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Heidelberg’s Busy Bee Signature Quilt, 1895-96

Square F7

Quilt square F7


Cr Adams / "Rockleigh" / Alphington


The person shown in this square is John Sharp Adams (1833-1921), an elected Councillor of the Shire of Heidelberg, representing the Ivanhoe Riding. His middle name is sometimes reported as Sharpe.

Further information

JS Adams lived at Rockleigh, Alphington. He was a member of the Heidelberg Shire Council from 1879 to 1899 and served as President in 1884-85.

JS Adams arrived in Victoria from Gloucestershire, England, on the SS Bee in 1854. He married Maria Barton (1832-1916) in 1857 and they celebrated their Golden Wedding at St. Andrew’s Church of England, Middle Brighton, on 22 August 1907. Their four children were Eliza Ford Adams (1858-1937), John Albert Adams (1861-1917), Thomas Barton Adams (1862-1929) and Clara Maud Lyons (née Adams, 1865-1916). Clara was enrolled at the Presbyterian Ladies College (then in East Melbourne) in 1880.

JS Adams worked as a storekeeper on the Heidelberg Road in Alphington, then as an orchardist on land now associated with the Darebin Parklands. After purchasing his own land along the Darebin Creek, he successfully founded Adams’ Quarry in Alphington. The Darebin Heritage website states:

‘It was one of the first quarries in the Darebin Creek catchment area. It was also one of the larger quarries in Darebin, covering some 30 acres of land. After being initially purchased as land for an orchard, the Adams family soon discovered the rich deposits of basalt and bluestone and developed the quarry.’

Mrs Sue Course (former President and Secretary and a key figure in the establishment of the Darebin Parklands Association in 1972) spoke about the quarry and Adams’ farming as part of her talk about the Parklands at a meeting of the Heidelberg Historical Society (HHS) in October 1998:

‘On the Alphington side [of the Darebin Creek], the land was owned by John Sharpe Adams and his family from 1880. This included sixty acres of what is now the Darebin Parklands, held by the family for some 60 years. They used it for mixed farming, orchards and vineyards, and the farm won prizes for olive oil. The area was also used for quarrying. The family built “Ivy Cottage” and “Rockleigh”, an eight-roomed house which was demolished in 1956. … The bluestone was suitable for roadmaking and the Heidelberg Shire used the road metal on Heidelberg Road. Albion Reid bought the land from the Adams family in 1958 and continued quarrying. The quarrying could cause problems, shaking windows with the blasting. The quarry was about 120 feet deep. Draught horses were used to pull the wagons, and were sometimes left at the bottom of the quarry for weeks when there was no work there. Some 6,000,000 tons of bluestone were removed. In 1967 the Northcote City Council leased the quarry as a municipal garbage tip, and had filled it by 1975.’

On Monday 2 April 1900, JS Adams was among the ‘fair gathering of officials and others’ who attended the opening of the ‘new Court buildings’ in Heidelberg and who, after the list of cases was dealt with, adjourned ‘to the magistrates’ room’ where ‘toasts were proposed and honoured’ to the Queen, the architect and the Public Works Department. (Since 1979, the Court House has been the headquarters of the HHS. The former magistrates’ room now serves as the HHS kitchen.)

At his death in 1921, aged 89, JS Adams left £11,310 in real estate and £15,112 personally to his children and grandchildren.

Another ‘Adams’ on the quilt, JA Adams [K8], is presumed to be John Albert, the elder son of Cr JS Adams.


Ancestry: Kathryn Ulbrich family tree, ‘John Sharp Adams’, viewed 8 March 2020.

Clara Maud Lyons - death record: BDMV 1570/1916.

Presbyterian Ladies College enrolment records, viewed at PLC Melbourne’s Archive, 21 March 2019.

‘Marriages’ [Golden Wedding], The Argus, 22 August 1907, p. 1.

Occupations database and other information held at the Heidelberg Historical Society.

Darebin Heritage: T. Adams & Co Quarry, Alphington, viewed 8 March 2020.

The Heidelberg Historian, no. 189, December 1998, p. 7.

‘Opening of the new court buildings, Heidelberg’, Evelyn Observer, and South East and Bourke Record, 6 April 1900, p. 2.

‘About People’, The Age, 6 September 1921, p. 7.

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