Home' The River News : December 17th 2014 Contents 12 - The River News, Wednesday, December 17, 2014
The story of Thomas Hardy's
distillery and winery on the river
bank at Waikerie, and the wineries
and distilleries built at Murray View
and Cyrilton Cellars.
In 1914, Robert Hardy bought land in the
Waikerie settlement, on D Channel Road.
Thomas Hardy and Sons also made plans
to build a winery and distillery on the river
bank, close to the town's landing.
The growers of the district, including
those who had come in 1910, had planted the
vine varieties currants, sultanas, gordos,
While these were mostly for drying, they
could also be used for making into wine or
Early in 1915, Jack Stoward came to
Waikerie to build a crushing and pressing
plant with a boiler and engine for Thomas
Hardy and Sons Ltd.
The winery and distillery were situated
near the river -- the main transport lane at
Because of the very low river, all sand
used in the building of the tanks etc. was
taken from the bed of the river nearby.
The winery was opened a few weeks later
by Thomas Mayfield Hardy, in March 1915,
and went into service shortly thereafter,
crushing all available fruit for the season --
about 80 tonnes.
The winery and distillery operated until
about 1919, when it was sold to local growers
and became the Waikerie Co-op Distillery
Co.A steam engine, originally purchased by
Thomas Hardy in 1887 at the Adelaide Jubi-
lee Exhibition, and which had been used at
Bankside and later Mile End, was brought
to Waikerie and installed in the distillery. It
stayed there and was in use until 1970, when
it was replaced by electricity.
A few years later it was donated to the
National Trust and is now on display at
In 1915, Robert Hardy contracted Fred
Metters, of the Murray View Irrigation
Company, to take all his irrigated grapes
-- mostly doradilla -- on the condition that
Thomas Hardy and Sons build a winery on
In January 1916, work began on the
building of a winery and distillery at
Again the man to organise the works
was Jack Stoward. He brought with him Alf
Oatway and Pat Gaffney.
The old Macclesfield Brewery had recent-
ly been closed, and Robert Hardy, chairman
of Hardy's and the largest shareholder in
the brewery at that time, instructed Stoward
to take whatever he felt would be of use at
Pulleys, bearings, belting, buckets, dip-
pers etc. were all sent to Murray View.
Stoward purchased a boiler from May
Bros at Gawler, a steam engine from Pengel-
ley's at Edwardstown and a press and pump
A crusher and drainer was sent up from
Mile End, and an elevator was sent from
The contract to build had been let to Wil-
liam Francis, builder of Waikerie. As the
site for the distillery was about three miles
downstream from Murray View homestead,
the men camped on the river bank.
All the materials for the build came on
paddle steamers and barges -- including the
boiler, which was six feet in diameter, 22 feet
long and weighed 10 tonnes.
The contract for the delivery of the
boiler was that it be placed on the top of the
bank, as near as possible to the winery.
The distance between the water's edge
and the top of the bank was 30 feet and very
The barge had a crane that lifted the
boiler off the barge and to the water's edge.
The rest is a story too long to recount
here, but credit must go to these 'old timers'
who, with remarkable ingenuity, could
achieve almost anything.
The winery was completed in a few
weeks and ready for the crushing of grapes,
which lasted a month.
Wine was transported back to Mile End
in hogsheads, which were brought to the
site in a barge and left there at the water's
edge to be collected on the return journey.
The wine was filled into the hogsheads
by hoses from the winery.
In later years, the hogsheads were filled
before moving them down the slope to be
loaded into barges.
The next year the winery was enlarged
with twelve 1600 gallon casks from Mile End
Cellars as additional storage.
The grape bin was altered, and a drainer
and elevator added.
The 80 acres of doradilla grapes had pro-
vided a good vintage for Murray View, with
more than 1300 hogsheads shipped to Mile
End and McLaren Vale via paddle steamer
to Morgan, then train to Adelaide.
At the end of 1917 the river was in flood,
with three feet of water inside the winery
and much the same situation at Waikerie.
The 1917 flood was not as great as we
remember the 1956 flood, and by the end of
the year it was possible to get into the build-
ings to clean up.
Still, it was a huge and messy job, with 12
inches of mud to be moved and large holes
around the outside of both buildings.
In 1920, the Murray View winery was
sold to Penfold's, and Hardy's concentrated
on the building of Cyrilton Cellars.
Penfold's ran the Murray View winery
and distillery for many years, before
selling to the next generation of Metters,
Fred and Ron, who contracted to sell all the
spirit they produced (67 per cent overproof
white spirit) to Penfold's.
This continued until about 1962, when
the boiler developed stress fractures and
the decision was made to close the busi-
It has been said that the reason for the
distillery being so far from the main home-
stead and buildings at Murray View was
the hope that, in time, grapes grown in the
Qualco area might be delivered to the distill-
ery. This never happened.
[Back in 1915, the decision to place the
distillery downstream was possibly made
by Robert Hardy. Mr. Metters, according to
his grandson Peter, wanted it nearer to his
home and landing.]
Because of the isolation of Murray
View (approximately 2000 acres and about
15km by road from Waikerie) workers were
housed in cottages on the property, the
women gaining work in the citrus packing
shed or pruning at times. Some apricots and
sultanas were also grown for drying.
Sandhills along the road to Murray View
made travelling by road very difficult in the
The river was always the main trans-
port route. Citrus packed at Murray View
was loaded onto barges, taken to Tailem
Bend and then railed to the Melbourne
Before the building of Lock 2 in 1926, if
the river was too low to travel to Waikerie,
Mr Metters drove his car across a dry sec-
tion of the river to Broken Cliffs and then
continued into Waikerie along the Tay-
Society shares Hardy history (1914-87)
The original Thomas Hardy, who came
to South Australia in 1850, had three sons.
They were James, who died leaving no
children, Thomas Nathaniel, who died aged
49, and Robert Burrough Hardy, who was 48
years of age when their father died at the
age of 82 in 1912.
Robert then returned to SA from the
firm's Sydney office to manage the business.
Robert had two sons -- Robert Cyril, born
in 1894, and Kenneth, born in 1900 -- along
with two daughters.
Thomas Mayfield Hardy was the son of
Thomas Nathaniel Hardy.
After opening the Waikerie winery and
distillery in 1915, he rejoined the 9th Light
Horse Regiment and served overseas.
His cousin Robert also joined the fight-
ing forces and lost his life in France -- Cyril-
ton Cellars was named for him.
Jack Stoward was a grandson of Martha
Stoward, a sister to Thomas Hardy Snr.
Her three sons had migrated at different
The eldest, Fred, came at age 15 in 1883
and studied chemistry at the University of
He became chief winemaker at Hardy's
in 1890, taking over from his uncle, who had
been his own winemaker since 1857.
The youngest brother, Tom Hardy
Stoward, was to become secretary of the
In October 1938, a tragedy occurred for
the South Australian wine industry when
three of its most prominent personalities
-- Tom Mayfield Hardy, Hugo Gramp, and
Sydney Hill-Smith -- were killed, along with
Charles Hawker MHR.
While flying to Melbourne for a meeting,
their plane crashed in heavy fog.
Tom Mayfield Hardy left a widow, Eileen,
and four young children.
The D Channel Road property bought
in 1914 by Robert Hardy and Sam Sage was
cleared of mallee scrub and developed.
Channels were made and a house built.
Early in January 1920, Jack Stoward ar-
rived at Cyrilton Cellars to install machin-
ery and prepare for vintage.
However, he found construction work
on tanks etc. so far behind that a visit by
Robert Hardy and Tom Mayfield Hardy
made the decision to ask the Waikerie Co-op
Distillery to crush Hardy's vintage for that
In about 1927, Thomas Hardy and Sons
bought out Sam Sage, and he retired as
Mr H. W. Ward came from Griffith to be
manager, overseeing much expansion at
the winery over the next few years, which
included World War II and a downturn in
the export wine business.
Grapes were sourced from the company's
own vineyards and from growers in the
Waikerie district and upriver.
In 1957, the 'dugout' was built on the hill
next to the winery.
This became an important entertain-
ment centre for Hardy's under the manage-
ment of Jack Neilson.
A capable and congenial host, Mr Neil-
son welcomed visitors from all over Aus-
tralia and overseas, and introduced all to
At the same time the property of Mr
Lambert, on the northern boundary, was
In 1963, another 60 acres of vineyard was
In 1968, Hardy's bought 500 acres at Kep-
pock in the South East.
By 1970, Thomas Hardy and Sons had
interests in five winemaking areas in Aus-
tralia. These were McLaren Vale, Barossa
Valley, Waikerie, Keppock and Hunter
In 1976, Jack Neilson retired as manager
at Waikerie and was succeeded by his son
Phillip, a third-generation Neilson to work
In 1987, Thomas Hardy and Sons sold
their holdings in the Waikerie district,
along with the winery and distillery, and
concentrated on the business in McLaren
- Prepared by the Waikerie and District
AN early photograph of the Waikerie Co-op Distillery, which was built by Thomas Hardy and Sons.
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