Skip to main content

What’s in a name...who was John Miller?

What’s in a name...who was John Miller?

What’s in a name...who was John Miller?

Tuesday 23 January 2024

Many of us have been to, walked by or driven past John Miller Reserve at Somerton Park.

It boasts a playground, gym equipment, a basketball court and lots of green space.

Overlooking the reserve is a stately white house which was once the seaside home of John Miller – the man after whom the reserve is named.

But who was John Miller?

His story started in 1840 when he was born at Hindmarsh – just four years after the colony of South Australia was established.

His work life was varied. He was a farmer and president of the SA Farmers Association, a member of the House of Assembly and was one of the founders of a boys’ college, which is now part of the Annesley College buildings at Wayville.

He was Chairman of the Campbelltown District Council and then a councillor at Brighton Council from 1909-1910.

After he retired to Brighton in 1908, he built the 12-room stone house, which became known as Somerlea and is the house that still stands today.

John Miller’s first wife Mary was a niece of William Rounsevell, a prominent Mayor of Glenelg. In May 1912, she died. In December 1912, John Miller married Bessie Edith Puxton, also of Glenelg – and who was also 40 years his junior.

They had seven years together before his death in 1919 at his Somerton Park residence. His final resting place is the North Brighton cemetery.

In 1940, his widow Bessie gifted the parcel of land - now known as John Miller Reserve - to Brighton Council. This was 100 years after John Miller’s birth and was so significant, it was reported in The Advertiser newspaper at the time.

The report, published on Tuesday 27 February 1940 on page 18 said: “The Mayor of Brighton (Mr. F. J. Brown) officially received on behalf of the corporation, the title deeds of land comprising approximately two and a half acres on the Esplanade at Somerton, as a gift to the municipality, from the widow of Mr. John Miller, the ground to be known as the John Miller Recreation Park.”

“Mr. Brown said the magnificent gift would be forever treasured.”

Learn more about his home, Somerlea, at the Sand Castles exhibition which is on now at Glenelg's Bay Discovery Centre.

eNews Signup