The Bassett Memorial Tree in Willunga has recently been listed as a Significant Tree by the National Trust of SA. It is a Monterey Pine (Cypressus macrocarpa) located in front of the Alma Hotel in Hill Street.

It was planted in memory of Private Frederick (Fred) Farmer Bassett who died on 10 March 1917 while on overseas duty during World War I. He was buried overseas in a War Cemetery in Plymouth UK. Given that he had no local burial place or headstone, it was seen as appropriate to memorialize him by planting a tree in his honor in Willunga town-ship. It would have presumably been planted in 1917.

This tree was planted in a ‘reserve’ in front of the Alma Hotel which was later known as Mrs. Aldam’s Garden. Vera Aldam was the licensee of the Alma Hotel from 1932 to 1951. The land is still owned by the Alma Hotel.

The memorial tree was mentioned in the 1944 minutes and correspondence of the Willunga Progress Association in 1944 when they sought information from Maude Aldam, about the whereabouts of Bassett’s descendants, prior to tidying the area. A memorial plaque is mentioned – it is no longer evident. The tree is on the northern end of an area which was known as the Town Garden, a significant site in the township in the 1940s and 1950s.

Pte. Fred Bassett’s grand-father was James Bailey Bassett, the esteemed teacher and musician who started Buckland House School in 1847, then built the Bassett Boys Schoolroom which building celebrated its 150th year in 2012. He was a very popular member of the Willunga community.

Pte. Fred Bassett’s father was Frederick Farmer Bassett, who was also a well-known figure in the district, being at one time the Clerk of Willunga Council and the Manager of the Willunga Bangor Slate quarries in the 1890s.

Fred’s widowed mother received a World War I Memorial Medallion from the British Government, colloquially known as a Dead Man’s Penny, which is on display at the Willunga Court House Museum, together with Fred’s War medals and other Bassett memorabilia.

Why is it significant?

Firstly, because of its status as a World War I Memorial Tree. It is understood to be the only surviving original War Memorial tree in Willunga – the long row of memorial trees planted along St Andrews Tce after WWI was removed in 1952.

Secondly, it is significant because of its association with the Bassett family who were closely involved in the educational, cultural, religious and industrial life of Willunga Township from the mid-1840s to the 1920s.

Thirdly, it was associated with Mrs. Aldam’s Garden and also with the Willunga Town Garden which was established in the area in the 1940s and 1950s.

Faye Lush

Willunga National Trust

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