Nineteen-year-old Henry Rymill and his brother Frank arrived in South Australia in 1855 from England. Convinced to try his hand at colonial life by his brother-in-law J.B. Graham, Henry came armed with letters of reference in order to secure work. However, after several months of unemployment, the desperate law clerk was forced to take up a gardening position. Luckily, he was introduced to Henry Ayers, who quickly employed him as a bookkeeper and cashier at the South Australian Mining Association.
From shaky beginnings, Henry Rymill went on to have successful career in South Australia. He and Frank formed a business partnership in 1862, and became well-regarded financiers. The brothers made important contributions to South Australia’s banking and financial sector, as well as the mining and pastoral industries.
Henry and Frank purchased this block of land in 1859. A small cottage designed by George Strickland Kingston was erected here the following year. Henry eventually bought Frank’s share in the land, and demolished the cottage. The present house was built in 1881, and was designed by John Haslam. It was known as “The Firs”, although the trees surrounding the property were actually Aleppo pines. The South Australian Register on 10 December 1884 described the new residence as, “…one of the best houses in the City, both from its admirably arranged plan and the effective character of the whole four elevations which are carried out in brown stone with Sydney stone and cement dressings in the Queen Anne style.”
Henry and later his descendants lived in the house until the Second World War. In 1950, it was purchased by what is now Australia Post and used as a training facility until 1982. After a period of neglect, it has been painstakingly restored by its current owners.