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District Council of Yorke Peninsula - History of Port Victoria
When Captain Flinders charted this area on the 18th March 1802, he mistook what is now referred to as Wardang Island for part of the mainland. He named it Point Pearce in honour of a member of the Admiralty*.
*Wide Sails and Wheat Stacks. Page 10
In 1839, Robert Cook, the government auctioneer and James Hughes, a surveyor, explored the area in their schooner "Victoria". They discovered that Point Pearce was in fact an island and behind it was the harbour which they named "Victoria Harbour" after their schooner*.
*Wide Sails and Wheat Stacks. Page 12
They named the island "Wardang", the native name for the crow,* as they saw many in the vicinity. The natives knew it as "Wauraltee" the native name for the bandicoot which abounded there.
*Wide Sails and Wheat Stacks. Page 13
**Wide Sails and Wheat Stacks. Page 86
The township, when it was proclaimed on 31st August 1876, was officially given the name of Wauraltee but it was never called anything but Port Victoria. One of the reasons for this was because a small unofficial town, which had sprung up between Port Victoria and Mount Rat, had already received that sobriquet.
On the 19th September 1940, the name Port Victoria eventually became official by Government proclamation*.
*Wide Sails and Wheat Stacks. Page 47
After the jetty was build in 1878 sailing vessels called at the port to be loaded with grain. To save wharfage fees they usually anchored about 1.6 kilometres (1 mile) out and ketches which carried between 800 and 1000 bags of grain, lightered the cargo to the windjammers.
Some ships carried 60,000 bags and it took six to eight weeks to load them.
They then set out for overseas, usually by way of Cape Horn.
In 1932, twenty ships loaded with bags of wheat left Port Victoria for the English Channel; a distance of 24,139 kilometres (15,000 miles). This was the commencement of the Great Grain Races.
The vessel to do the journey in the fastest time ever was the "Parma". In 1933 she did the voyage in 83 days*.
*Wide Sails and Wheat Stacks. Page 97
The last square rigger to leave Port Victoria was the "Passat". She left on the 1st June 1949, carrying 56,681 bags of wheat*. When she sank in 1957 it was decided to erect a memorial to the old sailers and sailors. It is near the jetty. Port Victoria was the last port in Australia to load a windjammer. It is therefore known as "The last of the windjammer ports"*.
*Wide Sails and Wheat Stacks. Page 233
**"The Advertiser", 19th March 1982.
When bulk loading of grain began in the 1950's, the sailing ship era ceased.
In Australia there is a "Cape Horners Association" and everyone who has sailed around Cape Horn can become a member. They have an annual dinner and it is a very select society where stories are told by "they that go down to the sea in ships".
Two early surveys on Yorke Peninsula eventuated in nothing: a false start. Robert Cock was sent out by the Adelaide Survey Association in 1839 and reported glowingly on the harbour he had discovered behind Matthew Flinders's Point Pearce: '... completely sheltered from every wind, with a safe and easy anchorage.' (quoted in Heinrich p. 12). The land abutting the bay was also considered rich and fertile. A township was surveyed, Port Victoria, with an adjacent town Spencer, between them containing 749 blocks. Nothing came of this work. The Port Victoria Survey failed due to the exaggerated reports of the country and the lack of a dependable water supply, coupled with an economic downturn in the South Australian economy at that time.
If the land could not be taken up by farmers yet, the Crown Land could be occupied by graziers looking for new pasturing for their flocks and herds. They reasoned that if native animals could occupy the land then so could their herds. By 1846 they were moving into the Peninsula: Alexander Anderson had a property at Urania east of Port Victoria. To the south was Gum Flat station held by Anstey and Giles. Anstey and Giles also held land in what would become the Hundred of Wauraltee. Life was not easy: drought and bushfire destroyed the bush and the stock; the wool price dropped as did the price for sheep. In the late 1860s surveying began again. This time the peninsula would be surveyed into Hundreds with the towns placed at regular intervals. The land would be sold to farmers for cropping.
The Hundred of Wauraltee was proclaimed 31 December 1874. Nine months elapsed before the survey teams began work; two months later the first sections were available for purchase. Good harvests in the adjacent Hundreds of Maitland and Kilkerran boosted sales. Wauraltee was proclaimed a township in 1876; town allotments were auctioned on 5 October 1876. Confusingly a private town called Wauraltee had grown up several miles to the south east. Port Victoria, the name of the harbour, was used increasingly to avoid the confusion, until the name was officially changed in September 1940.
Lot 49 closest to the harbour fetched the highest bid and in 1876 the hotel was built there. The contract for the jetty was signed on 29 May 1877. This was completed in late January 1878 and the first overseas ship to take grain from the port to Europe sailed just 13 months later. Churches and a school followed. The foundation stone for an Institute was laid in September 1892 and books and a piano acquired. Functions included fund raising concerts for distressed farmers, Arbor Day, the school, and from 1912 picture shows. A Soldiers' Memorial Hall was erected alongside the Institute to honour the soldiers of World War I. To raise funds for this part of the town's parklands had been cropped with the profit going towards the construction work.
The Post Office was opened in May 1877; prior to this, residents had had to travel to Maitland to collect their mail. In February 1879 Port Victoria was connected to Ardrossan with a telegraph line, and in 1910 a telephone exchange was installed, with the automatic service not available until September 1966.
A wheat store was erected by Albert Waterman of Maitland and in 1880 Elder Smith & Co. established an agency in the town. By the 1930s the number of grain merchants had increased to six. Henry Hincks built his store in 1877, and another was opened in 1890 by Robert Sandilands. For many years there was also a hawker who sold clothing, cloth, haberdashery and jewellery from his horse drawn van. There were no banks in the town until 1886.
In March 1883 a flour mill was opened with the most modern equipment. 1000 bags of flour an hour could be milled. The mill was upgraded in 1888. It covered five blocks and could hold 20000 bags, and was reputed to produce flour of the highest quality. The mill burned down in 1928, a valuable source of employment in the town destroyed.
When the jetty was built in 1877 seven decades of activity at Port Victoria began with its harbour filled after harvest with dozens of sailing ships and ketches. Port Victoria was not a deep water port; the holds of the large vessels were filled from those of the dozens of ketches and lighters that plied the waters between jetty and the moorings. Because the ships moored in deep water well beyond the jetty, there were no wharf fees or the need for pilots: this made it a cheap port where sailing ships that were not tied to schedules could linger while the labour-intensive work of loading the wheat harvest was carried out. The Cardigan Castle was the first overseas ship loaded with 1800 tons of wheat and it sailed in February 1879.
In 1883 an L-shaped extension was added to the jetty, providing shelter for the small craft
Port Victoria rapidly became the fifth largest port in South Australia in terms of tonnage. The ketches did not just ply Port Victoria's waters loading off-shore ships, but loaded wheat at the smaller Gulf ports of Port Minlacowie, Port Rickaby, Point Turton and Balgowan and carried this to the ships at Port Victoria moorings. For a while Wallaroo took some of Port Victoria's trade, but when it increased its wharfage fees the ships returned to Port Victoria.
The use of superphosphate increased the productivity of the farms on the peninsula and the amount of wheat shipped from Port Victoria also increased; in 1906 110,000 bags were delivered to the port, and in 1910 160,000 bags, with one farmer alone delivering 10,000 bags. The sailing ships' life was prolonged well into the age of steam and diesel-powered vessels, as they arrived in ballast to load the Australian harvest for Europe. Port Victoria was the last of the Australian ports to fill the holds of European sailing ships. The two square-riggers Pamir and Passat were the last to sail from the port in May and June 1949. In the end bulk handling facilities at Ardrossan and Wallaroo took over, and from being a port of significance, Port Victoria became a service town and a tourist centre with holiday homes increasing.
NOTICE TO MARINERS.
THE following Notices, which have been received from the Government of South Australia, are published for general information.
H. E. COHEN".
Marine Board Offices, Port Adelaide, 20th February, 1878.
The following Sailing Directions are published for general information.
Thomas N. Stephens, Secretary. *
Port Victoria.—The anchorage between Wardang Island and the Peninsula to the N.E. of it was formerly known by this name. The bay to the N.W. of Point Gawler is now called Port Victoria, and is the place described here—
The jetty is three-quarters of a mile north of Point Gawler, and runs N.W. by W. £ W. 950 feet from high-water mark. It is 13 feet 6 inches above low water, or 10 feet 6 inches above the mean level of the sea. There are 9 to 91 feet water on both sides for 150 feet from the outer end, or as far as the steps ; depths from 8£ to 6 feet on both sides for 300 feet farther in ; and from thence the depth gradually decreases to low-water mark, which is 700 feet from the outer end of the jetty. This jetty is not available for a vessel drawing more than nine feet. With a fresh S.W. wind (the prevailing sea breeze), the sea comes in from that quarter, and a vessel could not lie on the south side at all.
Eclipse Rock lies W. by S 1/2 S., 2 3/4 cables from the outer end of the jetty, and N. 1/2 W. 7 cables from the north part of Gawler Point. Its extent, with 6 feet water, is 70 yards east and west, and 100 yards north and south, and double those distances with less than 12 feet, (here being 14 to 15 feet water, to the eastward, and 18 to 20 feet close to the westward of the latter area. A red buoy with a staff and ball lies at the south end of the shallow part.
Midway between the Eclipse Point and the jetty end there are only 8 feet water, and but 6 feet S. by W. £ W. one cable from the outer end o( the jetty. Due north of the jetty there is as much water as there is alongside it. Bocks which cover and uncover stretch from Point Gawler 3£ cables towards the Eclipse Bock with 16 to 20 feet water between.
The main street of the township of Wauraltee is in line with the jetty; the houses at present are not visible until to the northward of Point Gawler.
Directions for Port Victoria.—From the northward ; From one mile south of Wardang Island steer N.E. by E. 7 miles to Port Victoria jetty, taking care not to bring the extreme of the rocks off the south point of Wardang Island to bear to the southward of S.W. by W. to avoid the shoals between the island and Port Victoria. From the southward: From 1 mile N.W. of Corny Point to Port Victoria jetty the course is N.E. 1/2 N. 33 1/2 miles. Point. Gawler is steep-to, there being 3 fathoms less than 1 cable off. The buoy on the Eclipse Bock should not be approached nearer tlian one cable. To clear that rock and the rocks north of Point Gawler, the extreme of the point should not be brought to bear southward of S. by E. until the outer end of the jetty bears south of east, when the jetty may be steered for.
Anchprage.—Vessels of 18 feet draught may anchor in 21 to 23 feet, with the jetty end bearing S.E. 1/2 E. half a mile distant. If of more draught with the same place east, three-quarters of $ mile, in 26 to 27 feet. Small vessels unable to go alongside the jetty should anchor in 10 to 12 feet, with the jetty end S.S.E. H cable distant. The light at the inn above the jelly is not to be depended on at night.
[Note.—There is a channel between Wardang and Rocky Island with 9 feet least water at present. Its position and depth has altered so considerably since 1867 that its use cannot be reconmended, neither would it be worth while to beacon it.]
A view of Spencer Gulf from the town of Port Victoria in South Australia 1919 - State Library of South Australia - PRG 280/1/11/27
Wauraltee Hotel 1920 - State Library of South Australia - B 17575
Port Victoria 1920 - State Library of South Australia - B 30475
Grain dealers yard in Port Victoria 1923 - State Library of South Australia - B 30481
Waunalbee Hotel at Port Victoria - State Library of South Australia - B 30494
The Port Victoria flour mill 1918 - State Library of South Australia - B 30686
The Port Victoria flour mill when it was burnt, on the 30th April 1928
State Library of South Australia - B 30687
A view of a Massey Thresher 1916 - State Library of South Australia - B 30669
Public School, Port Victoria. A group of dignitaries arrives as the aboriginal students and staff line up in front of the school building, possibly at its opening. Published in the "Observer", June 30th, 1923 - State Library of South Australia - B 1385
The residents of Port Victoria first requested the establishment of a school in their township in March 1878, as the town was situated 14 miles from the nearest school at Maitland, and over 20 local children required schooling. (1)
In May 1880 a formal application was received from the residents of the town, listing the number of children requiring schooling. The Inspector-General of Schools agreed that a school was required and advised on July 7th that a small wooden school building would soon be erected. The materials were shipped on the ketch "Young Lion" on 20th July 1880. The Office of the Commissioner of Public Works later advised that the school building was completed. (2)
In August 1884, some parents of students attending the school petitioned for the erection of a new school building and shelter shed, on account of the building provided being unsuitable in extreme weather conditions, and on account of the town's rapid population growth. (3) This request was not endorsed by the Inspector, who advised that the existing building could accommodate the children enrolled at that time. A tender was accepted for construction of the shed and painting of the building. (4)
On December 1, 1918 a new stone building was officially opened. (5)
Port Victoria School, later re-classified as a rural school, continued to operate until 1996, when the school was closed due to falling enrolments. At the time of closure there were 11 students enrolled. Over the 116 years of operation of the school, over 1000 students had been enrolled, with enrolments peaking at over 100 and falling to just 8 during the 1980's. Upon closure of the school the remaining students were transferred to the Maitland Area School to continue their education. (6)
(1) GRG18/1 File 353/1878
(2) GRG18/1 File 1041/1880
(3) GRG18/1 File 1517/1884
(4) GRG18/1 File 1728/1884
(5) GRS 4867/1/P - Minutes - School Committees
(6) GRS 4867/1/P - Minutes - School Committees
Contents Date Range Series Date Range Number of Units Public Access Series Id Series Title
1880 - 1995 1880 - 1995 1 Part Open GRS/4863 Admission registers - Port Victoria, later Port Victorial Rural School
1880 - 1991 1880 - 1991 1 Part Open GRS/4864 School journals - Port Victoria, later Port Victoria Rural School
1923 - 1972 1923 - 1972 1 Part Open GRS/4865 INSPECTORS REGISTERS - PORT VICTORIA RURAL SCHOOL
1925 - 1925 1925 - 1925 1 Open GRS/14600 `School News` - Port Victoria School
1947 - 1970 1947 - 1970 1 Open GRS/4866 PUNISHMENT BOOK
1948 - 1996 1948 - 1996 1 Part Open GRS/4867 Minutes - School Committees
1978 - 1995 1978 - 1995 0 Not Applicable GRS/4868 ROLL BOOKS
1989 - 1995 1989 - 1995 0 Not Applicable GRS/4869 FINANCIAL RECORDS
State Library of South Australia - B 30690 - Port Victoria school children and their teach Mr Morphet 1892
Shipping. Port Victoria 1933. 'Killoran', 'Pommern', 'Olivebank'. State Library of South Australia - PRG 1373/39/98
Distant view of sailing ships and small craft moored near the jetty at Port Victoria, South Australia 1921 -
State Library of South Australia - PRG 280/1/38/102
St. Alban's Church, Port Victoria. To see a selection of photographs in this collection, search on Archival number PRG 1642/29. State Library of South Australia - PRG 1642/29/301
Owing to the heavy swell raised by the south westerly wind the steamer was unable to go alongside the jetty here, especially as the only available berth was occupied by the contractor's ketch, the Duchess of Kent, so she anchored in the bay, which is well sheltered on all sides but the south, Wauraltee Island being on the west, and Point Pearce running out to within a short distance of the island. The jetty at Port Victoria is not yet completed. It is to be 1,000 feet in length, and is estimated to be ready for opening by the new year. There are 890 feet completed, so as to render it fit for use, but owing to projecting planks the steamer could not go alongside except in one spot. Mr. Wishart is the contractor for the work. The township of Port Victoria consists of 14 or 15 buildings, including three or four stores, the Wauraltee Hotel, well-built and commodious, and a Wesleyan Chapel, which Mr. Harrington, recently of North Adelaide, is erecting. A great deal of land has been taken up in this district, and the crops are said to be very good, so that the shipment of wheat is expected to be very large. Last year the crops were had here, but they were late sown, and this error has been avoided this season. The residents complain that the trucks on the jetty are too narrow and totally unfit for shipping wheat, and the same complaint was made at Minlacowie and Point Turton. The farmers in the neighborhood of Port Victoria cast longing eyes on Point Pearce and Wauraltee Island (the aboriginal Mission station), and say that the land is wasted in being devoted to the support of a few halfcastes and aboriginals, for whom a better living could be found elsewhere. No doubt if it were thrown open for selection it would very quickly be taken up land put under crop. There is no fresh water at Port Victoria, and what is used in the township has to be carted seven miles, so they are anxiously awaiting the construction of a tank promised by the Government. They also hope to obtain telegraph extension, another mail, and a school, and wish the approaches to the jetty to be made as early as possible. On Tuesday morning we left Port V ictoria, being carried out to the steamer's boat on the friendly shoulders of one of the residents. A stiff southerly breeze was blowing, and when we arrived again at Minlacowie the Captain would not take the steamer along side the jetty, as there was no cargo, and I was sent ashore in the boat. The sea was beating heavily against the jetty, and the sailors got drenched in getting away. Mr. Phillips having kindly sent a man with horses to meet me, and Mr. Anderson having given me items of information which I must take another opportunity of putting into print, I rode across to MOOROWIE STATION.
CENTRAL YORKES PENINSULA -MAITLAND -THE MOTORING TOWN
Tue 6 Jul 1926, The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929)
Port Victoria, 14 miles from Maitiand, is a quiet little seaport village, known by local residents as the 'Sydney of the South.' Wardang Island, seven miles from the town in a seaward direction, has been the scene of many notable, wrecks, remains of which are still scattered along its coast. The island has good flux deposits, and large quantities of sand are shipped from the locality to the Port Pirie Smelters in barges.
The town is the scene of busy operations each harvest, when the port is thronged with grain vessels. Wheat and barley grown in the surrounding localities is all carted down to the port, and an approximate average of 300,000 bags of grain are shipped each season. Residents of the town and surrounding districts are agitating for the establishment of a deep-sea Port at Port Victoria. Port Victoria township has its hotel, new post office, four-mill, three stores, bank, and numerous residences, besides a Soldiers Memorial Institute, which was opened on December 12 last, and cost over £3,000.
The Y.P. Barley Growers Association has formed on Yorke's Peninsula, and established its headquarters at Port Victoria some three years ago, and a year later changed its name to the Y.B. Barley Producers. Limited. The company has agents at every centre on Yorke's Peninsula, and hopes in time to secure the support of all barley growers so as to maintain a more stable and regular market for barley. In its short training of overseas markets the company recognises that its chief competitors are Chili and California, and to be able to compete successfully with them farmers must produce the same quality sample and exhibit it to the same effect. The barley is shipped direct from peninsula ports to customers in various parts of Australia. The oversea, shipments are made principally from Port Adelaide, although one large shipment was made overseas from Edithburgh last year. On account of the dullness of the oversea barley market the existence of the company has saved the barley industry of Yorke's Peninsula from severe dislocation. The markets of the United Kingdom and Europe in the earlier part of the year were flooded with cheap Russian and Danubian barley, which brought about a sluggish demand for the product, and as a consequence Yorke's Peninsula farmers would have had barley left on their hands if it had not been for the pool. The progress of the venture from a farmer's point of view can be considered quite satisfactory. The company has decided to give its customers the best possible quality barley for the best prices. The company will most likely exhibit barley samples at the Brewers Exhibition in London next November, when it is hoped that it will be successful in obtaining a similar trophy to the one it secured on a previous occasion in London. At this exhibition of of the judges commented upon the fine quality of the peninsula sample, and stated that it was the best barley he had yet seen in his 40 years of experience.