1838 – 1910: Lizard Lodge and Glenthorne Farm

Major O’Halloran, The History Trust of South Australian

With the arrival of colonists in 1836, the land Kaurna people had existed upon for millennia was divided into parcels of land and given British names. In November 1838, the Rajasthan anchored in Holdfast Bay and Major Thomas O’Halloran and his young family disembarked at Glenelg.


Upon arrival at their property, Major O’Halloran saw the acres of kangaroo grass and the presence of yams as an untouched ‘wilderness’. He, like many other colonists, failed to recognise the complex land management system that the Kaurna People had in place.


By 1845, Lizard Lodge had been established on O’Halloran Hill and much of the Grey Box Eucalyptus and kangaroo grass had been removed to allow for the harvest of 190 acres of wheat. Before arriving in the colony, Major O’Halloran had spent over thirty years in British-ruled India which exposed him to farming practices that proved very useful in South Australia.

O’Halloran Family Crest

Lizard Lodge quickly became one of the most productive cultivators of wheat in the province. The farm also produced grapes for wine, orchard fruits, vegetables and feed for sheep, horses and bullocks. O’Halloran also established a stone carriage house, a barn and granary known as the coach house, a servants’ quarters and a stone underground tank. Today, these state heritage listed ruins and buildings are amongst Adelaide’s earliest surviving colonial structures.


The O’Halloran family homestead took its name from the lizard represented on the family crest, considered a symbol of renewal and revitalisation. The O’Halloran name fittingly means “stranger from overseas”. A spoon featuring the lizard from the family crest (above) was found on the site of Lizard Lodge.


Expedition to the Coorong. Image: Art Gallery of South Australia

In 1840, Major Thomas O’Halloran became South Australia’s first police commissioner and magistrate, a position he held for four years. His appointment wasn’t without controversy. In August 1840, O’Halloran led a police expedition to the Coorong at the request of Governor Gawler to find those responsible for the deaths of the survivors of the shipwrecked vessel the Maria. Two native men were hanged from sheoak trees located near the graves of their alleged victims.


Jane and John Porter with their stately Glenthorne House.

After resigning his police commission, Major O’Halloran maintained his successful farming ventures until his death in 1870. By 1880, his remaining family had moved out of Lizard Lodge, which had fallen into disrepair. Shortly after, the property was sold to Thomas and Jane Porter and renamed ‘Glenthorne’. A stately three-storey mansion, Glenthorne House, was built on the site of Lizard Lodge.


The property changed hands several times after Thomas Porter passed away in 1890. By 1910, the Australian Army was leasing the land at Glenthorne farm, which was compulsively acquired in 1913 and became the No 9. Remount Depot Glenthorne. Sadly, during this era, Glenthorne House was destroyed by fire in 1932 and, despite some original sections of Lizard Lodge surviving the blaze, Army Engineers demolished the remains using explosives and earth moving equipment.




Iterations of Lizard Lodge between 1838 and 1858.