We had various destinations in mind on our second day of exploring the South Australian capital. Our first destination was meant to be the wall of a carpark that a friend of ours had informed us was a must-see site for anyone even vaguely interested in great art. It was apparently a wall covered in match-box cars and given I had stopped enthusing over match-box cars when I was seven years old, I was not overly keen. Unlike the previous day, we turned right out of our Frome Street hotel and turned immediately right again into Grenfell St. Given that I was born in the NSW country town of ‘Grenfell’, I was able to bore my partner for a while with tales of my long-lost childhood.
On the way down Grenfell Street we passed the other side of the Adelaide arcade, more impressive then the alternate entrance that we passed in Rundle mall two days earlier. We decided we would have a good look inside on the way home in the afternoon.
We crossed over King William St noting that it was the way up to Victoria Square as well as the city’s Central Market where we wanted to have a good look as well as having morning tea.
Being a fervent ‘art for art’s sake and such art belongs on walls’ kind of guy, the idea of visiting a wall covered in matchbox toys had not inspired me with enthusiasm for the day’s first site to be visited. Given that the wall itself was the wall of an actual car-park should have eased my concern. This installation was developed as part of the Adelaide Festival 2000 so I could sense that the organisers were trying to be controversial but I wasn’t convinced that we needed more artists attempting to dissolve “the demarcation line between art and life” (from Festival promotion material). The artist was Matej Andraz Vogrinčič from Slovenia who in his student days was of course part of an Avant Garde group of radical artists attempting to revolutionise art theory. Before Adelaide, he was famous for dressing up a derelict house with clothes in his home city. For the Adelaide Festival he advertised for the public to donate their match-Box cars and eventually 15000 such toys were gathered. The result can be seen below. It was originally only a temporary exhibit but has since become a permanent piece of public art. Twenty two years later, we weren’t the only ones to visit the alleyway beside the exhibit and be amazed at this project.
From the Wilson car-park wall, we walked down to the end of the alleyway and checked out part of Rundle Street that we didn’t visit on the previous day. Directly opposite the entrance to the alleyway was a 1903 Edwardian building (Austral Stores) that for many years had been used by the government as offices. It was a very attractive building that is in the process of looking for new tenants.
We returned to King William Street and proceeded up towards Victoria Square. This block of King William Street must have been the centre of colonial Adelaide as it still holds two of the city’s significant buildings from the second half of the 19th century. In the image on the left below can be see a 1950 image looking across towards the former GPO of Adelaide built in the late 1860s with its distinctive Victoria Tower. Across the street further down the road is the Adelaide Town Hall, completed before the Post Office in the early 1860s. Its tower’s height was eclipsed by the Victoria Tower which was probably necessary given that the Town Hall Tower was named after the Queen’s husband, Albert.
On the wall of the Post Office is a marble tablet indicating one aspect of the origin of the impressive Victoria Tower. “This stone was laid by H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh.K.G. November 1st 1867.” The Duke was none other than Prince Alfred, Queen Victoria’s second son who was on a slow state visit to the Australian colonies at the time. In that year he had just gotten over missing out on a job-offer to become King of Greece and after a slow time in South Australia, he moved on to Sydney where he was shot by an Irishman at a state sponsored picnic at the seaside suburb of Clontarf. His mother Victoria was not impressed and when called upon for a verdict for the guilty party, no mercy was shown for the mentally unstable Fenian prisoner and so Henry James O’Farrell was hung for his crime. Alfred happily recovered from his wounds.
It was time for morning tea and so it was convenient that this could be happily taken in our next destination, Adelaide’s Central Market. Every Australian capital city needs a major market-place like this with Melbourne’s Queen Victoria market being our favourite so far. The old proverb states that ‘comparisons are odious’ so I won’t make any, except to say that this market was terrific given the quality of the fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and other goods that we spent some time admiring.
From the Central Market we walked up to Victoria Square or Tarntanyangga, which is its second name given under the City Council’s dual-naming initiative. It is the central Square of Adelaide (of five public squares) as designed by Colonel Light in his original layout of this city. A major notice on the corner of Grote Street explains the background of the ‘renaming’… “The Adelaide City Council acknowledges the Kaurna people as the traditional owners and custodians of the Adelaide Plains area. The Adelaide Park Lands and Squares are part of the Kangaroo Dreaming Place, an important place for the Kaurna people long before Adelaide was established. Victoria Square/ Tarntanyangga is traditionally acknowledged as the central camp of the Kaurna people. The place has special associations with Tanda Kanya, another significant site on the south of the River Torrens.”
Victoria Square was named as such in May 1837 after Princess Victoria who was the heir to the British throne at the time. We entered the Square at its centre point and walked across the road to inspect the usual dour, regal statue of Victoria herself. It seemed to me that I had seen this same statue many times in the major cities of Australia as well as the one outside the parliament of British Columbia in its capital city on Vancouver Island, named, of course, “Victoria”! Nineteenth Century British colonies were very prone to put up statues and name states and cities after this long-lived British Queen. Even in 1963, Adelaide was proud to add another major memorial to the British royal family when the Three Rivers Fountain (below left) was constructed in Victoria Square to commemorate the visit to Adelaide of another long lived British Queen, Elizabeth II.
Earlier in our morning tour of Adelaide, I noticed a plaque on Currie Street near the Matchbox Car Wall commemorating the explorer Charles Sturt. It read “Hereabouts on 10th August 1844 Captain Charles Sturt set forth on his Central Australian exploring expedition. He discovered the Barrier Ranges and Cooper Creek. Unveiled 1944.” Sturt is also remembered in Victoria Square with a statue (above right) representing this impressive character in his ‘exploring gear’.
I was interested to have a look at one of the finest Church buildings in Adelaide, St Francis Xavier’s Catholic Cathedral, while we were near this central city square. On the overhead map of Victoria Square used earlier in this article, the Cathedral, its associated buildings and grounds can be seen on the right of the central road running though the centre of the square.
Not having spent a lot of time in Adelaide, I do recall that it was known for decades of the twentieth century in the media as the “City of Churches”. As a result, I must admit that when I arrived here, I was keeping an eye out for all these church buildings that the city was meant to be famous for; I was slightly surprised that I didn’t see that many! I also noticed that there were lots of posters around the city streets for the various events of the Adelaide festival and the phrase, “City of Festivals” seemed to be being regularly used. Perhaps the populace had moved on from priests and pastors to professional comedians to cope with the angsts of the 21st century. However the huge Catholic cathedral was still standing and so I thought it needed visiting.
St Francis Xavier’s Catholic Cathedral is a Gothic revival building (Late 18th century English style) that was begun only 18 years after the proclamation that South Australia was open for the arrival of free citizens, not convicts. Starting the church was easy but finishing it took a long time and significant finance so it wasn’t officially finished (ie. with completed bell tower) until 1996. Of course, significant damage caused by the 1954 Adelaide earthquake pushed the completion of the church out some years. I enjoyed my tour of this very beautiful church
Arriving outside the cathedral, the first thing you notice is the group of three statues that represent the Church’s favourite daughter, Mary McKillop and two of the children in her care. Mary spent considerable time in Adelaide and is famous for the swift expansion of her ‘Brown Josephites’, sisters dedicated to the education of children in rural and impoverished circumstances. Mary McKillop’s life is sadly the usual story of great social work undertaken by women which is undermined by men in positions of power unused to strong women getting the job done; more importantly, sadly, these men were priests in the Catholic Church. The complex tale of her excommunication from the Church in 1871 after four years as a nun is a bizarre story. It seems that the main driver of these events was a vengeful priest whose friend had been outed as a child molester. It only took two years to overturn the excommunication and Mary’s sisters of St Joseph went on to open schools all over Australia. Her canonization 100 years after her death in 2009 was a late but just reward for the religious descendants of Mary McKillop.
I had visited Adelaide in January 1973 for three days with some mates but I had discovered that I had very few memories left of that time. I believed I had visited the suburb of Glenelg, 11 kilometres from the centre of Adelaide on the shores of Spencer Gulf. In order to see if it would stir up any memories, we decided to catch a tram from the tram stop next to Victoria Square, just down the road from the state’s Supreme Court. It was a very relaxing 20 minute ride along Anzac Highway through the outer suburbs to Glenelg. I can’t say that my arrival in the main square of Glenelg (Moseley Square) in front of the beach brought back long-lost memories but it certainly was a very impressive streetscape.
After getting off the tram, it was a short walk to Moseley Square where a tall stone pylon stood that was the memorial to the early European pioneers of South Australia. It was built in 1936 as part of the centenary of South Australia celebrations. Plaques on the monument cover first explorers of South Australia such as Flinders and Sturt as well as founders of the colony of Adelaide. On the top of the monument is a replica of the ship, Buffalo, that brought the first 176 colonists to South Australia with the first Governor, John Hindmarsh. Framing the monument was a large Skyline Wheel that enabled visitors not only to have the thrill of the ride but to get great views out over Glenelg and the Spencers Gulf. We decided that it would be our first stop. The view back down Anzac Highway towards Adelaide (photo on right above) was taken from the top of this Ferris Wheel and shows Glenelg’s Town Hall tower on the left.
Directly in front of the Ferris wheel was the Jetty which was perfect for going for a stroll to check out the waters of the gulf and getting a good look back at Glenelg. Like so many jetties built on the Australia coastline, this Jetty has had a chequered history due to it position on a large, wide bay, open to the occasional severe weather assaults that are difficult to counter given both the sandy foundation and the power of the wind and waves above. The first jetty was built here in the 1850s for cargo ships to use as well as a ferry to Kangaroo Island. The original jetty was 380 metres long but the current one, no longer needing to service cargo ships , is only 215 metres.
The photo to the left above is from the storm season of 1948. A the time a kiosk and Aquarium had been attached to the jetty but the spectators from the shoreline we able to view the destruction of these two facilities. On the afternoon of our visit, the sea was well-behaved and the jetty provided a great views of sea and sky.
It was well past lunchtime by the time we finished our inspection of Glenelg beach and jetty so we headed uptown for comfort food and found a great spot in the park behind the shops that lined the foreshore. It was an easy trip back to the city and we were able to stay on our tram and get off close enough for a short walk back to our hotel.