The district is an agricultural one, and is to a great extent taken up by market gardeners, the soil in the gullies being peculiarly adapted to the growth of vegetables and fruit.  -  RP Whitworth 1866.

Bridgewater on Cox Creek - by GS Fowler

On New Year’s Day, 1937, during the period the State was celebrating its Centenary, a tablet was unveiled in Bridgewater setting out how the Creek and the town came by their names and honouring the men who were responsible. ...

When we begin to think of the early history of Bridgewater, we must, sooner or later, begin to wonder why the village should grow up just where it did. ...

To answer that we must consider the position in which the pioneers found themselves when they arrived in ... 1836.  The Adelaide Plains were chosen as the site of the ... future capital.  Subsequent experience has shown that it was a good choice.  Settlers met one difficulty, however, which if it had not been overcome, might have ruined their chances of success, or at least, have considerably delayed progress.

At that time, the plains were covered with grasses with only scattered trees, or occasionally small clumps of trees.  The varieties were chiefly redgum, peppermint and box in the open country, with small forests of native pines; one of the most notable was called the Nailsworth Forest.

The first consideration of the pioneers was housing. ...  Some of the early settlers ... imported prefabricated houses. ...  [m]ore of them brought canvas tents, but most relied on using local materials.  When homes were provided, [the settlers] needed fences to control their domestic animals.  Imported wire was out of the question and the obvious choice was a fence built of post and rails.  It was soon discovered that of the timber close at hand, only the pine could be split into straight lengths and there was not nearly enough of it, nor was it suitable for all purposes.

The more adventurous spirits began to go further afield and they discovered the stringybark forests in the hills.  The importation of bullocks from Van Diemen’s Land, and later from New South Wales, made it possible to cart this timber to Adelaide.  There were no roads, of course, and the bullock drivers had to find easy slopes where they could climb the hills and return with a load.  The route chosen climbed one or other of the spurs which run down to the plain near Glen Osmond.  On the return trip, there was a very steep pinch just past Measday’s store, where bullocks often came to grief.  If the bullock in the pole stumbled, the weight of the load on his neck forced him down and if his nose touched the ground, he would sommersault and be killed.  That slope is still called Breakneck Hill. ...

The hills were then called the Tiers, because of their appearance when seen from the plain, and the inhabitants were known as Tiersmen.

The area we know as Crafers was the first to supply Adelaide with timber.  David Crafer started a hotel there in March 1839, and the district eventually took its name from him.  This hotel was the first one licensed outside of what is now known as Adelaide and the suburbs.

A party of four men set out from Adelaide on Christmas Day 1837 in an attempt to reach the River Murray.  Their leader was Robert Cock.  (He and a fellow Scotchman, William Ferguson, were Adelaide’s first stock and station agents.  Their office was in Rosina Street, named after Mrs Ferguson) Cock undertook the trip with an eye to business.  Another Scot, Pastor William Finlayson, went with him because he had come to the Colony with the idea of being a missionary among the natives.  He returned from this trip disappointed because he did not meet a single Aboriginal.  He was the official reporter and published an account of the trip in the Register on his return and gave further details later in his reminiscences.  The other two men were Valentine Wyatt and George Barton, who went purely in a spirit of adventure.

Finlayson states that they measured two stringybark trees near Crafers that went 36’ and 40’ 6” in circumference.  He goes on to say:

When we got to Crafers, we found some splitters of stringybark rails at their Christmas dinner.  We continued our journey, steering by compass, as there were no more stations of white men. ...  We had not gone many miles, when our horse got bogged in crossing what has ever since been named Cock’s Creek, after our leader, but our united strength could not pull him out, and we were obliged to return to Crafers for help, when Mr Wilson and his stepsons willingly returned with us, and then by great exertions and main force, we got him out and camped for the night. ...

They did not reach the River, but turned South and became the first white men to reach Lake Alexandrina overland from Adelaide.

The name Cock’s Creek soon became corrupted to Cox’s Creek.  These facts are recorded on the tablet.

The splitters and sawyers were not long in following the trail to the new creek.  The reports of the country around Mt Barker also tempted farmers and graziers to make for that region.  The early settlers were all from Great Britain and only knew how to farm under the conditions of soil and climate prevailing in their homeland.  The Mt Barker-Balhannah-Woodside area responded to their methods of agriculture better than other parts of the colony, and, in the early days, was the great wheat-growing area.

This fact interests us for two reasons.  Produce from the Mt Barker district had to reach Adelaide by bullock drays.  These drays made tracks through the bush wherever it was convenient,and that track had to find a place to ford Cox’s Creek.  The spot chosen was a few yards upstream from where the Deanery Bridge stands today.  Whether the teamsters to and from Mt Barker (amongst whom was Bobbie Cock) chose this crossing or whether the sawyers and splitters arrived first is not certain.

The earliest reference to timber workers at Cox’s Creek known to me is in JW Bull’s account of his journey to his new farm at Bull Creek.

The bullock track to Mt Barker, which we have already traced as far as Crafers, then followed what is now called the Old Mt Barker Road, past the Stirling East School and the residence of Mr O’Halloran Giles.  Then it follows down the spur past Mr Jack Ackland’s house and that of Mr Gates to the ford near the Deanery Bridge.  Then along the road passing the properties of Messrs Whitty, Andy Clarke, Kennerick and Searle.  Then over the White Bridge (which was not there then, of course) and on to the bottom of Germantown Hill near the Verdun post office. ...

Following the track, Mr Bull’s brakes did not hold and his horses bolted down the spur to the ford and he mentions that he had great difficulty in dodging the stumps left by the woodcutters.  So we know that the Tiersmen had reached Cox’s Creek sometime before Mr Bull made his trip at the end of 1839.  We also know that the little settlement had grown sufficiently to make it worthwhile for Benjamin Dean to set up a Wayside pub in March 1841, which he somewhat ironically called The Rural Deanery.  (Before we leave the subject of this Hotel, it is interesting to note that the address in the Register of Public Licences for 1841 is given as Cock’s Creek.  Next year, Dean changed the name to The Deanery and gave the address as Cox’s Creek.  In 1844, the name is spelt Coxe’s, and the following year the address is Road to Mt Barker and in 1853 Eastern Road.)

It is still possible to find the hole excavated for the cellar under the Hotel Bar.  The spot is about 20 yards upstream from the bridge and on the northern bank.  At present, it is overgrown with blackberries.

You will have guessed by now that the Deanery Bridge got its name from its nearness to this old tavern.

By the way, Mr Charles Ashhurst, who was 90 years old on 17 March last, says the only blackberry found here when he was a boy was a small bush, a native which did not spread, and which only had a very small berry, of which no use was ever made.  He thought himself fortunate when he was able to get 3 roots of the large variety from the orchard of Mr ES Wigg where they were being cultivated.

We have now got some light on the question of why settlement took place where it did.  Our district provided a commodity (timber) for which there was an urgent demand.  It was readily accessible and within payable carting distance of the market.  It had a permanent water supply, ample for the demands of settlers and their stock.  (The old newspaper Southern Australian of 20 May 1842, speaking of the whole of the Mt Barker District, says that Cox’s Creek is the only one that flows all the year round)  The settlement was situated on what, in those days passed for a main road, and the presence of the Rural Deanery alongside the ford, provided an excuse for team and teamster to halt for a spell.  It had everything necessary for success.  It remained in existence after the demand for timber slackened because the rich gullies nearby had by then been developed into successful market gardens.

There was another consideration which has not yet been hinted at, and this concerns the splitters and sawyers who lived there.  There is ample evidence that many of them (for a while, the majority of them) were either runaway sailors, convicts who had been given a ticket-of-leave in New South Wales or Tasmania, but were not allowed to return to Britain; men who had escaped from one of the penal settlements, or men who were still wanted for crimes they had committed here in South Australia.  The heavily timbered country and almost inaccessible gullies provided an ideal hiding place for anyone who had a reason for avoiding the police, and it provided them with an occupation with which most were already familiar.

The early newspapers give numerous accounts of the Tiersmen coming down to the capital and creating disturbances in Adelaide’s first theatre, committing robberies with violence and even rescuing their friends from Adelaide’s first flimsy gaol.  One man writing in 1842, says that Crafers Inn ‘derived its chief support from the reckless prodigality of the woodcutters and sawyers employed in the Forest, for the most part runaway sailors, who earned £4 or £5 a week, which they usually spent in drink’.

Another letter, dated 13 March 1840, suggests that in one respect at least we do not seem to have made much progress since those days.  It reads - ‘At present, the labour in the mountains is so exclusively in the hands of characters from the adjoining colonies of the worst description, who are naturally jealous of respectable people residing near them, that the industrious immigrants who have been accustomed to similar work are afraid to engage in it.  A case occurred a few weeks ago, when some recently arrived immigrants proceeded to the mountains to follow their occupation of sawyers - and their hut was wilfully set on fire and totally destroyed.  They have since left the colony in disgust’.  Even in those days, New Australians had their troubles!

Police reports and the published reminiscences of early colonists provide another source of information.  There is no time to quote more than one.  Alexander Tolmer, who was then a sub-Inspector of Mounted Police, and later to become famous for his gold escort from the Victorian diggings, says, ‘It was notorious that some of the worst desperadoes of New South Wales found their way hither with parties arriving overland with stock, and after squandering their money in drunkenness and debauchery in town, would retire to the Tiers and join others who had preceded them, living in log huts built in deep and almost inaccessible gullies and ravines, densely timbered and overgrown with scrub and vegetation.  Under cover of dark nights, they would thence sally forth and commit daring barefaced robberies and burglaries in the city, and again find shelter in their fastness and plant their plunder; or be harboured by sympathisers and accomplices in town, creatures of the same type as themselves, some of them publicans.

Many thrilling stories of adventure and misadventure have been told of this period of lawlessness and many more prosaic tales of losses, especially by owners of cattle.  The South Australian Company were great losers in this respect, and it was an additional mortification to them to be aware that beasts innumerable belonging to them were being shot, skinned, the brands destroyed and the meat salted and shipped overseas to foreign markets.’

There are people still living in Bridgewater, notably the Rudds, the Steers and the Ashhursts, who have repeated to me stories heard from their parents and grandparents about Cox’s Creek being a centre of this cattle-duffing business.  One went so far as to say that the barrels stored in the cellar of the Deanery often contained salt beef instead of beer.  Sometimes, a bullocky would wake up in the Deanery to find that his beer had been doped and his team had been salted!

From the same sources, we learn that it was the custom of the Tiersmen to replenish their supplies by hiding up a roadside tree when a bullock dray was approaching and, with a hook on a rope, help themselves to bags of flour etc, as the loads passed below them.

The bushrangers, Curran, Fox and Hughes were finally captured at the Crafers Inn after they had baled up Mrs Crafer and provided free drinks for all comers.  They were in no condition to resist when the police arrived.

It must not be thought that all our early residents were of this type.  Not all the immigrants were disgusted and went home again, and some of the convicts became good citizens.  A man could be deported from England at this time for poaching or minor thefts, and for many offences for which to day he would be fined.

Mr Arthur Hardy, who arrived in 1839 and was one of our early magistrates, speaks well of some of these men; he says they were sought after by the settlers and did a good day’s work.  JW Bull and others confirm this, Bull especially mentioned how one man served him faithfully for many years.

In addition to the hotel, Cox’s Creek, at a later date, had a post office and a lending library.  There is not much left of the old village now.  The green door of the old post office with a slot in it for letters, could still be seen a few years ago, serving a humble duty attached to a glass house in the Ray Nursery.  Old buildings still standing include portion of the slab hut occupied by Zebulon Batt, an early owner of part of Mr Downer’s property.  Covered with ivy, this is used by the gardener at the Arbury Park Lodge as an outhouse.

Another, with additions and an iron roof over the shingles, is occupied by Mr Kennedy.  The original portion of the Wollaston home is built of stringybark with a shingle roof now covered with iron.  This property has a further interest and it was once a vineyard and wine was made there.  It is still possible to trace the terracing on the slopes of Mt George, where the vines were planted.  At the foot of the Mountain is the wine cellar built of stone, the walls of the lower storey 2’ thick.

Just north of the Wollaston property is a small stone cottage, originally of stringybark wood.  The outer walls were later rebuilt in stone, section by section, so that the roof finally sat on the new walls.  The division walls are still slabs.  In front of this cottage, close to the road, is a large pear tree.  Mr T Wills who bought the place in 1857 is buried beneath this tree.  There were no local cemeteries and private burials were not uncommon.

The house in which I live is the third to be built on the property.  The section of 83 acres was bought for £111 by Cornelius Birdseye in 1853.  Mr Birdseye is said to be the first man ever to put a plough into the earth on the mainland of South Australia.  This was on the plains, of course, probably in 1837.  He had other properties and was living on the South Road when he bought Section 48.  There is no record that he ever lived in the Tiers.  It is more likely that the first house was built by David Johns, a nurseryman from Second Creek, who bought the property for £500 in 1858, by which time Birdseye had returned to England.

This house stood until 1934, when I removed it because it was unsafe.  It was built of stringybark timber sawn into planks over a sawpit, and used as weatherboards, and had a shingle roof.  I built a stable on the same site and used some of the original timber.  The stone chimney was so large that I was able to smoke in it four quarters of bacon at a time.

On Mr Downer’s property are the ruins of another chimney, all that remains of a wooden house occupied by William Bruce, a gardener, who bought the property from the Crown on 1 August 1850.

He added to his activities a store and a baker’s shop, and his wife did her share.  Charles Ashhurst can remember Mrs Bruce conducting a school in her home, and he says that the house faced the old orchard where afternoon tea is served when Mr Downer’s garden is open to the public.  One of Mr Bruce’s twin daughters is buried in the orchard.

Another reminder of the past is the old village street that runs in front of Mr Wollaston’s property.  It is so narrow that two motors have difficulty in passing.  There is a hedge on each side, and in the springtime, you will find in that hedge hawthorn and briar, elderberry and laurel, gorse and bramble, Kentish cherry, seedling apples and pears; and on the bank close to the ground are periwinkle, violets, spraxias and daffodils.  That lane is as English as the people who used to live there; Seth Fisher, Frederick Knighton, John Eakins, Alfred and Edward Easther, Joseph Steer, Samuel Sisson, Charles Barton, Caleb Crompton, James Rudd, Henry Fyffe, Thomas Wills, and Robert Pedder.  The only man who sounds like a foreigner is a Scotchman, Alexander Badenoch ‘frae North of the Border’.

In 1851, South Australia joined the other states in a petition to London asking the British Government to stop the transportation of felons to the convict settlements in Australia.  None had ever been sent direct to South Australia, but, as we have already seen, this State did get it share of of ticket-of-leave men and escapees.

Until 1851, criminals convicted in South Australia were not sentenced to hard labour, but were transported to Van Diemen’s Land.  We could not ask England to stop sending convicts to Van Diemen’s Land and continue to send our own, so while Dry Creek prison was being built to house these men, a temporary stockade was established at Cox’s Creek.  The convicts were housed in a wood and iron building removed from Currie street.  Twelve convicts, two overseers and four guards ‘moved in’ during August 1852.  They built the original Deanery Bridge and did a certain amount of roadwork in the vicinity.  This is the only known construction work carried out by convict labour in South Australia.

Although Dry Creek was not ready until 1854, the convicts left Cox’s Creek sometime before April 1853 and orders were given for the gaol to be moved to Port Elliot to serve as a police station, ‘ the cost of removal and re-erection not to exceed the sum of £45’.

As a stockade, it does not appear to have been very successful as the Police Gazette (known as the Hue and Cry) for 1852, contains frequent references to men escaped from Cox’s Creek.

During the 1840s, the Government built a new road to the Mt Barker district.  In the area we are interested in, this followed the present bitumen main road.  Traffic naturally used the better road and the village of Cox’s Creek found itself left high and dry on a back track.

This was bad for business (some business, anyway) and it was not long before the hotel moved to its present site on the new road, and in 1855, when the licence was held by a Mr Addison, its name was changed to the Bridgewater Hotel.  There are very few older hotels outside the suburban area.

Section 89, which runs (on the post office side of the main road) from the Old Mill Corner to just past the butcher’s shop, was bought by John Dunn and his son from the Crown on 10 June 1858, 113 acres for £601, and in the following year was laid out by them as the ‘Township of Bridgewater, situated on Cox’s Creek’.  The survey was made by JC Presgrave.  Prices had risen since the first land sales in the district.  Dunn paid approximately £5-6-4 an acre and most land before that had sold at 20/- to 30/- per acre.

Some of the earliest purchasers of town lots were William Radford, bootmaker, who lived in Hutton Cottage, and was probably our first postmaster; Noah Sisson, sawyer, who lived in a house on the site of the one now occupied by Mrs Busby.  His widow kept the post office there for a while after Mr Radford retired.

Henry Rosenthal, blacksmith, an uncle of the Misses Rosenthal we know; and Colonel William BARBER/BARBOR .  The Colonel came here to live when he retired from the Indian Army.  He built an Indian bungalow and during his lifetime, the living room was fitted with a punkah.  His grandson, Mr Leonard Marriott, is the present owner.

On the same property, just inside the front gate, is a small stone building which was once a school kept by a Mrs Hunby, whose husband worked in the mill, and later by a Mrs Marsh.  Opinions differ as to whether this school or Mrs Bruce’s was the first in the district.  It is probable that the honour should go to Mrs Bruce.  What evidence there is suggests that she was living in the district before the others and moreover she lived in the centre of the population.  It is not likely that anyone would start a school in Mrs Humby’s cottage until there were children living nearby, that is, till after Bridgewater was laid out in 1858.  (Possibly Mrs Hunby was the first in Bridgewater, but Mrs Bruce preceded her at Cox’s Creek.)

Before we leave the subject of schools, the first State School was built in 1882 and is now occupied by Balfour’s Store.  It was erected for the Education Department by Messrs Robin and Hack whose contract price was £149.  Education was not free in those days, but the Mount Barker School Board of Advice, in whose area it was, had the right to grant free instruction - and did so.  Twelve months after the opening of the school, the Board reported that the school had 47 registered scholars, the average attendance was 23 and there were 6 free scholars.  In November 1884, a notice appeared in the Gazette calling for tenders for the erection of a shelter shed and was signed Thomas Playford, Commissioner for Works - our present Premier’s grandfather.

One of the early scholars was Mr Alf Rudd, who still remembers with feeling the remarks of the parents when he reached home after his first day at school.  It wasn’t his fault, was it, if the varnish on the new seats had not had time to dry?

In 1887, permission was given for the Church of England to use the building for Church services.  The Bible Christian Denomination were the only body to hold services regularly before this date, but when they started is not certain.  It is known that they met in the Bridgewater Mill, using bags of wheat for seats, from 1860 until they moved to their own church on the hill halfway to Aldgate in 1863.  There was a cemetery in the Churchyard and some of the families known to be buried there were the Sissons, Curnows and Johns.

After the excitement of the pioneering days with its escaped convicts and bushrangers, Cox’s Creek settled down to a period of quiet during which the productions of fruit and vegetables became more important than the destruction of timber, the district became more important as a supplier of the Adelaide Market than it is today.

Mr Bruce and his partner, George Davies, took four first prizes for vegetables at the Horticultural Show in 1860.  James Curnow, the licensee of the Bridgewater Hotel at the time, took five prizes for vegetables and cut flowers.  The hotel garden was once quite famous.  As late as 1880, tenders were called for the lease for seven years of the hotel ‘with or without the garden attached’.  A few fruit trees are all that remain.  (James Curnow and his brother John judged the fruit section and gave four first prizes and two seconds to my grandfather, William Murray of Glen Osmond.)

In 1860, John Dunn & Co began a new industry when they built the Bridgewater Flour Mill.  The Lion Mill at Carripook, now generally called the Old Mill, began work in 1855, and Dunn leased this for three years until his own was ready.  This fact has been the cause of some confusion about the date of the erection of the mill with the wheel.

The Lion Mill was sold to a man named Trilling in the early ‘70s and he removed the machinery to a mill he had built at Jamestown.  For some years after that, the empty mill and the hotel were celebrated for miles around for the jolly dances held there.

When the mills were built, Bridgewater was considered a good site for a flour mill.  From Woodside in the East round to Meadows in the South was a wheatgrowing area then, and much of the wheat had to be carted through Bridgewater to Adelaide, so the mills there were well-situated to buy wheat.  They were close to the market and one mill at least had a cheap source of power in the waterwheel.  It is not generally known that there was a flour mill worked by a waterwheel on Cox’s Creek as far back as 1842.  It was situated at the rear of Mr King’s sheep paddocks just above the spot where Cox’s Creek joins the Onkaparinga.  It did not last long, as it was wrecked by a flood.  The owner, Mr Wittwer, built a new steam mill in Hahndorf and moved the grindstone from Cox’s Creek.  These same stones that ground wheat in 1842 now stand in front of the Lutheran Church in Hahndorf.

The Bridgewater Mill has a waterwheel which weighs 26 tons when full of water, is 37’ in diameter and develops 20 hp.  One authority says that the wheel uses 6,500 gallons of water per minute.  There was originally an 18 hp steam engine for emergencies.  When I came to live in Bridgewater, 28 years ago, it was run by a suction gas engine, and now it has an electric motor.

The dam just above the railway embankment did not store enough water, and in 1870 another was built further upstream on the property now called Arbury Park.  Almost as soon as it was finished, it was destroyed by a flood which carried away the Deanery Bridge, the lower dam and the Main road Bridge. the upper dam was never rebuilt.

The new Deanery Bridge was washed away again in April 1887, and the third bridge was made longer and the centre pillar added.

The mill dam was a popular picnic spot. Bathing parties were common and there were boats on the water.  It was the scene of a tragedy in the very month the mill started work.  The newspapers report that a boy was drowned ‘through going for a sail in a packing case’.

For many years, John Dunn gave an annual picnic for all his employees at the Bridgewater Mill.  A bullock would be roasted whole on a spit which was kept turning by the water wheel.

I cannot resist quoting in full a report, describing the first picnic, in the Observer of 7 January 1860.  It is valuable in helping fix the date for the erection of the Mill, and the style of our own Correspondent at Mt Barker is too good to miss.  He says:

Our town on Monday presented a rather deserted appearance, so completely had the attractions of Cox’s Creek exerted their potent allurements.  At about half past 9am, two of Mr Dunn’s waggons, each drawn by three horses, started from the rendezvous, conveying full loads of living and dead freight, for, although an unlucky accident prevented my being a partaker of the joyous cavalcade, I have been tolerably well informed as to the proceedings ... Horsewomen, horsemen, and vehicles swelled the throng, and I believe I am well under the mark when I say that fully 150 persons were present, including several from town.

The repast was partaken of in the first storey of the mill - a new and most substantial building - to be worked by water, with auxiliary steam power should the water fail.  A noble dam has been erected holding back a fine head of water.  The machinery for the mill has just arrived from England and I hear that the waterwheel alone weighs 26 tons and is capable of turning eight pairs of stones.  After spending a delightful day, the party returned, greatly pleased, and without the slightest accident.

We have noticed that the hotel moved from Cox’s Creek to Bridgewater.  The presence of the hotel, the mill, the main road, together with the sale of blocks in the new township, caused a general shift of population, and the village of Cox’s Creek gradually faded away.  But not quite, at the last Federal Elections in December, when Charles Ashhurst came in to vote, I noticed that his address was still given on the roll as Cox’s Creek.

The first post office was near the Deanery Bridge, in front of Mr Irrgang’s house.  It is not possible to state when it was opened, but we do know that a recommendation for a post office at Cox’s Creek was made to Cabinet on 28 April 1858, and approved on 5 May and that the new Postmaster-General’s report for the year ending 30 June 1863, has a reference to the cost of mail deliveries to Cox’s Creek post office.  Between 1858 and 1862 is the nearest we can state at present.  When the post office moved to Bridgewater, it was still called Cox’s Creek.  The name was not changed to Bridgewater until Messrs Radford and Dunn organised a petition to the Postmaster-General in 1873.

Both the Radford family and the Dunn family have claimed the honour of naming the town.  It is quite true that John Dunn ‘laid out the township of Bridgewater on Cox’s Creek’.  It is also true that Radford was primarily responsible for changing the name of the post office.  (Apparently for sentimental reasons, because he came from Bridgewater in England.  Dunn has no such reason, as he came from Bideford in Devon.)

In this discussion about names, there are three important dates to remember, and there can be no question about their correctness.

1. James Addison called the Hotel Bridgewater 1855.  It is not known why he chose the name.

2. John Dunn laid out - and named - the Township of Bridgewater in 1859.

3. At the suggestion of William Radford, the name of the post office was changed to Bridgewater in 1873.

Strictly speaking, John Dunn did name the town, but it was Addison who introduced the name Bridgewater four years before the town existed.  In this connection, it is interesting to note that three towns close together were named after hotels which existed before the towns which grew up around them - Crafers, Bridgewater and Aldgate.

Near the first post office was the first lending library.  This was really a branch of the library in Paddy Carey’s Gully.  Mr John Welfare who lived in a slab house just at the rear of Mr Gates’ home was a member at the Gully and kept some books at his home for the convenience of other members.

It is a pity that many of the old names have dropped out of use.  District Council Minutes, seventy years ago, give Mr Welfare’s address as Lion Mill Road, but the name is never heard now.  Another good name, full of early associations, was lost when Wembley Avenue was named.  It used to be the Wheat Road, so called because wheat from Echunga, Strathalbyn and other places beyond Mylor reached the Bridgewater Mill by that route.  It is said that John Dunn cleared the road and built the big culvert at the back of Miss Rosenthal’s house at his own expense, so that the wheat did not have to go round through Aldgate.  When it did that, the Lion Mill at Carripook got first choice and Dunn got what was left.

The railway to Aldgate was opened for traffic on 14 March 1882.  Construction of the next section, Aldgate to Nairne, had already commenced in October 1880.  The contractors, Bailey, Davis and Wishart, leased the Lion Mill from Martin Kain for 7/- per week and used it as a depot.

A camp for navvies sprang up in Bridgewater and its peace and quiet were disturbed for a while.  It became necessary to establish a police station on the recreation ground, the first police station between Adelaide and Mount Barker.  Sittings of the local court were held in Bridgewater often in the house of the Justice of the Peace, Colonel Barber.

The Mount Barker Courier for this period contains many reports of cases tried there.  The usual charge was ‘drunk and disorderly’.

There was no lock-up at first, and on 2 September 1881, the Courier reports that one of the navvies ‘for want of better means of detaining him was chained to a log.  Before morning, he had made himself scarce, log and all, and managed to reach his camp below the Summit Station, about three miles away, where, with the assistance of his mates, he rid himself of his encumbrance’.

This man had been arrested on a Saturday, which was also a pay day.  The report goes on to say that considerable damage had been done to the doors and windows of the hotel.  The row was continued on Monday and fights on the Main Road were frequent.  The police were called, three ringleaders were arrested and chained up in the stable of the Half Way House.  This was the old name for the Stirling Hotel.

Arrangements were made later to use the little cottage alongside Mr Schumacher’s house for a lock-up.  The Bridgewater railway station, 1307’ above sea level, was opened for traffic on 27 November 1883.  George Rudd, father of Will and Alf, was station agent until 1887, in addition to being postmaster, baker and storekeeper.  In that year, the station-master’s residence was built at a cost of £338.16.0.  One result of the Building of the railway was a land boom.  The Courier of 29 July 1881 reports instances of land bought at £10 per acre, being sold for £100.

The following August, Dr CM Deane of Mt Barker advertised that he might be consulted at the Bridgewater Hotel on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 12.00 to 1.00 during the continuance of the railway works.  He was the first doctor to consult in Bridgewater.

Finally, it was the increase in population due to the railway camp and the land sales that decided the establishment of the school.

This is only a rough outline of the main events in our early history.  I hope enough has been said to enable you to clothe in flesh and blood the bare bones of the inscription on the memorial tablet:

Cox’s Creek, originally Cock’s Creek, was named after Robert Cock, who led the first part to reach Lake Alexandrina from Adelaide.  They camped hereabouts on Christmas Day, 1837.  The old village of Cox’s Creek was half way upstream where the bullock waggon track crossed.  The township of Bridgewater was laid out by John Dunn on the new carriage road in 1859.

--- End ---


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BLAKE, LJ Gold escort Melbourne 1971.

BUTLER, R Goodness and gold at Woodside Adelaide 1985.

CLYNE, R Colonial blue - a history of the SA police force 1836-1916 Adelaide 19487.

GOSSE, F The Gosses - an Anglo-Australian family Canberra 1981.

MANNING, GH Manning’s Place Names of South Australia Adelaide 1990.

MARTIN, R Under Mount Lofty Adelaide 1987.

PASCOE, JJ History of Adelaide & vicinity Adelaide 1901 (Facsimile 1972)

PEAKE, AJ Woodhouse Adelaide 1991.

RAGLESS, ME (Ed) Oliver’s diary Adelaide 1986. An annotated edition of Oliver Ragless’s journeys to the Victorian goldfields 1852.

STATTON, J Biographical Index of South Australians 1836-1885 Volumes 1-4 Adelaide 1986.

STUART, Anthony A miller’s tale - the memoirs of John Dunn of Mount Barker Adelaide 1991.

UPTON, Alan South Australia’s first bushrangers Crafers 1984.

76-3 Mrs EW Waddy notes speech 23/11/1936 to Bridgewater children doing a historical survey.

WARBURTON, Elizabeth The paddocks beneath Adelaide 1981.

WELLS, WH A geographical dictionary or gazetteer of the Australian colonies Sydney 1848 (facsimile 1970)

WHITELOCK, Derek Adelaide 1836-1976: a history of difference. UQP 1977.

WHITWORTH, RP Balliere’s South Australian Gazetteer and road guide Adelaide 1866 (facsimile 1991).

WIGG FAMILY ES Wigg and his successors Adelaide 1992.


Arbury Park Outdoor School; Julie Bourke; Dawn Coles; Tom Dyster; Elise Gardiner; Eve & Peter Hine; Lydia Hutchison; Bob Lewis; Elto Mansell; Chris Marriott; Von Morriss; Bill Pepper; Harold Radbone; Joe Rudd; Michael Sincock; Peter Whitington & Wayne Slape; Quentin Wollaston; staff of the Coventry Library at Stirling; Jill Ahlberg, Archivist for the Mt Lofty Historical Society.

SA Gazette & Mining Journal 14/4/1849


An extraordinary undertaking of the most promising character has been for some months maturing within the quietude of that part of the neighbouring forest which is intersected by CCox Creek. GM Stephen Esqu, the proprietor off 500 acres in that vicinity, containing much valuable timber,, vast masses of rich iron ore, and abundant wood fueel, havinng been advised by Mr Crockett, an eminent iron-master, and other practical gentlemen, to turn these treasures to account, did not hesitate to put forth his strength; and spiritedly purchased a sixty-horse steam-engine, which has been upon the spot. This power, superadded to a considerable amount of water-power which is available throughout the year, will enable the people to be employed , and to be employed on Mr Stephen’s establishment, to operate, extensively in the sawing and preparation of timber for local consumption, in the smelting and manufacture of iron and in rolling any quantity of the refined copper of the colony into sheets, for marine sheathing and other purposes. We bate the strong smack it has of the Milner Estate puffery.

Forest Iron-Smelting and Steam-Sawing Works set up at Cox Creek in the late 1840s. James Dunstan was foreman of the operation and looked after orders. Interesting advertisement p 4.

The business was sold in 1852, as a result of bankruptcy. Workshops, Forge and every convenience for carrying on what must be evident to a capitalist, one of the most flourishing and profitable Timber trades in the colonies.

The creek runs with considerable force for great part of the year through the property, and could be applied to turn a powerful Water-Wheel. Sections 1117, 1118, 1130, 1131, 1137 containing 464 acres altogether. Register 16/9/1852.

The broad palings recently brought in from the more distant Tiers have been pronounced superior, upon the whole, to any imported from Tasmania. The average breadth is rather more than 6”, the article is stout, and in point of durability we understand the SA palings are decidedly superior. The price now readily obtainable is such as to warrant the expectation that supplies from the Tiers at the back of Mt Lofty range may eventually render importation unnecessary.

SA Weekly Dispatch 23/9/1854.

Nixon’s Road - This road, which has been marked out for a long time, has very recently been placed (as far as regards that position from the Mt Barker Road to Cox Creek, including the bridge) under the care of Messrs England and Coultard, contractors, of this city, and at the present begins to assume a tolerably finished appearance. The road starts at a point on the Mt Barker Road, about four miles from Crafer’s Inn, and, continuing about two miles and a half, comes out by Hahndorf. It is carried over Cox Creek by a substantial bridge with stone abutments, and a wooden platform of red and blue gum supported on five girders - one of the best bridges in the colony.

Throughout its entire length, the road will be constructed on such an easy level that a gig may be driven over it with safety, the fall being, on an average, not more than one foot in nineteen. The road beyond Cox Creek has been contracted for, and will be completed in two months. There is every prospect of a township being speedily established at Cox Creek, there being already one mill erected in the neighbourhood, which is nearly completed; and we understand that another is contemplated, to be moved by water-power, of which there is an abundant supply. In addition to this, there are in course of erection several substantial stone buildings, one of which is the property of Mr Addison, of the Deanery, and will be occupied by him as an inn when it is completed. The building will be most spacious, and well adapted to afford comfort and convenience to the wayfarer.

Adelaide Times 11/4/1855.

New road to Hahndorf completed by the autumn of 1855.

The old house of entertainment, The Deanery, is pulled down and a fine substantial building of stone has been erected by Mr Addison on the new line of road. The new house is called The Bridgewater Hotel. It is not quite completed in its interior fittings, but it is expected that it will be ready for the accommodation of all comers in about a month.

SA Register 5/5/1855

The road between Mountain Hut and Eagle’s Nest called ‘the devil’s elbow’, ‘stony pinch’, ‘teamster’s curse’, and ‘cut-throat hill’. Detour now made to improve the incline for all vehicles.

SA Register Inquest at the Bridgewater Hotel.

Mrs Daws, the wife of the organist of the Wesleyan Methodist Church, Pirie-St, died from injuries when a light cart upset in front of the Lion Mill (28/2/1857)

Register 6/11/1857

Lamprey found in Cox Creek in late 1857. Came upstream from the Onkaparinga, which had long had this fish. The lamprey attached themselves by the mouth to the banks of the creek. A good place for people to catch this delicious food.

SA Register 6/1/1858

Miss Beyer, of the Bridgewater Hotel, christened the small dam which J Dunn’s workmen built across Cox Creek. Called the Bridgewater Dam. Adelaide visitors came to visit the new waterfall. A mill to be built relying on both steam and water power.

SA Register 22/11/1858

A few specks of gold found. Landlord August Beyer showed visitors some of the gold.

SA Register 30/11/1858

A Beyer died apparently of sunstroke (25/11/1858) in the gullies above the Government Farm on his way to Brownhill Creek and Adelaide. Had been in the colony about 11 years and had taken over the Bridgewater Hotel about 12 months ago, when James Addison went to Adelaide. Aged 53, ‘deeply lamented by his family and a large circle of friends’.

[A Beyer and his family arrived in the Pauline 1848, from Hamburg. Organist, storekeeper, publican. Opened a general store on the corner of Pirie and Freeman (Gawler Pce) St. Left this to his son when he went to live at the Bridgewater Hotel in 1857]

SA Register 11/2/1859

Great fire which stretched from the foot of Germantown Hill, near the Onkaparinga River, back to Crafers. Burnt on the empty hills for a week before destroying much property at Cox Creek and Crafers on 6 Feb.

SA Register 15/4/1859

Severe frosts at Cox Creek. Cut off great breadths of half-hardy esculents, such as French beans, scarlet runners, vegetable marrows etc. One settlers lost a six-acre patch of potatoes, ‘excepting as far as pigs’ food is concerned’. A smoke being created over a garden at daylight after a night of white frost greatly obviates the injury which would otherwise be sustained and is as serviceable a remedy in the case of vines in the spring as it is in the case of tender vegetables in the autumn.

SA Register 27/2/1860

A boy drowned in Dunn’s Dam. He had been sailing in a packing case across the water, when he was overturned.

SA Register 26/3/1861

W Rounsevall had erected new stables half way between Crafers and Mr Gould’s. An accident there shortly afterwards, when the horses wanted to turn in and the driver decided to go on. Ground soft from recent rain and no one hurt when the Mt Barker mail coach capsised.

SA Register 9/1/1862

Woodhouse is built on Cox Creek, further up towards Mt Lofty.

SA Register 4/1/1865

Dunn & Son gave their usual annual dinner to Bridgewater Mill employees at the nearby Hotel.

The Advertiser 11/8/1866

Johnston’s flour mill at Cox Creek stopped work, ‘owing to the unfavourable state of the market’.

The Advertiser 27/10/1868 Bridgewater/Cox Creek

Samuel Sisson shot himself in a paddock adjoining his house garden. He had lived in Bridgewater for 14 years and had worked for Dunn’s for some 7 years. ‘He was a man of sober, temperate habits, and highly respected by everyone that knew him ... He leaves a wife and four children.’

SA Register 3/8/1869

Mr Radford, of Bridgewater, also says that the frost at that place is harder than has been known for years past. At the Bridgewater Hotel, the ice has been thick enough to bear a man on it, and yesterday they experienced the heaviest snow storm that has been seen for the last six years.

SA Register 17/8/1870

On 15 August, one of the most destructive floods seen for years swept away and completely destroyed the large dam lately constructed at great expense, by Messrs Dunn & Co, at Bridgewater Mills. The old one, too, that has stood during 15 years is demolished. In its course of destruction the flood carried off the Deanery, Bridgewater Garden, and Mill Bridges, all three being rendered useless. Messrs Batt and Garland’s gardens have suffered most severely, everything, even to fruit trees nine or ten years old, being ruined, and such a wreck was never seen before. The water rose to two feet over the Cox Creek Bridge, on the Mt Barker Road.

The Advertiser 18/11/1871

The escaped female lunatic .... was seen by some children making her way towards Bridgewater, along the old Mt Barker-road (just above the Sawmill-road) about 1.30pm. Towards evening, she was captured and lodged in the Bridgewater Hotel for the night. This morning, she was forwarded to town in a spring-cart under the care of a police-trooper who had been sent out in quest of her.

The Advertiser 2/1/1875

On the dam was a pair-oared boat, and many who had never seen such a thing in their lives were gratified with not only the sight, but the privilege of being rowed up and down the stream. The skiff was kept on the move throughout the day until late in the evening ... About 12o’clock, the Hon John Dunn called upon the party to muster on the green sward, bags being provided to prevent harm arising from the dampness of the ground. Sandwiches, meat, pies and choice dainties were dealt out until all expressed themselves satisfied. The picknickers, numbering about 300, then distributed themselves. Some went to the wild dogs’ cave, others had a throw at Aunt Sally, others again inspected the mill, and those who believed in the manly game of cricket spent a couple of hours in that healthy exercise. ... In the second storey [of the mill], a brisk game of football was played, and the band taking up their position in the first storey, assisted to enliven the proceedings. As intimated by the Hon John Dunn in the morning, no intoxicating drink was introduced into the festivities.

The Chronicle 30/12/1876

Towards night, sheet lightning was very vivid from the south, and about 3am on Tuesday morning, a severe storm broke over the Hills. The peals of thunder were terrific, whilst the lightning was awfully grand. The tempest subsiding, a gentle and steady downpour of rain followed, and was still descending at 7.30am.

SA Register 11/11/1879

But still more disastrous was the damage ... along the roads in the hills. The mail drivers on these roads reported on their arrival in town that they were in some places almost covered with boughs and limbs of trees. The Mt Barker coach was brought to a standstill no fewer than three times between the ten-mile post and the Mountain Hut, in consequence of the obstruction of timber...

Mt Barker Courier 2/9/1881

Last Saturday was pay-day on the Nairne Railway works at Bridgewater, and as a natural consequence drunken brawls and riotous conduct were the order of the day; the police made some arrests and finally dispersed the mob, but not before they had effected considerable damage to the doors and windows of the Bridgewater Hotel. On Monday, the row was continued, and fights in the main road were of frequent occurrence. The police were again sent for and arrested three of the ringleaders, whom they chained up in the stable at the Half-way House Hotel for the night.

Mt Barker Courier 14/10/1881

Our neighbourhood is growing rapidly, one scarcely goes from one part of the district to the other, but he sees buildings of various kinds springing up, from the lordly mansion to the less pretentious cot of the gardener. And in the vicinity of the Nairne Railway, between Crafers and Bridgewater, are little canvas towns containing a numerous roving population, here today and gone tomorrow, but, for the time, creating a bustling life where a short time ago nothing but dense scrub and brushwood were to be seen.

Mt Barker Courier 2/5/1885

Mr WB Orchard renovated the Bridgewater Hotel.

From the back balcony, which is very high above the ground as it slopes away to the creek, a very extensive view can be gained of the Railway together with Dunn’s dam and the bridge just below it.

Mt Barker Courier 25/9/1885

Bridgewater Cricket Club It was decided to hold future meetings in Mr Radford’s shop, many members being of opinion that holding meetings at an hotel involved too much expense.

Mt Barker Courier 27/2/1891

On Saturday, the employes of Messrs Scrymgour & Sons, Adelaide, held their annual wayzgoose there. The annual dinner for printers, whose chief food used to be a goose. Wayzgoose literally stubble or fat goose. Railways employees, Operative bootmakers, Sugar Company, Delmold’s paper warehouse, Adelaide and Suburban Carters’ Association. Up to 2,000 picknickers a day at the height of the summer season at the turn of the century.

The Chronicle 20/11/1897

A discovery was made by a picnic party on Monday of the skeleton of a man lying in Dead-Man’s Gully at Bridgewater. A large carving knife was in the right hand, and from the appearance it would seem that the throat had been cut. The local police were at once informed, and on examination of the remains an outdoor patient’s order for the Adelaide Hospital was discovered bearing a name which has led the city authorities to believe that the deceased was a man who was admitted to the Destitute Asylum on 21 July of this year and who left the institution on 5 August ...

Mt Barker Courier 9/11/1900

On Saturday night, at Bridgewater, between the old mill and the Methodist Church. Mrs AJ Thomson, of Victoria Square, Adelaide, was assaulted and robbed of her purse. When she passed the old mill, the same man met her, seized hold of her, and threw her to the ground. She said In God’s name, tell me what you want! Have you no mother, that you treat a woman like this?’

The man replied that he wanted her purse, and she, after a struggle, in which she was several times struck by her assailant, gave him her purse and money, which consisted of a £1-note and silver.

The robber boarded the train at Aldgate and cooly through (sic) the purse out of the carriage window between Mt Lofty and Mitcham. Later, he used the money to buy drinks at the Mitcham Hotel.

Courier 2/8/1901

An extraordinary fall of snow occurred here on Saturday night and Sunday, and the view that met the eye of early-risers on Sunday morning was a sight to be long remembered. The oldest inhabitant here - 50 years standing - does not remember ever seeing such a sight. The hedges, fences and scrub were clothed with a thick covering, while the ground had a white carpet two or three inches deep, aind in some places even more than that. On taking a walk, one was met on all sides with boys and girls, and even men and women, who snowballed to their heart’s content. The aged as well as the young seemed to thoroughly enjoy the fun, and not one resented the liberty taken by others in pelting them with snow. On all sides, there were to be seen built up large snow men, while huge balls of snow were rolled up against fences and trees.

A remarkably large pig was killed here last week by Mr G Rudd. The animal, which attracted a great deal of attention from residents, when dressed turned the scales at 509lb, and was considered the largest pig killed in the district for some considerable time. Many attempts were made to guess the weight of the animal, and the figures quoted ranged from 400lb up to 525lb.

Courier 14/11/1902

Bridgewater is becoming a very popular resort of pleasure-seekers from the city, and on Monday, over 1,400 passengers arrived here by train and about 600 by road. The gullies and hillsides were besieged by the visitors, who spent the day in gathering wild flowers and ferns, and all seemed to enjoy themselves thoroughly.

Very boisterous weather has been experienced here today, trees being uprooted and all moveable chattels being whisked about by the wind. A little rain fell this afternoon.

Chronicle 18/8/1906

The public meeting held on Monday evening to receive the report of the new school committee and other business affecting the welfare of the township, was largely attended. It was unanimously decided to secure if possible the present schoolroom as an institute and circulating library. A committee of management was appointed. The new bridge lately constructed by the Government was referred to and the opinion was expressed that matters generally in the vicinity had begun a foreward movement.

Chronicle 19/10/1907

The new school, reflecting the greatest credit upon the Education Department, erected upon a good elevation close to the railway and township, is one of the best in the state, and a great acquisition, not only to the district, but to summer visitors, whose children during the hot weather can now enjoy the beauties of the hills and also good educational advantages.

Chronicle 13/6/1908

Arbor Day was celebrated at the local school today (1 June). After lessons suitable for the occasion, the children, with the help of Mr Rudd (Chairman of the Board of Advice), planted 26 trees, consisting of American elms, cork elms, English oaks and poplar.

Chronicle 13/1/1938

Fred Dunn, grandson of John Dunn Senr.

The wheel was made in Aberdeen, and has a diameter of 35’ and weighs 25 tons. Very few know that the water flowed away through a drain under the creek, joining it again near where the main road bridge now stands. The drain is still there, but the entrance is overgrown.

I can go back to 67 years ago, when there was more than one attraction near the wheel. One was a bank of huge white strawberries. We used to look at the wheel and then look at the strawberries. On the other side of the race there were cherry trees. As the strawberries were sometimes not quite ripe, and the trees bore cooking cherries, mother was sometimes puzzled as to why we were making wry faces when we came home.

Chronicle 15/8/1940

‘No trumps’ wanted to know if Bridgewater was named after Bridgewater in England. Well, yes it was, and if I remember rightly, it was my grandfather who named it that. It was known as Cox’s Creek until then.

My grandfather’s old home still stands and is well preserved with people living in it. He called it ‘Hutton Cottage’ after Hutton in England, and the house and land are still owned by my brother. ... I have a good collection of presed orchids I collected while living at Bridgewater. They are very pretty, and have retained their colour well. During the month of October, Bridgewater used to be just a mass of yellow broom and wild wallflowers, but so much of the land has been sold and, of course, cleared, with houses built on it, that much of its natural beauty has disappeared.

Chronicle 13/1/1933

South Australian 15/5/1849 p 2.

William Giles: It was almost a miracle to go twenty times to Mt Barker without an accident...

Samuel Stocks Junr: He did not hesitate to say they [roads to Mt Barker] were formed without the slightest pretence to engineering skill. No attempt was made to carry them properly along a range of hills, but they sloped and ran sideways, in this position (holding a book in a way which pretty justly represented those roads).

South Australlian 1/6/1849

We take this opportunity to direct attention to a remarkable instance of negligence on the part of the Engineer department. An excellent road, about four miles, between Crafers Inn and Cox Creek, made some years ago, enabled the traveller to avoid the worst part of the track to Mt Barker. Through sheer neglect, the drains through which the mountain streamlets passed choked up, and these have made breaches in the road, which render it impassable. An expenditure of hundreds of pounds is thus rendered useless, and the old track is again the wretched medium of communication.

South Australian 30/11/1849

The steam engine of 60-hp, for driving the circular and vertical saws, is now in full operation (though the chimney is only hald the height originally intended) and everything is found to work sweetly. The amount of work which one of the circular saws is capable of performing, was tried with the watch on Wednesday, in presence of some visitors, and it was found that a foot of quartering was sawn in less than a second, making its performance in a working day of 10 hours, upwards of 36,,000 feet, running measure. This is the first of the kind established in the colony. It is an immense undertaking, and we fell highly delighted at being able to announce the successful commencement of the operations. As we intend visiting the works shortly, we shall have the pleasure in a future number of fully describing them.

Joseph Whalley died October 1881. He worked on the old Cox Creek timber mills and later was gardener on the Woodhouse Estate)

For the Bridgewater centenary, Mr AR Downer offered to supply trees and shrubs to landscape the township. Offer accepted and voluntary labour grubbed blackberries and carted away rocks. Gardens feature of grotto and pool. Became a temptation for visitors to pick the blooms ‘had a good bunch of erica and veronica in her arms’ 1937. Improvements Balls in the Institute - the room decorated like a very elaborate garden. Fox Movietone cameramen from Melbourne filmed the gardens, on a sightseeing excursion through the Hills. Later made into a feature newsreel. Garden parties at Arbury Park to raise money for the village landscape scheme.

Centenary celebrations 1936 - village fair opened by Lady Bonython on the village green. Greasy pig chase, tossing the caber, husband-beating, putting the weight. Lady Bonython was a cousin to Mr AR Downer. She asked that people get rid of unsightly advertisements on buildings etc. GS Fowler was treasurer for the village fair. HH Shannon MP worked hard for the town. SA Railways Band played free for the afternoon. Officials dressed in early Victorian costume.

Courier 23/12/1937

When Mr E Cleaver of the Bridgewater Poultry Settlement was driving home on Friday last, his horse dropped dead on the roadway.

Sir John Morphett’s father was a partner in the firm of Wesse, Dendy & Morphett, Chancery Lane, London.

V popular place for blackberry pickers. Some thought to have started bushfires.

Cox Creek gardens used to be irrigated using watering cans and tossing water from the stream using a scoop.

Trees cut down along Carey Gully Road in 1939 - a great outcry, with photos of the despoiled road and the uncut Deanery road in contrast. News 20/7/1939.