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Glenelg, SA

Elegant seaside suburb south of Adelaide

Glenelg, where the infant British colony of Adelaide (and South Australia) began, is now a seaside suburb of Greater Adelaide and an elegant and delightful day tripper seaside resort with a beautiful Esplanade, a narrow strip of beach, a handsome jetty and an impressive number of mansions with views over St Vincent Gulf. Like much of South Australia it enjoys a typical Mediterranean climate with an average rainfall of 560 mm and a temperature range from 15°C (July) to 29°C (February)  - it typically experiences at least 18 days above 35°C in the summer months. It is a bustling city, bursting with cafes, restaurants and amusement parks, which is ideal for casual day tripper outings and 'promenading'.


Glenelg is located 11 km south-west of the Adelaide CBD.


Origin of Name

Adelaide was named after King William IV's wife Queen Adelaide (1792-1849) whose title before marriage was Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen. The original British settlement of Adelaide was at Glenelg where, on 28 December 1836, Governor Hindmarsh proclaimed South Australia a British province. The location was originally named Holdfast Bay (apparently because some ships successfully rode out a gale) but this was changed to Glenelg, after Lord Glenelg, the Secretary of State for Colonies, in 1837.


Things to See and Do

Glenelg Visitor Centre
The Glenelg Visitor Information Centre is located in the remarkable Glenelg Town Hall which is located, centrally, at 1 Moseley Square. See below for more details.

Exploring Glenelg
The best way to explore Glenelg's rich heritage is to acquire two excellent booklets (they are available at the Visitor Centre and also can be downloaded. They are titled Historic Glenelg and Mansions of Glenelg (see https://glenelgsa.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Historic-Walk-Brochure-Glenelg-Mansions-Web-Version-1.pdf)

Historic Glenelg
The walk takes around an hour and passes 19 places of interest. It starts at the Visitor Centre (Glenelg Town Hall) and twelve of the nineteen places are located along Jetty Road. These are the most important highlights:

1. Glenelg Town Hall
This imposing building, right on The Esplanade and looking across at the jetty, was built between 1875 (when the foundation stone was laid by Sir Henry Ayers) and 1877 when it was formally opened as the Glenelg Institute. The building was designed by Edward Wright and features a grand main entrance and a tower with views across St Vincent Gulf. A cupola and clock were added in 1884. Three years later it became the Glenelg Town Hall. Apart from the Visitor Centre it now contains the excellent Bay Discovery Centre Museum.
Bay Discovery Centre Museum
Located in the Glenelg Town Hall, open from 10.00 am - 2.00 pm daily with entry by gold coin, this is an excellent and fascinating museum which specialises in the social history of the area.

2. Glenelg Jetty
Located opposite the Town Hall and at the end of Jetty Road, the jetty was first built in 1859. At the time it was 381 metres long and had a wooden lighthouse at the end. It was destroyed by fire in 1873. In 1906 an impressive three storey pavilion was built at the end of the jetty and railway tracks were added. An aquarium was added in 1929. In 1948 most of the jetty was destroyed. In 1969 the current jetty was completed. It is now a pleasant walk out from the beach.

3. Pioneer Memorial
Located between the jetty and the end of Jetty Road, this impressive memorial was built in 1936 and was created to commemorate the centenary of the foundation of modern South Australia. It is an impressive memorial with a sculpture of the HMS Buffalo at the top and carved figures in the panels. There is a very detailed description which explains: "Designed by G Beaumont Smith, the Pioneers' Memorial was commissioned by the South Australian Government to commemorate the founders and pioneers of the colony for the State Centenary celebrations in 1936. The South Australian Institute of Architects invited members to submit designs for the memorial and their recommendation of G Beaumont Smith's design was approved by the Australian Centenary Committee. Dr A Grenfell Price and Dr Charles Fenner assisted Beaumont Smith in the preparation of historical data and inscriptions. Australia's longest serving official war artist Ivor Hele drew the figures in the panels, J H Choate oversaw the carvings and H Dalton Hall supplied the details for the creation of the Buffalo model. The monument was made by A S Tillett for £2,201 ... Over twelve metres high, the monument's main shaft is comprised of Kapunda marble, while its steps, platform and base are of Murray Bridge granite. A bronze model of the Buffalo sits aloft. A frieze of four busts surrounds the monument near its top and pays tribute to four men considered instrumental in the founding of the colony - Edward Gibbon Wakefield, author of the scheme which promoted systemised colonisation, South Australia's first Governor, Captain John Hindmarsh, Colonial Secretary Robert Gouger and George Fife Angas, the philanthropist/banker who established the South Australia company ... The proclamation ceremony is depicted on a panel on the western side of the monument, while panels on the eastern side symbolise pioneering days, primary and secondary industries and cultural life during the first one hundred years of South Australia."

4. Stamford Grand Hotel
Located on the corner opposite the Town Hall on Jetty Road, note the facade to this building which was completed in 1990. There has been a hotel, originally named the Pier Hotel, on this location since 1856. The first hotel was built by Henry Moseley who gave his name to the square. It was replaced in 1912 and again in 1990. The facade replicates the hotel which was built in 1912.

5. Glenelg Tram Terminus
One of the must-do experiences of Glenelg is to take the tram from the Adelaide CBD to Glenelg. The tram terminus was built in 1873 and since then trams have run from Adelaide to the seaside at Moseley Square. Between 1929 and 2007 the trams were known to the locals as Red Rattlers. Today they are modern, sleek and efficient.

6. Post Office
Located off Moseley Square in Colley Terrace, and now called the Glenelg Charcoal Yiros House, the distinctive and elegant Glenelg Post Office was built in 1911 on the site of the town's original post and telegraph office. Note "Telegraph" over the entrance, the GR (George Rex) in the front and the historic post box on the footpath out the front.

9. St Andrews Uniting Church
Located at 92 Jetty Road, the site was originally the location of a Congregational Church dating from 1859 which had been built in a simple Gothic style. In 1879, feeling that it was too small, a foundation stone was laid for the current, impressive building. It was designed by Daniel Garlick. "The external front elevation was designed in the Italian style and the Corinthian order." The church was opened in 1880.

13. St Peter's Anglican Church
Located in Torrens Square, this simple and handsome church was built in 1883 to replace an earlier church which had been designed by Edmund Wright and built in 1851. The Historic Glenelg brochure explains: "The present church is designed in the Gothic style, again by architect Edmund Wright and includes more than thirty stained glass windows. The adjoining chapel is named after the patron saint of soldiers, Saint Michael. It was built as a memorial to members of the congregation who lost their lives in World War I. The bell tower on the southern side of the church marks the centenary of the church's consecration."

15. Band Rotunda
Located in Colley Reserve, off Colley Terrace, the William Storrie Memorial Bandstand was designed by L G Golding in 1926 specifically for the Glenelg City Band. It is distinguished by some truly beautiful iron lacework.

Old Gum Tree
Located in a park at 43 Macfarlane Street, the Old Gum Tree, now set in concrete and covered by an elegant roof, was where Governor John Hindmarsh read the Proclamation of the state of South Australia on 28 December, 1836. Ceremonies are held on the site each year on 28 December.

Mansions of Glenelg
It is a comment on the nature of South Australian society, and the importance of Glenelg, that a remarkable booklet, Mansions of Glenelg, lists 18 extraordinary properties all within easy walking distance of the Glenelg Beach. An excellent brochure, with photos and a detailed map, can be downloaded at https://www.walkingsa.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Mansions-of-Glenelg-self-guided-heritage-walk.pdf. It provides detailed information on each of the properties. They include - and these are the highlights:

1. Seafield Tower
Built in 1876 and located at 6-7 South Esplanade, this State Heritage listed building was the first mansion built along the Esplanade. It was designed as two self-contained, 15 room summer residences for Sir Henry Ayers and Sir Thomas Elder. Each residence had a separate staircase to the tower, but the landing was communal.

4. Albert Hall
Built in 1878 and located at 16 South Esplanade, Albert Hall is a twenty room, three storey mansion. The first owner William Kyffin Thomas, part owner of newspapers the Adelaide Observer and Register. He died the year it was finished. The next owner, William Pile, added a ballroom with an alcove for musicians. By 1930 it was the Oriental Private Hotel and in 1982 it became a backpackers’ lodge. In the 1990s it became a private residence again.

8. Glenara
Built in 1873 and located at 32 South Esplanade, Glenara was built for William Hill and was owned by his descendants until 1990. A fine example of Italianate architecture, it has an imposing central, flag-topped tower which accentuates its castle-like appearance. It was designed by architect Thomas English, as a 6-room house. Two front rooms, the tower and a conservatory were added at a later date.

9. Restormel
Built in 1881 and located at 15 Robert Street, Restormel was built for accountant Joshua Gurr. It is typical of a gentleman’s residence of the era.

10. Colonna
This remarkable home was built in 1881 at 5 Robert Street and was constructed of squared bluestone, with smooth rendered stone quoins. It has a unique arched veranda of the Romanesque style. It has been maintained for 130 years by the descendants of the Whitington family, who purchased the property around 1890.

11. Soward’s Villa
Built in 1887 at 62 Moseley Street, Soward’s Villa, was originally a home of ten rooms built by architect and former Mayor of Glenelg, George Klewitz Soward.

12. Waterworth
Located at 11 Pier Street and built in 1885 for Thomas Reid as a cottage, Waterworth was sold in 1888 to Sarah Sparks, wife of Henry Sparks, who enlarged the home to an 11 room residence where Henry eventually died in 1900. Waterworth later became flats, a private hospital and then a nursing home.

13. St John’s Row Terraces
Built in 1887 by Joseph English these four terraces, from 14-17 St Johns Row, of 8 rooms each feature impressive ironwork. For those who have seen the movie, The Kings Speech, Lionel Logue, speech therapist to King George VI lived at 16 with his family from the age of 5 to 8 years. They were designed by Joseph English, the son of Thomas English who, in 1880, formed the architectural firm English & Soward. In 1884, after Thomas’ death, Joseph was made a partner and continued with the firm for more than 40 years.

14. Hindmarsh House
Located at 3-5 College Street, and built in 1874 with some superb ironwork, these two Victorian terraces were built by Charles Farr who lived in No. 3 for the first few years before renting out both as seaside accommodation. Premier of the colony, the Honourable John Colton, lived in No 5 from 1876 to 1877.

16. Alexandra Terrace
Built in 1878 at 1-7 Moseley Street and designed by Thomas English, Alexandra Terrace was originally four attached terrace houses. Each terrace had 8 rooms, including a basement for servants, kitchen, dining and drawing room on the raised ground floor level, and bedrooms on the upper floor, with a door opening onto the balcony. Note the impressive ironwork and the elegance of the design.

The Olives
Built in 1867 at 5 Olive Street, The Olives was built by architect Edmund Wright for his brother Edward and is the oldest surviving mansion in Glenelg. It had 18 rooms including a coach house and stable and originally was located on 14 acres of land. The front entrance was in High Street and the back entrance was from Partridge Street.

Partridge House
Built in 1899 at 38 Partridge Street to a design by the architects English, Soward and Jackson, the house was originally of 18 rooms and outhouses. From 1912 to 1973 the house was owned by pastoralist H. P. McLachlan and his sons. On 10 April 1973, Glenelg Council purchased the property and it is now hired out to community groups and for private functions. The gardens are open to the public daily and feature the Townsend Drinking Fountain, gifted to Council in 1877.

Sculptures on the Esplanade
There are a number of sculptures along The Esplanade at Glenelg and Glenelg South. They are worth checking out because they have become an integral part of the city's landscape. Some are purchased as a result of the excellent Brighton Jetty Classic Sculpture exhibition which occurs each January. Perhaps the most famous is:

Rusty - Person Sitting on a Bench
This figure of a man on one of the benches beside the sea was created by Ty Manning and first exhibited in the Brighton Jetty Classic Sculpture event in 2011. It was bought by the City of Holdfast Bay, became much loved by the local community, and then, at Christmas time in 2018, the head was removed in an act of vandalism.

The sculpture known as Rhythm was created by Greg Johns in 1978. It is located on the Esplanade south of the jetty. Johns grew up on South Australia and Rhythm was his first large commission.

My Big Red Heart
Located near the Jetty, and easy to spot because it is so distinctive, My Big Red Heart was created by sculptor, Jayd Van Der Meer and bought by Holdfast Bay Council for $14,000 in 2016. It was part of the Brighton Jetty Classic Sculpture Exhibition.



* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was home to the Kaurna Aboriginal people.

* In 1829 Edward Gibbon Wakefield proposed a scheme for the systematic colonisation of South Australia. Crown Land was to be sold and the money used to pay for the emigration of labourers.

* In 1834 the South Australian Association was formed.

* A fleet of eight ships captained by John Hindmarsh left England and arrived at Holdfast Bay (now Glenelg) on 28 December 1836.

* The settlers were forced to camp at Holdfast Bay while Colonel William Light, the colony's first Surveyor-General, chose a suitable site for the future settlement.

* Light was accused of building the city away from the sea on an alluvial mud plain which was dusty in summer and muddy in winter.

* The land near the site of modern-day Adelaide had been surveyed and sold by March 1837.

* In 1837 surveys of country areas were delayed and property speculation became the colony's main industry. Little land was used for agriculture and a black market in imported food and supplies flourished.

* By 1840 the colony had a population of 14,000 free settlers but was totally bankrupt.

* In 1859 a 381 metre jetty was built.

* The Pioneer Memorial was built in 1936.

* In April 1948 the town was hit by a hurricane and the jetty was washed away.

* In 1969 the jetty was rebuilt.

* In the summer of 2012/2013, dubbed The Angry Summer by the Climate Commission, the temperature at Glenelg reached a new recorded high of 44.1°C.


Visitor Information

Glenelg Visitor Information Centre, 1 Moseley Square, tel: (08) 8376 7698


Useful Websites

The official website is https://glenelgsa.com.au.

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