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Historic Coromandel Valley

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by Lorraine Day (subscribe)
I'm a freelance journalist and writer who has lived in the Northern Territory and western Victoria, now residing in Yankalilla; a lover of music, gardening, golf, the Australian bush and all things historical. See
Published April 13th 2015
Coromandel Valley is one of the earliest settlements in South Australia, and just 19 km from Adelaide. Its origin has an interesting element of romance and intrigue, being named after the ship Coromandel carrying 156 passengers, including 13 children, which, after spending three months at sea, arrived at Holdfast Bay on 17 January 1837, just 20 days after proclamation of the colony of South Australia.

Ship Coromandel
The ship Coromandel, photo courtesy of

One impatient passenger, James Chambers, swam ashore, anxious 'to make land'.

All but one of the emigrants survived the voyage on the Coromandel, under command of Captain William Chesser. They were mostly under 26 years of age and mainly married couples, two of whom married on board after nine days at sea. After the passengers had disembarked, and while the ship was anchored in Holdfast Bay, 10 sailors from the ship took provisions and deserted. While desertion was not uncommon, in this case the sailors made their way to the hills and the valley which was later to be known as Coromandel Valley.

There are a number of stories as to the route they took, possibly following Brown Hill Creek or the Sturt River, but one consistency is that they sheltered in a cave and used an elevated hill to observe their ship in Holdfast Bay, awaiting its departure. When they saw the Coromandel had sailed, they made their way back to the plains where all but one of the men surrendered on 13 March 1837 and were held in custody. As there was no prosecutor at their court appearance three days later, they were discharged.

None of the sailors returned to the valley that eventually took its name from their ship.

However, the first of the passengers ashore, James Chambers, took up a sheep commonage licence late in 1837 over 200 acres where Chambers Creek now runs. His brother John built a house 'Chamberlea' on this land in 1842 near what is today known as Cherry Gardens.

Most probably, the story told by the sailors about the area they had found, had some influence on the settlement of Coromandel Valley. It would have been recounted to passengers they had known on the ship.

One hundred years later, the Advertiser of 9 January 1937, described Coromandel Valley as a small, scattered settlement on the River Sturt. ' . . . The principal buildings are a public school, an institute hall, three places of worship, a post office and store, butcher's and baker's premises and a disused jam and biscuit factory. Besides, there are two gardens and orchards sustaining a population of 272 persons . . .'

During the month of May, as part of its History Month program, the Coromandel Valley and Districts Branch of the National Trust of South Australia is offering two guided bus tours and four guided walks, in addition to special open days at Gamble Cottage & Garden and Winns Bakehouse Museum:

Discover Coromandel Valley Guided Bus Tour on Wednesday 6 May from 10 am to 4 pm will take you on an interactive tour starting from Gamble Cottage, A knowledgeable guide will share a treasure trove of stories and you will be encouraged to ask questions. There are short walk options during the tour. Bookings are essential and cost is $30 per person includes lunch.

Gamble Cottage and Garden
Gamble Cottage & Garden, photo courtesy Trevor Conlon

Guided Bus Tour of Significant Sites and Buildings on Sunday 24 May from 10 am to 4 pm will include fascinating stories of places and people who settled here. Departing from Gamble Cottage, the tour includes a vist to Hurd's Hill property and Murray's Jam & Biscuit Factory site. Bookings are essential and cost is $30 per person includes lunch.

Hurd's Hill
Hurd's Hill, c.1987, the original home of the Matthews family

Coromandel Valley Guided Walk (northern valley) on Tuesday 12 May 9.30 am to 12.30 pm and Sunday 7 May 1 pm to 4 pm is a pleasure walking experience through a beautiful area past magarey's Orchard and through former Government Experiemental Orchard, with fascinating stories of people and places conducted by a local guide who knows the history of the area. Bookings are essential and cost is $15 including morning or afternoon tea.

Coromandel Valley Methodist Church
Coromandel Valley Methodist Church

Coromandel Valley Guided Walk (southern valley) on Thursday 14 May, 9.30 am to 12.30 pm and Wednesday 20 May, 1 pm to 4 pm is a comfortable walk through beautiful settings accompanied by a local guide, knowledgeable about the history of the area. Bookings are essential and cost is $15 including morning or afternoon tea.

Coromandel Valley Institute
Coromandel Valley Institute building now a studio occupied by local artist Sheryl Glassmith

Gamble Cottage and Garden, Cnr Dorham Road and Main Road to Coromandel Valley, is open on Sunday 17 May from 1 pm to 4 pm. The cottage was built in 1902 for Joseph Gamble, an orchardist who worked at the Government Experimental Orchard, then located near the junction of Main Road and Turners Avenue. Two of Joseph's daughters, Clara and Edith, didn't marry and lived in the house and cared for the garden until bequeathed to the City of Mitcham in 1982 for use by the community. Today the cottage, which houses memorabilia of many early residents of the area, is maintained by the National Trust. The garden, a rare surviving example of a true cottage garden with a number of heritage plantings, is cared for by the Friends of Gamble Garden, a group of dedicated volunteers who care for the garden, some of whom will be on hand on the day to share their knowledge. Entry to the Cottage by donation, and afternoon tea will be available.

Winns Bakehouse Museum, Winns Road, Coromandel Valley, is open on Sunday 17 May from 12 pm to 4 pm.
Explore the fascinating history of this bakehouse, built in 1878 and operated until 1940. Originally there were two ovens with a capacity to bake 220 loaves in each oven. Named after Walter Winn, the second of four bakers, who operated the business from 1883 to 1919, the bakehouse is situated alongside the Sturt River, and is part of the historic Winns Road Precinct. Today the museum houses memorabilia of the pioneer families of the area. About 1888, Walter's brother Oliver established a butcher's business on the other side of the ford. The property is today referred to as the Watchman house and is being restored. Attendants at the museum will be on hand to talk about displays and early life in Coromandel Valley.

Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy with the family on the grassed surrounds, or enjoy the peaceful scenery of the nearby walking paths along the river.

Entry to the Bakehouse is by donation.

Winns Bakehouse & Museum
Winns Bakehouse & Museum, photo courtesy Trevor Conlon

For more information, or if you would like to join a walking or bus tour through Coromandel Valley, you can book through the local branch of the National Trust of SA by contacting the Liaison Officer on 0474 066 776 or email or phone Trevor Conlon on 8270 5686. Website
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Where: Coromandel Valley
Your Comment
I lived in this pretty part of the Adelaide Hills all through high school and my father still lives in Coro Valley today, so I have a great excuse to return as much as I can. Thanks for a deeper perspective on all the fondly familiar places that create such nostalgia for me.
by Gina Boothroyd (score: 1|95) 1941 days ago
A lovely article about Coromandel Valley. My grandparents lived there in the 50's, in Crane Ave, (Cemetery Road). I always loved staying there, it seem so far away from the rest of the world
by Philippa (score: 1|81) 1940 days ago
Great story. Well done
by Steve Hudson (score: 3|1249) 1942 days ago
Welcome to WeekendNotes Lorraine. Fascinating article. I was pottering around Chambers Creek recently and now I know how it was named.
by Jenny Rossiter (score: 3|4159) 1940 days ago
I live in Eden Hills. What a detailed account of the history of this area. Congratulations Lorraine on a great piece.
by Haydn Radford (score: 3|1127) 1937 days ago
I taught in primary school late nineties- lovely environment- fascinating history- Magarey family, apple production etc.... Pamela
by pamel40 (score: 0|2) 1940 days ago
Thank you, Pamela. I agree it is a lovely environment in which to live. I consider myself fortunate.
by Lorraine Day (score: 1|41) 1940 days ago
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