Bleasdale Celebrates 170 Years

We owe a lot to Frank Potts. Without him, there would be no Bleasdale.

Born in England on July 11, 1815, Frank Potts joined the British Royal Navy at age nine, learning how to read and write, as well as all the skills required on a sailing ship. By the time he left the Navy, Frank had circumnavigated the globe and touched down on every inhabited continent along the way - not bad life experience for a boy of just 18! 

A few years on, at the age of 21, and with valuable carpentry skills under his belt, Frank made his way to far-off South Australia on the HMS Buffalo under Captain John Hindmarsh, who upon arrival would become the first Governor of the state. 

In 1849, Frank Potts was making the journey from Adelaide to become the ferrymaster at the new ferry crossing over the Murray River at Wellington (South Australia), passing through the area of Langhorne’s Crossing. With the Bremer River in flood at the time, Frank couldn’t help but notice the potential of the region through its water resources, rich soil, and enormous red gum trees.

When the town of Langhorne’s Creek was established, Frank purchased the first two parcels of land here on April 4, 1850, and it was on these 217 acres that he would begin the Bleasdale story. 

This was the start of many years of extremely hard work for Frank in turning the property into a working farm, vineyard and winery. He began with a team of working bullocks and soon made himself a plough so that he could begin sewing crops. A saw pit was constructed so that timber from the enormous and plentiful red gum trees of the area could be cut for use in buildings, equipment and machinery. A workshop and forge were also added so he could make and repair items such as tools, chains and plough points, amongst other things. 

Shortly after purchasing the land, Frank named the property ‘Bleasdale’ after Reverend John Ignatius Bleasdale, a prominent member of the Royal Society of Victoria with a keen interest in agriculture. It is not known exactly how Frank and Bleasdale knew each other, but it is clear that Frank admired the man. 

Frank planted the first vines in 1858 - Shiraz and Verdelho - and production of wine followed soon after, making Bleasdale the first winery in Langhorne Creek. 

Ever the resourceful thinker, Frank planted his vines on either side of the Bremer River in locations where he could manipulate the flow of water to irrigate his vineyards. On an upstream bank of the Bremer, Frank constructed a water pumping mill of his own design, made (of course) from red gum. A team of bullocks operated four pumps sunk down a six metre well that was connected to the river by a tunnel; a design capable of raising up to 12,000 gallons (approx. 54,500L) of water an hour! This water was then distributed through the vineyards via channels and a hand-made aqueduct that ran across the top of the river to the opposite bank and vineyards beyond. A system of floodgates was also built to utilise the water from the regular winter floods - a method that is still used to this day. 

When it came to building the winery, many of Frank’s constructions were no doubt inspired from his time in the Navy when he visited winemaking regions along the River Tagus in Portugal. Of particular note is the design that he would use to make the first press at Bleasdale - a single basket press built in the 1860s. This press would serve as the basis for the second press - a twin basket press built in 1892, made of red gum, and featuring a lever arm weighing 3.5 tonnes. While the first press built by Frank I was dismantled in the early 1900s, the second press built by three of his sons can still be seen in the winery today. 

After Frank I’s death in 1890, his sons continued to run the business and make improvements to the vineyards and winery. In 1948, with A.B. Potts (grandson of Frank I, son of Frank II) having inherited the original Bleasdale sections, the business became a company - Bleasdale Vineyards Pty. Ltd. with family members as shareholders. 

There is of course much more to the Bleasdale story from the past 170 years, but the Potts Family, together with new shareholders and all staff, have one common goal - to make sure Bleasdale is here in another 170 years!