Monalta

Extracted & edited from The History of Belair by Harold O Hannaford, 1973

The land called Monalta was originally sold in three parts.

The first 80 acres went Charles Giles on 17th September 1844 for £126. The second, an area of 59 acres went to Thomas Forestell on 7th December 1846 for £53. The third section of 26 acres was bought by James Crofts on 27th May 1848 for £65.10/-.

The three properties stretched from Belair Road to Laffers Road and from the Coromandel Valley Road to the Government farm (now National Park).

in 1846 Charles Giles built a small stone cottage with thick stone and brick walls, two chimneys. A storeroom at the back was wood and tin and a cement verandah with wooden posts surrounded the house. In 1973 it was “soon to be demolished”.

In 1866 RB Andrews bought all three properties and named the area Monalta, turning it into a successful vineyard. A house with 10 rooms was built about 1870 on the corner of Laffers and Coromandel Valley Roads. Between 1866 and 1920 the vines were cleared and fruit trees planted with an area left as grazing ground.

In 1880 AG Downer purchased Monalta. Two years later the railway line was built, dividing the property into two sections. The northern portion was sold.

In 1920 HO Hannaford bought the 114 acre property. He came to Belair on 2nd December. There were 50 acres of orchard, the main fruit being apples, and a few acres of vines. The remaining land was clear except for the gullies, which were covered with blackberries.

Mr Hannaford and his son cleared more land and planted a pasture. During his first month at Monalta he obtained a dairyman's licence and bought 10 Jersey cows, which were milked by hand.

Mr Hannaford found the district unsuitable for bee farming so he sold most of his hives, keeping a just few to pollinate his orchard in spring.

In 1924 Mr Hannaford bought another 14 acres, then in 1925 attempted to auction Monalta homestead and some vacant land in nearby Belair. The homestead did not sell under the hammer, but soon after Wykeham Boys’ College, a preparatory school, made a successful offer for the homestead and land.

For three years the Hannaford family lived in rented a house called Harry Princes home while a new house was built for them in Florence Terrace (now Sheoak Road) on the corner of Alta Mira Crescent.

In 1930 Mr Hannaford began gradually reducing his orchard, creating more room for pasture and cows. In 1935 flower crops were planted for the first time and in 1973 were still being grown commercially.

Pre-World War II the dairy herd grew and milking was mechanised

In 1943 with his sons help, Mr Hannaford cleared a space and built a dairy with cement and stone walls. Wartime shortages made cement difficult to buy.

In 1946 the Hannafords constructed their own cold store by converting an old stone wine cellar near their dairy. Fruit could then be stored on their property for a long time without going rotten.

Mr Hannaford also leased Mrs Laffer’s orchard on the southern side of Laffers Road. He mainly grew pears and plums, but said, “this was not very profitable”.

Land prices began to rise and Mr Hannaford sold his property to his sons. In 1956 the Monalta homestead on the main road was sold and Mr Hannaford retired. In 1961 his two sons began subdividing the land and that was still in progress in 1973.

Footnote

Harold Hannaford’s full The History of Belair is held in CVDNT’s library. In addition to the story of Monalta, it covers Blackwood Community Hospital, National Park, Belair School, Retreat House, the Laffers, Holy Innocents, Railways and the Halsteads.

The history concludes with the following:

“I would like to thank:
Mr AD Hannaford, Mr Gordon Brown, Mrs Setterfield National Park, Mr Jim Drummond, Sister Gloria Retreat House, Mrs LH Laffer, Rev Anthony Taylor, Mrs J Thomason, Mrs C Gribble and Mr R Halstead for help with this project.”