Adelaide City Secrets


Grant: When you spend your lifetime growing up in one place you think you know it pretty well but as we’ve discovered over the past two years, if you give its history a shake, you never know what’s going to come to the surface. Now, here for your benefit some Secrets of the City of Adelaide.

Let’s start with Adelaide Oval because it is very much in the news at the moment. From the time it was decided to convert one of the world’s most picturesque international cricket grounds into a modern sports stadium, there has been controversy. Dissenting voices have reminded us of the heritage of the ground and the almost sacred nature of all things associated with it but history reminds us that things change.

Adelaide City secret number one: there was once a cycling track on Adelaide oval. As you can see from these photographs taken in 1895 it was a permanent track around the oval’s perimeter and huge crowds would come to watch races with riders from all over the world. By 1914 there was a full-blown velodrome around the ground and it was the shape of the cycling track that ultimately determined the shape of the oval – two long straights and two sweeping bends – so short boundaries either side of the wicket! When cycling lost favour, bench seats went down on the track and Adelaide Oval kept evolving.

There’s another one of our city’s secrets close by. When Colonel Light arrived to create the new settlement, he carried with him a list of requirements from the Colonial Commissioners. Among the items on that list was a good supply of building materials like timber and stone and close proximity to a source of coal… Where they found coal that is.

Grant: It’s right here under Montefiore Hill, underneath the manicured fairways and greens – Adelaide’s South course and here on the South-Western corner of Strangways Terrace a Test Bore went down and the Locals were very excited. A second test revealed the coal was such poor quality it wasn’t worth the bother going any further.

Back in the days when the fire brigade turned out to city blazes with appliances like this, they were totally reliant on their horses and dogs to get there as quickly as possible. The dogs would run ahead of the team and bark to warn people to get out of the way whilst the horses tore flat chat through the streets…and when they got to the fire, the dogs would guard the horses when they were unhitched from the appliance.

These animals are our city secret number three: Four-legged Fireys. They were so revered by the firemen who lived and worked with them every day that when they died, those dogs, and the hearts of the horses, were buried in a special memorial garden that used to be next to the old fire station in Wakefield Street.

There’s another secret in the heart of the city and it’s attached to this- the Victoria Tower that’s part of our impressive old Post Office Building on the corner of King William and Franklin Street. In the late 1860’s the city’s fathers decided we needed a reliable high quality clock that was visible to all in the square mile because the existing clocks all kept erratic time and people found it impossible to keep appointments.

The tower was finished in 1872 but the clocks were still under construction in London so what to do? Well in their wisdom the city fathers decided to get four large pieces of canvas paint them with a clock face and hang them in the portal and that’s where they stayed for three years!
By the way…the chime bells cost almost twice as much as the actual clock.

And whilst we’re in this part of town, have you ever wondered why all of the streets change their name when they come in contact with King William Street? It has nothing to do with making sure that all of the important people in the early days of the colony had their egos stroked by having a road named after them…but more so to do with Royal protocol.

So… today’s final secret. None of our city streets that run from east-to- west have names that cross King William Street…because no one is supposed to cross the path of a monarch.

PHOTOGRAPHS USED IN THIS STORY INCLUDE B 26972 – Fire Brigade, Moonta, 1898; Moonta Collection; No known copyright restrictions – Moonta Firemen with a horse drawn fire-engine in George Street

B 40287 – Fireman’s funeral, Maylands, ca. 1910; RESERVE 1; Maylands Collection; No known copyright restrictions – Fireman Hedges’ funeral procession by horsedrawn carriage

B 35053 – Fire Brigade, Hindmarsh , ca. 1934; Hindmarsh Collection; No known copyright restrictions – 1897 horse-drawn reel decorated for a parade at Hindmarsh

B 40267 – Fire Brigade Memorial Garden, 1930; RESERVE 1; Acre 342 Collection; No known copyright restrictions – Adelaide Fire Brigade Memorial Gardens, Wakefield Street

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