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Published November 11th 2015
Once a beachside retreat, now an attractive suburb
Moreton Bay fig trees, forest red gums, grand castles, Australia's famous dry river, and our most famous Antarctic Explorer all have one thing in common – they all have a unique footprint in suburban Brighton, that beachside suburb that has undergone a significant revival since the introduction of the concrete jetty in the 90's and the revitalised Jetty Road and Esplanade over the last decade.
But Brighton was not always like that. When Colonel Light surveyed the land in 1838, he saw huge sandhills and long sandy beaches, and the summer occupation of the land by the Kaurna people. Later that century came wheat and vines to this rural outpost, before the 20th Century saw the advent of holiday homes and the summer occupation of the beaches by the rich and famous of Adelaide.
Railways and cars saw Brighton transform from a rural destination to a popular tourist and holiday destination during the roaring 20's, before ultimately becoming a suburb of Adelaide. A period of time during the last half of the 20th Century saw Brighton lose some of its character and identity before an active effort by the community in the latter part of the century saw Brighton adopt a more contemporary look, and return to being a beach trip destination of Adelaide.
On a recent trip to Brighton I picked up a brochure titled "Brighton, a walk through history" from the City of Holdfast Bay offices and went for a walk to reminisce on days of old. The 3km walk starts at the Art Deco Council Offices on Jetty Road, a building which was completed in 1937 and is considered one of the best pieces of period architecture in the state.
The walk heads towards Brighton Road where churches are prominent with the Uniting Church (1864) and the Anglican Church (1855) of St Judes. At the rear of St Judes is the Cemetery where famous Australians such as Sir Douglas Mawson and Catherine Helen Spence are buried amongst others including members of the Bickford, Cudmore, Rymill and Hardy families.
Alongside the church is a small reserve where some large Moreton Bay fig trees cast a cooling shadow over the reserve and a plaque that remembers the sad loss of the 19 locals who died in the 1973 Snowy Mountains bus tragedy.
Passing through Old Beach Road and Bindarra Road we observe a number of residences, many of whom had original lives as doctors surgeries, corner shops and cafes. The style of the buildings changes markedly as we progress through the streets with bungalows, country homesteads, Tudor style, villas and Art Deco buildings being prominent.
The newly renovated Esplanade was the place to be in the early part of the 20th Century as we admire the restored and well maintained former homes of Miss Somerville, the 3rd SA woman to be called to the Bar, Dr Swift, father of the famous gynaecologist and Dr Todd, the son of Sir Charles Todd, famous for the Overland Telegraph, the Todd River and the township of Alice Springs.
Attached to the Esplanade is Arch of Remembrance, at the entrance to the revitalised Brighton Jetty, and opposite the three story Pier Building on the corner of Jetty Road. Further along Jetty Road, there is evidence of shops from yesteryear, albeit many of them are now covered in 21st Century branding.
Around the corner lies the unusual and perhaps out-of-place Dunluce Castle, one of the hidden castles of Adelaide. Built in 1912 for the local Reverend, the castle formerly stood on 12 acres of garden, stables and a coach house. Next door to the Castle is Alfreda Street where an avenue of forest red gums and manna gums provide shelter to current day locals and to former residents of the neighbourhood including Sir Douglas Mawson.
The walk then returns to the Council Offices across the rail lines that once carried 6,500 people to Brighton on a sunny New Years Day in 1915. As we end our short tour of this great suburb, we reflect on the urban creep and how different life must have been when Brighton was a rural outpost, and was once considered to be the Riviera of SA.
Good article once again Steve.Brighton Beach has been a place I have been going to since the 1940's and still visit there regularly.The Council Offices as I recall and as you say an impressive structure,I believe were once the premises of The Savings Bank of South Aust.I particularly like the Pier Building,which is possibly unique on the esplanades of our suburban beaches.
The cafe/restaurant strip seems to be forever busy and many of my friends say they prefer it to Glenelg,Henley or Semaphore.For me,Brighton is my "home" beach!
Love your articles and Brighton, but for me, Semaphore is no.1. and, since the motorway from the north has been built, it's very hard to find a space (people watching is wonderful, myself, I like the differences, Brighton is much less varied.
I even love the Semaphore dogs. what a variety!!!
good article Steve, when I saw Brighton I thought you may have had a old photo of the train that use to run along the esplanade and a photo of the Brighton inn which stood where the Foodland shopping centre is today run by Stephen Finey and his wife ? for a time. the corner of Stopford road is where the old dairy and house use to be owned by George Lloyd and his wife Adelaide May Finey my great grand parents.