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Shady Grove

Vesper services at our Shady Grove Chapel are held on the first Sunday of every month (except January) at either 4 or 5 pm, depending on the season. These are conducted by members of the congregation, visiting speakers, or the Minister. Services are followed by a shared, bring-a-plate meal.

Shady Grove is situated in the Adelaide Hills in native bushland at the end of Tadmor Lane, which intersects Shady Grove Road, between Littlehampton and Balhannah. This historic little cemetery is tucked away on the Shady Grove Unitarian property surrounded by native scrub and adjoining farming properties. It has existed here for 155 years and is the resting place of many pioneers of the church community and local area.

In 2008 a Shady Grove Cemetery Committee was formed. As a result of this the cemetery has eligibility requirements, fees and charges, and a fifty-year lease plan. Regulations into Natural Burials have also been researched.

This treasured island of virgin scrub is heritage listed and contains valuable native orchids and many other wild flowers. Over the past number of years a dedicated team of bushcare workers have met regularly to preserve and maintain this land. This has been achieved by adhering to a sensitive weeding program resulting in the continual emergence of natives, thus ensuring enjoyment to all in the future years to come.

As the ethos of the cemetery is ‘bushland’ and our Church being custodian of this unique land, all users are being made aware that the general weeding by visitors can actually be detrimental to encouraging native growth. To promulgate education on the difference between a ‘weed’ and a ‘native’ an interpretive board has been erected with the support of a council grant, to help people with identification.

A great way to learn is to join this dedicated team on its monthly bushcare days. A great social opportunity too!

If at any time you need further information about cemetery matters please contact Val Webb, Jill Dunn or Yvonne Barrett . We welcome positive feedback from the general public, many of whom are just discovering this especially evocative piece of Unitarian history.

Shady Grove church cemetery
Shady Grove church

The History of the Shady Grove Church

John Monks, his brother‑in‑law Francis Duffield and sister Alice Duffield, wife of Francis, arrived in South Australia in 1839. They had come from Lancashire, England, where they were members of Unitarian congregations. Francis had been a home missionary in the Salford Church. John, who was from the Croft Unitarian congregation and whose wife had died a short time earlier, vowed that if God prospered him in the new country to which they were sailing, he would build a church.

In 1845 John took up land in the Mount Barker district between Balhannah and Littlehampton. He named his property Shady Grove Farm, and Francis and Alice, who came to the district several years later, called their property, which adjoined John’s, Cobden Grange after the British champion of Free Trade, Richard Cobden, MP.

By about 1856 they had set about building a school on the Shady Grove property. John had married Priscilla Appleton on 29 May 1850 and their first child was born the following year. Around 1856 a tutor from England was engaged to teach the children of the two families, now of school age, and others of the district. The schoolhouse was completed on 4 October 1858, and was henceforth used for Unitarian Church services on Sundays, with Francis Duffield as leader.

Services monthly at Shady Grove church

When a government school was built in Balhannah the little school was no longer needed, so it was decided to officially open the Shady Grove building as the Shady Grove Unitarian Church. The Rev. J. Crawford Woods, from the Adelaide Unitarian Church, officiated at the opening ceremony which took place on 24 Dec 1865. Shady Grove then officially became the second Unitarian Meeting House in the colony of South Australia, although at the opening service Mr. Woods stated that in pleasantly calling Shady Grove the ‘Mother Church’ he did so from learning that Mr. Francis Duffield had held services for his own family and that of Mr. John Monks, his brother-in-law, and other neighbours at first in his own house (from the early 1850s) and afterwards in the school house (from 1858).

From 1865 to 1881 Francis Duffield was the official lay leader of the Shady Grove congregation. Services were held at 2.30 pm each Sunday until 1877 when they were held each fortnight at Mount Barker. Shady Grove services were altered to 10.30 am on those days. Around this time, many of Francis Duffield’s addresses were published and circulated in the Mount Barker district as another means of attracting followers.

The Shady Grove congregation consisted of three families – Monks, Duffield and Crompton (Mary Duffield had married John Crompton, a farmer from the area), with occasional visits from neighbours – in all twenty to twenty-five people. Settlement in the area did not greatly expand, so in Francis’ opinion there was little chance to gain additional attendance at weekly services unless arrangements for lectures were made and well publicised beforehand.

In 1877 the Trust Deeds were completed and John Monks transferred ownership of the building, land and cemetery to the Church. A brief report in 1880 was Francis’ last. In 1881 he moved to Clare to live with his daughter and son-in-law Fred. W. Smith. The responsibility for continuing Unitarian services fell to the Rev. Frederick C. Smith of Mount Barker, who was Fred W. Smith’s father. He conducted regular services at Shady Grove and Mount Barker for the next twenty-five years.

Today the church stands much the same as it did when it was originally built, except that stucco has been placed over the stonework and a new iron roof replaces the original. The church is now classified by the National Trust as a building of historical interest. October 2008 marked the 150th anniversary of Unitarian services in the former Shady Grove Schoolhouse.