The property that was to become Elder Green was owned originally by the Dowton family and consisted often acres purchased for thirty pounds in c 1840. Apart from the fact that the Dowton’s came from Herefordshire, England, not a lot is known of Mr. & Mrs. Dowton as they died in 1 856 and 1857 respectively, leaving four young daughters.
George Chapman was a runaway sailor. He left his ship at Port Adelaide with one shilling and a pocket-knife and made his way to Tea Tree Gully. He hid out in a barn (part of the steam mill – now the Fox & Firkin) for three days. R. Smith Snr. who owned Surrey Farm, gave George a job. The residence at Surrey Farm at that time was a small cottage. It was during this time that George met Lavinia Dowton, who lived on the next door property, with her younger sisters.
George eventually bought; what was to become Elder Green from the Dowton sisters, who were quite young when their parents died.,Lavinia being about 17 years old was the oldest of the sisters and George was 22 years old when they married in 1858.
They lived in a two-roomed slab and daub cottage, where two of their children were born. About six years later George built two stone rooms nearby, where they lived until 1888, when the present house was built, reputed to be the best in the area at that time. George and Lavinia had 5 children, one died at eighteen and the baby, 3 weeks after Lavinia in 1871.
In 1 873 George married Rebecca – Lavinia’s younger sister – they had 7 children. George Chapman made use of all the land he had. Lemon and orange trees as well as grapevines grew around the house. George made wine from the vines, Mulberry wine and Elderberry wine: It is said of the Elderberry “whether for neuralgia or nostalgia is not known “~. He died in 1910, working to the last – picking grapes.
The top paddock was planted with hay for the horses, with orchards on most of the land – apricots, apples, pears, peaches and almonds. George Chapman grew many types of fruit tree and supplied Glen Ewin Factory with some of the first apricots that were made into jam. Many years later the orchards were replaced with vines.
Mrs. Chamberlain the present owner of Elder Green is the daughter of Allan Chapman the youngest child of George and Rebecca. After George Chapman’s death in 1910, sons, Allan and William Chapman continued to work the property – they bought land next door, known as Gregory’s, so Elder Green land stretched from Yatala Vale road (now Grove Way) to Grenfell road.
In 1915, Allan Chapman married Laura Sandford, they lived at Elder Greenfor about 18 months before buying land in the Millicent District and moving there. They returned to Elder Green in 1934 after Rebecca Chapman died. Allan planted more vines until there were about 56 acres of vines. The grapes were sold to wineries.
The grapes were used for Sherry or the dark Grenache grapes were made into Port. They were grown without the assistance of irrigation and so had a high sugar content.
The vines started to get `dieback’ and the apricots got a disease called `Gummosis’, finally most of the apricot orchards roundabout died. With the sudden death of Allan Chapman in 1943, Mrs. Chapman and her daughter Joyce Chamberlain with the help of an elderly uncle carried,on farming. When Mr. Chamberlain, Joyce’s husband, came back from the war in 1946, he organised the vines and called for tenders and rented to Penfolds.
Penfold’s rented the vineyards for the next ten years, after which Wynn’s who had Surrey Farm Estate, took it on for approximately the next fifteen years. During this time eight or nine acres was sold to Wynn’s to enable them to build a dam for irrigating their vines. This was the first parcel of land belonging to Elder Green that was sold.
After it was decided to sell the remaining land to Hookers, the Land Commission stepped in and took everything to the North of Dry Creek. This left Hookers with about fourteen acres of comparably flat land without views! As developers moved through the area, Elder Green still remains the home of Mrs. Joyce Chamberlain nee Chapman, with a few token acres left around the house, where horses are still kept and stabled. The original slab and daub cottage built by George Chapman is still in existence on the property. The remains of the original Dowton family cottage lay underneath the Wynn Vale Dam.
* Elderberry wine was a very popular home-made wine in the UK.