Robert John Underdown
Robert underdown.jpg
Sex: Male
Birth: 29/6/1867 Portland Estate, South Australia
Baptism: 9/8/1867 Port Adelaide, South Australia
Death: 2/3/1917 Birkenhead, South Australia
Father: Thomas Underdown
Mother: Rachel Harpur
Spouse/Partner: Elizabeth May Copeland
Marriage: 13/12/1888 Adelaide, South Australia

Robert John Underdown was born on the 29th June 1867 on Portland Estate in South Australia. Portland Estate was a new development in the Port Adelaide area at the time. His father, Thomas Underdown, was a stevedore and a labourer, having recently returned from being a gold miner on the Victorian Goldfield in the Gold Rush. His mother was Rachel Underdown (nee Harpur), who had originated from Glencormick in Wickow, Ireland.

Robert was their first child to be born in South Australia. His siblings Thomas, Rebecca and Anne had all been born on the goldfields (where four other siblings had died in infancy). Younger sister Mary was also born in South Australia.

Death of Father[]

Robert was only 9 years old when his father died. He spent his childhood living with his family at the College Place address in Portland Estate.


Robert was hospitalised on 20th February 1879 for reasons currently unknown. He was recorded as a school boy from Portland Estate who had been born in South Australia.


Robert married Elizabeth May Copeland on the 13th December 1888 at Adelaide in South Australia. They married at the residence of Reverand E.G. Day. Elizabeth was the daughter of Robert and Elizabeth Copeland (nee Longridge) and had been born in Donaghadee in Down, Ireland.

The couple initially set up home in Portland Estate (where their first child was born), but by 1891 they were living in nearby Birkenhead.

Underdown's Corner[]

Underdown's Corner at Swigg Street, Birkenhead

In 1891, Robert began a grocer’s shop at Lot 11 Swigg Street, Birkenhead, South Australia. The grocer's shop was called Underdown's Corner.

According to South Australian directories, the shop was originally in Roberts name, but for the years 1893 to 1901, it was recorded under his wife's name, and Elizabeth was recorded as storekeeper. During this period, the Directories list Robert as living at Swigg Street, but his employment is as a driver. It may be that he was in charge of stocking and supplying the shop and local customers, while Elizabeth supervised the shop itself while he was out on rounds. The Directories begin to list the shop under Robert's name in 1903.

The shop also does not appear in local assessment books until 1901. Robert paid 23 pounds a year for the rates. There was also a house on this property and in 1901 it was occupied by William McArthur. Robert also had two other lots, number 9 and number 10. In 1901, Number 10 was occupied by William Peacock. The store was located on a small corner on the road following straight on from across from the Birkenhead Bridge. The store no longer stands.


Robert died at only 40 years old of the effects of chronic nephritis in March 1917. According to his death certificate, he had suffered the condition for many years. His wife Elizabeth outlived him by 26 years. They are both buried in the Cheltenham Cemetery, South Australia.

The running of the shop at Underdown's corner passed to Robert's eldest son William (known as Bill) upon Robert's death.

Gravestone of Robert Underdown in the Cheltenham Cemetery


Name Birth Death
Children of Robert & Elizabeth Underdown

William George 13/11/1889
Portland Ward, South Australia
Birkenhead, South Australia

Robert John 6/5/1891
Birkenhead, South Australia
Largs Bay, South Australia

Rachel Harpur 5/2/1893
Birkenhead, South Australia
North Adelaide, South Australia

Thomas 1/11/1895
Birkenhead, South Australia
Golflands, South Australia

Walter James 21/3/1898
Birkenhead, South Australia
Hillcrest, South Australia

Elizabeth May 5/5/1900
Birkenhead, South Australia
Semaphore, South Australia

Harry Arthur 26/5/1904
Birkenhead, South Australia
Birkenhead, South Australia


  • Information from Peter Underdown
  • Births, deaths and marriage records
  • Port Adelaide Library
  • South Australian Post Office Directories, 1891-1905