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Level of Significance

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  • Local
  • Regional
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  • National







Height - 13m


Common name
White Cedar
Botanical name
Melia azedarach var. australasica
Other name
Memorial Avenue
Onkaparinga (SA)
St Peters Tce Willunga SA 5172
  • Location/Context (Social)
  • Landscape (Social)
  • Park/Garden/Town (Historic)
  • Commemorative (Historic)
  • Event (Historic)
  • Person/Group/Institution (Historic)
Date of germination
27 Jul 1915
Date of measurement
16 Sep 2016
Date of classification
30 Jan 2017

Statement of Significance

This avenue of 14 trees appears to be the first in Australia to use the avenue format as a memorial for 47 local soldiers who enlisted to serve their country during WW1. Recognition of enlistment is unusual, but ten men subsequently died, and memorials were held separately for them. All of the trees had a plaque named for each soldier. Each tree was planted by a member of Willunga public school as an Arbor Day celebration. The event was inspired by the Progress Association, the Cheer-up Society, and Willunga Rural District Council. the trees were supplied by the Conservator of Forests


as above


At a major junction of the town, along the first part of St Peter's Terrace.


It is the first such planting in Australia still present and the trees are 101 years old


TREENET Inc., a not-for-profit urban forest education, research and conservation organisation based at the Waite Campus of the University of Adelaide, is recording Avenues of Honour across Australia. This term is given to memorial trees, most commonly planted as avenues, where each tree symbolises a person who either went to war, or who did not return. The Australian tradition originated in the Goldfields region of Victoria, to commemorate the 2nd Boer War (1899-1902), and is now an established part of Australian culture.
At the time of this research, the first such WW1 commemorative avenues were:
1915-1917 South Australia, Willunga, St Andrew’s and St Peter’s Terraces - Memorial Avenues (source: "A picture of fortitude: honouring Willunga's Cheer-Up 'girls' and the soldiers they supported" by Chris Horsman, Willunga, 2016)
1916 Victoria, Bendigo East Public school-ANZAC Avenue (source: National Trust Victoria)
1917 New South Wales, Sydney, Randwick Rd-Memorial Avenue (source: Dictionary of Sydney)
1918-1919 Tasmania, Queen’s Domain Hobart–Soldier’s Memorial Avenue (source: Hobart City Council)
1922 Western Australia, King’s Park –Avenue of Honour (source: Govt of WA)
1924 Queensland, Wooloowin, Park Avenue - “Digger’s drive” (source: City of Brisbane)
1929 Australian Capital Territory, ANZAC Parade – Memorial Avenue (source: National capital Authority; Australian Government)
None Northern Territory
The research date for this material is September 2016. As of then, Willunga had Australia’s first - therefore oldest - Avenue of Honour - by some two years. The one referred to here is St Peter’s Terrace, because the trees in its contemporary, St Andrew’s Terrace, were removed in 1952.
The Statement of Significance for this avenue is:
So far, this avenue was the first in Australia to use trees in a memorial avenue format. Each tree had a plaque identifying soldiers by name. Each was planted by the community. The avenue celebrates 47 townsmen who volunteered to take up arms for their country, of which 10 ultimately gave up their lives. This avenue has national significance because it was the first to celebrate what has become part of the country’s culture.
Here is its story:
The people of Willunga have a history of enthusiasm for action. This was no better displayed when 47 of its young men volunteered to fight in France during World War 1. Not all of them returned.
It was the policy of the British High Command that no bodies were to be repatriated, on the grounds that, in Britain, it was feared that officer’s remains would be honoured preferentially to those of other ranks. Perhaps another, more sanguine reason against repatriation, was that severe shelling might not have left too much to repatriate, and it was a kindness in the guise of a political expedient.
One way that all fallen combatants could be remembered at home, and equally, was in the form of stone memorials, whose bronze plaques provide perpetual details of the soldiers’ sacrifice. Among many towns across the world, Willunga has such a memorial, close to the RSL building in Main Road.
Another form of permanent memorial was to recognise each soldier with a personal plaque, set against a particular tree, in an avenue of trees, later to be known as Avenues of Honour. At the time, in Willunga, the two described here were called memorial avenues.
Arbor Day, July 1915 was the day when one tree per soldier fighting overseas was planted in St Andrew’s Terrace. The Radiata Pine (Pinus radiata, syn. P. insignis) was chosen. These trees were removed in 1952 for road widening. Their replacements were flowering plum trees. Present-day commentary suggests that that road and kerbing improvements had a higher priority than the retention of ‘memorial trees’. There is no mention about when the named plaques were removed.
Mr Malpas reported RSL had received a letter from Willunga District Council notifying the Branch that trees now growing in St Andrews Terrace would be removed and would later be replaced with suitable trees (which were flowering plum trees). Mr Giles suggested the pines in St Andrews Terrace be sold for use as building material. Mr Malpas suggested the Council be left to deal with disposal of trees.
A hand-written list was enclosed in the Minute Book as follows:
Willunga Soldiers Trees, Beginning Foot of Sara Hill [St Andrews Tce]. This list has been rearranged in 2016 to show the 28 names alphabetically:
W Binney, J Blacker, G Chenoweth, H Clift, H Cornelius, W Cornelius, T Couchman, C Fitzpatrick, J Fridlington, J Gormley, J Hender, L Jacobs, S Jacobs, W Kirby, R Mills, W Mills, S Norman, P Malpas, S Malpas, G? Norman, R Rowlands, J Sibley, E Tregilgas, F Tregilgas, J T Tregilgas, F Whittington, W Whittington, L Waye.
Because there were not enough trees to represent all soldiers on Arbor Day 1915, 12 white cedars (Melia azedrach) were planted in St Peter’s Terrace on 12th September, 1915.
On Saturday last a row of white cedar trees, obtained from the Conservator of Forests, was planted along St. Peter's Terrace, four of them in honour of the four recruits for whom trees were not available on Arbor Day. These are Harold Jackson, Oliver Norman, Edwin Patterson, and Marshall Waye. Members of the Progress Association did the work and will provide the tree-guards.
In those early days the Woods and Forests Dept may have been selling the Australian Melia (Melia azedarach var. Australasia) which is probably little different from the usual species.
A tree count in September 2016 shows that there are 14 mature White Cedars, more commonly called Cape Lilacs now, in a line of trees in which there a about four ‘vacancies’ because of recent tree removals. One tree is in excellent condition. Others were subject to road widening damage, perhaps in 1952, when new concrete kerbing was cast immediately adjacent to their trunks. As a result, many survive, but are not in good condition. One has a 100mm bracket fungus about 1.7m above ground level; several have noticeable cavities. For the continuation of the avenue as a soldier’s memorial, a number of original trees should have a planned replacement.
On Arbor Day, 1916, 60 more trees were planted in St Andrew’s Terrace. Each tree had a plaque bearing the soldier’s name, tied to a wooden tree guard.
In alphabetical order, these 47 soldiers were: W. J. Binney, J. Blacker, W. Burns, Oliver Chenoweth, Oscar Chenoweth, H. Clift, A. L. Colville, H. Cornelius, W. Cornelius, T. Couchman, C. Fitzpatrick, J. P. Flanigan, J. Fridlington, J. Gormley, A. N. Greenfield, J. Hender. H. Jackson, L. Jacobs, Councillor L. I. Jacobs, S. Jacobs, W. Jacobs, J. E. Kirby, R. W. Kirby, W. Kitchen, W. Leaker, R. Lipson, J. S. Malpas, P. G. Malpas, F. Martin, A. McBurney, A. B. Mills, S. R Mills, R. Morton, O. Norman, E. D. Paterson, R. Rowland, F. Tregilgas, J. T. Tregilgas, S. Warman, H. L. Waye, H. S. Waye, L. S. Waye, M. Waye, F. Whitington, W. Whitington, J. Whyatt, and Rev. P. T. Wood (chaplain), late Earl Kitchener.
Readers may see that many brothers enlisted together. It is not clear why 60 more trees were planted, as that number exceeds the number of men who enlisted.
These trees provided a focus for ceremonies remembering those who died. A gathering held at the tree of Private Chenoweth after his death in France was recorded in 1917:
"A gloom was cast-over the town on Thursday when the news came through that another of our boys, Private Oscar Chenoweth, had made "the supreme sacrifice' having been killed in action in France. Private Chenoweth had lived here nearly all his life … Last winter a row of white cedar trees was planted along St. Peter's Terrace in honour of the men who had gone from this district, and Private Chenoweth's tree was in this row. A short memorial service, arranged by the Cheer-up Society, was held at the tree on Friday afternoon. Mr. Hitchcox, in a brief address, voiced the regret and sympathy of those gathered around, and not only of those present but of the whole of the townspeople. Several beautiful wreaths were placed on the tree."
In 1917 Violet Day was observed in Willunga on a Friday. In the afternoon a large company of the townspeople visited the trees of the fallen heroes who went from here, and hung wreaths around them. A short service was conducted by Mr. R. T. Hitchcox.
So far nine young men connected with the town have lost their lives in the Country's Cause—Privates Waye, Chenoweth, Jacobs, Tregilgas, Harding, Bassett, Keane, Creedon, and Jackson.
The final planting was also in 1917. A Monterey Cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa) was planted in a garden area in front of the Alma Hotel, in memory of Fred Bassett. In 2016, it is in poor condition, having not been treated well over the years. This tree has been separately added to the National Trust’s significant tree register.
In summary, 47 Willunga men volunteered for military service in WW1. All were acknowledged by one tree with their name on a plaque. Ultimately, 10 were killed in action. The trees commemorating all of those men came to be known as ‘Soldiers Memorial Trees, Willunga’. This avenue seems to be the first such commemoration of WW1 in Australia, and joins many other later Avenues of Honour.
Cape lilac is known by many names including Persian lilac - and white cedar. Its botanic name is Melia azedrach. The generic name, Melia – originates from the Greek name for the Ash Tree, a reference to the similarity of the leaves. The name came originally from meli, meaning honey, as several species of Ash have sweet sap. Its specific name azedarach is the name given by the Persian physician Avecinnia (980-1037) to a poisonous tree, in reference to its berries. It occurs naturally along Australia’s northern and eastern seaboard, and it has become a successful street tree. It became a popular street tree in Adelaide’s metropolitan area in the 1920s.
It is a robust, deciduous, long-lived tree from Indomalaya and Australasia. Its street appeal comes from its overall shape, interesting bunches of seed pods, and autumn colour. It is deciduous, robust and long-lived. The flowers are small and fragrant, with pale purple or lilac petals, in clusters and can cover the entire tree, making a spectacularly colourful display. The fruit is a marble-sized drupe, light yellow at maturity. It hangs on the tree all winter, gradually becoming wrinkled and almost white. The fruit can be a nuisance on footpaths, but sensitive Councils now sweep them away.
Brief tree assessment
Tree No Trunk circ (M) Canopy spread N/W (m) Canopy spread E/W (m) Tree height
(m) Appearance Condition
1 2.36 16.5 14.7 13.6 excellent Excellent
2 n/m - - - Ave-poor Ave-poor
3 n/m - - - Ave-poor Average
4 n/m - - - Ave-poor Ave-poor
5 Ave-OK retain
6 n/m - - - Ave
fungal decay Ave-poor
7 Ave-poor/fungal decay Ave
8 n/m - - - Good Good/Retain
9 n/m - - - Good/decay Good/Retain
10 n/m - - - Good/decay Good/Retain
11 n/m - - - Good/decay Good/Retain now/replace later
12 n/m - - - Good/decay Good/Retain now/replace later
13 n/m - - - Good/decay Retain
14 n/m - - - Large/ Good/decay Good/Retain now/replace later

This simple assessment indicates that to retain the historical presence of the existing trees, some replacements need to be programmed. To increase the cultural integrity of this avenue, some ‘vacancies’ should be filled. Both aspects suggest programmed maintenance, and replacement, say within 5 years.
Sent by Glenn: Southern Argus (Port Elliot, SA : 1866 - 1954), Thursday 26 August 1915, page 3
Willunga august 20, 1915 “Considerable interest was centred in the Arbor day proceedings today. A large number of people took part in the work. The Progress association has been devoting special attention to tree planting and has appointed a sub-committee: (Rev. T Wood and Messrs. R.T. Hitchcox, to co-operate with the public school authorities, in arranging the Arbor day tree planting programme. A ‘patriotic’ row along the west side of St Andrew’s Terrace, in honour of the brave fellows who have gone from this district to fight for King and country was planted. The school children were addressed by the Rev. T Wood. Trees were set in honour of Lieutenant J. S. Malpas, Privates F. Tregilgas, H. Cornelius, C. Fitzpatrick, W. Wittington, F. Whittington, W. Jacobs, Stanley Mills, J. Hender, and John Fridlington.
• "A picture of fortitude: honouring Willunga's Cheer-Up 'girls' and the soldiers they supported" by Chris Horsman, Willunga, 2016.
• The Mount Barker Courier, Friday 10 September 1915 p3
• Southern Argus 26 August, 1915 p3
• The Southern Argus, Thu 16 Sep 1915 p3
• The Mount Barker Courier, Friday 21 July 1916 p3
• The Mount Barker Courier Friday 4 May 1917 p3
• The Mount Barker Courier Friday 6 July 1917 p3
• Southern Argus Thu 16 Sep 1915 Page 3
• National Trust of SA: Willunga Branch; Ruth Baxendale, Faye Lush
• Tony Whitehill, former Tree Advisory officer, Adelaide Botanic Gardens

Compiled by Michael Heath, Willunga, 13 October 2016