Brief History

Extract from 'Hahndorf - A Brief Look at the Town and its History', by Anni Luur Fox (1982)

On the outskirts of Hahndorf along the road to Mt. Barker, Beerenberg Farm produces a variety of fruits for their famous jams and pickles.  In the 1970’s I happened to suggest to Grant Paech that his family’s long farming history could be a wonderful source of recipes for the products he was offering for sale at his roadside stall.  “Alright,” he challenged, “If you design me a better label and find me a better name, I might use it.”  So I did.  Out of the list of names compiled with my Latvian friend Mrs Freimann over lunch one day, “Beerenberg” meaning “Berry Hill,” was chosen.

Wittwer’s distinctive fachwerk barn was the inspiration for my original label design in black and white with “Beerenberg” hand-lettered with a chisel nib in a Gothic style.  Such substantial barns were a feature of German immigrants’ farms in Australia and in North America, and this one was one of Carl Faehrmann’s masterpeices.  Roomy, with a threshing floor also used for bagging grain, the barn was built by a real craftsman, unlike the very early buildings of Hahndorf erected by families desperate for immediate shelter.  The roof was of timber shingles and the panels between the redgum framework were filled with wattle and daub.  The cottage nearby is also of German design.

In “Our townships, farms and homesteads, Southern Districts”, E.H. Hallack advocated the adoption of fachwerk in 1892 when he wrote, “….. The houses and their construction commend themselves as useful object lessons to builders on clayey or Biscay cracking soils …..  Thatch for roofing, with brick walls intersected with gum framing V-shaped, horizontal, and other shaped wall lacings they score anything but cracks, the wooden lacements or bracings preventing the possibility of such.  These German ideas of building are well worthy of imitation …”

Beerenberg’s barn was once a part of a mighty grain industry fuelled by the enterprising Wittwer family of millers.  The first European owner of Section 4232 where the barn stands was Johann Friedrich Wilhelm Wittwer who paid $162 for its eighty-one acres at auction on 8 July 1853.  Since coming to Hahndorf with his wife and two children, he had been a very busy fellow working his homestead block at 98 Main Street and other cultivation blocks in the village.  In April 1842 he had been granted Section 3849 on River Road where he built a watermill at the junction of Cox’s Creek and the Onkaparinga River.  When this was damaged by flood and fire, he went to work for Walter Paterson who had purchased Nixon’s Windmill about halfway between Hahndorf and Mt. Barker in 1844.

Mr Wittwer and his son, also named Friedrich Wilhelm, were both fearless entrepreneurs judging by the numbers of mortgages they serviced.  By 1851 when the S.A. Register reported that Hahndorf had a small steam flour mill, the son was in charge of that enterprise at the age of 21 years.  In October 1852, his father sold the land with the remains of the watermill on River Road.  He bought the land where the barn stands in July 1853 followed by the windmill in August and the adjoining twenty-one acres in September.  That was the year his son’s steam mill was badly damaged when the boiler blew up but the subdivision of eight-five acres purchased in Main Street in 1849 was bearing fruit.  Another seventy-seven acres abutting the main street were added to the Wittwer portfolio in 1855.  After Wittwer the Elder died in 1864 aged 63, his son retained all of these properties and on 9 January 1880 refinanced his mortgages for $2,000.

My drawing from the Hahndorf Sketchbook shows the barn before the new dam was sunk and willow tree planted.  Until 1930, according to Walter Wotzke, the local lads played football on an undulating field nearby before moving to yet another undulating field opposite the Hahndorf Resort near the Onkaparinga River.  They found a new home in 1936. To mark South Australia’s centenary, the villagers constructed a new, relatively flat oval at the picnic grounds on Pine Avenue.  The Beerenberg site was also the birthplace of golf in the village, initiated by the Hahndorf College headmaster, Mr Byard.  In 1998 Beerenberg won the I.A.M.A. Award for Excellence at the Premier’s Food and Fabric awards for being “an outstanding example of best practice, market focus and innovation.”