Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Hamilton, Henry (1826–1907)

by Geoffrey C. Bishop

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Henry Hamilton (1826-1907), grape-grower and wine-maker, was born on 6 January 1826 at Dover, Kent, England, son of Richard Hamilton, farmer, and his wife Ann, née Holmes. In 1837 his father bought a land order for eighty acres (32 ha) in South Australia, which he took up next year; his Curtis Farm was on the Sturt River, six miles south of Adelaide. Henry remained to attend school at Christ's Hospital, London, before migrating in 1841. After working near Burra he joined his father in 1848 and began to extend his vine plantings. On 5 August 1851 at St Mary's Church, South Road, Adelaide, he married Mary Elizabeth Bell; they had eight sons and a daughter.

After his father's death in 1852 Henry worked Curtis Farm for his mother. In 1854 he bought forty-seven acres (19 ha) adjoining the property and named it Ewell Farm after the village of Temple Ewell near his birthplace. By the 1860s he was a well-established grape-grower and farmer, using a rotation of wheat, hay and fallow every three or four years. In 1860-62 he was chairman of Brighton District Council and in 1866 president of his district's first horticultural society. Henry's wife died in 1870 and on 28 March 1872 he married Sarah Glover, but in December she also died. On 2 February 1878 he married Mary, née Schroder, widow of Captain John Finlay Duff.

After Mrs Hamilton senior's death in 1886 Curtis Farm was divided among her nine children and Henry acquired a further forty-six acres (19 ha) from his siblings. In 1890 he transferred management of the Ewell farm and winery to his son Frank. That year, and again next year, Ewell Vineyards won the Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society of South Australia's Angas award for the best farm under 200 acres (81 ha). The report stated that 'The vineyard consists of … 20 acres of Pedro Ximenes vines … and 20 acres of good wine and table grapes … The wine-making plant and buildings were very good, and some fine large casks … are full of wine, and if equal to the samples we tasted is of most excellent quality. The vineyard is well kept and free from weeds'.

On 10 February 1907 at Ewell Vineyards Henry Hamilton died and was buried in North Brighton cemetery.

His third surviving son Frank Hamilton (1859-1913) was born on 5 February 1859 at Ewell Vineyards, and was educated at Glenelg Grammar School. On 17 September 1895 at St Mary's Church, South Road, he married Violet Elsie Mabel Ayliffe. By 1897 he had purchased the remainder of the original Hamilton property and over the next decade expanded the wine business considerably. Most of the wines produced were fortified styles but there was limited production of a dry white Chablis-type wine. Frank Hamilton was chairman of the Marion District Council in 1896-97. In 1910 his eldest son Eric joined the business which operated as F. Hamilton Ltd. On 13 June 1913 Frank died from septicaemia at Ewell Vineyards and was buried in North Brighton cemetery; he had been a quiet, hard-working, intelligent man. The business continued under family control until 1979. Portraits of Henry and Frank Hamilton painted by Rex Wood from photographs are at the winery, Morphett Road, Warradale.

Select Bibliography

  • B. M. Burton, Joseph Bell — the Pathfinder in Australia 1833 (Adel, 1973)
  • G. C. Bishop, The Vineyards of Adelaide (Adel, 1977)
  • A. Dolling, The History of Marion on the Sturt (Adel, 1981)
  • Parliamentary Papers (South Australia), 1868 (20)
  • Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society of South Australia, Proceedings, 1890, p 61, 1891, p 65
  • Australian Wine, Brewing and Spirit Review, Apr 1960
  • Register (Adelaide), 13 Feb 1907, 14, 16 June 1913
  • Observer (Adelaide), 27 Feb 1909
  • Chronicle (Adelaide), 29 Mar 1919
  • I. A. Hamilton, The Story of the Ayliffe Family History (photocopy of typescript, Adelaide, c1978)
  • Lands Dept records, Adelaide
  • MRG 36/4/1854-55 (State Records of South Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

Geoffrey C. Bishop, 'Hamilton, Henry (1826–1907)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hamilton-henry-6537/text11231, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 24 October 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

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