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The Hope family of "Wolta Wolta"

Updated: Aug 3, 2023


Short Biography -- Penwortham -- Clare Presbyterian Church -- Ash Wednesday Bushfire -- Settler John Hope -- Hope's Diaries -- Wolta Wolta -- Obituary

The Hope family came from Londonderry in Ireland and they arrived with little else but hope as their ship was wrecked near Cape Horn in South America, and so the family arrived in 1837 with no personal belongings at all.

  • They moved to SA in 1839 from Western Australia.


A Scots-Irishman, John Hope (1805 –1880), reached the infant colony of South Australia in 1839. The second son of a 'grocer, haberdasher and sub-distributor of postal stamps' from Maghera in County Londonderry, he established himself in the colony's mid-north.

  • Despite arriving with limited financial resources and only modest social capital, Hope's eventual acquisition of extensive property - and possibly his Protestant background - enabled him to form close ties with prominent figures such as members of the Hawker and Hughes families.

  • An 1880 obituary stated that Hope 'never came forward as a public man'. While this may have been accurate in terms of colonial politics, Hope was a magistrate, local councillor, generous supporter of a number of community activities, and closely involved with the Presbyterian and Anglican Churches.

  • His diaries and letters reveal the extent of his interaction with local pastoralists and his lengthy overseas and overland trips. - Rory Hope (See References)

John Hope of Clare established one of the early pastoral leasehold runs at Koolunga which he called Koolunga in 1841. Hope soon had almost 20,000 sheep on his run on the banks of the Broughton River and the edge of the Clare Valley.

  • Koolunga station occupied 95 square miles.

  • Goyder’s re-evaluation of the leasehold charge in 1864 rose the annual rent from £197 to £1,140.

  • Hope then built Wolta Wolta in Clare

Wolta Wolta, Clare, around 1860 from Robert Noye, "Clare A District History"
Wolta Wolta Heritage Accomodation in Clare SA

Mr. Hope purchased the property known as 'Wolta Wolta', in the Clare district on a (relatively) small acreage of 5,500 acres in 1869, which he made his principal home.

John Hope, pioneer pastoralist of Wolta Wolta Clare SA

  • He built the original homestead, to which extensive additions were made in 1869, and the estate itself was also enlarged by the purchase of adjacent land.

  • Three hills in the immediate locality were practically bare of timber, but Mr. Hope completely changed the character of the landscape by a wise and successful policy of arboriculture.

  • In the early days, the Clare property carried only horses and a few cattle.

Then the Wolta Wolta sheep won many successes in the show ring, and many of the best rams were sent to the River Darling country, where his son, Mr. R. E. H. Hope still has extensive interests.

  • John Hope settled in the Clare district at the same time that Messrs Hawker and Horrocks went there; in fact, Mr. Hope and Mr. Horrocks travelled to that part in company.

  • The subject of this sketch used to point out a spot where the pair of them once camped and had some trouble with the blacks.

  • They had only skilly (a thin porridge) to eat, and that circumstance gave the name to the Skillogolee Creek, a fresh water stream flowing through the township of Penwortham.

Old settler house, Skilly Hills, Watervale SA
Skilly Hills above Skillogalee Creek, Penwortham SA

Penwortham village, Stanley County

This (above) article on John Hope concludes with a copy of a circular issued in the early (eighteen) forties: — 'Stanley County, Penwortham village, 85 miles from Adelaide; Population: —

  • Manor (John A. Horrocks, Esq.), 10 persons; dairy station, 9; shepherd and hut keepers, 3; blacksmith, assistant and wife, 3; innkeeper, wife and servant, 3; police, 2; carrier and mate, 2; shoemaker and wife, 3

— 34 persons. Ten miles northwards —

  • Mr. and Mrs. Gleeson and family, 9 persons; servants, 10; Mr. Hughes and servants, 9; Messrs. Fletcher, 6; Messrs. Hawker and servants, 7; shepherds and hutkeepers, 8; total, -- 40 persons. Altogether a population of 83 souls within a diameter of 14 miles.

The principal subscribers for the maintenance of a clergyman consist of five at £10 each year and four persons in the village each at £2 per year.

  • Mr. Horrocks will find the clergyman, his wife, and servant their tea, sugar, flour, meat, and vegetables (equal to £50 a year) for 10 years, and

  • at the end of 10 years will subscribe according to the rates of other individuals.

  • He will also give two acres of land in Penwortham village for the stone church and parsonage, and an acre of ground 10 miles northward on the Hutt River for the wooden church;

  • a horse and gig with pasturage provided by the residents.

Estimate of the Builders — A stone church, etc., £150; parsonage, fenced in, £250; wooden church, fenced in, £100; total £500.

  • Most of the individuals, being immigrants direct from England with in the last four years, would willingly receive a clergyman, whereas if delayed they gradually become totally insensible to their spiritual welfare.

  • This is proved to a fearful degree by the present state of their brother countrymen in the interior of New Holland.

  • Application has already been made by a married clergyman possessed of a small property and recommended from a good quarter.'

Wesleyan Chapel, Penwortham SA
The Church on the hill, Wesley Chapel 1858-1968

From: CHURCHES AND CHAPELS LOST, by Helen R. Dickeson, Clare History Group Newsletter Winter 2010

Wesleyan Chapel later Methodist Church – Penwortham

Early settlers in Penwortham of Wesleyan persuasion originally worshiped in the Church of St. Mark (Anglican) but were not comfortable with the order of service and sought to build their own Chapel.

  • In September 1857 at a meeting in the Spring Farm Chapel they accepted an offer of an acre of land adjoining the village.

  • Whilst not entirely suitable, being steeply sloping and very rocky, work on the building proceeded and the Penwortham Chapel opened a year later.

  • In 1897 a supper room was added at the southern end to house Sunday school activities, choir practice and other community functions.

  • In 1922 the slate roof was replaced with galvanized iron.

  • The Church was demolished in 1968 but the cemetery remains along with a memorial cairn for the Chapel.


Clare Presbyterian Church - Two Stories

  • donated by William Gordon McKay, an early overseer at Bungaree. (Helen Dickeson)

  • The indenture of release for the land specified that the land was ‘for a Presbyterian Church and Cemetery for the use of the Presbyterians of Clare and its neighbourhood, who unite to worship in the Premises erected’.  This it continued to do for the next 115 years.


2. John Hope arrived in Clare from Londonderry, Ireland in 1839, a year after E.B. Gleeson of Inchiquin arrived from Ireland. Gleeson gave the land for the building of St Barnabas Church of England. (Val Tilbrook)

  • John Hope purchased land on Union Street and very soon led a move to have a church erected and also gave seven acres of land for a Glebe Manse.

The foundation stone of the Scotch Church, as it was earlier known, was laid by Rev J.S.Moir of Gawler, the church was opened on 4 August 1857.

  • For some time after the opening the church remained in an unfinished state, being un-plastered, and without flooring or furnishings.

  • For the first services the congregation had to stand or bring their own chairs. Later, planks were used as pews.

It was not until the end of 1862 that the first Minister was settled in Clare.

  • He was the Rev William Davidson who had come out to South Australia in 1859 as a newly ordained Minister of the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland.

  • After he transferred to Clare the Church was completed and in 1865 a Manse of five rooms was built on the land given by John Hope.

  • This Manse still stands today and is a private home at the top end of Union Street.

  • There is a large free standing plaque on the footpath on Union Street indicating where the Church once stood. There was also a cemetery next to the Presbyterian Church now built over by new houses.


John Hope sold Koolunga station to Robert Barr Smith and John Maslin of North Bundaleer in 1870 when the government resumed parts of it for closer settlement.

  • Hope then acquired pastoral properties in NSW near Wentworth.


Ash Wednesday bushfire

In 1983, fires ravaged through the Clare Valley causing an estimated $4 million dollars worth of damage.

  • A total of 7500 hectares of land were burned during the blaze, wiping out nearly 100 hectares of crop, destroying nine houses and damaging a further 10.

One of the calamities of the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires at Clare was the loss of historical material, both structural and written.

  • ‘Wolta Wolta’, the Hope family home dating from the early 1850s, was severely damaged and many of the old family documents were destroyed, although most of the diaries and letters belonging to John Hope were saved.


Settler John Hope

Settler John Hope’s productive life had a large influence not only of the Clare community, but also on the pastoral industry in the early days of the colony.

  • Having survived a shipwreck on the coast of South America, during which he lost all his belongings, Hope arrived in South Australia from Ireland in 1839.

  • Initially, he acted as tutor for the children of an old Irish acquaintance, John Reid, one of the very early settlers in what was to become Gawler Town.

  • He then embarked on an ambitious, but financially disastrous, project – shipping sheep from South Australia to the Swan River colony.

In 1841, John Hope formed a partnership with the Adelaide Postmaster General, John Watts.

On 5 March 1846, John Hope applied for a land occupation licence covering what is now the township of Koolunga.

  • The nature of Watts’ employment made it impossible for him to spend much time away from Adelaide.

  • The arrangement was that Hope would select and squat on pastoral land north of Clare, and at the same time lay claim to land for Watts.

  • Hope was to manage both runs, and build up stock numbers.

  • This strategy provides remarkably successful and by the early 1850s when the partner-ship with Watts had ended, Hope had considerably increased his sheep numbers and consolidated his 80 square mile ‘Koolunga’ run, on which he placed a manager.

  • It was the financial security stemming from ‘Koolunga’ wool clip that enabled John Hope to return to Ireland in 1859, marry a young woman, Isabella Kenney, from Dublin, return to Clare and raise five children.

Meanwhile, he had purchased freehold land in the Clare area, built a house thereon, and named his property ‘Wolta Wolta’.

  • John Hope went on to become a successful pastoralist in the Clare Valley.

  • He was a member of the Clare Council,

  • a Justice of the Peace, and

  • a generous supporter of worthy causes in and around the town.

  • A visit to Mr John Hope's stud near Clare is reported in the Register, 7 December 1876, page 6b (?)

John Hope's Diaries

John Hope’s diaries commence on Thursday 12 May 1853, the day he took over the management of ‘Bungaree’, the run established by his friend George Hawker, while Hawker and his family were on a two-year overseas trip.

  • The diaries finish when Hope dies in 1880.

  • Gaps in the diaries can be partially ‘filled-in’ from Hope’s correspondence, and the diaries of other early settlers.

  • In his diaries, John Hope refers to over 500 different people.

  • These include individuals employed on his properties or with whom he did business, as well as those he and his wife interacted with socially.

  • Many of the well-known Clare identities of the period are referred to, including members of the following families: Beare, Bagot, Butler, Bowman, Daley, Filgate, Fisher, Formby, Gleeson, Hawker, Horrocks, Hughes, McDonald, Moorhouse, Patterson, Robinson, Walsh, Webb, and Young.

Over the past two years, Dr Rory Hope and Dr Stephanie James have been transcribing John Hope’s diaries and letters with a view to publication.

  • If you have information that could cast light on John Hope’s early days in Clare the researchers would be interested to hear from you.

  • Contact: Dr Rory Hope and Dr Stephanie James, UNLEY PARK SA 5061

Wolta Wolta Homestead:

Wolta Wolta Homestead; an historical residence, is situated on 32 acres in a private valley, but is only a short stroll to the main shopping centre of the Clare Village.

  • The main home, similar to an old English Manor House, in Victorian Period style

  • The private grounds with massive old trees; quiet, perfect to sit and relax, with the sheep grazing nearby.

1846 -- Original Construction Pastoralist John Hope constructed the original Wolta Wolta homestead in 1846.

1871 -- Original Construction The last addidion to Mr Hopes home were completed in 1871.

1983 -- Destroyed by Bushfire Wolta Wolta Homestead was destroyed by the Ash Wednesday Bushfire in 1983

2007 -- Robert Parker Purchased In 2007 Robert Parker commenced resoration of Wolta Wolta to its original grandeur.


Obituary, John Hope ( 1805 - June 20, 1880)

— On June 20 Mr. John Hope, who was for many years a squatter at Wolta Wolta, in the neighborhood of Clare, died at the York Hotel Adelaide.

  • The deceased gentleman in March, 1879, had paid a visit to England on family affairs, and returned in the Orient about six weeks ago when he took up his abode at the York Hotel, being in ill-health.

  • He had lost all his strength owing to old age, and never recovered from his illness. He was about 75 years of age at the time of his death.

Besides having a large property in Clare, the deceased was the owner of a run near Cooper's Creek, and had also recently built a house at Glenelg.

  • The deceased did a great deal of good in and about Clare, although ha never came forward as a public man.

On Tuesday afternoon, June 22, the funeral took place. The remains of the deceased gentleman were removed from the York Hotel, where he had been staying at to the time of his death, at 3 o'clock in the afternoon for the North-road Cemetery, and were followed to the grave by a large number of citizens as well as residents in the country. Canon (George) Dove officiated at the grave, and His Lordship the Bishop of Adelaide (Augustus Short) delivered the benediction.

Among those who attended were the


The funeral arrangements were conducted by Mr. P. Gay.


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