Scab Inspectors House - Lake Littra

Tuesday, Mar 09, 2021 at 17:32

Stephen L (Clare) SA

In January 1838 Joseph Hawdon, together with Charles Bonney and nine other men left the Goulburn River in New South Wales with 340 head of cattle, spare horses, 2 bullock drays and some sheep that were used as fresh mutton on their nearly four month overland journey to the new Colony of South Australia that was in urgent need of fresh meat.

During this adventure, they were to travel through country that had never been explored before and two important features that they discovered and named along the way were Lake Victoria, named in honour of Queen Victoria and another large body of water that Hawdon named after his companion, Lake Bonney.

The success of this overland feat soon saw this route to be used by others, including Edward John Eyre to bring stock overland into the new Colony that was in dire needs of fresh meat for its growing population.

The overlanding of sheep into the new Colony also increased the fears of introducing a new disease into the new Colony from the eastern states, the sheep Scab mite. This disease had been present in Australian sheep for 30 years and the disease caused the reduced quality of the meat, wool and general health of sheep and was at the time very costly to eradicate.

The threat of this disease was so serious that in 1859, to keep South Australia Scab free, the Government introduced “The South Australian Scab Act” and when in 1863 there was a Scab outbreak at Kulkine Station, just over the border in New South Wales, the Government made amendments to the 1859 Act and among the 1863 alterations were :

“ If any person shall drive, or cause to be driven, any sheep across the boundary of the said Province from either of the Colonies of New South Wales or Victoria, without a permit, in writing, signed by an Inspector of Sheep for the said Province such a person shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding £200, and not less than £50 and in default of payment, to be imprisoned “

That same year, Henry Glenie was promoted to Sub-Inspector of Sheep on a salary of £200 per year, as well as a forage allowance for one horse and instructed to proceed to Chowilla Station on the boundary of South Australia and New South Wales and was the first Inspector to this area. All Sheep Inspectors were appointed by the Crown Lands and Immigration Office in Adelaide.

Having an Inspector in place where sheep and stock crossing into South Australia meant that no sheep could cross into South Australia without first being inspected and a permit issued to the person or persons who were bringing stock iso the state.

In 1871 tenders were called for the erection of a stone cottage at Lake Littra, a Lagoon at Chowilla on the main ‘Old Sydney Road” and north of the Murray River. The original residence had been flooded and damaged beyond repair, and this new location had a telegraph line close by and in fact a new town would be built here consisting of a Telegraph Station and Police Station as well as a small town.

The successful tender was awarded to William Knowles of Blanchtown at a contract price of £165. The building was completed in around 13 weeks and consisted of a four roomed house, barn shaped with gables at both ends and built of stone with a thatched roof.

Due to the strict control of the Sheep Inspectors, there is no evidence that Scab being detected in sheep travelling the Chowilla route and since 1869 South Australia has remained Scab free. By 1882 the Government decided that there was no longer a need for a permanent stock inspector to be based at Lake Littra and the Inspection Office here was closed on the 2 July 1882 with a new office opened in Gawler on the 8 July 1882, while the Police at Overland Corner took on the role as stock inspectors.

Over time the ruins lay in disrepair and in 1986 the Riverland Field Naturalists received a Government grant and the ruin stabilised.
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