Friends of Sturt Gorge




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1849 Archibald Jaffrey
1900s Alfred de Rose
1930s and the Depression
1940s and World War II
1960s Mr Robin Millhouse tries for National Park listing
1970s Proclamation as Recreation Park
1980s The Craigburn addition
2000s Recent additions
Fire History


Part of traditional lands of Kaurna Aboriginal people. The country of the Kaurna people extends from Port Wakefield to Cape Jervis, west to Gulf St Vincent and east to the Mount Lofty Ranges. Little information is available concerning Kaurna Aboriginal occupation and use of the area. However, Aboriginal people did use this natural corridor to follow traditional hunting and gathering routes.

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1849 Archibald Jaffrey...

The land that is now Sturt Gorge Recreation Park was originally surveyed as Sections 28, 29, 68-71, 79 and 80 in the Hundreds of Adelaide and Noarlunga and was granted to the Adelaide merchant Archibald Jaffrey. Jaffrey purchased Sections 29, 68, 69, 79, 80 and 393 on 29 October 1849.

This was followed by the purchase of Sections 70 and 71 (63 hectares) on 18 April 1850, and Section 80 (32 hectares) on 21 November 1850. The total area of his Sturt River property was 254 hectares.

From May 1851 the property was leased to a number of persons, most of whom used the land to graze cattle and sheep. On Jaffrey's death in 1893, his estate, including the Sturt Gorge property, was bequeathed to his children who continued to lease out the land.

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1900s Alfred de Rose...

In May 1903, 2 hectares or Section 80 were sold to Henry B. Adams, who had purchased an adjoining property. The remainder of the land was sold to Charles John Downer of Blackwood in November 1919. A short time later, negotiations were made by the Minister or Repatriation to purchase the property from Downer for a settlement for discharged soldiers.

The Sturt Gorge property was subsequently redesignated as Section 1424 and 1425 and a lease was taken up by a returned soldier and farmhand of O'Halloran Hill, Edgar Alfred de Rose. The agreement was dated 26 November 1920, and was for a 65-year lease with a right to purchase.

The de Rose family occupied the Sturt Gorge property for longer than any of the numerous earlier lessors - they worked the property until 1969. They called the property Sturt Hills, and throughout their lease period grazed mostly sheep and a few cattle. Edgar de Rose ran 700-800 sheep on the property with a maximum flock size of 1200. In the early years he ran black-faced Suffolks for fat lamb production and later changed to Merino-Corriedale cross for wool.

Part of the southern part of the property was leased out for farming purposes; for flax growing during the Second World War, and in subsequent years for growing field peas and cereals. Working the property was never easy because of the steep terrain. Herding sheep and dealing with roaming domestic dogs became an ever-increasing problem as surrounding areas were subdivided for residential purposes.

Soon after acquiring the Crown Lease, Edgar de Rose built a house on Section 71. In actual fact, he added to an existing small stone house which was built for or by a Mr Waymouth. Edgar de Rose's son Gordon recalls that this was not the earliest house on the property. To the west of his fathers house there were signs of an earlier structure built near an old bullock track that ran from the ridge down to Spring Creek. On Section 72 there were several saw-pits, presumably for sawing timber cut elsewhere on the property.

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1930s and the Depression...

During the depression of the early 1930s, the de Roses cut timber from the eastern part of the property. The wood was sold to bakeries and brickmakers and the profits used to supplement their income.

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1940s and World War II...

Click to see full size image.

During the Second World War, the hilltops at and to the north of Sturt Gorge were defended with barbed wire, trenches and guns. The soldiers camped near Edgar de Rose's house and occupied his shearing shed. This was the second time the military used Sturt Gorge. During the First World War, General Kitchener had staged a mock battle on the land. Shells were fired from near the south-eastern boundary towards Blackwood. The de Roses found some of these old shell cases in the ground and craters made by the shells are still in evidence.

This newspaper article was published in  the Advertiser in December 1947 describing the gorge.

Full transcript (Rich Text Format)

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In August, 1953, the lease was transferred jointly to Edgar de Rose, his wife Amy Elizabeth de Rose, and his two children Gordon John de Rose and Dorothy Ann de Rose. The operation of a grazing property in close proximity to residential areas continued to have its problems. The Marion area underwent an enormous change between 1950 and 1965. Market gardens, vineyards and orchards were replaced by housing estates. Similar changes occurred at Eden Hills, Blackwood and Flagstaff Hill. Packs of dogs continued to take their toll on de Rose's sheep.

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1960s Mr Robin Millhouse tries for National Park listing...

A bushfire in the early 1960s presented the de Roses with a major problem because all but about 16 hectares of the property was burnt. In 1964, they decided that they would have to sell the property. Edgar de Rose contacted the Government offering his 216 hectares for 70,000 pounds. The offer was not accepted.

Quite independently of de Rose's offer, Mr Robin Millhouse (then the Member for Mitcham), brought up the matter of acquiring Sturt Gorge for use as a National Park in Parliament on 5th August 1964. In a letter to the Minister of Lands (Mr P. H. Quirke) dated 6th August 1964, Millhouse wrote:

The area I have in mind is that below the flood control dam site. I am sure you would agree that it is most suitable for a National Park.

No action was taken by the Government, and in January, 1966, Millhouse again raised the question with the new Minister of Lands (Mr J. D. Corcoran). Millhouse and Corcoran visited the area and later requested that action be taken under the Town Planning Act to ensure that the area was not subdivided. No powers to do this existed, and several applications to subdivide were received during 1965-66.

Millhouse had discussions with the de Rose family and learnt that the property was still available for 70,000 pounds. This information was conveyed to Mr Corcoran who informed Milihouse that:

The present Government is unable to contemplate the purchase of the area at this stage.

Millhouse again raised the matter in Parliament in June, 1966. The following month, the de Rose family were approached by a land developer, and with no Government interest forthcoming, sold to two land development companies namely Barill Nominees fly. Ltd. and Sleeps Mill Estates Pty. Ltd.

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1970s Proclamation as Recreation Park...

Continued pressure from Robin Millhouse and a campaign by the Geological Monuments Subcommittee of the S.A. Division of the Geological Society of Australia to ensure the preservation of the glacial land-forms in the gorge, appear to have persuaded the Government of the value of the area. Between 1969 and 1972, the land for Sturt Gorge Recreation Park was purchased in pieces from the two development companies who owned the land.

In September, 1972, Hooker Town Developments Pty. Ltd. purchased the southern part of Section 1425 from the land developers. The portion of this land (designated as Sections 1561 and 1556), which is within the Hills Face Zone, was given to the Minister of Lands by Hooker-Rex Estates for inclusion in the proposed Sturt Gorge park.

On 4 October 1973, Sections 625, 674 (Hundred of Adelaide), 1556 and 1561 (Hundred of Noarlunga) (84 hectares) were proclaimed as Sturt Gorge Recreation Park. In 1984, a small area of Section 1549 was resumed, while Sections 1648, 1649 and 1665 (Hundred of Noarlunga) were added in 1985.

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1980s The Craigburn addition...

In 1980, Minda Incorporated offered 55 hectares of their Craigburn Farm property to the Government for inclusion in Sturt Gorge Recreation Park. This was part of an agreement by which Minda Incorporated was given planning permission to subdivide land on Black Road, Happy Valley. The remainder of Craigburn (350 hectares) was to be retained as open space.

The land added to Sturt Gorge Recreation Park was largely regrowth native vegetation and comprised parts of Sections 21, 22 and 23 (Hundred of Noarlunga), now renumbered as Section 1665 (47 hectares) (Figure 2). The land was proclaimed as an addition to the park in 1985 and is known as the Craigburn addition. Eight hectares of the gift land were excluded for addition to Flagstaff Hill Primary School.

In early 1981, the Education Department asked for a stall portion of the Craigburn gift land to enlarge the grounds of Flagstaff Hill Primary School.

Also, the Flagstaff Hill Scout/Guide groups sought to lease an adjacent small area for a hall site. As the land was being given to the State and the requests were for small areas on the extremities of the property, these alienations were agreed to by the Minister.

The Scouts' site to the east of the school, on land dedicated as part of the Sturt Gorge Recreation Park, is leased from the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources. However, the area required for addition to the school grounds was excluded from the park extension.

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2000s Recent additions...

In 2001, Allotments 1, 4, 9 and 156 (Hundred of Adelaide), Allotments 1, 52 and 198 (Hundred of Noarlunga) totalling 64 hectares was added and a further 49 hectares Allotment 3 (Hundred of Noarlunga) added in 2003

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Two mines have operated in the lower portion of the Sturt Gorge; one a silver, lead and zinc deposit, and the other a copper-lead deposit. The first of these was incorrectly described by the local residents as a goldmine, and a plaque commemorating the Flagstaff Hill Gold Mine was erected near the site of the mine by the land developers.

The only recorded discovery of gold on the Sturt River was on 21 August 1861, when a young boy found a nugget on the property of the Adelaide brewer, John Primrose (south-western 8 hectares of Section 82 on Marion Road) which weighed "1 oz 3 dwt 8 gre. It was valued at 4 pounds. 9s 6d. On examination, it was found to be different from the gold found at Echunga but similar to the gold from Bendigo. The nugget was previously lost by a digger returning from Bendigo some years previous.

The so-called Flagstaff Hill Gold Mine was in fact a silver, lead and zinc deposit and was located south-west of the Sturt River on Section 27. There is no record of when and by whom this mine, which consisted of a single shaft, was operated.

The deposit was rediscovered in July 1961 when the Engineering and Water Supply Department were conducting test drillings in preparation for constructing the Sturt Flood Control Dam. The drilling located a sulphide-bearing lode, predominantly zinc sulphide with lower percentages of lead, copper and silver. No gold was found in the analysis. The lode is quite narrow and dips steeply to the south.

It is likely that this mine was started during one of the periods of high silver prices in the nineteenth century. The high prices in 1868 saw the establishment of silver mines at Cherry Gardens and scattered between Scotts Creek and Kangarilla. World silver prices again peaked in 1888, and mining activity again increased. However, the high prices were shortlived and low-yielding mines soon ceased to operate.

The origins of the Sturt Gorge copper-lead mine are also unknown. It was certainly there when Edgar de Rose came to Sturt Gorge and even then had not been worked for some time. The Mines Department relocated the mine in 1956 and it was reopened and worked for about six years by B. J. and W. H. Stretton (Mineral Claim Number 3719).

The original workings were on a steep slope 46 metres above the river-bed and 76 metres below Flagstaff Hill Road. It consisted of two adits, one which had a winze or steeply inclined short shaft at the end. The newer workings consist of two shallow shafts and three costeans. The original working was for galena but there is no record of the output. There are irregular, and separate, copper and lead-bearing veins. The copper minerals are mainly malachite and chalcopyrite (Johnson 1961b, 1962).

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 Fire History

Prior to dedication, small fires occurred in Sturt Gorge in most summers. Dates of larger outbreaks are

difficult to determine, although it is believed larger fires occurred in the area in 1924 and in the early 1960s.

Since 1972, when the park was dedicated, eight fires are known to have burnt within the park confines. Six of these fires all occurred in the period between 1972 and 1976, with three occurring in 1974. Four of these fires are known to have been deliberately lit. Most were small, with only one burning in excess of 10 hectares in 1972. More recently, two hectares were burnt in April 1987 (cause unknown) and a spot fire occurred in May of the same year which is believed to have been lit by children.

Though records indicating the locality of the tires are sometimes vague, it appears that the great majority of the fires occurred in the western portion of the park.

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Last update: 6/05/2015