FARMING ON A GRAND SCALE:
Farming on a grand scale.. “Hill River Station”, via Clare SA
The mid-north of South Australia has a fine collection of stately homes, and one of the
best-known of these is the historic Hill River Station, near Clare.
The Hill River Run was originally taken up in 1841 by William Robinson. The original part
of the homestead was built of local sandstone in 1849 with a slate roof (brought to Australia
as ballast on the sailing ship).
About 1855 Robinson sold the leasehold run to C.B. Fisher for the sum of 40,000 pounds
($80,000) with 40,000 sheep included offshears.
During the period that Fisher held the lease (from 1855 to 1876) he converted 60,000 acres
into freehold at a cost of $180,000 and in addition spent $60,000 on improvements such as
subdivisions, fencing and general land cleared for wheat production. In 1875, 50,000 sheep
were shorn, while 4,250 acres were sown to wheat annually in addition to 1,800 acres of new
land turned up for fallow - one wheat field was three miles long.
The ploughing was carried out by 34 horse teams, each drawing a double-farrow plough and
covering from two to three acres per day. Six 22-foot broadcasting machines sowed 40 acres
of wheat per day and harvesting was by 37 strippers, each drawn by a 4 horse team. Some 600
working horses were needed for these operations, requiring over 800 tons of hay to be kept
as feed for them annually.
As many as 200 farm labourers were employed during harvest, wages varying from 16/- to 1 pound
per week. In those days when farming was undertaken on such a grand scale, it is believed that
Hill River was the largest farm in South Australia, if not the largest in Australia.
Families at Hill River were big ones; 12 and 13 children were not at all out of the ordinary.
In 1876 C.B. Fisher sold Hill River to John Howard Angas for 220,000pounds ($440,000).
The clearing sale took 18 days and was described at the time as the largest sale of its
class ever held in the colony, or indeed in Australia.
J.H. Angas died in 1904 and most of Hill River was sold by auction, principally in two sales,
one in 1910 and the other in 1912. Of the original 60,000 acres the family retained 4,000 in
addition to the homestead and main station buildings. Of the original main stone buildings,
the woolshed, situated three miles up the valley, and the barn, east of the present boundary,
went at the time of the sale.
Mr Dudley Angas (father of the present occupier, Mr Alastair Angas) came to Hill River to live
in 1917. He was the first member of the Angas family to actually live there, the property being
operated previously by a manager.
After his marriage in 1925 he commenced expensive alterations and additions to the original home.
The north wing was added, using the same local stone, which was obtained by demolishing an old
cottage. The original slate roof was brought to Australia as ballast on a sailing ship.
It is hard for the casual observer to tell where the original building of 1849 ends and
the additions of 1827-1928 begins.(see photos in the Photo section)
Since Mr Angas's death in 1942 the flock numbers have been increased gradually, and from 1955
to the present day the emphasis has been on pasture development and the establishment of
lucerne stands for which most of the property is well suited.
Today the property carries a breeding flock of 4,000 ewes in addition to dry sheep and a heard
of stud Poll Shorthorn cattle, while a new stud of Sussex cattle is being developed through
At Hill River the days of "the greatest farm in Australia" have passed, but the sturdy
wide-spread oaks and the massive colonial buildings remain to remind us of the times when
the vast holding was a great hive of industry.
(Photos and research updated October 2003, courtesy of Mr & Mrs Alastair Angas)