On 24 July 1980, Dingley Dell Cottage and Museum became the first building to be listed on the South Australian Heritage Register. The cottage is set among 6.4 ha of natural scrubland that now forms part of the Dingley Dell Conservation Park, administered by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Adam Lindsay Gordon purchased the property on 8 March 1864 from George Randall, who had built the Mount Gambier stone cottage two years earlier but had decided to quit farming and become a publican. Having already invested in land at Mount Gambier and Port MacDonnell, Lindsay took out a mortgage with Robert Lawson. He also leased the two small adjoining properties but never farmed there.
Situated on the coast, not far from his favourite cliffs at Cape Northumberland, Gordon took his young wife Maggie. They named the cottage ‘Dingley Dell’ (after the nostalgic manor farm of Charles Dickens’ Pickwick Papers, where Mr Pickwick and his good friend Mr Wardle spent a pleasant Christmas holiday near the sea).
The Gordons lived happily there for more than two years although it remained in the Gordon name for more than three months after Lindsay’s death, when the land was sold by default on 10 October 1870 but 300 Pounds was still owing to Robert Lawson. In 1873, before she married Peter Low, Maggie gave the cottage to the council.
Most of the furniture, with the exception of the kitchen dresser, the double bed and the piano, was given to a neighbour, Miss Murphy. When the council took over, working bees put a galvanised roof on the cottage, but nothing else was done until 1922 when the Dingley Dell Restoration Committee, after much public interest, approached the South Australian Government to purchase Dingley Dell for preservation as part of our national heritage.
This took place on 17 February 1922, making the cottage the oldest government-owned historical residence in South Australia. The restoration committee and the local branch of the Australian Natives Association collaborated to put the home in order.