Glenelg - Ten things you may not know.
Glenelg jetty aquarium, 1935. Photo courtesy: Holdfast Bay History Centre photographic collection
1. The HMS Buffalo, a replica of which is parked in the Patawalonga River, was not the first ship to bring settlers to Adelaide.
Several vessels arrived earlier, rallying in Nepean Bay on Kangaroo Island before heading into the Gulf. In early November, 1836, the Africaine, carrying the Colonial Secretary, Robert Gouger (Gouger Street), was the first passenger ship to anchor in Holdfast Bay, offshore from what is now Glenelg.
But paving the way was the HMS Rapid (Rapid Bay), captained by Colonel William Light, who had dropped into Holdfast Bay while scooting about the Gulf looking for a suitable place for a settlement.
However it wasn’t until Governor Hindmarsh arrived aboard the HMS Buffalo, on the 28th December, 1836, that the new colony could be proclaimed.
2. Glenelg was named after Lord Glenelg, who was Secretary of State for the colonies at the time of proclamation. Without him, many of us may never have used the word palindrome.
3. The Glenelg jetty was opened in 1859, ironically three years after the construction of the Pier Hotel (now The Grand). The hotel’s builder and owner, Mr Henry J. Moseley (Moseley Square), had correctly anticipated that a jetty would be established somewhere near his pub.
Jetty,1936. Photo courtesy: Holdfast Bay History Centre photographic collection
It was once much longer and supported an aquarium and a kiosk, but a storm in 1948 damaged the structure so severely that it was completely dismantled. The current jetty was built in 1969.
After the 1948 storm. Photo courtesy: Holdfast Bay History Centre photographic collection
4. In the early days of the colony, bathing in the sea was strictly regulated. The genders were segregated and women were required to clamber aboard a small hut known as a bathing machine. This was then towed by a horse into shallow water, where a lass would change into her less-than-flattering cossy before emerging for a dip just outside the door. Men, on the other hand, were permitted to swim in the open but much further up the beach.
5. From 1876 to 1928 there were sea baths to the north of the jetty, contained in an enclosure about 130 metres long and 60 metres wide.
Glenelg baths. Photo courtesy: Holdfast Bay History Centre photographic collection
The Farrelly family were accomplished swimmers and managed the baths for several years around the turn of the century. Together with their dog, King, they were responsible for a number of rescues.
6. Some locals refer to the clock tower on the old town hall (now the Bay Discovery Centre) as Bob. To find out why, tilt your head to the left the next time you’re looking at it.
7. As World War ll progressed there was a growing concern that Adelaide would be attacked by the Japanese, even before Darwin was bombed.
The state government set about establishing air raid shelters, including the one that still exists at Glenelg oval. Unfortunately for the locals it wasn’t a public shelter, but rather a secure communication centre and supply store.
Glenelg air raid shelter
At the first warning of an aerial attack the public were expected to gather at the oval for relocation to Strathalbyn.
Head down the stairs and you’ll find a space much larger than it appears from the street. There are several rooms that now contain a number of exhibits including stories and photos relating to locals who served our country both overseas and at home.
Folding bike; a paratrooper would jump with one of these strapped to his back
This includes schoolkids, like Merv Perry, who were issued with a helmet, a gas mask and a respirator, and trained as dispatch riders to relay messages to and from the shelter.
Among the displays is Merv’s canvas knapsack used for carrying his gas mask.
The shelter is open from 1.00-4.00pm on the third Sunday of the month, and on Anzac Day and Armistice Day.
If you have any questions about local history, the volunteers who staff the shelter really know their stuff.
8. Some of us remember the Glenelg sideshows where we discovered cutting edge video games like ‘pong’.
This was also the venue of laughing clown-style entertainment, now only found at the likes of the Royal Adelaide Show. The site was later occupied by what was allegedly a magic mountain and, more recently, The Beachouse.
But before all of these there was Luna Park – yes, we had one too – which featured the Big Dipper rollercoaster - the very same rollercoaster that ended up in Sydney’s Luna Park when ours went bust in 1934.
Luna Park opening day, 1930. Photo courtesy: Holdfast Bay History Centre photographic collection
9. The route now taken by the city to bay tram was once a train service operated by the Adelaide, Glenelg and Suburban Railway Company.
Train in Moseley Square, c1880. Photo courtesy: Holdfast Bay History Centre photographic collection
In 1880 a competitor, Holdfast Bay Railway Company, opened a second train service running from Adelaide Railway Station to Glenelg, on the route that has since become the Westside Bikeway. You can still see the Plympton Railway Station platform on the northern side of Marion Road, opposite Mooringe Avenue.
Plympton Railway Station platform
The two companies eventually amalgamated and the Holdfast Bay service continued to operate until the Victoria Square to Glenelg route converted to trams in 1929.
A third line running between Glenelg and Marino opened in 1880, but poor patronage, sand drifts and a couple of fatal accidents saw it close down barely a year later.
10. Holdfast Bay is so named because Colonel Light’s ship, HMS Rapid, endured a violent storm without breaking free from its anchorage. The ship held fast.
For a look at Glenelg beach in the 1930s, check out this State Library video
Nuts and Bolts
Holdfast Bay History Centre: Ringwood House, 14 Jetty Road,
Phone: (08) 8229 9916
Opening hours: Monday, 9:30am - 12:00noon
Tuesday, 8:30am - 7:00pm
Wednesday, 8:30am - 4:30pm
Thursday, 8:30am - 4:30pm
Friday, 9:30am - 12:00noon
Glenelg Air Raid Shelter: Rugless Tce, Glenelg (northern side of Glenelg Oval).
Opening hours: 1.00 - 4.00pm on the third Sunday of the month, and Anzac Day and Armistice Day
Thanks to Julia Garnaut and Jim Blake from the Holdfast Bay History Centre for their help.