Our house: histories of Australian homes

Patricia Sumerling
Australian Heritage Commission, 2001

19 - Holowiliena Station

near Carrieton, Southern Flinders Ranges, South Australia

Front view of Holowiliena homestead in 1997.

Front view of Holowiliena homestead in 1997.

It stands in charm and quiet dignity. (Age has not shattered nor years bowed its head)
Yet it can boast no avenue of yews to its approach, no velvet lawns outspread -
No Grecian colonnade, no portico, no stately hall. A painted door instead
Opens upon this hospitable hearth, this far back northern home set down in space.
Where once, stone upon stone, beam upon beam, were fashioned, hewn, cut and laid in place -
An everlasting symbol of the past, by virtue of a pioneering race.
(From a poem about Holowiliena by Musgrave 'Jan' Marchant.)

Holowiliena Station homestead in South Australia's outback has been occupied by the Warwick family since it was built in the mid-nineteenth century. The family has occupied Holowiliena Station since 1853 and is the family with the longest continual occupation of a grazing lease in the State. The stone homestead is in the Flinders Ranges about 50 kilometres off the main road at Cradock and 400 kilometres north of Adelaide (a five hour drive). The homestead and outbuildings are located near a deep creek set among mature plantings. Its flower and vegetable garden has been fenced off from marauding rabbits by palings of sawn timber.

The surrounding country consists of hills and open flats with gum-lined creeks. In 1924 this idyllic setting was described as

...very picturesque, for the country is studded with pine and redgum. You pass a new woolshed - made from [native] pine - on the top of a rise, go down a dip, and follow a creek for a few hundred yards until you come to the old homestead buried in a wealth of big timber - at the top of the world it would seem ...

The property was first taken up in 1853 by William Warwick as Pastoral Lease 318 comprising 63 square miles. Several other leases were added so that by 1945 the property comprised a huge 277 square miles. Warwick, who arrived in South Australia from Glasgow in 1839 with his wife and family, was at first employed by the Browne brothers on their Williamstown property. He was promoted as manager of Canowie Station but in 1853 took up his own lease in the recently-settled southern Flinders Ranges. Warwick and his older children built a rough hut about five kilometres from where they eventually settled, the chimney of which survives as a testament to their early trials.

The present stone homestead is the third on the station and was built in the early 1860s. It is a comfortable family home which has been altered to suit changing needs without losing its basic form and charm. Of the many buildings that formed the hub of the station, three including the homestead, survive intact. The others are a cottage and a large storeroom. There is also a family cemetery with twelve graves, nine of them for William Warwick's children.

Measured plans, possibly for valuation purposes in c1888, show that the homestead was planned as an eight room house with central corridor. The homestead and the other station buildings appear to have been designed by Thomas Burgoyne, editor of the Port Augusta Dispatch and a member of the South Australian parliament. The homestead measured approximately 40 x 51 feet with a return verandah that was eight and a half feet wide. The local stone used was up to twenty two inches thick. Floors to three of the rear rooms were of slate and all the others were of timber.

Part of 1880s plan of 'Government House' at Holowiliena.

Part of 1880s plan of 'Government House' at Holowiliena.

Note: Part of 1880s plan of 'Government House' at Holowiliena with written details including rubble masonry walls 18" (inches) thick, gald (galvanised) iron roof, (built-in) cedar cupboards and bookcases, 12 windows and 11 doors, all in good repair, except for the old shingle roof on part of the verandah.

Rear of Holowiliena, its garden fenced to keep the rabbits out, 1994.

Rear of Holowiliena, its garden fenced to keep the rabbits out, 1994.

The sleepout on the front of the house was added in about 1922. Accommodation was also provided for the Warwick family's first car, purchased by Richard's grandfather in 1923. The first telephone was a party line in about 1949 (not replaced by an automatic phone until 1987). Meals were cooked in the outside kitchen on a wood stove until the family introduced a coke AGA in 1952. This was succeeded by a gas stove when the inside (present) kitchen was installed in 1965.

Richard Warwick's parents moved to a property on the Darling River in 1950 but he returned to Holowiliena in 1968. His aunt and uncle were managing the station and they carried out the only major modernisation of the homestead. Kitchens, bathrooms and laundries were rarely placed in the main part of early colonial houses in South Australia and not usually before the 1880s, much later in country homes. The bathroom was installed in the main house in 1959 with Holowiliena's first shower and inside lavatory. Hot water for baths was heated by a wood furnace/heater. The kitchen, including taps for bore water, was installed in the main house in 1965. All the current plumbing in the house dates from 1959 and 1965 when the bathroom and kitchen were done.

The Warwick family at Holowiliena in 1991.

The Warwick family at Holowiliena in 1991: Richard and Janne and their daughters, Edith, Beth and Frances.

A back verandah was added in 1969 (a room was enclosed in 1987). The square house is surrounded on three sides by a verandah created by the overhanging hipped corrugated galvanised iron roof that replaced a gable roof and a return verandah in about 1967. This was originally roofed with wooden shingles. Concrete replaced the slate floor at the front of the house.

After their marriage in 1978, Janne and Richard lived in the modern house next door to the old homestead before taking over management of the station in 1979. When Janne moved in there was only a 32 volt power generator and kerosene operated refrigerators. Electricity Trust of SA 240 volt mains power was put on in February 1981, the house was wired in July; painted in early August, 'and we moved in in late August'.

Janne remembers doing the laundry '20 metres away in the old school room' until 1983 when it was built into the back verandah. They installed a slow combustion (wood burning) heater in 1984 and a small air conditioner, in the back extension, in 1990. Bore water and a small tank supplied the family's water needs and they have only recently added three large water tanks.

As a country town girl from Orroroo, Janne was concerned that life on a pastoral station would be lonely. But she never had time to give loneliness a thought, with rearing three daughters, Beth, Frances and Edith, and interacting with workmen and governesses. Now there is more time as her girls are at school in Adelaide. 'There was an extensive vegetable garden until 1950. Again vegetables were grown by us from 1981 until recently when there were only two of us left.'

Janne and Richard Warwick are immensely proud of their heritage. Although no family history has been written, they have thrown little away and see themselves as the custodians of the family 'treasures' for future generations. Consequently there are trunks of diaries, station ledgers and historical pictures dating back over 140 years.

Acknowledgements and Bibliography

With grateful thanks to Janne and Richard Warwick. Photographs: the Warwick family and Patricia Sumerling (1994). The plan is reproduced from those held in State Records of SA.

Cockburn, R, Pastoral pioneers of South Australia, Vol 1, Adelaide 1927.

Donovan, Peter, In the interest of the country: a history of the Pastoral Board of South Australia 1893-1993, Pastoral Management Branch, SA Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Adelaide 1995.

Donovan & Associates, Austral Archaeology, Flinders Ranges Heritage Survey, Vol. 7, Pastoral Places, Adelaide, July 1995.

Lands Dept History Books Volume 27/3

Mincham, H, Hawker - the hub of the Flinders Ranges, Adelaide 1983.

Pastoral Board Docket 1698 (Holowiliena).

State Records of SA, GRG 35/31 Valuator of Runs, PL318/236, 1864-68, 4 Volumes Survey Records, Plans of valuation of leases, 1888.

Warwick, Richard and Janne, Holowiliena family archives from 1862. The excerpt from the poem by Musgrave Marchant, written in the 1940s, was reproduced with permission from her grandson, Richard Warwick.

The Author

Patricia Sumerling has been a professional historian for 18 years, working mainly in the heritage field, undertaking assessment of public and private buildings and with teams carrying out regional heritage surveys in South Australia. During her six years as an historical researcher with the Adelaide City Council she became interested in local hotels of which there were approximately 58 surviving in the city. Her interest has since widened to include all South Australian hotels. Her first book about pubs was Down at the local: a history of the hotels of Kensington, Norwood and Kent Town (Wakefield Press, 1998)