Prior to European settlement the area around Strathalbyn was inhabited by people from the
Ngarrindjeri Aboriginal language group.
The River Angas was named after George Fife Angas. Chairman of the South Australian
Company, by the Cock and Finlayson expedition in December 1837.
The Angas River district, at the southern end of the Mount Lofty Ranges, was settled in 1839
when Dr John Rankine from Ayrshire, one of a 105 Scottish immigrants who had arrived at
Holdfast Bay near Adelaide on the ship Fairfield, took up land along with eight other
In 1841 William Rankine (Dr Rankine’s brother) and Colonel James Dawson took up land in the
district. This land would eventually become the site of the township.
The town’s founders decided, once the town site had been chosen, that the banks of the river
remain parkland thus creating the town’s delightful centre.
Strath Albyn comes from two Gaelic words – ‘strath’ meaning “broad valley” or “a valley with a river
running through it” and “Albion” meaning ‘hilly land”. “Albion”, which was also a term used to
describe Great Britain, was the name of a steel mill which Dr. William Rankine had a large
shareholding in. It is widely accepted that Dr. Rankine contracted the two words and created
By 1842 Glen barr, a substantial stone house, had been built by Dr Rankine.
In 1844 the foundation stone for St Andrews Church was laid.
The town’s first Police Station was opened in 1858.
The Corporation of Strathalbyn was founded in 1868. This same year Cobb & Co reached the
village and established a regular service to Adelaide.
In 1869 a broad-gauge tramway was constructed between Goolwa and Strathalbyn. At the
tramway terminus the Terminus Hotel was built to provide refreshments for passengers.
As recently as 1873 local Aborigines were still gathering beside the river in the town’s central
The railway from Adelaide reached the town in 1884.
By 1889 the town had its own cheese factory.
In 1919 the first Children’s Bridge was constructed across the River Angas.
In 1975 several street scenes for Picnic at Hanging Rock were filmed in the town.
Today Strathalbyn, apart from enjoying the benefits of tourism, is a rural service centre in an
area dominated by mixed farming, vineyards, cereal crops, cattle, sheep, orchards and alpacas.