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Happy Valley  |  European History and Heritage
Henry Douglas Homes
Photograph courtesy of Local Studies Collection – City of Onkaparinga’s Libraries.

In November 1844, Daniel George Brock recorded in his diary details of a journey south from Adelaide. On his third day he rode past Thomas O’Halloran’s farm, on the hill noting that the land had little running water and was suitable for wheat farming. Some few kilometres to the east he came to Happy Valley. There, he noted, were ‘several substantial stone buildings, among which is a neat little chapel’.

Happy Valley, a source suggested, was given its name by Edward Burgess, one of the first settlers in the area. Burgess, a staunch Methodist, arrived at Holdfast Bay on 20 January 1837. At some time during the next two years, Burgess made his home at Happy Valley and began farming. He was not alone: the South Australian Company had also purchased significant amounts of land in the area and was offering it to the settlers.

By 1866, Happy Valley was described as ‘an agricultural settlement lying near Dashwood’s Gully, a good district road connecting the two places. It lies near the postal village of O’Halloran Hill. There is a public pound and a Forester’s court in this place.’ By this time, too, wheat farming had been joined by wine grape growing. The settlement itself, although spread over a fair distance, incorporated an array of trades, a licensed school and chapel.

Within another twenty years, there had been a large increase in the area planted to vines and in the production of wine. The Douglas family, for example, were important grape growers in the area. They and others like them witnessed the formation of large wineries such as Horndale, Vale Royal and Mount Hurtle, that were funded by significant investors. Richard Cholmondeley, for example, helped fund the growth of Vale Royal and Horndale cellars.

However the area was about to be subject to dramatic change. Between 1892 and 1896 the construction of the Happy Valley Reservoir was undertaken, and although it was a source of local employment, it also inundated a large number of the area’s farms and buildings. Undaunted, many of the local farming and grape growing families moved to other nearby landholdings and continued their work. In 1959, the name Happy Valley was first applied to a subdivision of Section 501, hundred of Noarlunga. By the 1970s, the pressure of further subdivision was beginning to erode the area’s heritage. In 1983, the City of Happy Valley – formerly the District Council of Meadows – was created.

During the late 1880s a Royal Commission examined the water supply of metropolitan Adelaide. The Commission recommended the construction of a major reservoir at Happy Valley.
By 1891, the reservoir had been agreed to, as well as the building of a tunnel from a weir on the Onkaparinga River at Clarendon to Happy Valley.

Four years in the making, the most striking feature of the reservoir’s heritage is the valve tower – built from Morphett Vale and Murray Bridge stone