scouts SA is a charitable not-for-profit youth development organisation (registered with Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission) that is part of the worldwide Scouting movement, and all profit generated through Woodhouse is returned to Scouts SA to help young South Australians achieve their personal best in all areas, including leadership, resilience, confidence and responsible independence.

Sources and further reading:

  • Peake, A. J. (1991), Woodhouse published by The Scout Association of Australia (SA Branch)
  • Boland, R. R. (1941), The Story of Woodhouse
  • Notes by Iris Iwanicki, Register Historian, State Heritage Branch