A brief history of our founder, Frank Potts

Frank Potts was a man of many talents. At various points throughout his lifetime he was a sailor, a carpenter, a farmer, a boat builder, a vigneron, and a winemaker.

Early Life

Frank grew up in Hounslow, England where he was born on July 11, 1815. While he was young, his family moved to Portsmouth which was the base for the retired HMS Victory, now flagship of the Portsmouth Port Admiral and used as a training vessel for young recruits.

At the age of nine Frank joined the British Royal Navy, training as a powder monkey on the HMS Victory (famous as Admiral Lord Nelson's flagship during the battle of Trafalgar in 1805) to run gunpowder from the ship's magazine to the cannons.

During his time in the Navy, Frank completed multiple voyages around the world on the HMS Challenger, which would take him to faraway places such as Portugal, the Middle East, India, China, Australia and South America, all by the age of 18!

The worldly skills and knowledge that Frank gained during this time was no doubt paramount to the way the rest of his life would play out.

In 1836, now having left the Navy, Frank applied to the Colonisation Commissioner for passage to faraway South Australia. His skills gave him a place, and he sailed on the HMS Buffalo under Captain Hindmarsh, who upon arrival would become the first Governor of South Australia. The fleet landed at Holdfast Bay on December 28, 1836 where a ceremony was performed to found the new colony under a large gum tree that still remains today.

A new colony requires many things built very quickly, and Frank, having bought his carpentry tools with him, soon went to work building some of the first houses in South Australia. After a few years working as a carpenter, Frank built himself a small trading boat which he called Petrel, and used it to trade the occasional load of salt between Kangaroo Island and Port Adelaide. 

In 1848, Frank Potts married Augusta Wenzel, a German immigrant, and a short time later he made a journey from Adelaide to the Murray River town of Wellington, passing through Langhorne Creek. With the Bremer River in flood at the time, Frank took particular note of the potential of the region through its water resources, rich soil, and enormous red gum trees. 

On April 4, 1850 Frank Potts would purchase Sections 3557 and 3560 of Langhorne Creek. It was on this combined 217 acres that Frank would begin the Bleasdale story.


Settling in a new, untouched area meant that Frank had to build everything for himself from scratch, and the first jobs were to clear land, plant crops and build himself a house and workshop.

The first building on the property was more aptly called a hut, made from sawn wooden slabs with cracks sealed by clay, and a roof of thatched reeds brought five miles from nearby Tolderol Point.

Once a homestead – two rooms of limestone and brick - was built and ready for occupation, Frank was joined by his new wife Augusta. Over the ensuing years they would have ten children, however during the birth of their tenth child, Augusta and child both sadly passed away. They are buried in a family cemetery that remains on Frank's original property to this day. Frank would later remarry, a local girl named Anne Flood, and go on to have two more children. 

A short time after purchasing the land, Frank named the property 'Bleasdale' after Reverend John Ignatius Bleasdale, a prominent member of the Royal Society of Victoria and a with a keen interest in gemmology, physics and agriculture. While we're not sure if Frank and Bleasdale ever met in person, it is believed that the two corresponded regularly and it is clear that Frank admired the man.

Later Life

Once Frank's third son, Frank II, was old enough to take responsibility of the winery, distillery and vineyards, Frank snr. would hand over the reins and return to his earlier love of boatbuilding. 

In 1875, Frank built the paddle steamerWilcanniaat Milang which would operate on Lake Alexandrina and nearby areas, as well as two others - theBourke,andMilang. Frank also built sailing boats - amongst them thePasquin,Fox,Tam O'Shanter,Swallow,ButterflyandChallenger- as well as several barges and a punt for a settler, Mr. Rankine, which he used for ferrying stock over the Murray. 

Some of these sailing boats were used to carry wheat to Goolwa, while some Frank raced with distinction. Frank's love of boat building and sailing would impress upon his eldest son Fred, with Fred also going on to build several yachts, most notably theBrigandwhich is now owned by the Alexandrina Council and moored at Goolwa.

Frank Potts I passed away in 1890 at the age of 75, a pioneer of South Australia and with a legacy most could only dream of.

 A most remarkable person

Excerpt taken from Volume I of Police Inspector Tolmer’s “Reminiscences”, pp. 311-312.

“One meets with extraordinary characters through life, but I doubt whether his equal could be found. In appearance a stranger would take him to be a poor labourer, with a thin, spare figure and long unkempt hair and invariably wearing his shirt sleeves tucked up. Altogether a most uncouth-looking person, and yet this man is a perfect genius! There is not a single thing mechanical or otherwise undertaken by him which he does not succeed in accomplishing. He is his own builder, carpenter, cooper, smith, shoemaker, and has even manufactured a piano and, being withal a bookworm, his conversation is most interesting and instructive. As a boatbuilder, there is not a better in the colony.”

And the rest, as they say, is history...