Kell, Thomas Smith

Date of Birth/Death:


Thomas Smith Kell – farmer, land owner, politician and District councillor.

Thomas Smith Kell was born in Lewes, Sussex, England in about 1802. He was the son of Christopher Kell (1762-1841) and Mary (née Polhill) (1763-1820) and the younger brother of William Polhill Kell (1792-1862) who appears to have provided him with financial support. He married Dorothy (née Poole) (1799-1887) on 11 Nov 1826 in Beddingham, Sussex and they lived in the village of Cooksbridge, in the parish of Hamsey, in East Sussex for more than a decade (1826-1838) while they had seven children (4 daughters & 3 sons):

  • Emma (1827- 1880) b. in Cooksbridge, Sussex, England, m. Frederick Wicksteed (1813-1877) on 3 June 1847 at the Courthouse in Willunga by Rev. W. J. Woodcock, 16 children, d. in North Adelaide.
  • Mary (1827-1882) b. in Cooksbridge, Sussex, England, m. Andrew McIntyre (1830-1883) on 18 June 1857 by Rev. Richard Neville at St Stephens Anglican Church, Willunga, d. in North Adelaide.
  • Frances Ann (1829- 1897) b. in Cooksbridge, Sussex, England, unmarried, d. at Unley Park.
  • Christopher Smith (1832-1838) b. in Cooksbridge, Sussex, England, d. aged 6 years died at sea aboard Rajasthan, funeral at Holy Trinity Church and probably buried at West Terrace Cemetery
  • Frederick Polhill (1835-1854) b. in Cooksbridge, Sussex, England, d. aged 19 years at Willunga
  • Catherine (Katherine) (1836-1904) b. in Cooksbridge, Sussex, England, unmarried, d. at Unley Park.
  • Lewes (Louis) (1837-1911) b. in Cooksbridge, Sussex, England, m. Elizabeth Loudon (1845-1925) on 31 Jan 1867 at Christ Church, North Adelaide, 11 children, farmer & chaff merchant at Unley, owned and paid rates on sections 242 & 253 between 1886 & 1888, d. at Unley Park.

Thomas Smith Kell (36), his wife Dorothy (39) and their six surviving children – Emma (11), Mary (11), Frances (9), Frederick (3), Catherine (2) and Lewes (1) arrived in South Australia aboard Rajasthan on 15 Nov 1838. Kell imported a significant amount of barrels, baskets, kegs, cases and bags from London aboard Caleb Angas in August 1840, a smaller amount aboard John Hayes from London in October 1844 and then fairly regularly in small amounts.

For some years after arrival the Kell family lived first at Kensington (1838-1841?) and then at the Reedbeds (now West Lakes) (1841-1845?). According to the Port Pirie Recorder newspaper the Kell family was reported to have a document dated 1839 and signed by Abraham Borrowdaile transferring (actually agreeing to lease) 160 acres of land (sections 238 & 228) to Thomas Smith Kell. This is confirmed by Memorial 493/3 (registered on 3 July 1844) that suggests that Kell had entered an agreement with Abraham Borrowdaile of Fenchurch Street, London & Robert Gouger of Adelaide (on 5 June 1840) to lease sections 238 & 248 for a payment of eighty bushels of wheat and eighty bushels of barley delivered in Adelaide in Feb each year (first delivery in 1845). This memorial had an agreement to sell for 2 pounds per acre in the first 5 years and 3 pounds per acre in the last 2 years. Kell may have moved to Willunga by, or before, 1844 when he was issued with a depasturing license and he built a cottage that he later named Waverley Park Homestead (now 23 St Peters Terrace). In September 1845 he charged Thomas Ferry with “maliciously injuring a dog, the property of Thomas Smith Kell at Willunga”. Nevertheless he was still described in the South Australian Register as “Thomas Smith Kell, farmer of the Reedbeds”” as late as May 1846. In June 1847 he was issued with an occupation license for land between “Mount Magnificent and Hungry Swamp” (in the hills south of Willunga).

Thomas Smith Kell, like so many early colonists, was in financial trouble through the early to mid 1840s, he was declared insolvent in 1841, he appears to have spent time in jail as an “insolvent debtor” and then he was issued a “Certificate of conformity” in September 1845. By 1849 he had sufficiently recovered financially and Thomas Smith Kell, sheep-farmer of Willunga, was appointed as a Special Juror in December 1849. He later became a Justice of the Peace (from 1861), Magistrate, Chairman of the Willunga District Council (from 1853), Vice- President and then Secretary of the Southern Rifle Association (from 1862) and Secretary of the annual Willunga Agricultural Show (from 1857). In December 1858 Kell advertised for sale James’s Mill with a 6Hp steam engine a pair of French Burr stones, dressing machine and a large store located on a triangular piece of land in section 248. In the 1860s Kell was one of the initiators of the flax industry. He became a director and the Secretary of the Willunga Flax Company that opened a mill and factory in Willunga in December 1869 but that failed within a couple of years.

In 1847 Thomas Smith Kell was listed as the owner or occupier of 240 acres in the Hundred of Willunga. He paid rates on sections 248 & 238 from 1850 to 1871, section 1150 (slate quarry with Sampson Dawe in 1853), unimproved lots 15 & 16 in Willunga in 1858 and sections 228 (1858 & 1869) & 703 (1869). Later Kell owned land in the Hundred of Willunga including part of Section 248 (CT 18/109) that he registered on 23 Nov 1860. He also purchased Sections 762 & 763 (CT 38/194) on 25 March 1863 that he sold to Andrew McIntyre on 18 April 1871.

Thomas Smith Kell and his family left Willunga in 1871 and a testimonial dinner was held for him complete with a “Letter of Appreciation” dated 13 March 1871. Thomas Smith Kell, aged 75 years, died at Unley on 19 Nov 1877 and his wife Dorothy, aged 88 years, died on 20 Sept 1887. They are both buried in the North Road Cemetery in Nailsworth.


South Australian Births – Index of Registrations 1842-1906
South Australian Deaths Index of Registrations 1842-1915
South Australian Marriages Index of Registrations 1842-1916
Willunga National Trust Blue Folder – Family Histories
Statton, J. 1986. Biographical Index of South Australians 1836-1885.
Passengers in History – South Australian Maritime Museum
Ratepayer List Willunga & Aldinga Councils 1850-1888
Ancestry (online)
SA Genealogy database (online)
SAILIS (online)
1845 ‘SUPREME COURT—INSOLVENCY SIDE‘, South Australian Register 20 September, p. 3. , viewed 12 Jan 2024,
1845 ‘POLICE COMMISSIONER’S COURT‘, Adelaide Observer 27 September, p. 8. , viewed 12 Jan 2024,
1846 ‘NEW INSOLVENT NOTICES‘, South Australian 8 May, p. 2. , viewed 12 Jan 2024,
1849 ‘LOCAL INTELLIGENCE‘, Adelaide Times 10 December, p. 3. , viewed 12 Jan 2024,
1851 ‘POLICE COURT — YESTERDAY‘, Adelaide Times 25 January, p. 5. , viewed 12 Jan 2024,
1853 ‘DISTRICT COUNCIL FOR WILLUNGA‘, Adelaide Observer 23 July, p. 8. , viewed 12 Jan 2024,
1855 ‘LAW AND CRIMINAL COURTS‘, South Australian Register 24 March, p. 3. , viewed 12 Jan 2024,
1858 ‘Classified Advertising’, The South Australian Advertiser 10 December, p. 4. , viewed 12 Jan 2024,
1860 ‘REPRESENTATION OF NORLUNGA‘, South Australian Register 8 March, p. 2. , viewed 12 Jan 2024,
1860 ‘THE NEW ROAD BILL — MEETING AT WILLUNGA‘, South Australian Register 19 June, p. 2. , viewed 12 Jan 2024,
1860 ‘Classified Advertising‘, The South Australian Advertiser 22 September, p. 1. , viewed 12 Jan 2024,
1861 ‘GOVERNMENT GAZETTE‘, South Australian Weekly Chronicle 12 January, p. 7. , viewed 12 Jan 2024,
1861 ‘ST. STEPHEN’S CHURCH, WILLUNGA‘, South Australian Weekly Chronicle 13 April, p. 2. , viewed 12 Jan 2024,
1862 ‘WILLUNGA‘, South Australian Weekly Chronicle 24 May, p. 3. , viewed 12 Jan 2024,
1862 ‘Advertising‘, South Australian Weekly Chronicle 26 July, p. 1. (Supplement to the South Australian Weekly Chronicle.), viewed 12 Jan 2024,
1862 ‘JUSTICES OF THE PEACE‘, South Australian Register 26 September, p. 2. , viewed 12 Jan 2024,
1862 ‘THE CASE OF KELL V. NEVILLE.’, Adelaide Observer 15 November, p. 6. , viewed 12 Jan 2024,
1865 ‘WILLUNGA: WEDNESDAY, JULY 19.’, South Australian Register 22 July, p. 4. , viewed 12 Jan 2024,
1871 ‘VALEDICTORY DINNER TO T. S. KELL, ESQ., J.P.‘, South Australian Chronicle and Weekly Mail 18 March, p. 10. , viewed 12 Jan 2024,
1877 ‘Family Notices‘, The South Australian Advertiser 20 November, p. 4. , viewed 12 Jan 2024,
1940 ‘LAND TRANSFER OF 1839‘, Recorder 24 July, p. 1. , viewed 12 Jan 2024,

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