South Australia’s Legislative Council was originally a board of four that served to assist the Governors of the time. A 1842 act of British Parliament increased this to seven, with further restructuring arriving in 1850 as the introduction of responsible government saw a new 24-member upper house established.
Backed by the electoral support of Burra residents, Sir Henry entered the Legislative Council in 1857, where he would stay until his retirement in 1893. In this time he would graduate from the chamber’s youngest member to one of its elder statesmen.
In those first decades Parliament lacked the rigid party structure of its current makeup, which allowed for a greater degree of fluctuation and change as one Ministry could keep or lose the requisite support over any given issue. As a result Sir Henry was Premier seven times between 1863 and 1873, the shortest period a mere 20 days in October 1868. Built in stages between 1843 and 1875, Old Parliament House’s current visage is the work of architect W. Bennet Hayes who won a competition to design the institution, while two walls in the building date to an original 1843 structure on the site. It continued to house the Legislative Council until 1939, at which point the newly completed Parliament House allowed it to join the House of Assembly in the new building.
Now office space for staff, the site was witness to some formative chapters in South Australia’s political history, including the introduction of full adult male suffrage, the secret ballot and the rights of women to vote and hold political office.