BAG History Group / Sturtbrae
The 2015 series of articles focussed on historic landmarks around the Blackwood district by The Blackwood Action Group history team.
"Heritage reminder of early agricultural times"
Located on Sturt Creek (a tributary of the Sturt River) at 7 Bellevue Drive, Bellevue Heights, Sturtbrae is a State Heritage place, significant as a reminder of early agricultural development and for its association with the historically significant Shepherd and Mills families. The name Sturtbrae combines the Sturt Creek with ‘brae’ meaning a hill slope.
The earliest European usage of this area was in 1838 when Thomas Maslin created a farm on the western side of the gully. Maslin sold the farm in 1848 to William Shephard who built a one roomed structure with Sturtian tillite (ice-formed rock) foundations and an underground dairy, excavated into the slope.
The home was added to and grew to 5 rooms by 1864 with evidence of local stone dry stone walling on the creek bank still in evidence. Shephard died in the 1850s with wife Anne and son William jnr continuing to expand the property. Public pressure for a route along the Blackwood ridge leading down from the hills and then across farmland to South Road resulted in Shepherds Hill Road (named after Anne Shephard - note change in spelling) being created in 1855.
In 1866 the property was purchased by George Perrin who extended the house and gave it to his daughter Mary Anne Walker as a wedding present. The Walkers sold the 250 acre property to William Mills in 1923. Mills had been elected to the Legislative Council in 1918 and decided to leave his family home Millbrae near Nairne and move closer to Adelaide.
It was Mills who gave the property the name Sturtbrae and developed it as a fine wool Merino stud with a large orchard and vineyard cultivated on the slopes of the hill behind the house. Befitting his position, Mills is believed to have made significant home alterations to create a sixteen room house including a billiard room and ‘Angels Rest’.
Mills died in 1933 with daughters May and Margaret maintaining the property. Margaret had trained as a nurse becoming the Matron of the Bedford Hospital while Mary was a teacher and an avid advocate for women’s sport being instrumental in the establishment of the Women’s Memorial Playing Fields
The Sturtbrae garden was described in 1950 ‘... a sanctuary where native flowers and shrubs grow in profusion ... in front of the old house is a sloping triangular lawn bordered with roses and shrubs, while neat stepping stones are edged with white alyssum and violets. ... On the veranda and in the cool underground cellar Willunga slate is in evidence as well as ancient looking bricks made on the Sturtbrae property a hundred years ago ...’.
The district remained farmland well into the twentieth century with the suburb of Bellevue Heights created in 1965, named after the exclusive Sydney suburb, Belleview Hill in the hope that it would be considered in a similar light.