Sitting on the banks of the Condamine River, historic Warwick was settled over 150 years ago and has an interesting story to tell. Botanist Allan Cunningham ventured on to the Darling Downs in 1827 and discovered a gap in the formidable Great Dividing Range. The rich grazing land was like gold to the settlers, who were eager to make their fortune in a new land.
In 1840 at the age of 25, Patrick Leslie, with the aid of a tracker but no map, rode more than 200 miles beyond the furthest limits of settlement in New South Wales, in search of the pastoral paradise described to him by Cunningham, to settle on what is now known as the Southern Downs. The slab hut built by Patrick, Walter and George Leslie is still in use today on the Canning Downs Thoroughbred Stud, a few kilometres from the centre of Warwick. The town was gazetted in 1847 and land sales began in 1850.
By 1844 squatters had taken up four major holdings that covered a vast area of the Granite Belt. The Crown Land Act (1868) led to an influx of selectors, as well as enabling shepherds and other farm labourers to acquire land of their own.
Tin was first found here in 1854 but the ‘rush’ did not occur until 1872 when gold, silver, copper and other important minerals were also found. As the settlement grew in importance, Quart Pot Creek, as it was then known, was changed to Stannum (Latin for tin). Later the name was gazetted as Stanthorpe, literally meaning ‘tin town’.
When the tin prices fell many miners turned to farming as the cool climate was suitable for growing fruits and vegetables. Grapes were first planted here in the 1860s with encouragement from the local Catholic parish priest Father Jerome Davadi, in order to produce altar wine. His Italian descent made grape growing and wine production a familiar pastime and the rest, as they say, is history.
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