The Hickinbotham Clarendon Vineyard covers a steep cut of country from the ridgetops above the village of Clarendon to the Onkaparinga River in the gorge below. Since its establishment in 1971, the Hickinbotham vineyard has become a part of Australia’s wine heritage, supplying fruit to produce many of Australia’s greatest wines.
By 1858 under the stewardship of Edward John Peake the vineyard grew over 5 times over to include 30,000 vines and covered 10ha (24½ acres). Peake was an untiring, highly creative colonist. A magistrate and Member of Parliament, he was also a keen sketcher and painter, an auctioneer, real estate developer, mining magnate, president of the local militia, and manager of the new state’s railways and transport.
As an amateur expert in English Gothic Revival architecture, Peake had a significant influence on the design and construction of St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral in Adelaide. His contribution to architecture is still present in the stately old buildings on Clarendon’s main street. In 1862, Ebenezer Ward, a journalist who was later to become a parliamentarian and the first Minister for Agriculture in Australia, visited Peake at Clarendon and wrote an account of the estate: He described “patches of cultivation [which] contrast with the rugged and undisturbed wilderness of nature.” Of Peake’s vineyard, he wrote that it “towers high above the surrounding objects, and appears, as it truly is, a gigantic pyramid of verdure. Its slopes and summits are clothed with luxuriant vines, and their dense and verdant foliage is unbroken by one barren spot, and unvaried by one foreign plant.”
By that year, Peake was exporting to Calcutta, Java, New Zealand, Queensland, and Victoria and had sent some parcels to England. Several of these wines had won significant awards, including a champion medal at the Intercolonial Exhibition in Melbourne in 1866, and a medal at the Paris show of 1867.
Peake passed away in 1876, after which the vineyard was bought by Joseph Gillard, a pioneering vintner who had planted a substantial vineyard at Norwood, adjacent to Penfolds’ Grange vineyard and winery at Magill, near Adelaide. The mighty winemaker, Mary Penfold, purchased this Norwood vineyard and appointed Joseph Gillard Jr. to the position of Manager and Winemaker of Penfolds Magill. So began a long relationship between Penfolds and Clarendon: until his death in 1897, Joseph Gillard sold premium grapes to his son for inclusion in the famous Penfolds wines.
The Clarendon Vineyard continued producing fine fruit until the Australian wine industry went into major contraction during the Great Depression. In 1933 much of Peake’s vineyard was uprooted. Fortunately a parcel survived and in 1976, painter David Dridan and architect Ian Hannaford rejuvenated and extended the vineyard, and restored Peake’s winery and homestead. This partnership was spurred on by an important development across the river. By then, Alan Hickinbotham had begun the establishment of his Hickinbotham Clarendon Vineyard on another very steep slope on the opposite side of the Onkaparinga gorge.