Morton’s Cottage, 19 St James Street, Willunga

Also known as Upalong.

The original cottage was built and occupied in late 1857 by Richard Mortimer, a quarryman and builder who also did some “day work” for the Willunga Council. He had arrived in Australia with his family in 1849 and settled in Willunga in 1851.

The cottage is an excellent example of a colonial building built from local material. It is constructed of coursed roughly squared rubble, has stone quoins, brick surrounds to openings, slate floors and a slate-clad roof. The cottage was later sold to Richard Townsend and then to William Morton.

William and Sarah Morton had lived in Willunga for some time before they moved their family into the cottage. In 1859, they lost one of their 3 children who had contracted Diptheria. According to Dr Jay, it was “a frequently fatal infection of the throat”. They lived in the cottage in 1869 and, after its purchase in 1888, the house remained in the Morton family for many years. Nearby Morton’s Bridge is named after the family.

William Morton, “was always a cheery old chap”. He was superintendent of roads, and in his spare time he made baskets. He had trained as a cane weaver in England and planted osier willows along the creek near his cottage in Willunga. When the shoots were ready, he split and wove them into various items, most notably farm and vineyard baskets and chairs. (Note the cane chair by the door in the 1904 photograph). He was usually the only cane weaver who exhibited at the Willunga and Adelaide shows.

In 1871, a reporter at The Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society’s Exhibition commended him for his “baskets of all descriptions and sizes”, also bird cages, easy chairs, a large canoe, fancy dog-house, cradle, etc.

This unique local industry ceased with William Morton’s death in 1913, aged 89 years. Cynthia and Don Dowie bought the cottage from Ethel Morton, the daughter of William’s second wife, Elizabeth, in 1961. Over 30 years from the 1970s, they restored and extended the condemned building and tangled garden into a charming home, naming it Upalong in remembrance of Don’s Cornish heritage.

This building is on the City of Onkaparinga’s local heritage list (SA Heritage Places database #5282)


Ruth Baxendale and Faye Lush, Willunga Walks, Willunga National Trust 2010.
The South Australian Advertiser Friday 29 July 1859 p2.
South Australian Chronicle and Weekly Mail Saturday 25 February 1871 p9.
South Australian Chronicle and Weekly Mail Saturday 25 February 1871 p9.
The Chronicle Thursday 29 May 1941 p38.
Cynthia J Dowie Upalong the cottage that grew around us, 2003.

Search Our Web Pages