Roderts Farmlet

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The Schmidt-Rodert Farmlet (20 Main Street)

From Information provided by Anni Luur Fox - (current owner of the property)

Twenty Main Street became the Widow Schmidt’s wheatfield soon after she arrived with her family in the Zebra in December 1838. Her husband expired upon landing at Port Adelaide leaving her at fifty years of age to marshal her two sons and two daughters to carry the family possessions on foot to Hahndorf to establish a farm. They were allotted a homestead block in South Lane, now English Street (formerly Billygoat Lane), as well as several cultivation blocks within the village boundary. The wheatfield soon had a red gum barn built in the north eastern corner and a small wattle and daub hut nearby which was extended into an L- shape in stone as time allowed. Gradually the property was developed by members of the Schmidt family into a small mixed farm with a red gum toilet next to the pigsty, poultry runs, vineyard and orchard.

Gordon Young’s Hahndorf Survey of 1979–81 conducted with a grant from the Australian Heritage Commission, marked Rodert’s Farmlet as a significant historical site. With the Gallasch property in Victoria Street, it was the oldest intact early German farm complex in Australia. Since then, two Gallasch cottages have been restored by the Gare Family, but some of the out-buildings have been lost. Rodert’s farmlet is still intact but in urgent need of further conservation. In 1991, my family began the long process aided by a conservation study by Lothar Brasse part-funded by the S.A. Department of Environment and Planning.

Construction of the first section of the stone house behind the picket fence by the roadway has been attributed to Friedrich Franz, a master mason who became the owner in 1858. The Schmidt family had sold the farm to the wheelwright Ludwig Stark in 1853 and had followed Pastor Kavel to the Barossa Valley. Mr. Stark was a land speculator who rearranged the boundaries and may have initiated the construction of the roadside house before bankruptcy forced him to sell.

As our family removed mouldy plaster and cement, we discovered that the house was built as one large room, possibly for use as a shop, with a stone lean-to at the rear. Two internal walls were added later to make a central “Flur Kuche” or “Hall Kitchen” with an open cooking hearth and bakeoven. This was a mark of Germanic origin. Similar kitchen designs have been found in Franconian houses developed over several centuries throughout central Europe . All signs of this cooking area directly behind the double doors, were removed after the horticulturalist, Gottlieb Fischer became the owner in 1874 and began extensive renovations in keeping with his ambitions. He and his family also laid out the side garden in the Victorian style popular in that period, complete with palm tree. The prickly hawthorn hedge and pickets were a means of keeping out straying animals. In 1901 the farmlet came into the Rodert family when Natalie Fischer married Julius Carl Rodert.

On the slope behind the roadside house stand a red gum barn, toilet and pigsty. They await further conservation with the small stone cottage of four rooms, outdoor kitchen and corbelled brick bake-oven that form this early German farm complex dating to the 1840’s. In developing the site, the Widow Schmidt’s children had been wise to dig the well near the bottom of the slope, below their cottage, so that any overflow would water the garden in a natural dip in the ground near the road. I suspect it must have been the village duck pond in winter, until Mr Franz built his roadside stone house on top of it. This awful truth hit us one day when water flowed like a river through the house minus its rotted floors during restoration. We thanked God for electric pumps and then rushed around digging drains and photographing apples floating past the telephone.

There are other hazards that add to the charm of this place, apart from the possums that chewed through heavy electrical conduit to squeeze into the loft. Judging by the heights of doors, Mr. Franz must have been very short. Our family of giants rapidly learned to duck after a few bloody connections of skulls with historic lintels. Having been in love with Morris Minors for many years, we were well versed in the human body’s capacity to concertina. In the end, a little discomfort for friends and family was considered preferable to belting hell out of the 19th Century interior. We did, however, baulk at using the bucket in the red gum privy next to the pigsty and rejoiced mightily when a sewer, bathroom and flushing toilet were connected in 1992.

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