Our past speaks of our future

Melrose has some of the oldest stories in the district

Melrose is the oldest town in the Flinders Ranges – 270km north of Adelaide. It is nestled at the base of Mt Remarkable (955m) in one of the most picturesque areas of the State. The traveller is invited to stay and absorb its fascinating history and colourful past.

It was in 1840, that Edward John Eyre named Mount Remarkable which towers above the little township of Melrose. Three years later, the first pastoralists had established themselves in the area.

“In 1843 conflicts  between  the Aboriginals and Pastoralists were of much concern. The nearest police station was located at Clare, which was 13Okm south of the Melrose area.  In 1848, a police outpost was established at Mount Remarkable with a Corporal, two Troopers and a Native Constable. The main aim  was to keep the peace between the Aboriginal people and the Pastoralists.”

In 1846, a Special Survey of 20,000 acres was granted to the Mount Remarkable Mining Company for the purpose of mining copper. However this venture was not successful and the Company was dissolved in 1851. Old Melrose was surveyed by T. F. Nott in 1853 as part of his duties for the Mount Remarkable Mining Company’s subdivision of the Special Survey.

What is known as the township of Melrose today is really the aggregation of the Police Paddock (1848), Old Melrose (1853) and New Melrose (1856). As pastoralists, miners and timber-getters moved into the area, so the tradesmen came to fill their needs. Melrose was the only established town for more than twenty years and it developed as the “Emporium of the North” supplying remote pastoral runs, mining camps and early settlers with goods, communication and transport.

The township of Melrose continued to thrive, with commerce and industry developing hand in hand with agriculture as the large pastoral runs gave way to closer settlement.  Melrose became a microcosm of the development of rural South Australia as all the different land tenure schemes that were legislated for over the years in South Australia were implemented in this area. From the early Pastoral Acts, the Workingmen’s Blocks, the Village Settlement Scheme, the Closer Settlement Act and the Soldier Settlement Scheme all played a part in the history of Melrose.

The passing of time has brought changes to Melrose as it has to most small country towns. The Great Depression of the 1930’s brought about the closing of local industry and large scale farming has brought changes to the population, which in turn has changed the face of this small township.

But the rich and colourful history of “the oldest town in the north” will always be with us.

Visit the accredited Melrose Heritage Museum in Stuart Street Melrose, a fascinating visit into the past. Discover the history of the unique area by visiting the authentic exhibitions and audiovisual presentations that tell the story of opening the north of South Australia, with the establishment in 1848 of the police and judicial presence at the site. Learn about Goyder’s Line, which runs through this area, bringing to life the hardships the pioneers suffered. Experience all aspects or rural settlement, mining, workmen’s blocks, as village settlement, and a returned soldier training farm. The story of the European pioneers and the Nukunu Aboriginal people are well interpreted.

Download a Historical Walk brochure and enjoy an easy walk around this beautiful town, rich with historical buildings.

Museum Open daily

  • Adults $5
  • Children $2
  • Pensioners & Seniors $4
  • Family $14.00 (2 adults & 2 or more children)

Guided Tours on request Ph: (08) 8666 2141 or email: mdhsoc@gmail.com

Family and general history research enquiries are undertaken at the associated Archives


Our history in photos...