Aldinga Township

According to early maps and title documents the current township of Aldinga was originally named ‘Downingsville’, and the original Aldinga township was located in what is now called ‘Whites Valley’ approximately 2km inland.

Aldinga township became a busy spot with the South Road (servicing the inland settlements south of Adelaide) and the Old Coach Road (servicing the coastal communities) meeting in the main street of the town. Traffic travelling further south continued on the South Road. (They now meet just past the township.)

The name is taken from the Kaurna Aboriginal word ngaldingga. One of the meanings associated with it in that language is ‘a meeting place’ and that also has modern significance for the road junctions mentioned above. Other meanings attributed to it are: ‘much water’, ‘good place for meat’, ‘open wide plain’, ‘battle or burial ground’ and ‘tree district’.

Aldinga’s commercial worth is clearly indicated by the fact it had two hotels, Hart’s Temperance Hotel and the Aldinga Hotel (built 1851).

Pengilly’s blacksmith shop (opened 1859) did a roaring trade and later became an auto garage and fuel supplier. It was also the site of the local undertaker and the building at the back has an extremely high access doorway to allow the whole, horse drawn hearse to be driven straight into its confines, out of sight.

The town became the district centre for quite a few years with the ‘District Council of Aldinga’ being formed in 1856 and continuing until 1932 when it amalgamated with the District Council of Willunga.

The Aldinga Post Office was the one used for telegraph transmissions during the Star of Greece wrecking tragedy.

The Aldinga School was opened in 1856 and closed in 1981 with the construction of the new school which was opened by Prince Charles the following year. (Now Aldinga Beach B-7 School) St Anne’s Anglican Church was built just south of the township on South Road in 1865 and its floor was built using timber from ship’s ballast. There are two plaques on the east wall in memory of a ship captain and his wife who were both lost in separate ship wrecks.

The Methodist (now Uniting) Church in the main street had a ship’s bell as its bell until it mysteriously vanished one night and has not been since. Its cemetery, adjacent, is the resting place for some of the Star of Greece casualties and one of the family graves commemorates a soul who was lost in the shipwreck of the Titanic.

The current Aldinga Institute was built in 1935 to replace the original built in 1860.

Port Willunga

This was, at one stage, the second busiest port in South Australia (after Port Adelaide). It was used for shipment of grain and flour from the local farms and mills; and later slate from the Willunga quarries.
The Jetties

It had two jetties built during its history. The first was built in three stages. Stage 1, completed in 1853, was 176ft (approx 53m) long and was high & dry in low tide. The second stage added another 155ft in 1855. The third stage added a further 130ft to make its total length 477ft (approx 144m). Access to this jetty was very difficult in the winter.

After the first was wrecked in a storm the second was built slightly further south and completed in 1868. Shifting sand height and consequent water depth fluctuations still caused problems. The completed jetty was 10 – 12 feet deep at the end in medium-low water and 8 ft above high water mark with a T piece on the end. It still did not have enough depth for larger ships. Cargoes were carried from the jetty to the ships, anchored further out in deeper water, by small ships called ‘lighters’.

By 1892 the slate trade to Melbourne was dead because iron was available there more cheaply. By 1900 the local flour mills had ceased production. Without maintenance the jetty had been broken up and the centre was washed away in a storm in 1915. It was then demolished, for safety reasons, by the defence forces as target practice.

The Star of Greece Restaurant is still based there and has international as well as Australian celebrities amongst its clientelle.

The fishermen’s caves, adjacent to the jetty remains, were dug out by the How family and used by the fishermen to store their boats. When a school was sighted from the lookout on the cliff tops above, they came down, loaded their boats and netted the school.

This port was notoriously dangerous in stormy conditions and over the years several ships were wrecked including the Star of Greece, the Ida, and the Manhow, which was carrying Chinese passengers bound for the goalfields. Several of the smaller ‘lighters’ mentioned above also ran into grief and were run aground or damaged.

Being such a busy port, Port Willunga also had two hotels. The Seaview Hotel and the Pier Hotel across the creek fondly name Uncle Tom’s Cabin as well as the Altona Guest House.

Aldinga North (White’s Valley)

A busy little community in the heart of a grain growing district, the main street (now called Adey Road) was a bustling centre with general store and butcher as well as housing and mill worker’s cottages (nicknamed Paddy’s Row). There were two flour mills and a butter factory (circa 1890) in the area as well as a Baptist (1860 – 1899), Congregational (1848) and Presbyterian (1856 – 1880) churches. The butter factory worked in conjunction with the Myponga creamery and purchased an average of 455 gallons of milk a day in that year according to an 1892 report.

Samuel White, the business entrepreneur, after which the Valley was named, owned one of the flour mills (built 1844) as well as turning his hand at ship building. He and his partner built the Maid Of The Mill in 1854, which serviced the larger ships at Port Willunga due to jetty water depth limitations.

He also bought and sold several ships and was heavily involved in the shipping trade at Port Willunga. His mill had a 40ft tower built in the 1840s whence he had a good view of Aldinga Bay and either rode his horse to Port Adelaide when sighting a ship, or some reports indicate he could signal to the passing ships by semaphore, to ascertain current flour prices in the eastern states. The house called Chapel Hill at the site was built in the 1890’s from the stone left over from the chimney after the demolition of the mill.

George Adey’s Hampshire Hotel. Situated on the corner of Adey Road and Little Road, this hotel would have done a roaring trade. It traded from 1858 to 1869 under six licencees, George Adey being the first. It has been reported that a sign ‘Hotel Aldinga’ was found painted on the wall under the coats of whitewash, during renovations in 1938.

In 1935 renowned artist Sir Ivor Hele leased the property. He bought and renovated it in 1937/38 using prize money from two art competitions. He added a studio after he divorced his first wife Jean and married his second wife June in 1957. Sir Ivor was knighted in1983. Prime Ministers Robert Menzies, William McMahon and Malcolm Fraser all posed there to be painted by him.

Sir Ivor was awarded the Archibald Prize for portraiture on no less than 5 occasions and was appointed official war artist in both World War II and The Korean War. He died there in 1993, aged 87, after living 58 years in that house.

Butterworth’s Mill (built 1848) also had a high tower originally and the remains of the mill and also Butterworth’s cottage (Mulberry Cottage) can be seen on the old Aldinga Road now renamed Flour Mill Road. Mr Butterworth was a farmer at Aldinga and later at Normanville. Butterworth and White reportedly co-operated in the milling business.

Pethick Nursing Home. Mrs Pethick ran this from 1922 – 1940 for nursing mothers. Babies delivered there ranged from 4 some years up to 20 on one year. The building had previously been a 2 storey shop. Abraham Pethick farmed the area and was one of the first to export wheat from South Australia to England.