Morialta and Fourth Creek

The Morialta Region of the Adelaide Hills is much loved today by many people. But what was it like more than 150 years ago? For well over one hundred years before its demolition in the late 1960s, the imposing two storied Stradbroke House stood close to the crossing over Fourth Creek on Stradbroke Road, in the vicinity of the present day Seminary Way and McCabe Court. With its wide verandahs, English-style gardens, sweeping driveway through the gates at the lower end of today’s Swan Avenue, and situated in over 200 acres, it must indeed have been an impressive property some ten miles out of Adelaide.

In November 1850, Richard Beetson and his family arrived from England on the Northumberland, and by mid 1851 had purchased Stradbroke House. This short extract describing the Fourth Creek and Morialta region in the mid-1850s is from Elizabeth Warburton’s excellent book Old Stradbroke (Lynton Publications 1976)

The reader is John J McGowan.

Fourth Creek must have made an ideal setting for the Beetson youngsters, close to hills, waterfalls, challenging rock faces, and to the pools of the creek, fringed in those days with tea-tree, golden wattle and native aster, canopied over in places with native lilac. A green-flowered native fuschia grew there, and the alien verbena, rushes shadowed the gully and orchids starred the hillsides. Sheoaks drooped softly, lemon-scented eucalypts grew in clumps, and thickly along the creek clustered tall well-watered red gums.

Rocky Waterfalls at Morialta, 1862 - 65. Published in South Australian Illustrated News

With horses in the stable and riding-country all about them, the Beetsons lacked none of the pleasures of rural life, yet were able to make use of other amenities if they wished. Several of the children, if not all, were learning music; Mr Harrison, Professor of Languages, was one of Mr Beetson’s tenants as near as South Stradbroke, next to St George’s Church; and within fairly easy distance was the town, which had a range of retail stores, doctors, dentists and public entertainments. For family living, Stradbroke’s situation could scarcely have been bettered anywhere in the world.

Fourth Creek, in Morialta Conservation Park. First published in The Chronicle in 1914

With men in their red coats and riding boots and to the sound of the horn, the hunt was a regular event in the open fields of Rostrevor, Stradbroke and even as far as Mrs Fox’s property at Maryvale, with the horses and riders starting from Stradbroke House or from nearby Rostrevor House on the adjoining property at Woodforde. Fortunately, fox hunting is now a thing of the past. And much else too around Stradbroke, Fourth Creek and Morialta has changed since the 1850s. Associate Professor David Paton from The University of Adelaide takes up the story.

Program 3, Park Friends

Further reading
On Stradbroke House – Old Stradbroke, Elizabeth Warburton, Lynton Publications 1976
On Rostrevor House – Pride of the Hills, Peter Moore, Lynton Publications 1975