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Published June 15th 2013
From grime and crime to sleek and chic
Brompton and Bowden - Now and Then
A Cottage in Brompton
Bowden and Brompton were once counted among the least desirable suburbs in Adelaide. They are now undergoing massive transformation to become the Bowden Urban Village.
Established in 1839 and 1849 respectively, both suburbs were historically populated by poor working class people living in cheaper housing on compact parcels of land. Most worked locally in one of the many industries that helped the area to grow and expand.
Bowden & Brompton - Minutes from the City by Train
In 1968 the MATS Plan (Metropolitan Adelaide Transport Study) was announced, proposing the introduction of a massive new road system. A key part of that plan was the construction of a huge four level freeway interchange that would have virtually obliterated Bowden and Brompton from the map. For fifteen years the suburbs were in limbo, and became progressively more run down due to a lack of investment.
In times gone by children used their imagination as they played in dirt on the streets, or even risked their safety in pug holes. There were few other places for kids to enjoy themselves, although Thomas Smith's gym offered an alternative.
There were risks for adults too. Historian Sue Marsden records: on long winter nights the Port Road became infested with thugs and highwaymen. The Police Commissioner believed their strongholds were the villages of Hindmarsh and Bowden.
But the rejuvenation of the precinct has brought some very different activities, such as Trampoline knowledge sharing in the old Clipsal Industries factory.
Bowden and Brompton have been home to a rich variety of characters.
A recent book has suggested that publican of the Gasworks Hotel Josephine Rundle may have been a serial killer, although it was never suspected at the time.
By contrast Bowden woman Muriel Matters was a tireless campaigner for women's rights in the United Kingdom after she moved there as an adult. She was extremely creative in finding ways to bring attention to the cause, and later returned to Australia to promote prison reform and equal pay for women.
Fruit Shop Once Operated by Edward Thulborn on Second St
Brompton resident Edward Michael Thulborn was a man who attracted his share of trouble with the law. Born in 1896, in 1914 he was convicted of using indecent language and drunkenness at a picture show. Convicted in 1921 of assaulting police at Gawler, in 1926 he alleged that police had accepted bribes from him resulting in the government instigating a lengthy Bribery Commission.
Another charge of assaulting police in 1939 was dismissed when Thulborn was able to demonstrate that it was unlikely.
In 1949 Thulborn was back in court charged with jury rigging. At the time he was operating a fruit shop on Second St in Brompton Park Extension.
The late author Max Colwell had many interesting stories to tell of growing up in Brompton during the 1930's. Take a look at the website for more information and to see some fascinating photos of life 80 years ago.
Hotels have been very much a centre of life in Bowden and Brompton throughout its history, and a place to eat. But the former Park View Hotel has now been transformed into Plant 13, a cafe serving food from America's South.
Even the Bowden railway station has not escaped change - it now houses the Loose Caboose Cafe and serves an innovative range of delightful food to locals and travellers.
More recently the rich assortment of immigrants have brought their own cuisines to neighbouring areas, ranging from Ethipian to Indian and German to Italian. They all have integrated in some way, with the Rheinland Bakery even offering a kangaroo pie!
May 2013 saw Fork on The Road visit Bowden, bringing a taste of the upbeat multicultural vibe that is planned for Bowden Urban Village in the future. It was a spectacular success with entertainment provided by local troupe Cirkidz and popular band 50 in the City wowing the crowd.
Brick making was common from the earliest days because of the abundance of clay in the area, and water was readily available from the River Torrens. Many pug holes were created and became a hazard for local people. There were a wide variety of other smaller enterprises, from blacksmiths and bootmakers to flour mills and foundries.
When the gasworks were opened in 1863 they became a significant employer for local people over the next 140 years. It dominated the landscape with its high chimneys and enormous footprint. In the 1960's passing Bowden on a Red Hen train usually prompted doors and windows to be closed to avoid the unpleasant smells.
Clipsal Industries moved into Bowden in 1936, bringing a huge manufacturing facility that employed up to 1500 people. It was a very successful company, selling products world wide because of their high quality.
Most houses in Bowden and Brompton were modest affairs compared to others in Adelaide, small in size and built of brick or bluestone. Often set back only a few feet from the street, there would have been little privacy in the front rooms.
Surprisingly some of the new houses in the area continue the modest theme - some remind me of Victorian terrace houses such as are endemic in south east London, just updated with modern building materials.
Other new housing is far grander. Some are a very modern design, but it's pleasing to see that effort has been made to preserve the better parts of the area's original character. Renewal SA commissioned a detailed cultural mapping report to help guide planning of the development. This has been supported by Charles Sturt Council declaring a number of Historic Conservation Areas of architectural and historic value.
The Bowden Urban Village will remain peppered with buildings that are links to its past. In my opinion that's a good thing.
An article close to my heart. I grew up just over the road at Devon Pk. We always ventured over into Brompton, going to the mission with my Nana when I was a child, looking for bargains. That's where my love of op shops began, I'm pretty sure. That and the shop on the corner, how I love those old shops! Think I even lived on Green st for a bit too. The place has chaged so much.