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Joseph Gilbert (1800–1881)

by Marjorie Findlay

This article was published:

Joseph Gilbert (1800-1881), by unknown photographer

Joseph Gilbert (1800-1881), by unknown photographer

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 6912/L4

Joseph Gilbert (1800-1881), pastoralist and vigneron, was born in May 1800 at Puckshipton, Wiltshire, England, the second of four sons of Joseph Gilbert and his wife Jane, née Pike. He was educated at Marlborough College and on the Continent learnt much of vine-growing and wine-making.

In 1838 his mother died and Gilbert sailed in the Buckinghamshire for South Australia. He reached Holdfast Bay on 21 March 1839 and went in search of land while waiting for the sheep he had ordered from Van Diemen's Land. In July he applied for a special survey in Lyndoch Valley where he transferred his Tasmanian sheep and began to build a house. The property was named first Karrawatta and then Pewsey Vale. He soon won repute for his fine wool, careful breeding of imported thoroughbreds and Shorthorn cattle, acclimatization of English deer, his garden and his stables. He planted his first vines in 1847 and was licensed to distil spirits in 1849. The vineyard was destroyed by frosts in 1855 but was soon replanted and before long his wine and cellars won deserved fame. He constructed a reservoir at Pewsey Vale and built a school for resident families and in 1861 a chapel, designed by the architect Edward Hamilton, and named in memory of his brother Thomas of Marden, Wiltshire.

Gilbert soon had to find more land for his increasing flocks. He leased Mount Bryan in 1851, McVittie's Flat in 1853 and several runs on Yorke Peninsula in 1859-70. He bought a large acreage in the hundreds of Hallett and Kingston in 1860-64 and sections in the Upper Wakefield and Hill River special surveys in 1850. He was also a director and trustee of the Mount Remarkable Mining Co. in 1850-54. He leased Owen Springs in the Northern Territory in 1871 and Macumba on the Finke River in 1872. In Adelaide he had also acquired a town acre (.4 ha) on which the Bank of Australasia was built and an original country section where the suburb of Gilberton now stands; it was surveyed and sold in blocks in the 1870s. At Wongalere station on 21 January 1848 Gilbert had married Anna (b.26 April 1812), sister of Dr William Browne. Anna died of pneumonia on 23 September 1873. Joseph remained active until a week before he died on 23 December 1881. He was buried with his wife at Pewsey Vale and left an estate valued at £37,000. Of their four children the only son, William (1850-1923), was educated at the Collegiate School of St Peter and in England and after pastoral experience managed his father's properties from 1875; on 22 July 1879 he married Mary Young Clindening by whom he had eleven children.

A point on Yorke Peninsula perpetuates Gilbert's name and a memorial tablet is in the church he built. An oil painting of his family by A. Schramm is in the Henry Gilbert private hospital, Le Fevre Terrace, Adelaide.

Select Bibliography

  • G. C. Morphett, The Gilberts of Pewsey Vale (Adel, 1949)
  • R. Cockburn, Nomenclature of South Australia (revised typescript, State Records of South Australia, and State Library of New South Wales)
  • family history and papers (privately held).

Citation details

Marjorie Findlay, 'Gilbert, Joseph (1800–1881)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 20 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (Melbourne University Press), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Joseph Gilbert (1800-1881), by unknown photographer

Joseph Gilbert (1800-1881), by unknown photographer

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 6912/L4

Life Summary [details]


May, 1800
Puckshipton, Wiltshire, England


23 December, 1881 (aged 81)
Pewsey Vale, South Australia, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.