Historical Towns Directory

By clicking on a state or territory on the map, you can access a regional guide to Australia's historic towns, including a wealth of information about organizations, museums and locations.

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Find Penola

The historic town of Penola, approximately 390 kilometres south of Adelaide, today contains many National Trust buildings and privately owned residences which provide a postcard reminder of a by-gone era. The town known for its connections with Josephite nun Blessed Mary MacKillop, anticipated to be Australia's first Saint, as well as for its location in the prominent Coonawarra wine production region.

John Riddoch Centre, 2005 (photo property of Wattle Range Council )

Scottish born Alexander Cameron founded Penola in 1850. Cameron arrived in the district as a squatter in 1845. His hotel, the Royal Oak, was licensed in 1848 and prospered throughout the 1850s as prospectors travelled through the Penola area on their way to the Victorian Goldfields. The original slab hotel building was replaced by the current stone structure in 1873. Cameron also built Ulva Cottage (1850s and still standing) for his daughter Margaret and her husband.

The single-room McAdam Slab Hut (1850s) also still stands today and is an example of the simplicity of the early settlers' dwellings. Petticoat Lane, the oldest residential area in Penola, has been declared a State Heritage Area and contains numerous cottages built in the 1850s and 1860s, including the slab Sharam Cottage (1850).

Wilson Cottage (courtesy National Trust SA Penola Branch)

Cobb & Co opened a booking office (still standing) at the settlement in 1857, when Penola became the terminus for its coach services from Melbourne.

The first (wooden) St Joseph's Catholic Church was constructed in 1859 and a stone church was built in 1865. The Gothic-style Presbyterian Church was built in 1870, with a porch added in 1906. The Anglican Church of St Mary the Virgin was built in 1873. The bell turret and bell were 1889 additions.

Sharam Cottages (courtesy National Trust SA Penola Branch)

Scotsman John Riddoch arrived in the area in 1861, taking up the Yallum property. His legacy was the establishment of the Penola Fruit Colony in 1890, which became known as Coonawarra from 1897. This marked the beginning of Coonawarra's development into an internationally recognised red-wine production region.

The two-storey mansion "Yallum Park" was completed for John Riddoch in 1880 and many of the early buildings in the district were opened or had their foundation stones laid by this man of vision. He was a local Member of Parliament for many years and the Riddoch highway is named to acknowledge his contribution.

Gammon Cottage (courtesy National Trust SA Penola Branch)

In 1866 Mary MacKillop established the first of many schools across Australia and New Zealand open to children without regard to their parents' income or social class in Penola. Together with Father Julian Tenison Woods she also founded The Sisters of Saint Joseph in Penola. The original Josephite school house, the Woods-MacKillop schoolhouse, was built in 1867. Previously classes were held in a disused stable.

Penola was also the birthplace of poet John Shaw Neilson in 1872. Shaw Neilson and other famous colonial poets Adam Lindsay Gordon and William Ogilvie, left behind a legacy of poetry inspired by their experiences of rural life in the district.

John Riddoch Centre and Penola Local History Collection
Information: The John Riddoch Centre in the former Penola Mechanics Institute and Public Library, built in 1869, promotes Penola as a place of historical significance, a place for research and learning. The Local History Collection houses an extensive collection of resources, comprising books, journals, oral history, printed and vertical file materials, photographs and records of local government organisations and papers. Also to aid research are CD Roms and Local newspapers on microfilm and microfiche collections. Toilets and disabled access available. Opening times are weekdays from 9am to 5pm and weekends and public holidays 10am-4pm. Closed Good Friday and Christmas Day.
Phone: 08 8737 2855

27 Arthur Street
Penola SA 5277

Mary MacKillop Interpretive Centre, The
Information: Features an historic display and information about Blessed Mary MacKillop and Father Julian Tenison Woods with early history of Penola; shops with mementos, cards and books; research and video rooms; refreshments; toilets, disabled access. Opening hours are 10am to 4pm daily. Closed Good Friday and Christmas Day.
Phone: 08 8737 2092

Cnr Petticoat Lane and Portland Street / PO Box 231
Penola SA 5277

National Trust SA Penola Branch
Information: The aims of the Branch are the preservation and promotion of the built and cultural heritage of the Penola District. The Penola Branch owns the Old POst Office (1862) in Church Street, Penola, which is leased as commercial premises, and the Old Telegraph Office (1859) at its rear, which is leased as a private residence. The Penola Branch also owns and manages the following buildings in Penola's Petticoat Lane State Heritage Precinct: Sharam Cottages (1850 and c. 1864 respectively); Gammon Cottage; and Wilson Cottage, which is open 10am to 4pm. Closed Wednesdays.
Secretary Phone: 08 8737 2152
Contact: Evelynne Bowden (Secretary)

PO Box 261
Penola SA

Email: evelynne@penola.limestonecoast.net
Penola Visitor Information Centre
Information: Open 7 days. Weekdays from 9am to 5pm; Saturday, Sunday and public holidays from 10am to 4pm. Closed Christmas Day.
Phone: 08 8737 2855
Fax: 08 8737 2206

John Riddoch Centre, 27 Arthur Street
Penola VIC 5277

Postal Address:

PO Box 27
Millicent SA 5280

Email: penola@wattlerange.sa.gov.au
Website: http://www.wattlerange.sa.gov.au



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