Marble Hill is a small town in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia, Australia. It is home to the ruins of the former summer residence of the Governor of South Australia which was destroyed in the Black Sunday bushfire of 1955. Only the tower was ever restored. Friends of Marble Hill, a group of about 20 volunteers, have managed the 22 ha property since 1993. It is a popular site for tourism and weddings.
Most often known by the name of the hill upon which it is built, Marble Hill was completed in 1880. It was designed by prominent Adelaide architect William McMinn in Gothic Revival style, and was constructed of locally quarried sandstone. It comprised 26 main rooms, although the original design was for 40. It was used by the Governors of South Australia to escape the summer heat on the Adelaide Plains for seventy five years.
The mansion’s location at the peak of a tall, densely wooded ridge meant that bushfire was a regular threat. The house escaped destruction in 1912 when the visiting English cricket team, having been invited for dinner, were able to help beat back the flames.
On the 2nd of January, 1955, the temperature was 96° Fahrenheit at 7:00 in the morning. By 1pm, the temperature had risen to 107° and gale force winds pushed the raging bushfire up the ridge. Fifteen people, including the Premier Sir Thomas Playford and the governor Sir Robert George, sheltered under wet blankets in the lee of a retaining wall while the bushfire destroyed the house behind them. A car parked outside was showered with molten lead from the tower roof. In September 1955 the Government of South Australia announced it would not rebuild the residence.
On March 5th 2007, The South Australian state government announced it was seeking expressions of interest for the development and management of the former governors’ summer retreat. Friends of Marble Hill chairman, Ernie McKenna, said: “I don’t see that the Government has any right to sell a part of South Australia’s history.