Grosvenor family

One of the stories from the 2011 project: Who were they? People who shaped Victor Harbor and for whom our parks and reserves are named.

photo of Grosvenor Gardens

Grosvenor Gardens is in the CBD of Victor Harbor, bounded by Torrens, Coral and Stuart Streets.

Grosvenor Gardens in the centre of town was first known as Milnes Reserve after the family who had donated the first rotunda. The Milnes were part of the Grosvenor clan by marriage and the Council unanimously decided in 1949 that the reserve be re-named Grosvenor Gardens to commemorate the services rendered to Victor Harbor by the Grosvenor family.

Bert Warland: “The honour conferred on the name of Grosvenor should and I feel will, meet with the approval of the residents of the town and the district who are aware of the services they gave to it.”

Edward Grosvenor and Sarah Hawthorn married at Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England, on 4 August 1829. At least three children were born: Herbert, Sarah and Martha. Sadly, ten years after the marriage, in 1839 Sarah died.

Ten years later again, in 1849, probably with more than a little sadness, Ed left his home at Hanley, Staffordshire, taking with him Herbert (19 years), and daughters Sarah (17 years) and Martha (14 years) aboard the Susannah which set sail from London on 20 January 1849 and travelled via Plymouth. The Susannah left Plymouth on 7 February with Captain J Lukey at the helm, and Mr Jay as Surgeon-Superintendent. The Grosvenor family spent almost five months on the Susannah before they arrived in Pt Adelaide on 18 May. They were among more than 16,000 immigrants to South Australia in that year when the total population of the state was about 53,000.

Rev Ridgway William Newland had been pastor at the Congregational Church (known as the Tabernacle), in Ed’s home town Hanley, in Staffordshire, for 22 years from 1816. He then brought his family and a number of workmen to South Australia in 1839 and estabished the community of Dissenters at Encounter Bay. It is highly likely that Ed Grosvenor had known Newland and some of these settlers before they left the motherland, and that he renewed acquaintances here.

Eighteen months after arriving, Ed’s elder daughter and first-born Sarah, married one of the stalwarts of the Encounter Bay Tabernacle community, Frederick Thomas Barratt. They had twelve children. Their daughter, Catherine Grosvenor Barratt, subsequently married John Hunt, son of another pioneer family. Sarah died in 1876 at Cooke’s Plains where several of the Barratts and Hunts had bought sections.

Martha Grosvenor married Samuel Hargreaves, an innkeeper of Encounter Bay in 1854 and they had eight children, including one named after her English grandmother, Sarah Hawthorn. In 1879, Martha was widowed and two years later married David Swift, a widower farmer of Middleton. Martha died in Middleton in 1920, aged 85 years.

Ed was a farmer and carpenter, and bought a section of virgin country at Waitpinga. Sadly, Ed died in 1853 just four years after arriving. He was buried in Tabernacle cemetery where his grave still stands. The plaque also memorialises two of his grandchildren: Sarah’s son, John Herbert Barratt, and Martha’s son, Samuel Grosvenor Barratt. Ed’s legacy to the district continued through the activities of his son, grandsons and great-grandsons.

For a time Ed’s son, Herbert Grosvenor farmed his father’s land at Waitpinga. On 27 December 1855 he married Barbara Robertson, daughter of John and Margaret nee McShannog from Scotland, at Springrove, Inman Valley, where John Robertson ran the local Post Office. Sarah Robertson Grosvenor was born at Pt Elliot in 1857 and another nine children were born over the following few years as the growing family moved around the district. Three of the children died, all in the same year, 1877. About 1865 Herbert and Barbara returned to Inman Valley and ran the Post Office for four years until 1869 when it was sold.

At that time also, Herbert was working as a carpenter and is listed as the owner/occupier of a half-acre allotment and house on Section 17, Lot 34 on Hindmarsh Road, value £5. It was described as a very small cottage, probably one room or two tiny ones with a roof possibly of thatch or bark. It had an exterior chimney.

In 1868, Herbert Grosvenor and Andrew Oliver, also a builder and carpenter, opened a workshop on Lot 51, Section 16, value £14, in Ocean Street, in the area then known as Pt Victor. Soon afterwards Herbert built a house next door. In January 1872, in the Southern Argus, the two men advertised themselves as builders and machinists, and ‘brasses cast’.

“[Herbert] was said to be a wonderful craftsman with timber. One example of his work was at Seaforth, opposite the Grosvenor home. In the late 1880s this was purchased by the Barr-Smith family. Among alterations that were carried out, was the joining together of the drawing room and dining room with a large archway. The wall was knocked out and Mr Grosvenor then constructed the archway with great care and attention to detail, so that when painter the woodwork exactly resembled plaster work. Another piece of his work was in the Institute library, where he constructed cedar bookcases with sliding glass doors.”

Herbert also showed his pioneering ingenuity when roads were being made in the district, without modern machinery. He constructed a road roller from a five-foot eucalypt [presumably the diameter measurement] with banded metal tyres, for use in roadmaking. It was also used to smooth the cricket pitch for the Encounter Bay Cricket Club!

Herbert’s son Herbert Donald (HD or Herb Jnr), born 1860, later described Victor Harbor as it was when he was a child.

“The Pt Elliot and Goolwa Road (Ocean Street) was an eighteen foot wide macadamised road, with scrub, ferns, and rushes growing along each side, as you approached the town. Not far from the corner (on the former police station block) stood a two-room paling house with a lean-to, and on the opposite side was a similar house, facing McKinlay Street. A third paling house stood further up, towards the Coral Street corner, and opposite the original Seaforth (guest house), then a stone building with a flat roof and very small square windows. Up to the Crown Hotel, on the eastern side of the street were cow paddocks and goat runs. Nicholas Coad had a stone boarding house in Railway Terrace. Three shops and two boarding houses stood on the other side of the street, with Field’s butcher shop at the end. Torrens Street was a wilderness of trees, yakkas and scrub, with the Wesleyan Chapel, and one or two building at the end.”

In the early 1870s the partnership with Andrew Oliver was dissolved and Herbert Snr carried on the business. In time his sons Herbert (Herb Jnr or HD, Arch and Jim), as they finished their education at the local school, joined him.

From about 1875 the Grosvenors also took on the role of undertakers as a sideline. At first, the butcher’s cart, the only vehicle in town, was used for a hearse until a horse-drawn trap became available.

Many years later, in 1903, Herb Jnr built the first horse-drawn hearse on the South Coast in the Ocean Street workshop. The first funeral when it was used was for thirteen-year-old Dan Cudmore. Three generations of Grosvenors worked in the town, including as undertakers. Until the 1930s, coffins of red pine with seams sealed with hot pitch were made in the Grosvenor workshop.

Herbert took an active part in community life. He was a foundation member of the Institute, and his expertise was no doubt appreciated in his term on the Building Committee for the Newland Congregational Church. From 1890–98 he served as Chairman of the Council. “In 1896 Chairman Grosvenor broached a previously unmentionable problem: cesspits in the township. The country dunnies commonly in use were a health hazard, milking cows were kept in backyards, livestock was slaughtered indiscriminately in open air and the bloody debris left to rot, rubbish was dumped in paddocks and ill-kept pig farms spread their odours on the summer air. Eventually, in accordance with the colony’s Central Board of Health the Council acted urgently and set down minimum standards for the building of closets, and the collection and disposal of ‘night soil’.

Bert Warland, wrote in The Times, “Mr Herbert Grosvenor in his trade as a carpenter gave a great deal of labour voluntarily and played a big part in the erection of Anzac bridge and worked without fee or reward in the erection of the large shelter shed on the esplanade near the jetty and built free of charge the tool shed on the Soldiers’ Memorial Gardens.” He also mentioned two other sons of Herbert and Barbara, William and Arthur who “frequently organised Christie Minstrel concerts to raise funds in the interest of town improvements”. He continues, “The family took a prominent part in sporting activites of the district being leading members of the cricket club.”

Herbert’s wife, Barbara, died 5 June 1907, and Herbert died five years later on 25 October 1912. They were both buried at Victor Harbor cemetery. The grave site also contains a tablet to the memory of Barbara’s father, John Robertson.

The Grosvenor home on Ocean Street was acquired by the Commonwealth Government in 1915. The cottage was demolished and a new Post Office was built on the site for the sum of £578.16.8.

Three of Herbert and Barbara’s sons, Herb Jnr or HD, Arch and Jim, also left their mark on Victor Harbor.

Herbert Donald Grosvenor (Herb Jnr, HD), born 1860. One son was born about 1900. Three years after his wife, Florence Eliza died in 1923 Herbert Donald married Emma Elizabeth Sunman at the Church of Christ, North Adelaide. He continued in his father’s business, and also carried on his father’s commitment to the community.

Archibald Thomas Grosvenor (Arch), born 1864, married Prudence nee Prouse in 1886 at the Prouse home in Inman Valley. Arch also continued in his father’s business and served a term as Chairman from 1903. Arch and Prudence lived in and ran a guesthouse at Teralba in Seaview Road (now Church of Christ property). Prudence died in 1944 and Arch just over a year later. They had each lived out their 80+ years in the area.

James Malcolm Grosvenor (Jim) married Annie Pearsons in 1903 at the Congregational Manse, Victor Harbor. “Jim was responsible for building many homes in the town.” Jim’s son, Arch (Gregor Archibald) Grosvenor, grandson of Herbert Snr and Barbara became a noted South Australian journalist and writer.

G Arch Grosvenor started his career in 1925 at The Times, Victor Harbor’s local newspaper, and became its youngest ever editor as the age of 18. For 27 years he was later the editor of the Murray Pioneer in Renmark before moving to Adelaide to work with The Advertiser in 1964. His articles often featured aspects of Victor Harbor and his sports reports focused on cricket and bowls. He was brought up on the family property ‘Tipperary’, Inman Valley, and wrote of his youth there in “A Long Way From Tipperary”.


  • Settlers Around The Bay, Anthony Laube
  • Victor Harbor: From Pioneer Port to Seaside Resort, Michael Page
  • Trove digital newspapers
  • Digger database