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Clare Main Street 1885 B-725.jpeg

Clare's Boom Years

Sheep stations, orchards, vegetable gardens and vineyards are the lifeblood of the Clare district.

Early Clare
was tightly surrounded by
(leased) sheep runs producing wool, preventing land being subdivided, and used for settlers needing food.
From 1869.  the SA Government promoted agriculture north of Clare, beginning a new boom of transport travelling northwards.
Dr J D Bain (1838-1903)_edited.jpg

"England’s greatest gift to Clare"

NT 2004-26c Globe Hotel _ view c1885 - cropped.jpg

Licenced 1870

The 1870s were a time of enormous growth in Clare.
Clare was a supplier of goods to more northern towns, and a transport and service centre.

The Main North Road from Gawler led through Clare to Port Augusta and to Alice Springs. The next township northward was Melrose, a hundred miles away. 
Below: Clare's Main Street, in 1875
Main street of Clare,South Australia in 1875, opposite the Ford's Hotel.jpg
Mrs. Christison, in a letter to the Editor in Clare, wrote: "Like Topsy, Clare Just growed."

"Shops, public houses, churches, schools popped themselves down as an old lady called it: 'pernicious like',
with fine disregard of design, and town planning,
but adding a contribution towards picturesqueness thereby."

"And the people — as Mr. Kipling would have said —
'there you have another story'...
Like Topsy, Clare Just growed
Frances Diana Christison, nee Hope in 1908.webp

"The names at random, as they occur to me: —

"John Hope — Horse breeding and cattle (Wolta Wolta) 

Edward William Hawker (1850–1940)— Sheep (Bungaree)

John Howard Angas  (1823-1904) — Cattle 

C.B. Fisher (1817-1908) — Sheep (Hill River Estate)"

"William Augustus Du Rieu's hotel and stage coach driving,

J. Maitland and J. Smith — Wheat farming

Captain Hughes — Sheep (Hughes Park Estate)

Chas. Kimber — Two adjacent Flour Mills, on Main St."


Mr Andrew Young — Imported Clothing, opposite Smith's Hotel

Mr. John Christison — Cattle, Brewery, Vineyards and Orchards,

Mr Ford — Hotel; Mr Bentley — Hotel; Mr Grey — Hotel,

Mr. Filgate and Ms Gleeson — Beer Brewery " 

1851 - The Victorian Gold Rush begins

Many labourers leave South Australia to try their luck at Bendigo and Ballarat
Gold_diggings,_Ararat,_1854 Edward_Roper_-_.jpg
St Barnabas Church

St. Barnabas Church

The second church to be built in Clare, was the Anglican St Barnabas Church, sited on a northerly hill in Clare.

Land was granted for an Anglican church in 1848, and
in 1850 a cornerstone was laid by Mrs E. B. Gleeson.

The Glebe land was given to the church by E.B. Gleeson,
who owned the northern section of the Clare township;
the church was probably finished by non-builders in 1852,
and needed serious repair by 1857.
The interior of the church contains records of many pioneer families on tablets, windows and memorials. 
A chancel and vestry were added in 1874.  
The late Mrs. Hope, of Wolta Wolta. provided the vestry furniture. The late Dr. Bain gave the windows.
Two stained glass windows were added in 1914.​
Hope Memorial Window med.jpg
Faith in Memory of John Christison med.jpg
The windows, which represent Hope and Faith, are the gift of
Mrs. J. Christison, one in memory of her father and mother,
and the other of her husband.
Wesley Methodist Church

Clare Wesleyan Methodist Church Complex

including an 1857 Chapel (now a dwelling),
an 1866 Church (now Uniting Church), and the 1888 Lecture Hall
First Uniting Church.jpg
Rev. Butter preached 'three most impressive sermons' during the opening ceremonies in 1857, and local adherents gathered to witness the proclamation of their faith.
Within another nine years this plain, simple chapel was too small and on 22 July 1866 the foundation stone of a church (LHS), of Gothic revival style, was laid.
Methodist Church Clare.jpg
This church had a vestry added in 1877 and a gallery in 1883.
So strong was the Wesleyan cause that a large lecture hall (RHS) was also built in 1888.
Farming Hill River Station.jpg

Hill River Estate Broken Up - 1876

Monday 24 April 1876
"On Wednesday the largest sale of private property that has ever taken place in South Australia will be held at the (Adelaide) Town Hall, by Mr. J. H Parr and Mr Wadham, who will offer in blocks of various sizes, the whole of the well-known Hill River Estate, consisting of upwards of 60,000 acres of agricultural well watered land."
"There is such a good demand for good soil in a favorable position with regard to markets and means of communication with the seaboard, that land of this character, within three miles of Clare, and less than ten miles to the Farrell Flat Railway Station, cannot fail to attract buyers."

These new farmers and graziers will expand the business and appeal of Clare township services, and fuel its growth.
At this auction, good prices were given for some of the land, machinery and stock, but the balance (the best land) was later sold to Mr. J. H. Angas for the Angas family for about £220,000. This was broken up again in 1912.
John Howard Angus

12 Sep 1885:

 "There are very few properties that have wider fame throughout the Australian oolonies than the Hill River Estate. For many years it was owned by Mr. C. B. Fisher, who there carried on agricultural operations on a scale that was then only surpassed by the great grain farms of California."
"About eight years ago the estate was purchased by the present proprietor, Mr. J. H. Angas (left), and under his skillful and energetic management the stud flock has advanced to the front rank in South Australia, while the stud herd of shorthorn cattle he has established has no superior in Australia." 

Clare's Public Buildings

Clare Town Hall

Clare's first town hall was built in 1866 by private individuals and the hall and room were valued at £100 for the purpose of local government assessment in 1868.

Clare old Town Hall.png
In 1875 it was bought by the Corporation of the Town of Clare and continued in use as a Civic Centre until the new town hall was built in the 1920s.
Clare Town Hall
Hill River Estate Broken Up
Clare's Public Buildings

Clare Public School

 Only opened on August 8th, 1879.

Establishing a Public School in Clare took sixteen years to achieve. 
Even the planned first school in 1850 was never built.
Clare Public School
Bishop Francis Murphy, 1844-1858.jpg
"A contract had been let in 1850 for a school to be built on Gleeson land, and a schoolmaster hired, when the 'Clare Notables' began quarrelling among themselves, without regard for the hapless schoolmaster involved."

"The schoolmaster, William Lennon, (a Catholic) on the recommendation of Bishop Murphy, had moved to Clare with wife and children, but then had no school or housing. Gleeson and others objected to the successful builder.
So the kind Bishop Murphy (left) gave him a school room attached to the Catholic Chapel, and a Clare house to live in."
Faithful Mr. Lennon went on to be an M.P. during 1860-1861, then was Town Clerk for 30 years.
Schools and student abilities were inspected at the end of each year by township Examiners, two of whom in 1864 were Mr. E. B. Gleeson. J.P., and Dr. Davies, J.P. (Justice of the Peace).

(Dr. Davies was one of the earliest medical practitioners;
he later left Clare to return to Wales)​

From the 1890s, the Examiner was a S.A. Government Inspector.
Subjects examined
Subjects examined in 1883 were
Writing, Dictation, History, Geography, English Grammar, Arithmetic, and (for girls) Needlework.

Would you pass? Example questions: 
Fifth Class, Grammar. —

Parse and analyse: ' False wizard, avaunt ! I have marshalled my clan : Their swords are a thousand — their bosoms are one.'
Fourth Class, Arithmetic. —
1. Find by practice the cost of 2,037 Cwt. at £1 19s 8d per cwt.
2. The Clare Corporation made a rate of 8d in the £.
How much would it bring in if the total rent roll was £7,850?
3. How much cheese can be bought at 7d per lb for £96 17s 6d ?
4. Mr. Gleeson sold 721 fat bullocks for a total of £5,083 11s 3d.
How much was that per head ? 

Fifth Class, Arithmetic. —
1. I place £2,743 19s 6d in the Savings Bank at 6 per cent.
What amount will I draw out in two and a half years ?
2. What decimal of five acres is 2.053 of 45 square yards ?
3. Mr. Victorsen bought 19 pieces of silk, each 27 4/5 yards,
at £3 2/3s per yard. How much did it cost him ? 
Clare Primary School c late 1880_s.jpg

Above: Clare Public School pictured in 1880s

In 1863 a new School Committee was appointed to collect subscriptions for the erection of a public school in this township, and the school finally opened in 1879.

In 1873 Dr. Bain examined the scholars in Latin and French by means of written papers and orally, and was well satisfied with the progress made. 

In 1883, the examination of the Clare Public School was conducted by Inspector Whitnam.

The number of scholars on the month's roll was 169. 
There were present at the examination 161.

The result obtained was 84.18 per cent., which was considered very satisfactory.

The percentage gamed was just about the same as for last year,

whilst the number presented for examination was considerably more. 

Post Office 1863

Clare's New Post Office in 1863

A handsome Post-Office was now situated in Clare's centre with other public buildings.
Below: Coach leaving Clare Post Office for Kapunda Railway station. The driver is possibly Mr. R.G. Harmer.
Post Office, Clare 1863.jpg
Clare's Globe Hotel

Clare's Globe Hotel

Globe Hotel, Clare, run by Thomas Francis Fitzsimon 1899 PRG-1652-20-5_edited.jpg

 Thu 15 Sep 1949:

The middle section of Victorsen's (three) Buildings was once known as the Globe Hotel of which the final proprietor was the late Mr. Florence McCarthy

Fri 16 Sep 1870: 

At the Bench of Magistrates Mr O'Leary successfully applied for a licence for the Globe Hotel, Clare.
Mr Smith, we understand, is about to erect a new hotel in the town, to be called the Clare Hotel (completed 1st Jan. 1871).

Thursday 26 November 1874:

The local licensed victuallers (are) namely, Messrs. W. E. Ford, of Ford's Hotel; F. C. Gray, of the Northern Hotel; H. Warren, of the Clare Hotel ; Alexander Lawson, of the Travellers' Rest; Dan O'Leary of the Globe Hotel; and W. H. Behenna.
The Globe's License was surrendered in 1925, when Ford's Hotel also lost its License (due to 6' O'Clock closing, and their premises were unable to be maintained in good order)
Daniel O'Leary, who also built Clare's first flour mill,
 died January 27, 1905, aged 90 --- buried at St Michael's

1870s: Main Street, Clare. The Globe Hotel can be seen on the right.

Clare Courthouse

Clare Courthouse

Located in Old North Road, opposite Ness Street, the Courthouse was built in 1878 (next to the Institute) and first occupied in 1880.
It has been in continuous use since that time.
In the 1920s a police sergeant's house and some cells with cobblestone floors were built next to the courthouse.
Clare Courthouse Clare01A.jpg
Clare Casualty Hospital

Clare Casualty Hospital

The hospital opened in 1878:
The old Clare Casualty Hospital was built in 1850,
as a Police Station.

"After a deal of unnecessary delay the Clare Casualty Hospital has been opened, but after all it does not come up to the expectations of the people, as it was thought to be a retreat for all afflicted ones."

Old Clare Museum.jpg
This hospital only had space for two beds, so two private hospitals opened later, the first in 1899, and another at 'Green Gables' in 1911.

From July, 1954, Mr. J. Lindsay Chambers J.P.,  took over Council duties at Clare, and lived in the Clare Corporation Dwelling on West Terrace at the end of Victoria Road.
Finally, from 1970, it became the National Trust Museum.


Dr. Bain in Clare

Dr. Bain in Clare
Dr J D Bain (1838-1903)_edited.jpg
Dr. John Bain came to Clare as a GP in 1865, and worked with various partners in his practice until he retired in 1889, having made a lot of money from an early investment in Broken Hill Mines.    
  • He tried his very best to get Clare up and running – it seems to have always been a town that never quite gets itself together to really boom! 
  • He built a huge indoor swimming pool, and that failed for a mixed bag of reasons.  It is under the service station/pet food place just next to the oval and beside the Hutt River,
  • Val Tilbrook says it's still under the concrete floor of the current building!    
Homestead, Clare ... Dr Bain's residence; the view is taken from the garden showing a carr

Above: Dr. Bain's House is still in Clare on Agnes Street – the corner of Agnes and Burton Street and is called Bain House – its quite a nice old house.

The first ​roller skating link in Clare was also established by the doctor on the property now occupied by the National Bank. 
Clare's Swimming Baths

Clare's Swimming Baths 


Above: Main Street Clare, (at the Hutt River bridge, south roundabout) the building in foreground on left was a skating rink and baths presented to the town by Dr. Bain.

Tue 12 Sep 1882:

'Dr. Bain informs us that he has purchased a piece of land measuring 35 ft. by 135 ft. situated in the cricket ground, and immediately adjoining the south bridge'.
'On this ground will be erected a stone building 100ft. long. The swimming bath will measure 75ft. in length by 25ft. in breadth, and will vary in depth from 3ft. to 6ft.'


'The baths will probably be opened in November (1882).'
Clare's first swimming Pool.jpeg

Clare's Quarry Hill - Billygoat Hill

Clare's Quarry Hill
1 Sep 1879  Clare View from Quarry Hill.png

Above: View westwards of Clare from Quarry Hill in 1879,
(now Billygoat Hill). The quarry is now the Woolworth's car park.


Saturday 16 October 1880
CLARE: The value of rateable property is over £100,000, and the population by last census was estimated at over 1,500
THE CENSUS:  Wed 11 May 1881
 Persons.            Males:              Females.
Year      1876:   1881:   1876:  1881:  1876:  1881;
Clare ... 1132    1113     541     531     591     600

Business Growth in Clare

One the first general stores was that of the late Mr. Julius Victorsen, erected in 1849. The business was carried on subsequently, by his son (Mr. Louis Victorsen), and then in much larger and commodious premises by his grandson (Mr. Julius Victorsen).
Louis Victorsen of Clare with his family.jpg

March 1928

The principal storekeepers then were Messrs. A. Young, J. Victorsen, J. MacFarlane, J. Silver, Northmore & Deane, Rainsford, G. Eaton, Carr, A. Clarke, T. S. Stacy, Gillen & Graham later P. & P. P. Gillen), W. E. Lunn, B. Cohen & Co., Blair, (later conducted by Mr. J. McCord), Toovey.

Friday 9 May 1941
1891: Clare Corporation
934 persons — 427 adults; 507 females; 212 males and 242 houses.

In 1941 there are 391 houses plus 80 shops and other buildings, a total of 471. The annual value to-day is £19,430; capital value £388,600.

Clare District Council — 
In 1891 There are 1,546 persons; 767 males, 779 females, 299 adult males, and 298 houses.'
The District Council of Clare figures we have are: —
603 occupied dwellings and other buildings; annual value £52,365;
value of whole rateable area, £1,047,300.

1891: The increase in houses and other buildings in 50 years, is: —
Clare Corporation — 242 (now 471) an increase of 229 houses or an average of 4 to 5 houses per annum.
Clare District Council — 298 (now 603) an increase in 50 years of 305 buildings, equivalent to an average of 6 buildings per annum.
Clare's Factories
By 1869  An early factory was opened by Messrs. Paterson & Co., machinists, and builders.
The Messrs. Paterson have received about 50 reaping machines for repairs this season, and the number of the new ones constructed will be about 30. 
Messrs. J. G. Ramsay & Co.'s implement foundry:
'The first large iron factory was a branch cf the Ramsey firm carried on at Mount Barker.
  • This implement factory was of large dimensions and employed 80 men.
  • They erected a large iron shed, weighbridge, blacksmith's  shop, and furnace for heating tires.
  • Other buildings, such as offices, coach building and finishing shed are in course of erection.'
Other implement factories were those of Messrs. Carter & Co., and W. Hosking, Richards & Son, and J. Pryor (the latter at Donnybrook).
Below: Ramsay's Implement Works
Ramsay's Implement Works_450.jpg
9 Oct 1877:
'Messrs. J. G. Ramsay & Co.'s implement foundry, like the other places of business in this town, is on Main street on the west, in a lofty and commodious building, which is appropriately called the large wood shop.
A number of men were busy putting together the bodies of machines, wagons, drays, etc. Some were nearly completed, while others were merely skeletons.
  • Adjoining is a shop or coach factory, where buggies and traps of every description are made.
  • We were almost deafened with the sound of the hammer and the ring of the anvil.' 
Clare's Factories
1891 Census Figures
Business Growth in Clare
Richards' coach-building shop, Clare 1897  B-11916_edited.jpg
Above: Richards' coach-building shop, Clare 1897

A lot of building was done in the early days, and amongst those who carried out that work were Messrs. R. Bishop, Page, Hoare, Rogers, Glassett, G. Bryant, G. H. and R. Bowley, Norris. 


 'Clare was the centre of the activities of the well-known firm of Hill and Co., who ran the coaches from Clare to Saddleworth, Red-hill, Crystal Brook, and Farrell's Flat,under the management of Mr. George Hill.
They connected Clare to Railway services to Adelaide (and to Burra and Broken Hill). Two of their popular drivers were the late Messrs. Manuel, T. J. Edwards, and Douglas.'
Stage coach pulled up out the front of the Stanley Hotel.1879 B-17762.jpeg
Travel in 1867
The nearest places are Penwortham 8 miles; Watervale 11 miles; Leasingham 12 miles; and Auburn 18 miles—all in a S. direction;
the communication being by Rounsevell's daily mail coaches. With Adelaide, 93 miles South, the communication is by the same line of coaches to Kapunda and thence by rail to Adelaide. 

Mar 1874:
As to the passenger traffic towards Clare, Mr. J. W. SMITH could speak from having resided at Farrell's Flat. He had seen the coach to Clare sometimes carry away 22 passengers, and this was independent of the mail coaches running from Saddleworth to Clare.
Mr. BEE said that, as regards goods traffic, he knew from experience at Saddleworth that in the winter time, when the traffic to other stations fell off, that from Saddleworth towards and through Clare was a good and steady one. 

September 1879:
The goods traffic to and from the town will average not less than 800 tons per week, and there is a large passenger traffic.
The History of the Railway Branch-Line by John Wilson.jpg

Clare Railway Line

The Railway Boom in South Australia, did not get to Clare until 1918

Proposed Clare And Saddleworth Railway.

Saturday 21 March 1874, page 13
This was a line very much needed, as the traffic on this road would perhaps pay better than any line which could be constructed. 
Friday 4 February 1881, page 3
Sir—In summer 'much inconvenience' is frequently experienced in the afternoon Strathalbyn coach to Adelaide through game—much of it in a decidedly "high" condition—being taken as freight—an attraction to swarms of flies, but quite the reverse to the unfortunate passengers who have to travel with putrid fish or game close to them for hours.
wendouree 1.jpg

The Wine Boom in Clare

Following the Gold rush in Victoria, Melbourne became the richest city in the world, and Victorians became very wealthy, with bountiful spending on homes and gardens. Victoria 'boomed'!
So the 1890’s saw a wine boom in Australia.
At Clare, AP Birks established Wendouree wines just north of Sevenhill in 1893, selling their wine interstate, to NSW and Victoria.
The private Clare Wendouree winery has now become an 'icon' and has hardly changed its organic operational practices in 120 years.
Clare's Wine Boom
Stanley Leasingha Wine Co buildings
Winemaker Thomas Hardy visited Clare in May 1892 and in a speech at the Clare Mechanics Institute told the audience:
  • The English market could absorb all the wine they could produce
  • They should only export first class wines to avoid a fall in price
  • and use their inferior grapes to distill spirits
  • every farmer should plant at least 20 acres with vines
Joseph Knappstein
Cellar door, Knappstein Enterprise Winery, Clare
Roy Birks celebrates 60 years of winemaking at A.P.Birks with friends, especially Bill Kna

Left: Roy Birks celebrates 60 years of winemaking at A.P.Birks with friends, especially Bill Knappstein

In 1894 John Christison and Joseph H. Knappstein founded the Stanley Wine Company in Clare which later became known as the Stanley Leasingham winery. Joseph Knappstein took control in 1912.

This site is now named Mr Mick’s, named after Joseph Knappstein's legendary and entrepreneurial son Mick Knappstein, who was managing director from 1962-1976.
Main Street Businesses in 1870

Clare's Main Street Businesses in 1870


A map of central Clare, corresponding to the original town.

You can buy the Clare Historic Walk guide at the Info Centre or at the Council Office for $2

Clare Historic Walk Map
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