The area now known as Todmorden Station would have been originally occupied by Aboriginal people. The name Yankunytjatjara and Antikirinya has, and is, used to describe the Aboriginal groups for this area . It is also possible that there were Aranda connections from the north of Oodnadatta and Arabuna connections from the south. Our knowledge of early Aboriginal history is limited and requires further research.

Prior to European occupation there was no permanent water available on Todmorden Station, which would have limited long-term occupation. However water would have been available along the Alberga, Coongra, Olarinna Creeks and to a lesser extent the Neales, in temporary waterholes and soakages. Waterholes and soakages can retain water for up to 12 months, so short term occupation would have been possible. The area, particularly along the Alberga Creek has cultural significance to Yankunytjatjara / Antikirinya Aboriginal people. Through their mythology this area is part of the Tjukurpa – “Dreaming Trail”, which extends further north west to the Northern Territory border.

John McDouall Stuart would have been one of the first Europeans to travel through Todmorden Station. He departed Chambers Creek (Stuarts Creek) on 2nd March 1860. This was his 4th Expedition, with his aim to cross the Australian continent, from south to north. The South Australian Government and business interests commissioned Stuart to undertake the expedition. Apart from aiming to cross the continent, his purpose was to determine the pastoral and mining potential of Central Australia. His route took him close to the present day Oodnadatta and Angle Pole Waterhole on the Neales River.

Following on from John McDouall Stuart’s expeditions through Central Australia saw the completion of the Overland Telegraph Line (O.T. Line) in August 1872, by Charles Todd. The route of the O.T. Line closely followed Stuart’s path from Adelaide to Darwin. The O.T. Line passed through Todmorden Station and changed direction just near Angle Pole Waterhole, hence the name Angle Pole Waterhole. The timber angle pole, at Angle Pole remains today, adjacent to the Oodnadatta Track and it is still possible to distinguish the route of the original O.T. Line. The old wagon track is still visible, as with the remains of some of the telegraph posts.

Following on from the completion of the OT Line, most of the country around Oodnadatta was allocated by the South Australia Government, to pastoralists with the issuing of Pastoral Leases. Much of Todmorden Station was held as smaller Pastoral Leases, mainly by property speculators. In 1885 Mr. A.M. Wooldridge held Pastoral Leases to the west of Oodnadatta. It is probable that Wooldridge Creek would have been named after Mr. Wooldridge.

Todmorden Station as it is today probably started serious pastoral activities soon after the arrival of the Great Northern Railway at Oodnadatta during 1891. The railway enabled efficient transportation of livestock and supplies. With the advent of the railway, pastoral country around Oodnadatta would have become economically attractive for pastoral use. This would have then provided the opportunity for brothers Edmund & Walter Parke from Todmorden, Lancashire, England form a partnership with Charles Walker, a young livestock holder. They took up the Pastoral Leases to the north west of Oodnadatta and named their holding Todmorden Station (for a time it was known as Mount Todmorden Station). The name Todmorden was derived from Todmorden in Lancashire being the home town of the Parke brothers. For over 100 years Todmorden cattle have been branded ‘PW’ which represents the original partnership – Parke & Walker. A waterhole on the Olarinna Creek is called Parke’s Camp which is in memory of the Parke brothers. The original homestead (or camp) was at Alleumba waterhole on the Coongra Creek. It is thought the present day Todmorden homestead would have been established during the late 1890’s with the discovery of good quality water, with a dug well on the Alberga Creek.

Todmorden Station was sold by the Parke and Walker partnership in 1902 to Joe Breaden, who also brought the other pastoral holdings owned by Parke and Walker. These properties were Henbury, Idracowra and Palmer Valley, located along the Finke River some 300 kilometres north west of Todmorden Station. Cattle were bred on the Finke River properties and walked to Todmorden during good seasons, for fattening. This enabled Joe Breaden a strategic advantage with the marketing of his cattle, as Todmorden cattle could be fattened close to the railhead at Oodnadatta, arriving at southern markets in a heavier condition, compared to other Central Australian cattle. Joe Breaden knew bush country well. He was second in command to Hon. David Carnegie, who explored the country in the Great Victoria Sandy Desert from Kalgoorlie to Halls Creek during 1896 & 1987.


Joe Breaden branding cattle

After the Carnegie Expedition Joe Breaden returned to Central Australia, until he took over Todmorden Station. Joe Breaden continued to develop Todmorden Station as a viable cattle finishing and horse breeding enterprise. To supplement the temporary water holes along the watercourses, wells where dug to provide permanent water. These wells included Mary’s Well, Shiela Well (named after Joe’s daughter) and Mother’s Well. Horses were also bred on Todmorden Station, to supplement the cattle enterprise, known as “walers”. These were highly sought after by the British Army, for their breeding and endurance qualities. During the First World War these horses were used as re-mounts in the Punjab region of India. The climate and terrain in the Punjab is very similar to the Oodnadatta area, therefore these horses adapted very well to the Punjab conditions.

After Joe Breaden’s death in the late 1920’s, Todmorden Station was managed by various managers, administrated by the late Joe Breaden’s trustees.


At the end of Second World War in 1945, Molly Breaden (Joe Breaden's daughter) took over management of Todmorden Station, until 1962. She was assisted by her nephew, David Gardiner, who undertook the 'on ground' management of the station. During this period , further improvements where undertaken. Many of the bores & wells were re-equipped with newer windmills & tanks. Bronco yards were built replacing the old style yards and extensive improvements were undertaken to the buildings at the station homestead.

Prolonged, droughty conditions brought an end to the Breaden era during 1962. Rainfall between 1957 and 1962 averaged only 100 millimetres per annum, which placed huge difficulties with the management of the station. Keith, Gordon and Dean Lillecrapp, from Yankaninna Station, located in the Northern Flinders Ranges region of South Australia, purchased Todmorden during 1962.

Gordon Lillecrapp, together with his wife Mary took over the management of Todmorden Station on 6th October 1962. With the change of ownership, priorities were to build up cattle numbers and to improve the breed of the cattle to a Poll Hereford bloodline. Stud bulls were purchased to achieve this. Stock control was essential and the boundary was progressively fenced during the 1960's. To fully utilise the station for cattle production expansion of the permanent water point network was necessary. The first phase of water development saw bores being established throughout the mulga country to the north of the homestead. Dams were also constructed along the major drainage lines to the southern areas of the station. Contractors like Rusty Coombes and Derry Maynard drilled many of the bores with Tom Kruse (Birdsville Track Mailman – ‘’ Back of Beyond’’ fame) constructing many of the dams.

Tom Kruse constructing Gypsum Dam 1983


Large numbers of feral horses (brumbies), donkeys and camels were found all over the station. These numbers were competing with the cattle for precious feed and water.Together with station management, stock contractors like Jimmy and Stuart Nunn mustered and removed many of these animals from the station. The removal of these pest species from Todmorden Station has provided more fodder being available for cattle, with the re-generation of perennial plant species like Bladder Saltbush and Mitchell Grass.

The partnership that owned and operated Todmorden Station changed during 1969, with Dean Lillecrapp selling his interested back to the remaining partners – Keith and Gordon Lillecrapp. This enabled Dean to concentrate with Yankaninna and provided the opportunity for Mary Lillecrapp (Gordon’s wife) to buy into the partnership. With the partnership re-arrangement the trading name Todmorden Cattle Company was incorporated. With the passing of Keith Lillecrapp on 7 March 1973, the Todmorden Cattle Company partnership was re-arranged again.

During the 1970’s Todmorden Station management changed dramatically, as a result of the Brucellosis and Tuberculosis Eradication Campaign (BTEC). International pressure meant that Australia could only export beef free of Brucellosis and Tuberculosis. Many Australian cattle herds were infected with both diseases at that time and Todmorden Station was no exception. Cattle required a series of blood tests over a long period of time, to eliminate both diseases from the herd. Cattle had to be segregated into test mobs, with each test mob isolated from each other. This meant Todmorden Station had to be sub-divided into smaller paddocks with many more cattle yards with raceways, drafting and loading facilities, so that the BTEC Program could be undertaken effectively. During the late 1970’s and early 1980’s saw another big phase in infrastructure development on Todmorden Station, as a result of the BTEC program.

Prior to the BTEC program there was less emphasis on stock management and control. Cattle were ‘’harvested’’ in a sense for marketing. As a result of the BTEC program, infrastructure development enabled closer management of cattle, which was difficult to achieve pre BTEC. Fully functional cattle yards meant cattle could be drafted into different groups like weaners, sale cattle and breeders, for example. Internal fencing provided greater stock control as well. The BTEC program was a long process, with Todmorden Station’s cattle quarantines being lifted during the mid 1980’s for full export market access.


Rusty Coombes drilling for water 1966

1980 saw the closure of the narrow gauge railway line from Marree to Alice Springs, through Oodnadatta. This meant rather than walking the cattle to the railway yards at Oodnadatta, they had to be road transported to Marla, so that they could then be railed to market on the Tarcoola to Alice Springs railway. During 1979 Todmorden Station constructed a road from the Coongra Creek to Wellbourn Hill Station, so that cattle could be road transported from Todmorden Station to Marla.

This route now is the western alignment of the Oodnadatta Track, as the original track was via Lambina and Granite Downs Stations. With the completion of the sealing of the Stuart Highway during 1988 and an upgraded road between Oodnadatta and Coober Pedy, all cattle are now transported by road train to markets.

Television services were introduced to the station by satellite during 1986, with STD telephone being connected during 1987.

On 23 July 1997 Todmorden Station was awarded the Commonwealth Bank Ibis Award. The award was a major South Australian environmental award for commercial landholders. The judging team from the Commonwealth Bank ,Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Primary Industries SA and SA Farmers Federation made the following comment. ‘’We are particularly impressed by the sensitive relationship between cattle management and the highly dynamic and fragile ecosystem represented on the property’’.

At the end of 2001 a Hybrid Solar Power Generation system was installed at the homestead. It provides 24 hour 240 Volt AC electricity. The system consists of 6 Solar panel arrays, producing 5400 watts of 110 Volts DC electricity which is converted to 240 Volt AC electricity through a 15 kilowatt inverter. To supplement the Solar Panels, three diesel engine generator are used as well.

On 14 March 2004 an Indigenous Landuse Agreement (I.L.U.A.) was signed between the present owners of Todmorden Station, the local Yankunytjatjara / Antakringa Aboriginal people and the South Australian Government. The agreement recongnises the Pastoral rights of the Pastoral Lessee on Todmorden Station together with the Traditional rights of the Yankunytjatjara / Antakringa Aboriginal People.

2005 sees Todmorden Station managed by Douglas Lillecrapp, with Gordon and Mary Lillecrapp together with Mary-Anne McMichael being active partners.

Branding using Bronco Panel

De Rose .v. State of State Australia, 2002, Federal Court of Australia

Jen Gibson, 1988, Oodnadatta Genealogies, Department of Environment and Planning, Adelaide

The John McDouall Stuart Society Inc

Centenary of Federation, 2001, Connecting the Continent, SA

Basil Fuller, 1975, The Ghan, The Story of the Alice Springs Railway, Rigby, Adelaide,

T.G.H. Strewlow, 1969, Journey to Horse Bend, Angus & Robertson Ltd, Sydney

Charles P Scott, 1908, Mount Todmorden Station Photographic Collection, Gift in memory of Mr. David Breaden Gardiner, Art Gallery of South Australia, SA

David W. Carnegie, 1898, Spinifex and Sand, C. Arthur Pearson Limited, London,

Peter Howell, 2002, South Australia and Federation, Wakefield Press, Kent Town,

Arch Grant, 1981, Camel Train and Aeroplane – The Story of Skipper Partridge, Rigby, Adelaide

R.M.Williams and Olaf Ruhen, 1984, Beneath Whose Hand, Macmillan, Melbourne,

R.A.A., 1978, Bullock Tracks and Bitumen – South Australia’s Motoring Heritage, Commercial Printing House

Horrie Simpson and John Dallwitz, 1990, Horrie Simpson’s Oodnadatta, Oodnadatta Progress Assoication,

Marla – Oodnadatta Soil Conversation Board District Plan, 2002, National Hertitage Trust and the Department of Water, Land and Biodiversity Conservation

Back to Home

Please sign our Guestbook

Click here to be taken to Our Glossary