(Series of Articles Originally Published in The Village Voice (Hahndorf's Community Newsletter) 2009-2010 by Reg Butler)
As Littlehampton’s 150th birthday celebrations during 2009 draw to a close, cordial greetings from 160 year-old Eldest Big Sister Hahndorf seem appropriate.
These two Adelaide Hills towns have always got on well. One outstanding modern example of co-operation which present-day citizens of both places instantly appreciate, is in fielding combined junior football teams under the auspices of the Hahndorf Football Club. Peter Edmonds, the Central Division Under 13s coach in 2009, profoundly understands part of the secret of this success: The lads are all evenly matched in their playing ability, really love playing footy … with a really good hit out against Mount Barker. Of all this – more in a future episode.
Hahndorf and Littlehampton forged many of their earliest links through the hospitality industry. Right from the time when the German Arms Hotel opened in early 1839 at Hahndorf, the scattered pioneer famers and their labourers of the area which later became Littlehampton, were often drawn there during tedious journeys to and from Adelaide. No doubt, there was also much fraternising between the two regions at the German Arms after normal local working hours during the week and at week-ends.
The German Arms publican, Gottfried Lubasch, assisted by his daughter Louisa, was also the first Government mail contractor between Adelaide and the Mount Barker District for some years. Louisa sometimes accompanied her father on his official journeys to Adelaide and then often took the on-going mail herself to nearby settlements once the incoming mail bags had reached Hahndorf. She married Mount Barker farmer and publican Lachlan McFarlane and both lie buried in the quiet graveyard surrounding St James Blakiston.
Hahndorf’s mainly German population soon appreciated the ministry of St James Anglican Church, opened at Blakiston during 1847. For whatever reason when the Lutheran Church was not favoured for the various rites of passage, St James was often chosen instead. Indeed, the first marriage performed in that church was for well-known Hahndorf couple, Alfred von Doussa and Anna Dorothea Schach. Their descendants have continued to play various roles in Adelaide Hills affairs ever since.
Littlehampton’s founder, the enterprising carpenter Benjamin Gray from Littlehampton, Sussex, England, emigrated with his wife and unidentified infant son aboard the Resource in 1839, and settled in Blakiston some time during 1841. He persuaded Francis Robert Hunt, his partner in a burgeoning livestock business, and two other fellow parishioners at St James to join him in laying out a new township on both sides of the Great Eastern Road during 1849, all four men contributing portion of their own land towards the project.
At this point, a curious alignment of events must be considered. Also in 1849, over in Hahndorf, the founder of the German Arms, Gottfried Lubasch, decided to relinquish his role as landlord in order to become a full-time farmer. He leased the hotel to James Ide and his wife, Sarah Hopkins Ide (double cousins as well because their respective fathers had married sisters), colonists from East Wittering in Sussex, whose forebears had managed the village inn there for over fifty years. Only some 35 kilometres due west along the coast from Littlehampton, it is not inconceivable that as a carpenter fulfilling more distant contracts away from home, Benjamin Gray occasionally patronised the George and in the course of events had become acquainted with these very same James Ides, young people of his own age.
Friendship rekindled in South Australia, it takes little further imagination to envisage lively discussions over mutual rosy futures. The hotel-keeping Ides at Hahndorf could assure Gray that they would lend huge practical support to his visionary plans for opening a brewery in nearby Littlehampton, in preference to dealing with the Scottish Johnstons at more distant Oakbank.
Whatever the truth of the matter, Gray certainly lost no time in establishing that Littlehampton brewery the following year, 1850, in partnership with his land and stock business partner FR Hunt, a well-connected young colonist from Northumberland, England, who had links likely dating from pre-emigration days with Francis Davison, the founder of the adjacent spread-out rural village of Blakiston. No doubt, newly-brewed barrels of amber liquid were soon bound regularly for the German Arms at Hahndorf.
FR Hunt followed permanently two years later. He abandoned brewing for hotelkeeping after marriage at St James Blakiston, of course, with the German Arms landlady, the recently widowed Sarah Hopkins Ide, whose beloved James had unexpectedly expired of brain fever the year before.
Fuelled by prosperity following numerous minor gold discoveries between Hahndorf and Echunga, the Hunts presided over an increasingly busy German Arms. Mid 1856, Mrs Hunt’s young nephew, Thomas Ide, arrived from East Wittering, as an energetic re-inforecement to manage affairs. The family moved their hotel across the main street to its present site, and lived in Yantaringa, a spacious new stone residence eventually surrounded by vineyard on the hill behind.
Suddenly, out of the blue, Benjamin Gray himself managed to nail a valuable further financial stake in Hahndorf, when Gottlieb Andreas Schuetze, the founder of Hahndorf’s second hotel, the Australian Arms, also decided to expand on the coat tails of gold fever. He borrowed substantial money from Gray, probably to help fund his spanking new two-storey hotel across the main street, the Union Inn, forerunner of the present-day Hahndorf Inn, during 1858. In addition, the Union became a tied house – obliged to purchase its beer from the Littlehampton Brewery.
Unfortunately, GA Schuetze over-reached himself in his business affairs. Those 1850s gold finds quickly slumped to become more rumour than reality. Schuetze declared bankruptcy in 1862, whereupon Benjamin Gray became the owner of the Union Inn, in friendly competition with his former Littlehampton business partner FR Hunt at the German Arms.
Gray never operated the Union Inn (later the Union Hotel) himself. He installed his own managers, including for a long period Mrs Hunt’s aforesaid nephew Thomas Ide, who had assumed sole responsibility for the German Arms in 1862 on a lease from his uncle FR Hunt, who was now his brother-in-law. Aunt Sarah Hunt formerly Ide had died in 1859, and uncle and nephew duly married – to the Bolte sisters – yes, at St James Blakiston.
Hahndorf’s industrious citizens further impinged upon Benjamin Gray’s imagination; these people represented almost captive customers. Probably while building the government contracted stone bridge to replace a ford across the Onkaparinga River at what is now Verdun, in the early 1850s, Gray became good friends with John Stanley, a local farmer with means who soon afterwards, in 1853, suddenly decided to turn publican and likely had Gray build the still operating Stanley Bridge Hotel for him. Hahndorfians often patronised the well-known Stanley Bridge watering hole, because Gruenthal quickly attracted numbers of German residents bringing with them inevitable close attachments to Hahndorf. No doubt, Littlehampton beer became available at the Stanley Bridge fairly promptly as well.
Gray and Stanley must have possessed similar entrepreneurial minds. During 1856, the two men further co-operated to lay out an unofficial rural village similar in style to Blakiston, on part Section 4083 Hundred of Onkaparinga, a low hill (now the site of a mobile phone tower) which John Stanley owned, directly to the north of Grivell Road behind the present-day post office and Uniting Church at Verdun. The sub-division became known as Mount Stanley, and included John Stanley’s residence, where he died during 1874.
A widower since 1867, Benjamin Gray died in 1879 as a result of an industrial accident at his brewery. His son and three daughters, all without descendants, decided to operate the Union Hotel at Hahndorf through a family trust, together with those other two considerable assets, Gray’s Inn at Mount Barker, and that Littlehampton Brewery which had sparked it all.
Following the brewery’s closure, the Gray Estate disposed of the brewery site in 1921, which within a few years emerged as the ideal location for a greatly expanded flourishing ham and bacon processing factory transferred from cramped quarters in Littlehampton’s main street. When Guildford Gray’s widow, Sylvia Gray, died in 1932, the original trust was finally wound up and the two hotels were sold to the brewers J & AG Johnston of Oakbank.
Hahndorf and Littlehampton lie in adjacent valleys separated by a steep range of watershed hills. Windsor Avenue in Hahndorf leads onto a local road which winds its way across a convenient low gap in this terrain. Over the other side, through what used to be dense bush scrub, the road directs traffic by several routes into a wide valley, which until long after Littlehampton was founded was generally known as Blakiston, taking its name from Francis Davison’s estate and adjoining village on the eastern edge.
Davison himself quickly became a household name both at Blakiston and Hahndorf, because he was a Justice of the Peace and a magistrate on the Bench of the Mount Barker Local Court. Convoluted accounts of noisy trials involving broken English-speaking German inhabitants of both areas became a regular feature in the newspapers of the day.
After the initial basic land surveys in the late 1830s and throughout the 1840s were enough advanced, land ownership at Blakiston became a complex mixture of absentee speculators and landlords, gradually giving way to resident owner farmers. Labourers for these farms came daily from Hahndorf, Mount Barker and Nairne, especially at grain harvest and sheep shearing time, when workers often stayed overnight and longer with their employers.
Hahndorf’s young men on the point of marriage and setting up farms for themselves grew in numbers. Some of the 1839 Hahndorf foundation settler families were large and suitable land within Hahndorf’s immediate environs had mostly been taken over for cultivation by the end of the 1840s. Blakiston beckoned!
Keen to diversify into farming and mining, the first registered landowners from Hahndorf to settle in the Blakiston area arrived during 1850.
First amongst them were Johann Christoph Liebelt, his wife and a family of four adult sons and one daughter. The Christoph Liebelts settled on land facing the main road between present-day Littlehampton and Balhannah. Christoph Liebelt’s four sons gradually took up their own farms in close proximity to their father, and the only daughter married Johann Carl Altmann, who farmed Blackwood Park nearer Balhannah. Saint Michael’s Lutheran Church purchased the Christoph Liebelt’s former house block in Hahndorf’s main street, and used the site on which to establish the parish school at about the same time as the new Saint Michael’s Church was erected.
The other 1850 Hahndorf to Blakiston removal involved the wheelwright Johann Gottlieb Nitschke and his family. Gottlieb had already shifted once within the Hahndorf township itself, and then left his home on the site of present-day Johnston Park for Klemzig along the Torrens River. Back to the Hills in 1850, the family moved to the north of Blakiston village, to Section 4421 Hundred of Macclesfield along present-day Nitschke Road. Soon afterwards, the young Liebelt and Nitschke men joined forces to travel overland to the recently discovered gold finds in the vicinity of Bendigo Victoria, and used the profits from their mining endeavours to purchase futher land in the Blakiston area.
Only several years after these young adventurers returned to Blakiston, the Gottlieb Nitschkes became embroiled in the disastrous Pastors Fritzsche-Kavel religious split in Hahndorf which caused Gottlieb to uproot his family for Walton, a quiet agricultural region between Tanunda and Greenock on the western fringes of the Barossa Valley. Gottlieb sold his Blakiston farm to his recently-married nephew, Johann Carl Nitschke, whose wife had persuaded him to follow GD Fritzsche, the victorious pastor in the church dispute at Hahndorf. All the numerous Nitschke families until relatively recently living at Littlehampton were descendants of Carl Nitschke.
Strictly speaking, the third Hahndorf family which crossed over into the Blakiston valley, actually came from Gruenthal (modern Verdun). The Gottlob Hirtes arrived in 1851 and eventually settled permanently across from Shady Grove Farm just below the watershed ridge. Loyal Pastor Kavel adherents, Gottlob and Julie Hirte regularly transported their brood of nine children to the first Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church in Windsor Ave, Hahndorf.
Perhaps from the early 1850s, beginning with the youngest children of Gottlieb Nitschke, followed in the mid-1850s by the eldest son of Gottlob Hirte, school-going members of these three families began to make the daily return trip on foot to attend the Lutheran church school in Hahndorf. It is believed that the route followed unsealed local tracks of summer dust and winter mud through bushland up what is now known as Easlea Road, along Windsor Avenue, then down Martin Road and Balhannah Road into Hahndorf. The size of these walking groups tended to vary considerably as age spans could be well over twenty years in some of these families and occasionally young uncles and aunts shepherded nieces and nephews along the way right up until the closing of Lutheran schools in 1917.
However, Littlehampton’s educational links with Hahndorf were not all Germanic. Interestingly, the family of John and Priscilla Monks at Shady Grove Farm joined with their cousins, the children of Francis and Alice Duffield at neighbouring Cobden Grove Farm, for schooling under a private tutor in a purpose-built school room at Shady Grove. During 1965, this school closed for recycling as a Unitarian Chapel, and some of the pupils joined the Lutherans for the walk to Hahndorf where they attended TW Boehm’s liberal-minded classes at the Hahndorf Academy, first opened in 1857.
By the turn of the nineteenth century, when the Academy had become well converted into the Hahndorf College catering to the sons of gentlemen, some boys from the gracious British estates at Blakiston – the Gowers, Hills and Smeatons –safely inside a dog cart or mounted on sturdy ponies, flashed through the straggling walking groups, all en route to Hahndorf.
During 1898, Littlehampton district scholars school-bound for Hahndorf very possibly had an experience which for some would be repeated occasionally in their adult lives, certainly for any relatives and friends living in Hahndorf itself.
German-born rising artist, Hans Heysen, happened to lease a weatherboard cottage in Mount Barker and spent some months wandering the largely unspoilt surrounding countryside to record artistically what he saw. Heysen was particularly drawn to the high rocky watershed bushland between Littlehampton and Hahndorf; the young artist’s largest water colour production to that date, entitled Summer’s Morn, of rural scenery along Cleggett Road survives to intrigue and inspire later generations. Curious youthful eyes observed all of this creative activity from a respectful distance, and reported later to just as mystified parents. For all of these folk, proper work equated to hard physical labour.
Not only in education though, a complex web of social, cultural and economic ties bound the German farmers of Littlehampton to Hahndorf for many years. While the world of these people remained their farm and Lutheran Church affairs, desire for change hardly existed. It was an enormous convenience and comfort for German-born settlers to be able to earn a living and transact their business affairs in their native tongue. To a great degree, Hahndorf was self-contained – bakery, general store, blacksmithy, flour mill, shoemaker shop, tannery, tombstone yard etc; and all conducted their trade principally in German as well to a greater or lesser extent in English as occasion demanded.
Perhaps the earliest significant change for the Littlehampton valley population was the coming of the railway from Adelaide to Nairne, with a spur line to Mount Barker, during 1883. Most of the German farmers had to part with some land to accommodate the rails, as well as re-directed local roads, and the Liebelt brothers (pondering the decision of one of their Altmann nieces at nearby Balhannah) wondered whether any of their own marriageable daughters would be lost to the area forever as well, because they chose husbands from amongst the many construction works navvies. For Hahndorf’s citizens, addicted to nicknames to distinguish between families and oft repeated Christian and surname combinations, the Littlehampton Liebelts became widely referred to as the Junction Liebelts because of their close proximity to the Mount Barker Junction railway station.
As successive generations of German families at Littlehampton, both farmers and otherwise, came to use English as their native tongue, Hahndorf connections weakened considerably. It was mostly far more convenient to go to school, find work and socialise with neighbours of other backgrounds in Littlehampton itself and nearby Mount Barker, Nairne and Balhannah townships. Sociological change means that in 2010, none of the traditional Liebelt and Nitschke farming families from the old Blakiston valley remain to supply members for Saint Michael’s or Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church at Hahndorf. Occasional descendants of these families through other surnames are still members from time to time.
A final look at Hahndorf-Littlehampton links follows in a future edition of The Village Voice. (not published as yet)