A window to Whites Valley
20 October 2020

A window to Whites Valley

The small township of Whites Valley has an extensive history dating back to pre-1840.

The semi-rural suburb of Whites Valley, located approximately 2km inland between Aldinga and Willunga, is home to about 300 residents. Today the land is planted mainly to vineyards, but its flour-milling history pre-dates the establishment of its neighbouring townships.

Ship owner, flour miller, businessman and farmer Samuel White arrived in Port Adelaide aged about 20 years aboard the vessel Cleveland in December 1839 from London and Plymouth, England. Initially, White worked in Adelaide as a cabinetmaker and builder. In around 1844, White took up residence near the future township of Aldinga after purchasing several sections of District C. He established a farm on the land which he named Dorset Farm, after his county of origin in England.

White set about building a complex of large flour mill buildings in the area, and a number of cottages for himself and the mill workers, several of which are still standing as private residences and rental accommodation. Other flour mills were operated in the area at the time, including at Old Noarlunga (owned by James Clark), Aldinga (Butterworth’s Mill), Willunga, and McLaren Vale (Lennard’s Mill and Mortlock’s Mill). Both McLaren Vale mills were later owned by White.

White’s Flour Mill, on the curved section of what is now Little Road, featured a tower about 12 metres high which became known as ‘the castle’. The tower overlooked Aldinga Bay and was reportedly used by White to watch for his own ships, including the Aldinga, passing from Melbourne to Port Adelaide. It was also used to signal other ships by semaphore to receive communications from those onboard about the current price of flour and wheat in the eastern states. At other times when sighting a ship, White reportedly rode his horse to Port Adelaide.

Flour was transported to Port Willunga by bullock dray for export to other colonies. A small village grew around the mill and the area became known as White’s Valley or sometimes White’s Gully.  The main street, now called Adey Road, was a thriving centre with housing and mill workers’ cottages, as well as a general store and butcher. Several churches were built in the area for Baptist, Congregational and Presbyterian worship.

From about 1852 White expanded his business activities into shipping, acquiring nearly a dozen vessels over time including the passenger steamship, the South Australian. White’s smaller sailing vessels were used to ship flour and wheat from Port Willunga to Port Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney. When several of his initial fleet was wrecked circa 1856, newer and larger vessels were purchased, including the steamship Havilah, allowing White to increase the transportation of flour from Port Willunga.

Drought in the 1860s and diminishing wheat production in the area due to overcropping of the land led to a rural depression, and effectively ceased White’s milling business. Combined with over-investment in his shipping fleet, White was bankrupt in 1867.

By 1868, White had relocated with his wife Hannah (nee Hilton) to the North Island of New Zealand. He reportedly maintained an interest in land at White’s Valley and made a return voyage to South Australia.

Soon after Hannah’s death in 1869, White remarried and had one son, Walter Samuel, who died in infancy.

White’s Flour Mill was closed in the 1870s and the chimney was demolished in 1906. A house called Chapel Hill was constructed at the site, built from stone remaining from the demolition of the chimney. Most of the other mills in the area were closed by the 1880s.

White died in New Zealand in September 1899, aged about 80 years.

PIONEERING SPIRIT

Cottages built for mill workers are now private residences and rental accommodation; White’s Flour Mill; the house constructed from stone salvaged from the flour mill chimney; Samuel White.

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