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Local Histories

Local Histories

1. Watervale History


2. Penwortham History

John Ainsworth Horrocks

John Ainsworth Horrocks

The John Horrocks Cottage was built by John Ainsworth Horrocks shortly after his arrival in South Australia in 1839.

It is generally believed that he built it for his younger brother Eustace who accompanied him on the journey and due to poor health was in need of decent accommodation.


John Horrocks was a pioneer and explorer and was the first white man to take up land in this area.

He established the township of ‘Penwortham’, which he named after his home in Lancashire, England.

Extracts from letters written by John Horrocks in 1839 & 1840 read as follows (not verbatim):

"We have now completed the post and rail stockyards near my camp, while hauling more timber from the hills west of our camp.

My mason and others have commenced building a 2-room cottage of stone at the Southern base of the ‘hill that divides the waters’."


Penwortham Hill, known locally as Penny Hill, is the only hill that fits this description. Furthermore, stone is plentiful close by and needs little dressing.

Eustace’s health did not improve and he returned to England.

In a subsequent letter dated March 1840, John states:

"I have returned to my old campsite and given over the stone cottage to my shepherd, his wife and the boy Green.

I found with my damnable height (6’ 2”) the cottage too confining. I was forever hitting my head on the lintel."


Following the death of John Horrocks during an expedition North in 1846, his brother Arthur who had joined him in 1841, and Gavin Young a ‘Surveyor of Lands’ became trustees of the Horrocks Trust, which included the township of Penwortham.

In 1858 Gavin Young surveyed the township.


The John Horrocks Cottage

The blocks of land were put up for sale, and block 36 where the cottage is situated became the second official Post Office for Penwortham.

  • Prior to that, James Bleechmore was the Post-Master at the Derby Arms Hotel across the road.

  • Henry Lower commenced duties as post-master in 1858 in the main room of the cottage.

  • Henry Halse took over in 1861, and was followed by Joseph Metcalf in 1863.

  • Metcalf had the back room built on to the cottage and also a stone building to the south of the cottage where he had a butchers shop.

  • The old red gum block used as a butcher’s block was still in this shed as recently as 1947.

  • A bakehouse was situated on the north side of the cottage.

  • In 1889-90 the shingle roof was covered with corrugated iron and in 1946 the owner Albert Jenner replaced the hand-hewn wooden floors in the two front rooms with concrete.

  • At the same time the whitewashed Hessian ceilings were replaced.

  • In 1960 the large fireplace was altered to try and stop the chimney smoking.


The cottage was privately owned until sold to Richard Hughes of Penwortham Wines in 1994.

Due to its historical significance, the cottage was State Heritage Listed in 1995.


The Mount Horrocks Historical Society, which was founded in 1983 leased the cottage from Mr. Hughes in 1996 and immediately began restoration work with the aid of grants from the Government.

They were also successful in having the cottage put on the Register of the National Estate.

With more Government aid through a Regional Solutions Grant and support from the local wineries and traders, the Society purchased the cottage in 2001.

Restoration has been ongoing since then and will be for some time to come.


The ultimate goal is to utilise the cottage and adjoining butchers shop as an Interpretive Centre for display and historical education purposes.

John Horrocks Expedition 1846

In July 1846 John Horrocks left Penwortham to explore further north.

A  member of his party was colonial artist ST Gill, who recorded the journey with sketches, a selection of which is shown below.


On 1st September, Horrocks was mortally wounded on the shores of Lake Dutton and was cared for by Gill until help arrived to transport him back to Penwortham where he died on 23rd September and was buried in St Marks Cemetery.

John Horrocks’ letter written at the termination of his journey can be found in the ‘Galleries’.

The John Horrocks Cottage
Portrait drawing of John Ainsworth Horrocks
The Restored Horrocks Cottage in 2012
John Horrocks Expedition
Gallery: Colonial Artist S T Gill

Gallery: Colonial Artist S T Gill on tour with John Horrocks:

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