Travelling south on the Victor Harbor Road one cannot fail to notice Paxton’s Winery on the right-hand side located half-way between Old Noarlunga and McLaren Vale in a picturesque valley surrounded by vineyards. The winery utilises the remaining Landcross Farm buildings, some of which were restored for an office and a wine tasting venue after the current owners purchased the property in 2000. Few would know that the Victor Harbor Road today crosses over part of what used to be Landcross Farm, land acquired for the making of this new and wider road through the district in the 1970s. Prior to the sale of the last of the Landcross Farm acreages in 1997 the farm had remained in the same family for several generations from 1880. Landcross Farm in its heyday consisted of approximately 320 acres including several houses, farm buildings and paddocks, situated on four sections of land – Sections 102, 111, 112 and 121 of the Hundred of Willunga, County of Adelaide. In July 1961 part of the adjoining Nene Farm that was owned by the Martin family was purchased thus making approximately 420 acres on which to graze stock and undertake other farming production. The sections at the back of the property overlooked McLaren Vale and beyond. The following is a brief history of Landcross Farm and some of the people who owned, lived, and farmed there.

John Ridley and Thomas Whinnerah

On 30 October 1847 John Ridley was granted Section 102 of approximately 77 acres. Evidence points to this John Ridley as the inventor of the harvester, also referred to as the stripper, that was to mechanise with the use of two men and two horses the harvesting of cereal crops such as corn, wheat, and barley. Ridley was a grain and flour merchant and owned several flour mills. He was born in 1806 near Sunderland, Durham, England, and arrived in the colony with his family in April 1840. In 1853 he returned with his family to England via Europe to live, dying there in 1887.

On 20 November 1848 Section 112 was granted to Thomas Whinnerah. This was followed on 21 September 1849 by the granting of Sections 111 and 121 to Whinnerah. Whinnerah held vast amounts of land throughout the district during his lifetime. He was described as a farmer and later a grain and flour merchant. Born in 1809 in Cumberland, England, Whinnerah arrived in South Australia in September 1839 from Liverpool and initially farmed land at Goodwood. Later he owned farms at Port Willunga, Aldinga and north of Adelaide at Tarlee as well as property in Adelaide and North Adelaide. He died in July 1890 at ‘The Cedars’, Grunthal located between Hahndorf and Littlehampton in the Adelaide Hills. Around 1844 he used one of Ridley’s Strippers to harvest a small acreage at a location not stated suggesting the possibility of a business relationship between Whinnerah and Ridley. In 1845, Dr James Benjamin McDonald reported on the use of the Ridley stripper on his acreage at Willunga stating that in seven weeks ‘upwards of two hundred and sixteen acres of wheat in the most creditable manner at a cost of about five pence per bushel’ was harvested. Thomas Whinnerah was well known in the district and no doubt Dr McDonald knew him through his own community engagement and medical practice.

The sections that comprised Landcross Farm in 1869 when John Gribble is listed as owner
on the Certificate of Title. (SAILIS, CT129/53).

John Gribble

However, by 1850 a John Gribble was farming Sections 102, 111, 112 and 121. Yet it was not until March 1853 that Gribble obtained a lease from Whinnerah for four years for sections 111 and 121 for £30 per annum to be paid half yearly on 29 September and 25 March of each year. During this period, he had the right to purchase these sections for £200. The council assessment for 1853 also notes that John Ridley was recorded as the owner of Section 102 that Gribble farmed. Section 112 was listed as having a house although no details were given of what that was like. Likewise in 1855 and 1856 Ridley retained ownership of Section 102 even though by then he was living in England, but Gribble was the occupier. It appears Gribble did not own any of the land until much later in May 1869. However, some difficulties arise when researching land records prior to 1858, the year that the Torrens Title system came into effect. Prior to 1858, land ownership was confirmed by the production of deeds, leases, and mortgages rather than a single Certificate of Title – a missing document risked jeopardising land ownership. It is therefore possible that documents for John Gribble’s land dealings before 1858 existed but were subsequently lost.

John Gribble, born in Devon circa 1805, arrived in South Australia in January 1839 from London. It is thought he named the farm Landcross after a village near his birthplace. In 1864 an advertisement appeared in the press referring to his property as Landcross Farm. His first wife Elizabeth died on the voyage to Australia, and he remarried to Mary Sanders in Adelaide on 27 March 1843. After Mary died in March 1866 near Noarlunga, Gribble remarried to Ann Fair (nee Harden) at his residence, McLaren Vale in June 1868. Landcross Farm was often referred to in the historical records as near Noarlunga or at McLaren Vale or even ‘near the Horseshoe, Willunga’. It is probable this third marriage took place at Landcross Farm. He had children from his first two marriages, but none were born at Landcross Farm. Gribble died in September 1887 at Norwood and is buried in the McLaren Vale Methodist (now Uniting) Church Cemetery, memorialised with his second and third wives.

John Gribble, Old Colonists Banquet Group, 1872 (SLSA B47769/17F).

Gribble was active in community affairs in both McLaren Vale and Noarlunga while living at Landcross Farm. He was a witness at an inquest held in December 1855 at the Devonshire Arms in McLaren Vale into the death of Mary Atkinson, wife of Thomas. As well he was a member of the Noarlunga Council for various periods between 1858 and 1877. Gribble was granted a slaughtering licence by the Noarlunga Council in March 1859. In July 1866 he attended a meeting held at the Horseshoe Inn to discuss a proposed deviation of Main South Road near the town of Noarlunga. Landowners opposed the plan for a number of reasons, including the costs associated with the short distance it would have saved, the need for the deviation to pass through private property, the additional distance people would have to travel to Noarlunga for water, and the same for those bringing livestock to drink nearby. It was argued the present road was a ‘good road’, and those living further south had not requested a new road. It is unknown if the proposed deviation was built. Local historian Adele Pridmore also noted Gribble was reported as having been ‘very kind’ to the local Aboriginal people who had walked in a northerly direction from Tatachilla Road, McLaren Vale and through his property, later referred to as Wheaton’s Gully.

In 1872 Gribble advertised Landcross Farm for sale or let. He had relocated to Noarlunga village where he became a storekeeper. It was clear that improvements to Landcross Farm had been made by Gribble as the advertisement mentioned a house of seven rooms, two stone cottages, a barn, nine-stall stable, chaffhouse, dairy, cellars, an orchard and a vineyard. Also, there was a well of good water. However, it was not until the following year that the farm was leased to Eli King for a term of seven years from 25 March 1873.

Landcross Farm for sale or let. (‘Advertising’, Adelaide Observer, 2 March 1872:page 8).

Eli King

Eli King had arrived in South Australia in November 1851 with his wife Drucilla and two children. He was born in 1827 at Yardley Hastings, Northamptonshire. It was reported that he initially took on labouring positions, went to the Victorian goldfields twice, and eventually settled for fourteen years on two sections of land at Encounter Bay at a place known as King’s Beach which was named after him. Then, in March 1873, he leased Landcross Farm which he worked for seven years until he retired to the town of McLaren Vale. He and his wife had fifteen children, none of whom were born at Landcross. Scant details are known about his time at Landcross Farm. He was granted a slaughtering licence in January 1877. And he was a member of the Noarlunga Council.

Photograph of Landcross Farm circa 1876. (Courtesy of Dorothy Sigston, Landcross Farm Collection, Willunga National Trust).

It is believed that besides farming pursuits he also grew wine grapes, but a vineyard had already been established by Gribble so perhaps this was maintained by King. After his lease expired in 1880, King allegedly retired, and later stated that ‘he had started at the lowest rung of the ladder, … [and] as a result of hard work and self-denial, [he could] scorn the idea of accepting an old age pension’. He died in October 1912 and is buried in the McLaren Vale Uniting Church Cemetery.

Eli and Drucilla King with family members, date unknown. (Courtesy of Dorothy Sigston, Landcross Farm Collection, Willunga National Trust).

Joseph John Wheaton

In 1880, John Gribble by now aged in his mid 70s, advertised Landcross Farm for sale by auction to take place 13 February at the Jolly Miller Inn at Noarlunga. The property was described as ‘well-fenced’ and ‘divided into convenient paddocks’. It consisted of a house, stables, barn and other outbuildings as well as an unlimited supply of well water. The winning bidder was to take possession on 25 March 1880. The farm was subsequently purchased by Joseph John Wheaton thus beginning three generations of the Wheaton family owning the property. Initially, vendor finance was provided until 25 March 1889 at a rate of £6 per centum per annum but this needed adjustment following Gribble’s death in 1887.

Advertisement of the sale by auction of Landcross Farm.
(‘Auction’, Adelaide Observer, 31 January 1880:34.)

Joseph John Wheaton was born in November 1853 at Ridgeway Farm, Plympton which was owned by his parents Philip and Ann Painter Wheaton (nee Jeffery). His parents and several older siblings came from Devon, arriving at Port Adelaide in August 1848. In December 1880 Joseph married Sarah Ann Moore, daughter of Edward and Margaret Moore (nee Errington but also known by her stepfather’s surname of Johnston) at the bride’s father’s Hilton residence, Richmond Cottage. They had one child, Edwin Moore Wheaton who was born in September 1883 at Landcross Farm.

Joseph John Wheaton was a member of the Church of Christ and represented the Willunga church in September 1899 at their annual conference held in Grote Street, Adelaide. The Church of Christ building still survives and is situated on the corner of Bishop Street and High Street, Willunga. It is now a private residence. In December 1902 Joseph chaired a gathering to farewell the incumbent minister who was leaving the district.

Joseph John and Sarah Ann Wheaton. (Courtesy of Dorothy Sigston, Landcross Farm Collection, Willunga National Trust).

Bronte Gould

Willunga National Trust

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