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National Trust Willunga branch.

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National Trust of South Australia


Morton's Cottage (Upalong) 19 St James Street

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Fast Facts
Address: 19 St James St
Town or Locality: Willunga
Year constructed: 1857
Built by: Richard Mortimer
Used for: House
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The original cottage was built and occupied in late 1857 by Richard Mortimer, a quarryman and builder who also did some ‘day work’ for the council. He had arrived in Australia with his family in 1849 and settled in Willunga in 1851.

The cottage is an excellent example of a colonial building built from local material. It is constructed of coursed roughly squared rubble, has stone quoins, brick surrounds to openings, slate floors and a slate-clad roof.

The cottage was later sold to Richard Townsend and then to William Morton. William and Sarah Morton had lived in Willunga some time before they moved their family into the cottage. In 1859, they lost one of their 3 children who had contracted Diptherite. According to Dr Jay, it was ‘a frequently fatal infection of the throat’. They lived in the cottage in 1869 and, after its purchase in 1888, the house remained in the Morton family for many years. Nearby Morton's Bridge is named after the family.

William Morton, ‘was always a cheery old chap’. He was superintendent of roads, and in his spare time he made baskets. He had trained as a cane weaver in England and planted osier willows along the creek near the cottage in Willunga. When the shoots were ready, he split and wove them into various items, most notably farm and vineyard baskets and chairs. (Note the cane chair by the door in the 1904 photograph.

He was usually the only cane weaver who exhibited at the Willunga and Adelaide shows. In 1871, a reporter at The Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society's Exhibition commended him for his ‘baskets of all descriptions and sizes…also bird cages, easy chairs, a large canoe, fancy dog-house, cradle, etc. This unique local industry ceased with his death in 1913, aged 89 years.

Cynthia and Don Dowie bought the cottage from Ethel Morton, the daughter of William’s second wife, Elizabeth, in 1961. Over 30 years since the 1970’s, they restored and extended the condemned building and tangled garden into a charming home, naming it ‘Upalong’ in remembrance of Don’s Cornish heritage.


  • Ruth Baxendale and Faye Lush Willunga Walks Willunga National Trust 2010
  • The South Australian Advertiser Friday 29 July 1859 p2
  • The Chronicle Thursday 29 May 1941 p38
  • South Australian Chronicle and Weekly Mail Saturday 25 February 1871 p9
  • South Australian Chronicle and Weekly Mail Saturday 25 February 1871 p9
  • Cynthia J Dowie Upalong the cottage that grew around us 2003.
Morton's Cottage, circa 1904
Morton's Cottage, circa 1904
Morton family, c 1890
Morton family, c 1890
'Upalong' Cottage, James Street
'Upalong' Cottage, James Street

Memories of Morton's Cottage (Upalong) 19 St James Street

Ethel Morton remembers that the early photo was taken on 14 December 1904. In 1964, she remembered : "The cottage was built for Mr Richard Mortimer for the purpose of letting. When he died he left it to his son Richard who sold it to Mr Richard Townsend of Mt Torrens, who a few years later sold it to William Morton, a wicker worker who lived in it with the next generation, he was twice married. All of the two families are now scattered, so the only occupant left in it until it was condemned was the second Mrs Morton's daughter, but I am told it has been restored and is made a beauty spot with trees, shrubs, etc. Many distinguished people have been within the cottage in its early days for the purpose of buying chairs, baskets, etc. Bishop Short, an eminent JC, and many others. He had just left his chair in the porch when this photo was taken - he died in June 1913."

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