Primitive Methodist Chapel, 27 High Street, Willunga

Also known as The 1839, Sara’s, Altar Bistro, Vanessa’s, Willy Hill Cafe and Christina’s on High St.
Used as Church, veterinary practice, residence, restaurant/cafe.

Built and opened in 1868 as a Primitive Methodist chapel – one of two in the district (the first was built on the corner of Strout and Binney Roads in 1860 and demolished in 1894). The foundation stone of the Willunga Chapel was laid in September 1867, followed by the official opening in April 1868. The first minister was William Wiltshire, assisted by William Whitefield who had been appointed to Willunga in 1859.

Thomas Noye, appointed following the new Education Act in 1875, to run the first Public School in Willunga, taught in the Chapel until the school opened in 1877.

A visitor in 1892 reported that the Primitive Methodist church had closed for the purpose for which it was built and was then used as a wine store. Other reports suggest it closed following Methodist Union in 1900.

The old chapel building subsequently became a private home – the Herring family lived here in the 1920s. In the forties and fifties Bess Turner gave piano lessons while living here. Owner Bart Hailstone then leased the building to the Gill and Marler Veterinary Clinic in the early 1970s.

The dilapidated building was bought by Stan Green who renovated and restored it over several years, finally opening Vanessa’s Restaurant here in 1979. It was so named after Stan’s daughter. The new stained glass windows came from the Pirie Street Methodist Church. Stan was previously a chef with the PO shipping line – he offered fine dining with silver service at Vanessa’s for nearly 20 years before retiring.

The premises were re-named Willy Hill Cafe in 2000. Then from 2007-2012 it became Christina’s on High St – substantial renovations occurred during this time. The property was sold and Altar Bistro opened in September 2012. Later it opened as The 1839. Now a private residence with attached accommodation.

This building is on the City of Onkaparinga’s local heritage list (SA Heritage Places database #5422)


R Baxendale and F Lush Willunga Walks Willunga National Trust Willunga 2010 (1989).
1868 ‘FRIENDLY SOCIETIES‘, South Australian Register 29 April, p. 2. , viewed 01 Mar 2024,
1878 ‘GENERAL NEWS‘, The Express and Telegraph, 15 March, p. 1. (SECOND EDITION), viewed 01 Mar 2024,
1890 ‘POLITICAL POINTS‘, Quiz 31 January, p. 3. , viewed 01 Mar 2024,
1918 ‘Fifty Years Ago‘, Observer 27 April, p. 30. , viewed 01 Mar 2024,
1982 ‘Vanessa’s‘, Victor Harbour Times 10 February, p. 20. , viewed 01 Mar 2024,

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