Australian Dictionary of Biography

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William Salter (1804–1871)

by Jaki Ilbery

This article was published:

William Salter (1804-1871), vigneron, was born at Exeter, Devon, England. After four years of farming near Tiverton he trained as a chemist before going into business at Devonport and later at Stonehouse; he saw little hope of a career in England and accepted an offer from King & Co., London merchants, to be their South Australian agent. With his wife Anne, née Shea, and their three children he sailed from Plymouth in the Caroline and reached Adelaide on 16 December 1839. Anne died two months later and on 19 October 1841 he married Mary Nattle at Holy Trinity Church, Adelaide.

With right of purchase, Salter rented a section of the Barossa surveys which he named Mamre Brook, and moved there in 1844 after King & Co. had closed their agency because of the depression; he built a six-roomed house and kitchen which still stands. First interested in cattle, he prospered when he turned to sheep. He was elected treasurer of the first Angaston District Council in 1853 and was deacon of the Angaston Congregational Church which he had helped to found. When copper was discovered on his property he opened the Crinnis Copper Mine which flourished until the late 1860s. In 1859, with his son Edward, he formed W. Salter & Son and started a vineyard by clearing ten acres (4 ha) and planting shiraz vines. The first vintage was in 1862 when eight pickers gathered enough grapes to keep three treaders busy crushing four hogsheads of must a day. In 1863 he continued his pastoral enterprise when, with his son William, he bought the lease of the Baroota run of sixty-five sq. miles (168 km²) from Samuel Davenport; when the area was revalued and the rent increased fourfold he abandoned it at a great loss. He toured South Australia in 1865 and promoted Saltram wines in Melbourne, selling over £900 worth. The company bought its first grapes from other growers in 1868. Aged 67, he died on 30 July 1871 at Mamre Brook, survived by his wife, three daughters and two sons. His estate was sworn for probate at £7000.

His son Edward (1837-1913) was born in Exeter. He had little education and at 10 was his father's shepherd. He often spent days away from home and had a small portable box which he used as shelter for the night. After joining his father as partner in W. Salter & Son in 1859, Edward began keeping a journal in which he recorded the details of their wine-making. While his father continued his interests in sheep and cattle Edward did most of the work in the vineyard. On 7 September 1867 he married Emily Oldham of Kapunda.

W. Salter & Son were among the South Australian exhibitors who won a medal at the 1876 Philadelphia International Exhibition. In 1882-92 Edward sold his wine to Thomas Hardy & Son, who undertook to market all the Saltram wine and created a demand for it in London. In 1888 Edward was first chairman of the Nuriootpa District Agricultural Bureau. He became a member of the South Australian Vinegrowers' Association. When he retired from his position as justice of the peace in 1898 the attorney-general made him an honorary justice. He was also deacon and treasurer of the Angaston Congregational Church. Retiring from the family business in 1902, he died on 5 October 1913 survived by seven sons. His estate was sworn for probate at £31,361.

Select Bibliography

  • Pastoral Pioneers of South Australia, vol 2 (Adel, 1927)
  • W. Salter & Sons Ltd, The Saltram Vineyard 1859-1959 (Adel, 1959)
  • Salter papers, BRG I (State Records of South Australia).

Citation details

Jaki Ilbery, 'Salter, William (1804–1871)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 25 April 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]


Exeter, Devon, England


30 July, 1871 (aged ~ 67)
Mamre Brook, Barossa district, South Australia, Australia

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