Davenport Olive Reserve - Windback Wednesday

The mature olive trees of Davenport Olive Reserve in Beaumont are remnants of Sir Samuel Davenport’s olive plantation. The trees were planted in 1864, and at its peak, the plantation held over 14,000 trees. The trees are retained as a memorial to the founding of the olive oil industry in South Australia.

In 1836, several olive trees arrived in South Australia aboard the HMS Buffalo with Governor Hindmarsh and his secretary George Stevenson. These trees were the beginning of the South Australian olive oil industry. Sir Samuel Davenport (1818-1906) of Beaumont House, is responsible for the proliferation of olives in the Burnside area.

Photograph: Sir Samuel Davenport standing in an olive grove, Beaumont circa 1900. Courtesy of the State Library of South Australia, B 6106.

Words based on a talk by Margaret Ford OAM presented at Burnside Library, 12 May 2021:

Using cuttings from the trees brought over on the Buffalo, olive trees were planted in North Adelaide, Elder Park (near the first Government hut) and Hackney. Circa 1850s, stock obtained from the Hackney Olive Tree Nursery was used to plant olive groves in Beaumont. The two main groves were located at Gleeville Farm, which was the first house in the Beaumont area built in 1839 by Edward Burton Gleeson (since demolished it was located near Sunnyside Road, Beaumont), and at Beaumont House owned by Sir Samuel Davenport.

In 1843, aged 25, Sir Samuel Davenport arrived in South Australia. Davenport had previously travelled around Provence in the south of France and became convinced that for South Australia the olive and almond were particularly suitable crops. "There are perhaps, about ten olive trees in the Colony. It would be well if there were ten thousand, for a more valuable generous plant does not exist. Once planted, it requires no care, but continues to yield its increasing store for centuries," he wrote.

Planting olives was vigorously promoted by Davenport, who represented South Australia at the first International Exhibition in London in 1851 where he showcased South Australian olive oil and won a prize for it. He became a manufacturer of olive oil, planting approximately 1200 trees in a small grove in rows around his vineyard in Beaumont. At its peak, Davenport's olive plantations held over 14,000 trees, including 27 different varieties imported from Italy, Spain, France and Turkey. In 1868 Davenport built an olive oil factory next to Beaumont House, importing a Chilean mill for pressing. The factory ceased production in the 1930s.

When Davenport retired from active farming, his nephew George Cleland (1852-1931) continued the business and called the oil "Davenport". G.F. Cleland & Sons manufactured a blended oil until 1965, for years employing about 30 people to fill the five-ounce bottles. The Beaumont olive plantation was subdivided in the 1930s, split by Linden Avenue. Some of the olive trees from the historic plantation remain.

In 1899 the principal manufacturers of olive oil in South Australia were:

  • The Stonyfell Olive Company, Burnside
  • Sir Samuel Davenport, Beaumont
  • Waverley Vinegar Company, West Terrace Adelaide
  • Thomas Hardy and Sons, Bankside
  • Corporation Olive Yard, HM Gaol
  • Chaffey Brothers, Renmark

Where to visit historic sites relating to Davenport's olive oil manufacture:

  1. Davenport Olive Reserve, John Cleland Drive, Beaumont
    Small reserve with trees from the Davenport olive plantation in Beaumont, planted in 1864.
  2. Oliver Crusher Monument at Wood Park, Collingwood Avenue, Hazelwood Park
    A monument olive crusher is displayed in Wood Park constructed of elements from the olive oil factory established by Samuel Davenport.
  3. Beaumont House, 631 Glynburn Road, Beaumont
    The olive groves bordering the property were planted by Samuel Davenport circa 1860.

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