Name Game - THE HISTORY OF MCLAREN VALE #5

Originally the area which we now call the McLaren Vale Wine Region had many different names, one for each of the hamlets or groupings of farms that were settled in the 1800’s. Over the span of time these names have been swallowed up into the towns we now call McLaren Vale, McLaren Flat and Willunga, but for those with a sense of history names live on if you look closely.


View McLaren Vale Historic Names in a larger map

What is in a name? Click on the map to find out more.


One hamlet has survived with its own postcode almost into the present day. Landcross Farm, which had its own postcode, 5170, until recently centered on and named after the farm property which has been rejuvenated by Paxton Wines.

A few of the original settlement names have been merged into common postcodes but survived as map or service addresses. Whites Valley and Willunga South, which are both part of the Willunga postcode 5172, live on as utility addresses. Tatachilla also remains in common usage both as an address, winery brand and school, despite being swallowed by the McLaren Vale.

Some names live on as business names, Hillside formerly near McLaren Flat, lives on as Hillside Haulage the Sullivan families freight business. Taranga, which was the southern section of a farm established by William and Elizabeth Oliver when they settled in 1841, lives on in several business and property names.

Others names have fallen out of general use and remain as property names, like Bethany or Beltunga. Some have fallen out of usage entirely like Gloucester.

Why this happened makes an interesting story.


The first amalgamation of names was due to a natural increase in population. As settlers arrived in the area hamlets merged together to form towns.

Originally the region was survey in 1839 by a party led by John McLaren. McLaren was appointed as Senior Surveyor was given the task of surveying the southern districts of Adelaide. McLaren divided up the south of Adelaide into three districts - B, C and D to be released to the settlers in stages. Section C included all the land south of the Onkaparinga River to Willunga Hill as was released from 1840.

McLaren Vale was the general name for the wide valley south of the Onkaparinga Gorge. The township of McLaren Vale originally consisted of 2 small villages; Gloucester, a triangle between the Salopean Inn and Kangrilla road, established in 1851 and Bellevue, where The Barn and Limeburners stand, established in 1854.

Both small towns had a unique character. In 1841 two of the early settlers were Devonshire farmers, William Colton and Charles Hewitt. The farmers bought workmen with them and established neighbouring farms, Daringa and Oxenberry Farm. These farms formed the nucleus of the hamlet Gloucester. Daringa and Oxenberry live on as cellar doors on Kangarilla Rd.

Bellevue, town to the north, began on land purchased by Richard Bell at settlement who built a little colony of thatched pug houses. He also built a hotel in 1857 and named it the Clifton in honour of his wife, nee Clift. Ellen Street also bore her name until recent years, but is now retitled as part of Chalk Hill Road. Ellen Street lives on as a wine made by Mark Maxwell. The Clifton Hotel is currently the Hotel McLaren.

The Gloucester and Bellevue towns grew together so that by 1923 McLaren Vale was gazetted by the Lands Office as a private town. In that year Mr CE Pridmore, owner of land situated half way between Bellevue and Gloucester at Sylvan Park, applied for a transfer of the portion of section 156 in the township McLaren Vale. All previous transactions for that locality were designated as in the township of Gloucester in the McLaren Vale (or Valley).

Approximately four kilometres to the southeast of these towns in the McLaren Vale was Wesleyan chapel was opened in 1854 and was given the name Bethany Chapel. Other cottages were established which gave rise to Bethany the hamlet. Later Bethany was also home to the first illuminated tennis courts which can still be seen on McMurtrie Road. 

Bethany Chapel c. 1990 prior to renovation.

I have always assumed Wirra Wirra’s Church Block wine is named after the chapel as Wirra Wirra's vineyards sit directly opposite. Can anyone confirm this?

North of Bethany is the town of McLaren Flat. McLaren Flat had the satellite villages, or hamlets, Hillside which was located west towards Kangarilla and Beltunga, to the north whose houses were mostly built at the instigation of Richard Bell, founder of Bellevue.

Blewitt Springs was further north and consisted of a series of sandy ridges linked by roads that ran in between. It has maintained its ‘independence’ on maps and as a street address although shares McLaren Flat’s telephone exchange and the greater 5171 postcode.

Bush Grenache vines at Paxton Wines - Landcross Farm.

Traveling back towards the McLaren Vale township was known as Seaview. Sir Samuel Way’s 1870’s farm called Sea View lent its name to a Seaview hamlet complete with a chapel built in 1880’s, now the cellar door for Chapel Hill Wines. Sir Samuel in turn lent his name to Justin McNamee’s Samuels Gorge winery now based in the former Sea View blacksmith’s and olive press house.

Along the road back down the hill to the McLaren Townships, George Manning established Hope Farm in 1851, which was turned into a winery over the years. The winery was renamed Seaview in 1951 by its new owners, Mr Edwards and Chaffey. The names Seaview and Edwards & Chaffey have been wine brands.
 
A look back in time... Chapel Vale, now Chapel Hill, circa 1973

Around the town of Willunga were Willunga South where the slate mines were grouped and Whites Valley which lay on the direct road to Port Willunga to the north of Aldinga. The Whites Valley village was centered on Adey Rd, Aldinga Rd and Little Rd. Several historic building remain. Some have been restored while some of the farm houses and mills have fallen into ruin.

Olivers Taranga in the 1990's.
I have been told that the Sellicks Hills, part of the Mount Lofty Ranges, which stare down on Whites Valley, were once known as the Front Hills, and are marked as such on some old maps. I haven’t seen these, but I believe it possible this name was then corrupted to be called foothills. Foothills are dryly defined as gradual increases in hilly areas at the base of a mountain range.

We get the sub-regional name Sellicks Foothills from this, but Front Hills has a ring to it in my opinion and might warrant a comeback.

Postcodes were introduced in Australia in 1967 by the Postmaster-General's Department (PMG), the predecessor of Australia Post. At this point many of the smaller regional names were swallowed up. Landcross Farm survived with a fresh postcode but Tatachilla, McLaren Flat, Blewitt Springs, and remnants Hillside, Beltunga and Bethany were all merged into McLaren Vale 5171. Willunga 5172 took over Willunga South and Whites Valley.

Willunga Post Office also had responsibilities for Hope Forest, The Range, Dingabledinga (where Lazy Ballerina the cellar door is located across from the southern tip of Kuitpo Forest) Montara and Kuitpo.

What is in a name? A lot of the history of this region.

 Wine Fight Club June 09

If you know more to these stories please comment below. It is worthwhile checking out Oliver Taranga's Cellar Door to see their old map of the region. Also the main source for this article is the great book - McLaren Vale: Sea and Vines - Barbara Santich.

McLAren Vale Wine. Family Friendly.