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The bishop, the landing strip, and the ghost

Seldom do the few steps down the entry path to the front door of a property tell a story. Then again, most properties don’t have the statue of a headless woman, a Roman noblewoman no less, sitting right in the middle of the path surrounded by beautiful native gardens.

The statue is that of Saint Cecilia, the Patron Saint of Music who was martyred and beheaded by the sword. This statue is one of the lasting legacies of the stunning ‘St Cecilia’ mansion, a c1912 Edwardian heritage property sitting on 2.37 hectares of expansive land in the sleepy town of Peterborough located 3 hours north of Adelaide by car.

One of the most intriguing historical treasures of the mid-north, St. Cecilia was originally built in the early part of the 20th century for John Norton, a catholic bishop known as the ‘Bishop of the Railways’. The first home with electricity in Peterborough, this breathtaking 15 room property (plus detached coach house with additional 7 rooms) has been many things over its storied journey; bishop’s home, convent, boarding school, bed and breakfast, and of course, a much-loved family residence.

St Cecilia is being sold by Barry Plant Norwood. The home is on the South Australian State Heritage Register.

“The kind of person that is going to buy this property is not someone who is going to want to put in an indoor pool and completely renovate and change what is so unique about it. It is someone who wants to restore and preserve the home’s history,” said Elesa Wood, Director of Barry Plant Norwood who is leading the sales campaign for St. Cecilia. “A property like this isn’t one that you take ownership of; it is one you become the custodian of.”

Annette Frankel has been the owner and local custodian of the property for the last four decades until recently, and has taken immense pride, passion, and thoughtful care in preserving the mansion. She would host murder mystery dinners at the property, taking advantage of its grand living spaces and stunning period allure.

There are rumours that the ghost of Bishop John Norton has been spotted roaming the premises. Whether the spectre of the bishop (which has been thoroughly looked into by actual paranormal investigators) is fact, or a clever marketing ploy by Ms. Frankel herself to get people there to partake in her murder dinner parties, is still a bit of an unknown.

“Whether or not the ghost stories are true, it does add a little bit of romance and whimsy to the property. You know, the idea that a little bit of history may still be in there somewhere walking around, it just adds to the story,” said Elesa Wood.

Set behind a striking stone façade, inside St. Cecilia you’ll find exquisite and elegant detail, from gorgeous leadlight windows to tessellated tiling, hand grain doorways, cast iron fireplaces, rustic pine floors, soaring lathe and plaster ceilings, and a grand staircase (and not so grand staircase for what was the servant’s quarters). Time has not wearied the raw beauty of this old-timer either, with hardly a crack to be seen anywhere.

Offering an ingenious design which inhales cool summer breezes and repels the sun's hot advances while retaining warmth in the winter months, this property offers grand living spaces including multiple areas for lounging, sitting, dining, games, and so much more. There is also an enormous banquet room, which is where Ms. Frankel would host her murder dinner parties, with guests getting dressed up in outfits and costumes.

Further to the main property is the separate coach house, with the rooms in this detached dwelling used as school rooms in the 1950s, and later by Ms. Frankel as a bed and breakfast.

“The community is very excited about the sale of St. Cecilia. There really is so much love and affection for it in Peterborough,” said Elesa Wood. “There is just such a beautiful sense of community in the town, and they are all very much ready to welcome someone to come and live in this amazing property.”

St. Cecilia also has easy access to also has an airfield in Peterborough with landing strip, which would appeal to a keen buyer with a light aircraft who could fly in and out of the town. Just make sure the ghost of John Bishop doesn’t hitch a ride back when you’re returning to the big smoke.

Find out more about this remarkable landmark property here >