Willunga, 1850, sketch by Edward Snell.

Edward Snell (1820-1880) was an engineer, surveyor, artist and diarist. He arrived in Adelaide in November 1849, lived in Adelaide, and traveled extensively through the surrounding areas , then moved to Melbourne in 1852 to work as an engineer before returning to England in 1858.

In February 1850 Edward Snell and a friend Edwin Dowden took on a business venture, peddling food and tools which they bought in Adelaide, loaded on their horse and cart and sold to farms between Adelaide and Willunga. He describes the journey as follows:

12th February     Weighed out 33 4lb parcels of sugar and put it up in paper bags…

13th     Got up pretty early – oiled the wheels of the cart- packed the goods in it and about 11 o’clock started south on our first peddling expedition Our first two essays were unsuccessful, the 3rd house we called at the folks asked the prices of a lot of things and at the 4th we sold 4 lbs of sugar, and by the time we reached the Emu public house where we stopped for the night we sold 24/3½ worth. We dined at Tapley’s where Hinckley is going to lodge, at Noarlunga found the roads awfully bad, but by feeding our horse well we got on pretty tolerably. I sketched an old fellow’s likeness in the evening at the Emu for which I got 2/- and stood him a glass of gin and water out of it. The things sold were principally drapery and sugar, the tools were no go at all. Slept very comfortably in a fourpost bed- the 2nd time since leaving England.

14th     Started from the Emu at 7 and found the roads very bad and the country very picturesque – passed through Noarlunga and went on to Willunga but our horse got partly knocked up and we stopped at a farm house kept by Mrs Fidock and were very hospitably received, they gave us a feed for the horse and some bread, mutton and tea for ourselves with a hearty welcome. We gave them some lace and a bonnet front in return. We slept at Willunga that night at the only inn in the place, that is to stay we put our horse in the stable and slept ourselves in the cart, in the inn yard.

Mrs Fidock’s farm house, 1850

The scenery about Willunga is the prettiest I have seen in Australia. There is a fine back ground of hills which at the base slopes gently off the sea, the whole covered by trees through which the roads wind and looking very much a gentleman’s park in England on a very large scale, the houses of the settlers stuck about among the trees look very English and very pretty. I am sitting on a gum log writing this in the Inn yard just after day break, the view really is magnificent, but the cursed flies won’t let me enjoy it. The blackguard insects alone are enough to drive one out of the country. I can see about 600 square miles of sea before me looking very blue but not a single sail upon it, the trees abound with parrots of all descriptions and various other birds but instead of singing as they would in England they screech and squeak and make all sorts of hideous noises.

Friday Feb 15th 1850     Rose at 6, sat down on the log and wrote up this journal for yesterday as aforesaid. Breakfasted at the Inn, did a little trade at Willunga and then started on the same road we came from Adelaide, had some bread and cheese and porter at the Victoria hotel and put the horse up for an hour and gave him a feed of corn – reached Adelaide about dark – put the horse in the stable, lighted a fire, had some tea and bread and butter, smoked our pipes and went to bed, here is a sketch from recollection of Willunga, looking towards the sea [above].

We sold during the 3 days we were out £5.7.3½ worth of goods, the profit on which as near as I could estimate it was £1.1.11¾ and our expenses owing to our sleeping at Inns etc amounted to £1.8.7, so that we lost by the trip 6/7¾ [6/7 ¼] between us for which I think the pleasure of seeing the country fully compensated.

With appreciation to Bob Bastian for alerting us to this little gem in the book The Life and Adventures of Edward Snell: the illustrated diary of an artist, engineer and adventurer in the Australian colonies 1849 to 1859/edited and introduced by Tom Griffiths with assistance from Alan Platt. Published North Ryde, N.S.W.: Angus & Robertson and the Library Council of Victoria, 1988,  pages 77-78.


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