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Mintaro's History, page 2


Above: Joseph Gilbert (1800 – 23 December 1881), a pastoralist and winemaker

Gilbert migrated to South Australia in 1839 on the Buckinghamshire and immediately erected his prefabricated two-roomed Manning cottage on an Adelaide allotment.

He acquired a property on the South Para River and stocked it with sheep purchased from Van Diemen's Land. He later moved his flock to a selection near Lyndoch, which he named "Pewsey Vale" and developed into an ideal country home.

In 1847 he established Pewsey Vale winery in Eden Valley, the same year Jacob's Creek winery was established in the neigh-bouring Barossa Valley, with substantial cellars, and Pewsey Vale clarets, burgundies and hocks achieved considerable success.

He soon won repute for his fine wool, careful breeding of imported thoroughbreds and Shorthorn cattle, acclimatization of English deer, his garden and his stables. He planted his first vines in 1847 and was licensed to distil spirits in 1849.  - (Wikipedia)

Mintaro's Peak

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Although established in 1848, it was Joseph Gilbert, a pioneer pastoralist, who laid out the village when he privately purchased and divided sections of the surrounding land into 80 allotments in 1849.

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Above: The Gilbert family (1864) by Alexander Schramm - Google Art Project

Township of Mintaro
Township of Mintaro
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In November of 1849, the land was advertised in the "SA Register being advertised for sale under “Mintara”. The notice said;

“To carters, it is a very desirable spot, as there is abundance of feed and water”.

The village of Mintaro was formed at the crossroads of the Great Western Road (later known as the Gulf Road).


With a land survey, the Village of Mintaro which was subdivided into sections 187 and 316, which straddled the Patent Copper Company road and were conveniently situated at a stopping place for bullock teams travelling between Burra and Port Wakefield.

Burra Street, which was part of the Gulf Road, cut diagonally through section 187. The blocks of land and streets skewed 45° from the regular north-south pattern of the surveyed sections and government roads.

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This can be seen in the random pattern of buildings, many of which were built between 1850-1860. The remaining stone buildings, many of them now in ruins, indicate a prosperous period in Mintaro’s history.


By 1852, the Gulf Road through Mintaro was nearly deserted.

There was an exodus of Burra mine workers, as well as bullock drivers and carriers, to the more lucrative Eastern colonies, following the discovery of gold in Victoria and New South Wales in 1851.

In 1857, Mintaro experienced a decline when the copper teams were re-routed through Riverton to the new railway terminus at Gawler.

The decline was only relieved with the growth of the slate quarries and closer agricultural settlement by the 1860s.

Mintaro's 1850s Boom
Mintaro's 1850s Boom

In the early 1850's the Mintaro township was thriving and prosperous. 

The fertility of the soil and good water supply encouraged the growth of fruit and vegetables, for which a ready market was found at Kooringa, when the Burra mine was in full work.

This was a period of great activity:

  • the first hotel, the Mintaro Hotel was opened in 1850, licencee M.J. Muir. From 1851-1853 this Hotel traded under the name of 'Magpie and Stump' 

  • the second hotel, the Devonshire Hotel, came into existence in 1856. the licensee being James Torr

  • Mr Peter Brady discovered a jutting point of slate on his property and from this has grown the Mintaro Slate Quarry. In 1861 a flagstone from this quarry won a medal at the Exhibition in London.

Religious Life

The Wesleyan Methodists built their chapel in 1854

In 1855 the Foundation Stone of the Roman Catholic Church was laid.

In 1854 the Primitive Methodists purchased land and their new chapel was erected in 1859.

The first Methodist Sunday School Anniversary was held in 1855 and have been held regularly since.

In 1858 Mr Thomas Gibson kept a private school in the Primitive Methodist  building, schooling 30 students.

The Jesuit Fathers opened a school in the late 1860s near Mr. Dunn's farm, which functioned until the 1872 opening of the Convent School of the SIsters of St. Joseph.


In 1856 the Mintaro branch of the Independent Order of Oddfellows Manchester Unity was established, growing to 55 members in 1896.

Ten years later, in 1866, the Independent Order of Rechabites Triumphant was established. 

Religious Life
Rural Boom Years
Rural Boom Years 1870s

Mintaro railway station (renamed Merildin in 1918) was built in 1870 when the northern railway line was extended from Roseworthy to Burra.

It is situated about 7 kilometres east of the township.

Mintaro was well placed to continue as an agricultural service centre, despite the closure of the Burra mines in 1877.

This little known Railway Station is approximately 145 kms north of Adelaide, located 7kms east of the township of Mintaro.

This property is important for the manner in which it reflects features of the development of the railways in South Australia.

The design and detailing of the
item also mean that it is of architectural interest.

The station was built in 1870 when the northern railway line was extended from Roseworthy to Burra

- SA Heritage Places Database and Online map

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The surrounding farming districts of the fertile Gilbert Valley were able to reap the rewards of excellent wheat and wool prices during South Australia's rural boom of the 1870s and early 1880s.


Mintaro's Pastoral Properties

The wealth of the district was reflected in two large pastoral properties near Mintaro.

Mintaro, like rural village counterparts in England, provided these properties with a ready source of local labour:

  1. Martindale Hall, built in 1879-80 by Edmund Bowman, and

  2. Kadlunga homestead, purchased in 1881 by Sir Samuel Way, the Chief Justice,
    Both of these 'Sheep Stations' reflected a way of life akin to that of the English gentry.

Pastoral Properties
Martindale Hall
Martindale Hall
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"A number of years ago I donated a quantity of cricket memorabilia to the State Library of South Australia. Part of this has been on permanent display in the Mortlock Library of South Australia." ~ Don Bradman

Three or four kilometres to the south east (but very much part of the atmosphere of Mintaro) is one of Australia's grandest homes, Martindale Hall.

This extraordinary mansion was built to a standard of design, workmanship and opulence far removed from the simplicity of the town, apparently as a proof of love.

The Mortlocks succeeded the Bowmans and later gave the house to the nation, and it can be marvelled at by the public. (It was also used as a setting for the film Picnic at Hanging Rock).

Martindale Hall and grounds are Heritage listed.


Martindale Hall was built to honor historic Dalemain house and gardens near Ullswater in the English Lake District, considered to be one of the most beautiful stately homes in the North West of England.

Edmund Bowman's father had apparently plans to build a mansion at South Australia's Martindale farm, and Edmund junior arrived in England with the intention to build that house.

  • He gave specifications to architect Ebenezer Gregg in 1878.

  • When Edmund visited Major Hasell at Dalemain house (illustrated at left), the master had been out hunting all day, but daughter Frances Hasell, known to her friends as Fanny, received him, and young Bowman was 'lost'.

  • Spellbound by her charms he continued to visit Dalemain house for the rest of his time at Cambridge, encouraged by Fanny and (his thoughts) rarely returning to Australia.

  • Edmund Bowman vowed to build Fanny a house of such magnificence and splendour that she would happily leave Cumberland one day, if not that day, to live with him when it was finished.

On his return to Adelaide he immediately begun building the house that he had painted for Fanny in his imagination.


It was built just outside Mintaro in the centre of the Martindale Estate on a piece of land of such beauty that his father had held it up as one of many ‘grand inducements for people to come to a new country'.

Finally, in 1880, Martindale Hall was ready, complete with a private polo training track and stable, a pack of foxhounds and a cricket ground for entertaining English cricketers.

Read more: 

3. The Bowmans of Martindale Hall
3a. The Martindale Mansion
3b. Martindale Sports

4. The Mortlocks of Martindale Hall

The two-storey Kadlunga homestead.jpg
The two-storey Kadlunga homestead

Kadlunga was a half-way house for the mule teams on their journey from Burra copper minefields to Port Wakefield. 

The scion of a Scottish whisky distilling family that fell into financial troubles, James Stein arrived in Sydney in 1833 and became a squatter, a pioneer grazier, in New South Wales.

  • In 1841, after the discoveries by John Hill and Edward John Eyre in South Australia's mid north, Campbell and Stein pioneered their own sheep runs.

  • Stein's run extended from Mount Horrocks, through Farrell Flat around the headwaters of the Wakefield River, stretching over surrounding rolling hills and plains to include parts of Burra Creek.


Stein established this homestead on a tributary to the Wakefield River, in a valley beneath Mount Horrocks, and named it Kadlunga, possibly an Aboriginal word for 'sweet hills', after the abundant honeysuckle located there at the time, or the aboriginal name for 'hills and water'.

  • The property was also known as Katalunga in its early period.


The original picturesque stone homestead buildings of Kadlunga estate, founded by Stein, were listed on the Register of the National Estate in 1978.

  • Stein built the original homestead, completed in 1857, constructed of random coursed bluestone.

  • That house was incorporated into the 1919-20 alterations, when the house was virtually rebuilt.

  • Since the rebuilding little has been altered, having been in the Melrose family since 1916. The building is in good condition and is well cared for.​

  • The two-storey homestead was renovated in 1919-20, and was surrounded by park-like grounds, which a previous recent owner has cleared, to local dismay.

Read more: 

Mintaro Slate

Mintaro is probably best known as a producer of slate - the highest quality in Australia and of outstanding strength and durability.

Mintaro slate is produced from what is believed to be the oldest continuing operating quarry in Australia. 

In 1851 Peter and Bridget Brady purchased an 80-acre section and offered Fr Kranewitter SJ the use of their small cottage for Sunday Mass.


The outcropping flat slate was discovered in a creek-bed west of the township, by the land owner Peter Brady, In the early 1850s.

It was sound material and found use in the simple buildings of the settlement, in blocky form for walls and in slab form for floors.

Brady opened Mintaro's first slate quarry in 1854. At the same time, he built a home with stables at the rear of his property. 

In 1856, he leased the quarry to Thompson Priest, a stonemason, who worked the quarry very successfully, sending to England for Cornish miners.


Priest began excavating No. 1 Quarry adjacent to the site of the original discovery, using material himself and selling some.

Priest built a house and an office in the township, and a small office and a foreman's house at the quarry.

At the quarry, ruins of Priest's buildings still remain, and in the town his house and office are still in use. 

Thompson Priest built his house, along with the slate quarry Pay Office, on Hill St, just behind Hugh Reilly's Cottage.

Today Reilly's Cottage is home to Reilly's Wines Cellar Door and Restaurant while Thompson's Residence and Pay Office Cottage offer cosy B&B accommodation to visitors.

Mintaro Slate
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Above: Mintaro Slate Quarry around 1872 showing men and horses at work.

Men are seated at frame saws which were used for cutting slate and there is a small steam crane (seen in the background). Slabs of slate of all sizes are stacked around the quarry yard.

By the early 1880s, there were about 50 men employed at the quarries which have continued to be a major source of employment.

In 1879 the land on which the quarry is located passed into the ownership of Sir Samuel James Way, Chief Justice of South Australia, as part of his Kadlunga estate.

In 1884 competition arose when some local identities, including Way's manager F.H. Weston leased some land from Way, north of Priest's hole to establish another slate quarry. This floundered from lack of finance.


In 1888 Thompson Priest died and his quarry was acquired by a Melbourne firm. It languished during the depression of the 1890's but in 1893 the local syndicate tried again, with Weston as its Chairman and leased Priest's area as well as the area in which the syndicate was previously interested.

In 1911 The Mintaro Slate and Flagstone Company Limited was formed and in 1912 an area of 60-80 acres was purchased from Sir Samuel Way together with the Melbourne agency which had been the distributor for Victoria.

In 1978 the Company experienced a takeover, and in 1981 the quarrying operations were again sold being reformed as Mintaro Slate Quarries Pty Ltd. wholly owned in South Australia. This was followed by major expansion and re-equipping.

Read more: Mintaro Slate Quarry: History 

Mintaro Slate Quarries Pty Ltd, Kadlunga Road, PO Box 8, Mintaro, South Australia 5415

Mintaro Catholic Church

Over time, with the Mintaro village growing, a need became apparent for the district’s Catholic population to have its own church. 

On April 24th, 1855, Peter Brady transferred two acres of his land to Bishop Murphy on which to construct a new Catholic Church.

With the hard work of the parishioners, assisted by Fr Kranewitter and the help of Mr Thompson Priest, the local stonemason, the new 'Church  of the Immaculate Conception' was completed and officially blessed and opened by Bishop Murphy on the 23rd of November 1856.


A LANDMARK OF FAITH: Church of The Immaculate Conception, Mintaro and it's parishioners 1856 -2006, by Gerald Lally (2006)

Available from CLare History Group - Open Fridays 1-4 PM.

St Mary's Catholic Church
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