In 1838 George Mackereth, a 28 year old farmer from Devon, England arrived in Adelaide two short years after the colony was settled by Europeans. It must have seemed a strange and inhospitable land for him.
Nineteen year old Sarah O'Brien had also come out to South Australia on the barque Royal Admiral, and not long after their arrival, they were married in the newly built Trinity Church on North Terrace. The event was reported in the SA Gazette at the time.
In 1839 George built a hut from local sandstone on the banks of Scott Creek and planted vegetables and three fruit trees - an apple, pear and mulberry. These trees are now over 160 years old, and are still growing adjacent to Mackereth Cottage.
While successfully farming his 240 acre plot Mackereth developed ties with the local Kaurna people, helping them out with food and water when he could. At times when he made the 2 day horse and buggy trip to Adelaide to sell his produce, the Kaurna would camp around the house to provide company for Sarah and protect her.
Life in the young colony must have been very different then. When George Mackereth failed to pick up a letter his name was one of many listed in the South Australian Register as having unclaimed mail.
George Mackereth died on June 27 1864 after being attacked by his bull and sustaining blood poisoning, but Sarah continued to work the Mackereth Cottage farm with her children until her death in 1882.
When the Mackereth family sold the property in 1919 it was described in the SA Register as a "Well-built Stone House of 4 Rooms, Kitchen, Dairy, and Outhouses, substantial Stock-yards, and subdivided into 4 Paddocks, all well fenced. There is running water throughout the Section, and several acres of well-grown established Fruit Garden."
Despite being damaged in a bushfire in 1876, Mackereth Cottage was occupied continuously until 1976 when it was taken over and maintained by the National Trust until 1984.
Aerial View of Stone Dairy & Mackereth Cottage 2016
In 2001 the cottage reverted to SA Water ownership as it is located in a catchment area, but tragically was subsequently damaged by vandals and burnt out. It is now a ruin.
Mackereth Cottage is a reminder of how South Australia's early European settlers struggled and succeeded in a difficult environment, while still maintaining the trust and friendship of the traditional land owners.
For more information and pictures of Mackereth Cottage and the surrounding Scott Creek Conservation Park, see the helpful Friends of Scott Creek Conservation Park web page here.
The State Heritage listed Mackereth cottage is now slowly crumbling on private SA Water property. It is visible from the Matthews Road, but entering the property is prohibited. There is an interpretive sign to tell the history of the cottage.
While in the area it's worthwhile taking a look at the Almanda Silver Mine a short distance away. Scott Creek Conservation Park is also a beautiful area to explore, but pets are not permitted and baits have been laid.
I am a descendant of this family.
My mother took us to the cottage around 2006 and it certainly did not look like it does now...
When inside the cottage we were very upset to see the damage by vandals, especially the smashed glass from the windows that George brought with him on the ship.
I can't believe the state of it now.....I am very deeply hurt and upset by seeing this. I do really appreciate your comments and your infomation was factual and correct...thank you :)))
Wow Dave yet another fantastic article.. I can always rely on you for true and interesting articles... another on my to-do list! What a terrible shame its been left to go to a ruin...although it wont stop me going. Thanks Nat ☺