Australian Dictionary of Biography

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John Reynell (1809–1873)

by Dirk Van Dissel

This article was published:

John Reynell (1809-1873), pastoralist and vigneron, was born on 9 February 1809 at Ilfracombe, Devon, England, son of Henry Reynell and his wife Lydia, née Fagg. At 16 he went to Egypt, returned to England four years later, then spent some time trading in wheat and other cargo in America and Europe, and later went back to Egypt. In October 1838 he arrived in Adelaide in the Surrey, and in December took up Reynella Farm where he grew wheat and potatoes and bred sheep and cattle. On 31 January 1839 he married Mary Anne (d.1867), daughter of Francis Lucas of Ireland. That year he was one of fifty settlers who formed the Agricultural and Horticultural Society of South Australia. Although scab was a constant worry his pastoral pursuits flourished; he introduced Southdown and Saxon rams from Van Diemen's Land, and in 1842 was shearing 4000 sheep.

Observations in Italy and southern France convinced Reynell that the vine, olive and fig could be cultivated in South Australia; in 1841 he planted the first vineyard with 500 cuttings from Tasmania, and made wine in 1843. That year he was declared bankrupt when his pastoral enterprises collapsed during an economic recession. He lost £4000 but was generously treated by his creditors and received a loan from his brother Henry in Calcutta.

In 1844 Reynell planted half an acre (0.2 ha) with cuttings from G. A. Anstey, next year four and a quarter acres (1.7 ha) with shiraz and grenache cuttings from (Sir) William Macarthur and in 1847-48 ten acres (4 ha) with cuttings from E. J. Peake of Clarendon. He pioneered the export of claret and burgundy to New Zealand. Appointed a justice of the peace in 1850, in 1852 he went to the Victorian diggings and won a little gold; in 1854 he sold about forty acres (16 ha) of Reynella Farm for the township of Reynella with ninety-four allotments bringing him nearly £3000. He died on 15 June 1873 survived by a son and two daughters and left an estate of £4000.

His son Walter (1846-1919) was born on 27 March 1846 at Reynella Farm. Educated at the Collegiate School of St Peter, he helped his father develop the vineyards. At 21 he spent two years on Beltana station working for (Sir) Thomas Elder. He was later part-owner of Tolarno station on the Darling, and for many years ran a land agency business in Adelaide. On 16 May 1877 at Adelaide, he married Emily, daughter of William Bakewell, a lawyer of Payneham. In 1883 he became manager of Elder Smith & Co., supervising the stock business of the firm and its numerous branches. In 1910 he retired to Reynella and with his son Carew he tended the vineyards. He was a member of the Pastoralists' Association of South Australia and West Darling, the South Australian Vinegrowers' Association, and director of Elder Smith & Co. and of the South Australian Brewing Co. He died on 8 April 1919 at Reynella, survived by one of his two sons and three daughters. He left an estate of £28,000.

Select Bibliography

  • H. T. Burgess (ed), Cyclopedia of South Australia, vol 1 (Adel, 1908)
  • Pastoral Pioneers of South Australia, vol 2 (Adel, 1927)
  • H. M. Martin, ‘History of viticulture in South Australia’, Australian Brewing and Wine Journal, 20 Aug 1923 and D2847 (State Records of South Australia)
  • Register (Adelaide), 1 Apr 1919
  • Reynell family letters 1841-45 (National Library of Australia) and papers (State Records of South Australia).

Citation details

Dirk Van Dissel, 'Reynell, John (1809–1873)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 23 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (Melbourne University Press), 1976

View the front pages for Volume 6

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


9 February, 1809
Ilfracombe, Devon, England


15 June, 1873 (aged 64)

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