A Brief History of Macclesfield
Before the arrival of Europeans this region of the Adelaide Hills was inhabited by the Peramangk people and the area was rich in the resources needed for a nomadic lifestyle. They called this area ‘Kangowirranilla’, a place for water and kangaroos.
George DAVENPORT, an Oxford banker and the Director of the South Australian Company was aware of the opportunities that existed in the South Australian colony. He saw in the policy of Special Surveys, an opportunity to purchase a large amount of land that could be rented to small farmers and eventually sold at considerable profit.
His business partners were Frederick LUCK and Roger CUNLIFFE. We now have Luck Street and Cunliffe Street in memory of these early pioneers.
In February 1840, his son, George Francis DAVENPORT was sent to SA to select the site for the Special Survey. He was to purchase 4,416 acres with the condition that 576 acres be set aside for a town which would be mapped and marked out at the expense of the South Australian Commissioners. He was also responsible for the division of the land into lots for each partner.
In October 1840 approval was given for government surveyors to draw up a town plan. Macclesfield was named by the Davenport’s in honour of the Earl of Macclesfield in England, for whom George DAVENPORT was a steward.
The site chosen for Macclesfield was due in part to the existence of a strong natural spring found in the bank of the Angas River, which flows through this region. The design of the township of Macclesfield reflected the alignment of the Angas River and the general government policy established by Colonel LIGHT to set aside crown lands or open spaces, free for the use and enjoyment of the people; subsequently called the parklands. This green belt heritage now includes the current Oval complex, Lord ROBINSON / Crystal Lake Park, Davenport Square and the Day Paddock and Night Paddock Parks.
The original town plan also included land for a Burial Ground, a Church and a VR Reserve for government use. The burial ground was used for a number of years but was then abandoned for a cemetery outside the town limits. Today the school oval is on the site of the old cemetery. Some early burial plots can also be found in a small grave yard in Luck Street where the original Anglican Church was built in 1856 and demolished in 1980.
By 1841, the Goats Head Inn (later Three Brothers Arms Hotel) was providing a rest stop for the passing traffic, and several cottages had been built and gardens established. Records show that at this time there was a shoemaker, a wheelwright and a blacksmith doing business.
The town acres were being used for crops, cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and horses, potatoes and vegetables. A typical example was Samuel Ellis who had 4 acres of wheat, ½ acre of garden, 12 cattle and 5 pigs.
The 1850’s was a decade of great development in Macclesfield. The stimulus was the Victorian gold rushes as the village was an important stop on the coach route from Adelaide to Melbourne via the Wellington ferry. Smaller gold rushes at Echunga also provided a ready market for farm and garden produce.
Major constructions in the 1850s included the Macclesfield Hotel and several churches. The first school was built in 1855, together with an adjoining house for the teacher. Most significant in all the developments, Macclesfield was chosen to be the headquarters of a District Council. The first Council meeting was held on October 22, 1853 in the Davenport Arms Hotel.