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Reynella  |  European History and Heritage
Rupert Reynell jumping over a post and rail fence 1896
Photograph courtesy of the State Library of South Australia (B58457)

John Reynell was born in Devonshire England in 1809. His early life was full of travel and commercial adventure until, in 1838 he arrived in South Australia on board the Surrey. Many of his fellow-passengers chose to settle at a spot near Hurtle Vale that they called Surreyville. By 29 July 1840, John Reynell had moved from this place to Reynella Farm. Here he set up a dairy and used the place as a base for other pastoral enterprises through the southern Mount Lofty Ranges. Moreover, at his farm he sowed potatoes and cereal crops, but was best known for his pursuit of wine making.

In 1841, Reynell planted out the first portion of his vineyard with cuttings sourced from Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania). This is recorded as South Australia’s first vineyard and first production of wine – the start of one of the State’s most important export industries.

The town of Reynella was subdivided for sale in 1854. By 1866, the town had a steam flour mill, a hotel – the Crown – a post office, a store, a school and a chapel. One contemporary account noted ‘the surrounding country is undulating and hilly, with an alluvial flat known as Hurtle Vale, and running down to a tea-tree scrub swamp E. of the bridge on the main South-road.’ By the end of the nineteenth century, however as many farmers had moved to the northern agricultural lands, Reynella was said to be ‘a village of the past, as several ruined houses along the road remain to testify’.

Nonetheless, the district and town did flourish around the farming and wine making that had been pioneered by John Reynell. By the mid-twentieth century, tourism had joined with wine, fruit production and farming to underpin the local economy. Since 1960, the spread of suburbs south from Adelaide has transformed much of the agricultural land into housing.