The History of Brooklands
The cottage is one of the earliest on the south coast. The State Heritage register records that it was built in 1839, within three years of European settlement, from stone quarried on the property. However, exact dates are difficult to determine and a local historian suggests that the date of the stone building is likely to be a few years later than that.
The original owner, Thomas Mayfield set sail from London in the barque Prince Regent on 6 June 1839 with his wife, Rebecca, and his family of four girls and five boys, ranging from 3 to 20 years of age. He had 66 cases of goods, according to the ship’s manifest and these did not include his passenger’s luggage and tools of trade, etc., which were carried free, each passenger being allowed half a ton measurement. They arrived at Holdfast Bay on 26th September 1839 after a journey without landfall of 112 days and docked at Port Adelaide two days later. The diary of one of the passengers records, “We embarked at 4.30 p.m. on Thursday, 6th June, 1839, at St Katherines Dock, Blackwall, and dropped anchor in Holdfast Bay on the 26th September. We saw no land from Lands End, Cornwall, to Kangaroo Island, and spoke to no ships all the way. Many of our passengers were sorely disappointed that the Captain did not put in anywhere. Now we feasted our eyes with the sight of land and all wanted to write to their friends. We landed on the 28th at the port landing place and had our first dinner (on shore) next day, St Michaelmas Day. Here we are, thank God, in the land of South Australia and most of us in pretty good health and spirits. We suffered a good deal on board; the children had the measles and then followed a fever which carried off 22 of the nursling children and we had two grown persons die. Our Doctor was a very young man.”
Thomas Mayfield’s 17-year-old daughter, Betsy, who had a respiratory illness also died within weeks of her arrival in Adelaide. This would have been a bitter blow, for it is thought that one of the reasons for his emigration was to find a climate more conducive to her respiratory health.
Records indicate that his son, Thomas, formally took up a land grant on 17th December 1850, at £1 per acre for the Brooklands title, being an area of 80 acres. It is fairly certain that the main homestead was built in two stages and started before this, around 1845 - and the cottage is thought to pre-date this by some 5 or 6 years. A recent history of the Mayfield family suggests that the main homestead was originally called Darley House. There is some confusion over exact dates, as the Lands Titles Register was not created until 1850. However, it seems that Thomas (junior) and at least one of his brothers came down to the Port Elliot area almost immediately after landing, and that his father followed them in 1841. It is probable, too, that although the title was registered in Thomas (junior)’s name, his father would have been responsible for overseeing the building of the main homestead, his son(s) having previously built and lived in the cottage. Several land grants were taken out in the southern Fleurieu Peninsula by Thomas and his sons, including three that were adjacent to Brooklands. After a disastrous attempt to farm in the southeast, not far from Robe, Thomas (senior) returned to Port Elliot in 1858 at which time the title to Brooklands was transferred into his name. He and his wife Rebecca lived here for the remainder of their lives and he became a well-known local figure, a councillor on the Encounter Bay district council, and one of the five original trustees of the first Port Elliot School. The property passed into the hands of a Mr A E Williamson in 1898, and the Williamson family lived here for about sixty years. In 1957 Stefaan Heysen (son of Sir Hans) and his wife, Joan, bought it. They ran it as a dairy farm and initially used the cottage as a milking shed until they were able to build the ‘new’ dairy, which stands on the left hand side of the main driveway. The cows were milked in the room that is now the bedroom. The bathroom was originally a small adjacent grain store, and the kitchen was used as an engine room, housing the milking machinery.
The whole complex is currently listed on the State Heritage register both because of Thomas Mayfield’s significance as an early settler and because Brooklands is a fine example of an early farming property.
The farm originally had a good, free-flowing spring on it, which continued to supply sufficient fresh water for over 100 years. However, following a severe earthquake in the 1950’s many of what had been permanent springs in the Adelaide to Victor Harbor hills dried up and others appeared in new places. The spring of water on Brooklands unfortunately was one that dried up.
The Quarry. The old quarry that supplied the stone for the original buildings is a short stroll up the gully to the northwest of the cottage, just past the upper dam. There is still some seepage of underground water there, which is retained in a dry stone walled pool, and this is sufficient for watering of stock for a month or so after the dams dry up.
The Gardens Thomas Mayfield planted an orchard and an orangery on the property. He also planted many ornamental pines and gums and the driveway from the road to the house was lined with trees on both sides. In addition there was a grove of Olive trees. There was originally an extensive flower garden and shrubbery in the front and on the side of the main house. Some idea of its size can be estimated from the fact that Mr A E Williamson wrote that it took four men a month to dig the flower garden and shrubbery each year. No wonder we sometimes feel we are fighting a losing battle! It was considered one of the show places of the South from its earliest days until a disastrous fire swept through the district in 1959 and completely destroyed the orchard, orangery, flower garden, olive grove and many of the ornamental trees. This was after Mr Williamson had sold it. Fortunately the houses were saved and still stand solidly, giving a magnificent view of Encounter Bay, overlooking Granite Island and the Bluff west of Victor Harbor.
Early Memories. J R Ewens, a policeman, who came out on the ship Prince Regent with the Mayfields in 1839 was stationed at Port Elliot in the charge of the police station from the 14th October, 1858 to the 13th March, 1860. He kept a diary of his activities and observations and in this he mentions the Mayfield name on many occasions. In his early entries he mentions them as shipmates of 1839 and having travelled out together on the Prince Regent. An entry in his diary of 13th November 1858 says, “Went to T Mayfield’s place, very comfortable appearance and good garden”. Ten days later he mentions having walked to Brooklands where he had “much talk about bees”.
In the early days sugar was very dear. The forests in the hills contained scores of hives of bees and the early settlers used the honey as a substitute for sugar on their porridge, in jams, puddings, etc., and in their tea and coffee. The honey was plentiful in the Hindmarsh and Inman valleys and elsewhere and was also used by the settlers for making mead.
There are still many bees on the property, in the old pear trees in the paddocks below the house, in the sugar gums that line the old driveway and in ancient almond trees along the creek beds and hillside. It is not uncommon for them to swarm in the Spring, attempting to take up residence around the houses, in the chimneys, the garage and the old dairy building.
More Recent History. Stefaan and Joan (Jock) Heysen bought the property in 1957 and lived here until 2000. They did much to restore the gardens around the homestead and planted many native trees around the property. We have replanted an orchard below the main homestead and are continuing to maintain and develop the gardens. We began restoring the cottage in 2001
The Cottage Garden. The B&B cottage has been completely restored over the course of the last six years and we are in the process of building a new garden around it, to a design which we developed with Sophie Thomson, the well-known South Australian landscape gardener who appears regularly on ABC ‘Gardening Australia’. The main basis of the design is that the plants should require little water. The garden includes many varieties of plants that would have been popular in Victorian gardens, such as lavender, rosemary and old-fashioned Rugosa roses.
We obtained the slate for the paths from the historic Bangor quarry on the outskirts of Willunga and the garden walls are built mainly from stone found on the property. The stones in the front porch are some of those that remain from the original floor in the bathroom
The Farm We usually have a number of steers on the property and several horses agisted. Thorny acacia bushes surround the area, ideal habitat for the blue wrens and other small birds that live in the gully. Foxes also make their home in the brambles and on rare occasions an echidna may be seen. Often, in the early mornings and towards evening, small groups of kangaroos can be seen feeding on the hillside or coming down to the dams for water.
Each winter, ducks take up residence on the dams, which also provide a feeding place from time to time for other itinerant waterfowl such as spoonbills, herons and egrets.
Guests are most welcome to wander around the property during their stay, leaving gates as they find them! There are spectacular views from the hill behind the cottage, if they are feeling energetic!