Echunga is a small town in the Adelaide Hills located 34 km south-east of Adelaide in South Australia. The area was initially settled in 1839, with the town laid out in 1849. Gold was discovered in 1852 and Echunga became the first proclaimed goldfield in South Australia.
This led to a gold rush, however it did not last long with the diggings exhausted and all but abandoned within a year. Subsequent discoveries in 1853 and 1854 led to smaller and equally short-lived rushes. In 1868 more gold was discovered at nearby Jupiter Creek, which proved to be a much larger and long-lived field.
The town reputedly takes its name from an Kaurna word ‘eechungga’ which may mean either ‘a short distance’ or ‘close by’. For a brief time Echunga prospered and it has been estimated that at its peak it had grown to a population in excess of 1,200. Today Echunga is a sleepy little town. Echunga is part of Battunga Country.
The first European settlers came to Echunga in 1839 when wealthy English Quaker, John Barton Hack, purchased a Special Survey, The Three Brothers.
In 1839 John Hagen, a wealthy English Quaker, decided that Echunga would be an ideal location for a Quaker settlement.
John Barton Hack established an English style estate with dairy herds, fields of wheat, orchards and 12 acres of grapes.
The vineyard Hack had planted continued to yield good quality grapes and it is possible that the first South Australian wine to be exported was an Echunga hock which was served to Queen Victoria in 1845.
John Barton Hack (his name is still recalled in the Hack Ranges) was bankrupted in 1843 and his extensive estate was taken over by Jacob Hagen.
By 1848, Jacob Hagen had divided a portion of his land into township allotments and the first building, the village inn, was built. The inn was replaced by the current building, the Hagen Arms, in 1857 Echunga’s main building of significance
Hagen retired to England in late 1854 and his estate was managed by George Sanders. After Hagen’s death in 1869, his daughter inherited the property.
The town takes its name, reputedly, from an Aboriginal word ‘eechungga’ which may mean either ‘a short distance’ or ‘close by’.
The gold rushes of the 1850s led to miners pouring into the valley, particularly to Jupiter Creek. The discovery of gold at Chapman’s Gully in 1852 was the first in South Australia and caused considerable excitement. For a brief time the town prospered and it has been estimated that at its peak it had grown to a population in excess of 1200.
By the turn of the century the Echunga Goldfields had become South Australia’s major producer of gold, mainly won from an area extending from the initial find at Chapmans Gully southwards down Long Gully to Jupiter Creek. The Jupiter Creek diggings have an estimated production of between 25,000 and 50,000 ounces of gold. Little remains of the Jupiter Creek diggings. The temporary nature of the store and miner’s dwellings, plus the need to recover some of the assets of failed companies, resulted in rapid disappearance of all but some stonework and the diggings themselves.
Other Significant Buildings
St Mary’s Church, the oldest building in the village. Services commenced in 1851 and it is still an active church 155 years on.
The former school and schoolmaster’s residence 1862 (private residence).
Former Coaching Station – stables, office and ostler’s residence (private residence).
Former Police Station (private residence).
The Echunga Uniting 1884 is located in Adelaide Rd, Echunga. Echunga is a vibrant and dynamic family oriented church which caters for all ages. Sunday worship is 10am and includes children?s and youth programs. There are many activities, something for everyone, including Kids Clubs, Craft Group, Home Fellowship Groups, Bible Study Groups, Youth Group and Prayer Groups.
Old butcher’s shop (private residence).
The Echunga Memorial Institute, one of the few halls in South Australia still owned and operated by the community. Home to a monthly market and monthly old-style dance.