Historic service centre and largest town in the Adelaide Hills
Mount Barker is the largest town in the Adelaide Hills and consequently is a major service centre with a charming main street notable for its interesting historic buildings and its cafes and restaurants. Located at the southern end of the Adelaide Hills, Mount Barker is part of a rapidly growing and chic commuter belt. It is surrounded by vineyards and mixed farming.
Mount Barker is located 34 km south-east of Adelaide via the M1, the South Eastern Freeway.^ TOP
Origin of Name
The first European to sight Mount Barker was Captain Charles Sturt who saw it from Lake Alexandrina on 18 April 1831 and named it after Captain Collet Barker of the 39th Regiment who had recently been killed by Aborigines near the mouth of the Murray River.^ TOP
Things to See and Do
Mount Barker Heritage Walk
The Mount Barker Heritage Walk is a walking tour which lists over 60 historic buildings in the centre of the town. It can be downloaded at https://www.walkingsa.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Brochure-and-map-Mount-Barker-Heritage-Walk.pdf.
The places of particular interest include:
Millie's Bakery (5 Gawler Street) which dates from 1873 and was originally the home of the Daniels family who owned a blacksmith and a foundry in an adjacent property.
Harrowfield's Cottage at 10 Gawler Street, now a cafe, was built in 1856 and was one of the first brick buildings in the town. It originally had a flat iron roof (today it is corrugated) and distinctive chimney pots. The Mount Barker Heritage Survey recognises its Heritage Value as "This is an outstanding example of an early brick Georgian house which has significant associations with the early development of Mount Barker, and demonstrates an outstanding level of early brick craftsmanship and design." For more detailed information check out https://data.environment.sa.gov.au/Content/heritage-surveys/2-Mount-Barker-Heritage-Survey-2004-Part-2.pdf - pages 192-196.
Bank SA on the corner at 12-14 Gawler Street. It looks old but was actually built in 1939 with the typical manager's residence upstairs and an elegance and solidity. The Mount Barker Heritage Survey notes: "Two-storey stone bank building with curved corner and art deco design. Features include masonry walls and detailing including projecting stone plinth, classical parapet and cornice,pilaster and coffer detailing to windows." For more detailed information check out https://data.environment.sa.gov.au/Content/heritage-surveys/2-Mount-Barker-Heritage-Survey-2004-Part-2.pdf - pages 197-199.
ANZ Bank at 16 Gawler Street which was built in 1886 as another typically impressive country town bank. There was a move to tear it down in the 1980s but a green ban was placed on it and it has been retained.
NAB Bank at 48-50 Gawler Street was built on land owned by the Presbyterian Church. They sold it and the sandstone bank was built in 1866. There was a plan to demolish it in 1986 but it was prevented by a green ban.
Police Station, located next door to the modern police station (2006) at 60 Gawler Street, it was built in 1875 to replace the first police station in the town which had been built in 1840. "This significant complex is the oldest surviving police complex in the State and also contains the oldest intact stone building in Mount Barker (stables of 1848), as well as some mid-19th-century walls of the earlier station." See https://data.environment.sa.gov.au/Content/heritage-surveys/2-Mount-Barker-Heritage-Survey-2004-Part-2.pdf - pages 200-204 for more detail.
Gray's Inn at 63 Gawler Street was built in 1855 and named after its owner/builder, Benjamin Gray. It has been changed over the years but still retains much of the charm of the original hotel. The Mount Barker Heritage Survey notes: "Two-storey stone hotel with rendered dressings and a hipped corrugated iron roof. Barn is coursed local stone with red-brick dressings. Additional late-19th-century buildings which are now part of complex include former general store and former residence. Features include timber detailing including posts and bargeboards, 1880s cast-iron detailing to hotel balcony, finely-detailed red-brick chimneys, balcony and veranda." For more detailed information check out https://data.environment.sa.gov.au/Content/heritage-surveys/2-Mount-Barker-Heritage-Survey-2004-Part-2.pdf - pages 187-191
Located at 40-42 Adelaide Road, this charming building was the first Primary School in Mount Barker. It was built in 1877 using bricks from the Littlehampton Brickyards. It is listed on the SA Heritage Places Database.
Dunn's Flour Mill, Cottage and Shop
Located at 14 Cameron Road, and completed in 1844 for John Dunn, this historic mill, which closed down in 1894, was the first flour mill in South Australia outside Adelaide. It was vital to the prosperity of the area because, prior to its construction, there was nowhere for the local wheat to be milled. During its 50 years of operation it received 532,053 bags of wheat and produced 425,648 bags of flour. For more information check out http://www.samemory.sa.gov.au/site/page.cfm?u=378&c=1876. John Dunn was a miller by trade. He had been born in Devon in 1802 and sailed to South Australia in 1840. He was also responsible for the famous mill in Bridgewater and by the time he died, in 1894, he had eleven mills operating in South Australia. The Mount Barker Heritage Survey notes: “This is the oldest steam powered flour mill in the State and has vital associations with the early establishment of flour milling in Australia, an industry which combined with grain production and alongside wool and copper, formed the backbone of the South Australian economy for over 60 years. The building demonstrates early construction techniques and mill design, and the grain store is a rare and outstanding example of an early pre-fabricated iron building.” Check out https://data.environment.sa.gov.au/Content/heritage-surveys/2-Mount-Barker-Heritage-Survey-2004-Part-2.pdf pages 177-181.
The mill cottage at 16 Cameron Road was built by John Dunn in 1847 and is the oldest stone building in the town. At 18 Cameron Road is a store which was connected to the mill and run by Ann Dunn, the first wife of John Dunn. Check out https://data.environment.sa.gov.au/Content/heritage-surveys/2-Mount-Barker-Heritage-Survey-2004-Part-2.pdf pages 182-186.
Located at 7 Druids Avenue, 'St Leonards' is an impressive private home which was built in 1890 by Dr Leonard Bickle and was used as a doctor’s consulting rooms until 1971. It has been listed on the SA Heritage Places Database as a result of its well preserved façade, veranda, balcony, room and internal cedar staircase. The attached Coach House, which once was used as a home for the groom, was also used as a morgue.
Located at 11 Druids Avenue, ‘Dumas House’ is now a place for weddings and can be booked as accommodation. The site of the original Primitive Methodist Church it was purchased by Charles Dumas in 1893. In the 1860s, when he was a little over 30, Dumas established The Courier newspaper which he edited for over 50 years. He entered parliament in 1898. The website https://www.dumashouse.com/ explains that the building is “made from local stone, the homestead, along with the English Oak Tree planted by Charles himself has been heritage listed and lovingly restored back to its former glory. From its high decorative ceiling to its beautifully presented open fireplaces, Dumas House radiates the charm and character of yesteryear, for the total enjoyment and relaxation experience for those who choose to stay.”
Located next door to Dumas House at 13 Druids Avenue is a Worker's Cottage built in the 1860s. It is typical workers' cottages of the time.
Located at 15 Druids Avenue, the Salem Cottages, a series of ten interconnected cottages, were built in 1879 by John and Jane Dunn. They were a charity venture and were created specifically for the aged women and widows of the men who had worked in Dunn’s flour mill. It was subsequently run by The Salem Cottages Trust which was made up of ministers and representatives from the Methodist, Baptist and Presbyterian Churches. The cottages were sold to Mount Barker Homes Inc in 1980.
Located at 21 Druids Avenue, the building, constructed around 1844 and now known as the Artists' Studio, was originally used for a mail and carrying business. In the 1930s a local artist Dora Chapman and husband James Cant used the front room as a studio. It has subsequently been used by other artists.
Railway Station and Steamranger Heritage Railway
Located at 2 Dutton Road, the Mount Barker Railway Station, built from Aldgate freestone, was opened on November 18, 1883 and the first regular train arrived the following day. The last passenger train ran in 1984 and the last goods train in 1987. It operates on a broad gauge track and consequently is disconnected from the Adelaide metropolitan rail network. Steamranger Heritage Railway has operated from this site since 1996. There website explains: “SteamRanger Heritage Railway operates a number of different heritage steam and diesel hauled tourist trains between Mt Barker in the Adelaide Hills, up over the crest of the southern Mt Lofty Ranges, down to Strathalbyn and on through the coastal holiday towns of Goolwa and Port Elliot to the tourist resort town of Victor Harbor. Check out https://www.steamrangerheritagerailway.org.
Located at 1 Hutchinson Street, 'Thornton' was built around 1885, two years after the arrival of the railway in the town. It was designed in an Italianate style with a charming bay window. It was extended between 1870 and 1890 for Louis von Doussa, a local solicitor who became a member of State Parliament. The house remained in the Doussa family for almost 100 years.
Located at 2 Hutchinson Street, 'The Laurels' was built by John and Ann Dunn in 1857-58 and was originally located on 160 acres and characterised by an impressive front garden. The house, the old chapel, a gardener's cottage and parts of the original garden still remain although it is now known as The Laurels Retirement Village.
Post and Telegraph Office
Located at 33 Hutchinson Street, this building was the first Telegraph and Post Office. The Telegraph Office was built in 1860 with Postmaster's house above. The Mount Barker Heritage Survey notes that it is a: “Two-storey building constructed of all original masonry, including stone walls, dressings, detailing, porch, plinth and chimneys; hipped roof, timber frames to openings, all original timber doors, and timber-framed multi-paned double-hung sash windows … This is an outstanding building which is significant for its high integrity, its fine design by prominent colonial architect GE Hamilton, its outstanding construction, its significant associations with the early development of Mount Barker.” It was used as a Post Office until 1914 and residence until 1983. For more detailed information check https://data.environment.sa.gov.au/Content/heritage-surveys/2-Mount-Barker-Heritage-Survey-2004-Part-2.pdf from pages 213-217.
Located at 37 Hutchinson Street, the Court House was built in 1865 of “random coursed stone with squared coursed stone pilasters to corners and a hipped corrugated iron roof. Features include porch with semi-circular arch entry, parapet, plinth, cornicing, coursing, timber-framed openings and semi-circular-headed windows with glazing bars.” For more detailed information check https://data.environment.sa.gov.au/Content/heritage-surveys/2-Mount-Barker-Heritage-Survey-2004-Part-2.pdf from pages 218-221.
Located at 38 Hutchinson Street, the simple Presbyterian Church was built in 1847 originally to be a joint denominational church but subsequently became St Andrews Presbyterian Church in 1858. There is an amusing story of how the government gave land for a multi-denominational church but “the canny Scots” managed to take two acres with the church on it.
Christ the King Church
Located at 44 Hutchinson Street, the Anglican Church, known as Christ the King Church, was dedicated in 1865 by Bishop Short. The chancel and sanctuary were added in 1886. The pipe organ, which was built and finished in 1898, was donated by Robert Barr Smith and the organ chamber was added to the chancel which had been completed in 1886. The porch was added during the church's centenary year. In the church are three stained glass windows by the noted English stained glass artist Christopher Whall. The Hall was built in 1921 as a memorial for the soldiers who died in World War I.
'Our Lady of Mercy' Catholic Church
Located at 5 Mann Street, Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church was completed and opened in 1912. It was the second Catholic church in the town. The original Church had been built 1851, was named St Francis De Sales, and was located near the Catholic cemetery. 'Our Lady of Mercy' was opened in 1912 by Father Philip Landy on land donated by Mrs Joanna Barr Smith. For more information check out https://www.barkerstrathcatholic.com/parish-history.html.
Methodist Lecture Hall
Located at 13-17 Mann Street, the Uniting Church Hall is located next door to the impressive Dunn Memorial Church. It was built as a Wesleyan Methodist Church in 1851 and was extended in 1962. The manse behind the Hall was built in 1857.
Located at 13-17 Mann Street, Dunn Memorial Church “is constructed of random coursed bluestone with rendered dressings and a cgi gable roof. The church contains some fine Early English detailing, including single and grouped lancets, roses, drip-moulds and a decorated porch. A significant feature is the central front tower which is topped with a stone-roofed spire. The interior of the church also retains a high integrity with its timber pews and detailing, timber pulpit, significant organ and wall-mounted memorials. The bell tower is constructed of red-brick with render ‘Early English’ detailing and a tiled gable roof with timber bargeboards and louvres.” This Gothic style church, the furnishings and the organ were a gift from John Dunn Snr. The Dunn Memorial cost £3500 and was designed by James Hill and built by Vye and Warburton. It was officially opened on Tuesday September 16th 1884 and renovated in 1958. For more detailed information check https://data.environment.sa.gov.au/Content/heritage-surveys/2-Mount-Barker-Heritage-Survey-2004-Part-2.pdf from pages 404-411.
Located at 17 Adelaide Road is Auchendarroch House which was built in 1860 by Lachlan McFarlane. It was originally the Oakfield Hotel until in 1878 it was sold to Robert Barr Smith for £3000 and turned into a summer house by the architect John H. Grainger who was given the brief to build "a thirty roomed mansion in the French Renaissance of the Modern School Style." He decorated the house with William Morris wallpapers, fabrics, furnishings and carpets including an original hand-blocked 'Spring Thicket' wallpaper which is still in the ballroom. Originally the huge house was surrounded by 42 acres of land of which three acres were dedicated to a garden and three acres to an orchard. The property was sold in 1919 for £7,000 and turned into a Rest and Convalescent Home. In 1940 it was taken over by the Red Cross and used for injured servicemen. It fell into disrepair until 2000 when it was purchased by the Wallis family who were determined to revitalise it. "Four rooms, including the Oakfield, Dining, Joanna’s room and the majestic Ballroom, featuring William Morris wallpaper and leadlight windows were all beautifully restored. In 2009 further additions to the function facilities were completed with the upgrading of the Barr Smith Billiard Room which now features both William Morris wallpaper and luxurious swags and curtains. The Robert Charles Room, named after the late Managing Director Robert Charles (Bob) Wallis displays Swarovski Crystal curtains and ceiling lights and handmade forged iron “vines” around the bar." Today it is used as a wedding venue, has an excellent restaurant and has a seven screen cinema next door. For more information check out https://auchendarrochhouse.com.au. There is a very detailed assessment of the house on the Mount Barker Heritage Survey, page 170-176 (see https://data.environment.sa.gov.au/Content/heritage-surveys/2-Mount-Barker-Heritage-Survey-2004-Part-2.pdf)
Stephen Street Art Project
Located in Stephen Street this impressive collection of abstract art is the result of a collaboration between visual artist Wendy Dixon-Whiley and the students and teachers from the primary schools at Echunga, Macclesfield, Meadows and Callington. "Students from each school worked together to create the works installed here and are surrounded by the mural spanning the length of this building which was completed by Wendy Dixon-Whiley intended to unify the four works that represent each school."
Dunn's Flour Mill, Cottage and Shop
Located at 14 Cameron Road, and completed in 1844 for John Dunn, this historic mill, which closed down in 1894, was the first flour mill in South Australia outside Adelaide. It was vital to the prosperity of the area because, prior to its construction, there was nowhere for the local wheat to be milled. During its 50 years of operation it received 532,053 bags of wheat and produced 425,648 bags of flour. For more information check out http://www.samemory.sa.gov.au/site/page.cfm?u=378&c=1876. John Dunn was a miller by trade. He had been born in Devon in 1802 and sailed to South Australia in 1840. He was also responsible for the famous mill in Bridgewater and by the time he died, in 1894, he had eleven mills operating in South Australia.
The mill cottage at 16 Cameron Road was built by John Dunn in 1847 and is the oldest stone building in the town. At 18 Cameron Road is a store which was connected to the mill and run by Ann Dunn, the first wife of John Dunn.
Other Attractions in the Area
Located off Bald Hills Road (the main entrance is opposite 383-397 Bald Hills Road), on the way to Mount Barker Summit, the Laratinga Wetlands offer three walking trails all of which start at the main entrance. The trails are all relatively short and suitably flat meaning they are suitable for disabled access. The wetlands contain four frog species and local birdwatchers have recorded over 150 bird species including the Latham Snipe, Blue-Billed Duck and Little Pied cormorants. The Common Brushtail Possum and Common Ringtail Possum are regulars at the site. The common long neck tortoise is also commonly seen. For additional information and a downloadable map of the walking trails check out https://www.walkingsa.org.au/walk/find-a-place-to-walk/laratinga-wetlands.
The main walks in and around the wetlands are:
Chestnut Teal Trail
A 750 metre loop taking around 15 minutes. It is a short loop around the eastern end of the wetlands.
A 2 km 35 min walk around the main wetlands.
Sacred Ibis Trail
The longest loop covers 2.6 km and takes around 45 min. It includes a loop of the main wetlands as well as a walk around the smaller western wetland.
Mount Barker Linear Trail
This 7 km walk passes through Laratinga Wetlands and heads to Keith Stephenson Park in central Mt Barker following the local creek line. There are environment sign markers and cultural art pieces along the trail.
‘Batpiori’ Airbrushing Project
Located in the Laratinga Wetlands are four impressive murals which are part of the ‘Batpiori’ Airbrushing Project (meaning “scattered trees” in Peramangk Peoples language) depicting an ancient First Nations man titled 'Elder', a rural scene titled 'Home', a faux graffiti-ed wall titled 'Time' and a cockatoo titled 'Local'. The aim of the project was to give young Aboriginal artists an opportunity to display their unique art in a rural setting.
Mount Barker Summit
Leave Mount Barker and head along Springs Road and turn left into Mount Barker Summit Road. The panoramic view is recognised as one of the best in the Adelaide Hills. On a clear day it is possible to see Mount Lofty in the north and Lake Alexandrina in the south-east from the 517 metre elevation. There is a stone cairn on the top which tells visitors that the mountain was originally known as Wommu mu Kutra to the local Aborigines and that it was an ancient burial site.
* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was home to the Peramangk Aborigines. It was also used by the Ngarringdjeri Aboriginal people who lived further south and west.
* The first European to map Mount Barker was Captain Charles Sturt who saw it from Lake Alexandrina on 18 April 1831.
* The actual mountain was climbed by a six man group of explorers on 27 November, 1837.
* In 1838 Joseph Hawdon and his party crossed the Mount Lofty Ranges. They had travelled from Sydney.
* The township was surveyed in 1839 by the pastoralist Duncan McFarlane with the expectation that it would be opened up to wheat and grain farming.
* Lots of 80 acres were sold but there was a problem as few farmers were willing to produce wheat unless there was a flour mill nearby. Consequently the land was not settled by Europeans until 1844.
* John Dunn had built a flour mill by 1844. It was the first steam flour mill outside of Adelaide.
* The Post Office was built in 1860
* The Police Station with its stables was completed in 1878.
* The railway from Adelaide reached the town in 1883.
* In 1984 the Ngarringdjeri Aboriginal people who lived further south and west failed to stop the building of a police communication tower on Mount Barker.^ TOP
The Visitor Information for the local area is the Adelaide Hills Visitor Information Centre, 68 Mount Barker Road, Hahndorf, tel: (08) 8393 7600. Open 9.00 am - 5.00 pm Monday to Friday and 10.00 am - 5.00 pm on weekends.^ TOP
The Mount Barker District Council website offers a useful overview of the town. Check out https://www.mountbarker.sa.gov.au/mountbarker.^ TOP