Photography obsessed writer and urban explorer. Lover of nature, art and long weekends. Adelaide, South Australia.
Published December 13th 2016
Nearly all of my life I have travelled the Port Wakefield Road and have driven either through or past Two Wells. Just recently I was in the area and had some spare time to do a bit of exploring. I've always been curious as to the history of the wells and why they were so famous that a whole town was named after them.
I presented to the office of the District Council and spoke to a lovely customer service lady. She took my details and said that she would contact one of her coworkers who has a lot of the historical information on the town. Later that day, Lynette Seccafien, the Community Development Officer at the Adelaide Plains Council rang me and we had a lengthy conversation about the wells and other interesting local history facts. I had been struggling to find information on the wells until Lynette rang - her time, knowledge and help with providing the information for this article has been most appreciated. Thank you, Lynette!
Two Wells is named Two Wells due to the two natural and permanent waterholes there. The original name of the township was the "Town of Two Wells" c.1850.
Interestingly, Two Wells was never officially declared a town until 1957 when a private survey occurred and council then declared it as such. And, it wasn't until 1990 that the boundaries were officially fixed.
Grain farmers began settling in the area around the 1860s and the town grew significantly in size between the late 1800s to early 1900s. It was reported in the Gawler Bunyip of 21st October 1865, that "the progress of Two Wells was rapid, especially in the Iast twelve months". It seems logical that the population growth was directly linked to the fact that Port Gawler had been declared a legal Port. A news item in the Bunyip in April 1867 said that the new port was nearly finished.
The earliest settlers to the area built their homes on the banks of the Gawler River - purely for the necessity to have access to water.
It was then discovered that many natural wells could be found in and around the area.
The two famous wells in Two Wells are just west of the main street - the arched entrance sign to the park can be seen from the Adelaide to Port Augusta Highway that now runs past the town.
It's believed that the two wells were deepened to provide water for the bullock that were herded in great numbers from Adelaide to go north. Two Wells was an overnight stop and watering hole for the livestock. Legend has it that the horses refused to drink from a well that cattle drank from. So, the other well had to be put into use.
District Council minutes from March 1882 indicate that that was when the wells were first strengthened for regular use.
A pipeline from the Barossa was connected to Two Wells at the turn of the century. This caused the wells to become neglected. School kids from the area played at the wells and collected tadpoles to put in their inkwells. In the 1950s the trough,
windlass and other junk were thrown into the wells and they were both filled in.
The location of the wells was lost for a few years. Many couldn't remember exactly where they were.
In the mid-1960's a youth group from the Methodist Church found the wells and applied for a grant to open the wells and to build stone walls around them.
They planted trees and unfortunately many of them did not survive. Without proper care, the wells area became neglected and forgotten again. Vandals got into the area and destroyed what they could.
In 1979 a group started the Two Wells Advancement Association and interest in the wells was alive again. The group won a Tidy Town award and the prize money was spent on the creation and installation of the arched sign at the entrance to the reserve.
The District Council of Mallala approved a design plan and work began on reviving the reserve. The wells were fixed and rejuvenated. Hundreds of native trees were planted. An indigenous food and medicine walking trail, Pudnarla, linked the main street to the wells reserve. Footpath stepping stones bear the names of those in the community who helped fundraise the project. The Pudnarla Food Craft and Medicine trail, started by the Two Wells and Lewiston Landcare Group, has sadly gone to seed and is no longer visible or in use.
There are some fabulous aboriginal statues at the current wells site, but the artist is unknown. There are no name plates on any of the sculptures and there seems to be no record of who made them.
There's a beautiful fence that spans the front section of the park. It is an indigenous styled art metal fence and was installed as part of the town's Centenary of Federation celebrations.
There are no facilities at the wells apart from a shade structure that has no seating underneath it. There is a circular bench seat under a beautiful Northern Territory eucalyptus tree. The tree has a plaque attached "Esthers Tree". The tree is dedicated to Esther Marie Hart who worked tirelessly as a volunteer at the park for many years.
I found the reserve to be quite a pleasant spot actually and spent more than half an hour wandering around and exploring the wells and the walking trail. It's a shame that there is no signage to the wells from the Main Street. I took a punt that Wells Road would be where I'd find them and was right. I found the park to be a great spot and there are some really interesting tales to be told and learnt if the information was more accessible and widely available. Maybe there's a new generation of proud historians that can take their turn to look after this important part of the Adelaide Plains history.
Two Wells is a town approximately 40 kilometres north of the Adelaide CBD. The Port Wakefield Road passes nearby as well as the Adelaide to Port Augusta railway line.
Lynette is currently seeking information and photos on Bullens Lions Park which was on Middle Beach Road at Two Wells in the 1960s. If you have any stories to share, please send her an email: email@example.com
There is a history book 'Two Wells Then And Now" written by Bet Williams. There are copies available for sale at the Craft Shop which is located inside the courthouse next to the Post Office.
The blacksmith artist who created the iron statues on consignment was Mr Roy Wink based at Parham. He was engaged by the Two Wells & Districts Tourism & Trade Association Inc. which is a community group that manages many grant projects on behalf of the community and now has more recently taken on the name of Two Wells Regional Action Team Inc.
I too have/been driven past Two Wells for over 70 years and mused about the name and it was not until this year that I stopped to investigate. There is a sign and pathway adjacent to the public toilets in the Main Street and that's how we found the redeveloped wells area. Must also admire the beautiful Soldiers Memorial Gardens. An absolute beauty.
Thank you for this article Paula. I too have wondered about the origin of the name Two Wells. I remember back when someone was planning a new land release in the area for housing that would "double the size of the town" some wag in the paper asked if they would have to re-name the town Four wells? :)
In the 1870s my ancestors lived there. James and Elizabeth Beames. She had been one of the very first nurses in Adelaide and he a senior officer at the Gaol.
Two Wells will appear briefly in the novel l am writing so l am grateful for this detail. Several of my Scottish characters spend about 8 years in SA before moving on to New Zealand.
Thank you for insightful information...That it took 107 years for Two Wells to be officially declared a town and then another 33 years for boundaries to be officially fixed...Perhaps that's why it's challenging for delivery services to try and identify property numbers...May the hidden things continue to be revealed and uncovered!