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Published June 5th 2016
Where the old lifestyle meets the new
Looking for somewhere different to go next weekend?
Take a drive to Riverton.
Situated about 90 minutes from Adelaide, on the Gilbert River, the town of Riverton is the largest town in the Gilbert Valley. Surrounded by rich farming land, the district has a rich history, with many buildings and cottages in the tree lined main street, Torrens Road, exhibiting the early heritage of the area.
Riverton Historic Institute Hall. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
First surveyed in the 1840s, when innkeeper and pastoralist James Masters, who had established the nearby town of Saddleworth, began occupying several thousand acres for sheep farming. The town developed along the bullock track from Burra to Adelaide, with pioneer farmers and residents settling in the area from 1853. Early residents included blacksmiths, wheelwrights and saddlers, trades which became essential to the bullock wagons transporting copper ore from Burra to Port Adelaide.
Early days in Riverton. c1890. B16943 State Library of South Australia
Servicing the needs of the local residents and bullock teams travelling through Riverton, the first businesses established included an unlicensed tavern, the Riverton Arms in 1854, a store and a post and telegraph office opened by John Jubb Horner in 1856.
Bluestone engine houses and workshops were built by 1869 to service the engines for the railway line from Gawler, followed by a station in 1874. Although a decline in population resulted from the closure of the workshops in 1875, the subsequent construction of the line to Broken Hill and spur track to Clare in 1916, the station once again became a busy junction Today, the railway line from Riverton to Auburn has been converted to a 43km shared use trail known as the Rattler Trail.
The Heritage walk through Riverton includes 39 buildings and locations of interest, including businesses and private residences. Further information is available is available from the Clare and Gilbert Valleys Council.
Local History & Information Centre, Riverton. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
For those interested in a shorter walk through Torrens Road, the ideal place to start is the History and Information Centre before working your way down through the many historically significant locations. Owned by the Clare and Gilbert Valley Council, the building was built in 1879 as the English, Scottish and Australian Bank.
Scholz Park Museum Located at 20 Torrens Road, The Scholz Park Museum is the former family cottage of the August and Wilhemine Scholz. August Scholz settled in Riverton in 1865, building his four-room cottage and establishing his Wheelwright Shop. After forming a business partnership with neighbouring blacksmith William Saunders, Scholz purchased the Saunders property and business from which his family business operated until 1966. August's grandsons sold the property to the District of Riverton Council in 1970. The buildings were restored and reopened as a museum in 1981. Today, the cottage provides an insight into the lifestyle of the family, complete with furniture purchased by the Scholz family and displays including a photographic collection. The adjacent Blacksmith and Wheelwright Shops display a fascinating array of tools and machinery made and used by the Scholz family business.
Following in the footsteps of her late husband, the Postmaster in Darwin who drowned when returning to South Australia aboard the Gothenburg in 1875, Mrs Shoebridge was the first Postmistress of the Post Office, which was built in 1876. The building is now privately owned.
The Riverton Hotel (formerly The Riverton Arms Hotel) From the early days as the unlicensed Riverton Arms, the hotel became a licensed venue in 1857, managed by licensees Frederick and John Hannaford. Renamed as the Riverton Hotel in 1876, the hotel was a popular stop over for bullock drivers in the early days of the town. The heritage listed building, renovated in 2004, is a feature of the town with a good pub lunch and dinner menu available daily.
The Mounting Stone Situated on the corner of Masters Street and Torrens Road, the piece of heritage listed local stone was used from the 1850s to allow ladies to alight from horse drawn carriages or when riding sidesaddle on their horses.
Riverton Institute Hall c 1910 B33050 State Library of South Australia
Built as a single storey hall for the community in 1874 at a cost of 1000 pounds, the second storey was added several years later and a stage added in 1914. The "Back to Riverton" celebrations held in 1929 raised funds for the addition of a supper room and kitchen, which were added in 1930. Local community fund raising together with Government grants funded further additions at a cost of $250,000.
Hotel Central and The Cottage
Constructed in 1854 by blacksmith and veterinary surgeon James Mason Elliot, the residence and business occupied the adjoining 16-acre allotment. Around 1900, coach builder and blacksmith, Richard Burrows purchased the business, with the cottage and adjoining block subsequently sold to The Lion Brewing Company who built the Hotel Central which opened in 1908.
Just a short distance from Torrens Road, the Railway Complex and Holy Trinity Church provide some interesting vision into the old days and more recent times in Riverton.
River Railway Complex c1908 B16935 State Library of South Australia
Located at the end of Jean Street, the privately owned former Railway Station Complex was completed in 1875, replacing the first station, which was destroyed by fire in the 1870s. With refreshment rooms for all passengers and three course dinners available for east-west passengers, the complex was considered the finest outside of Adelaide.
Riverton Railway Station c1870 B8071 State Library of South Australia
An attempted assassination in 1921 has left bullet holes in the wall and gained some notoriety for the railway complex. During the drama, shots were fired into the dining room resulting in the death of Percy Brookfield, a member of Parliament from Broken Hill, who tried to disarm the gunman. The railway complex remained operational until the last passenger train passed through the complex in 1988. The complex was upgraded and converted to a Gallery and Tea Rooms in 1990.
Holy Trinity Church 1936 PRG287/1/4/21 State Library of South Australia
Holy Trinity Church
Built by James Masters and other early settlers in 1858, the State Heritage listed church features a hand made wooden staircase, which leads to the gallery, a memorial stained glass window and a slate roof made from slate shipped from England. The foundation stone was laid by Elizabeth Masters, wife of the James.
Riverton, with country hospitality, a range of walking and cycling trails, unique shops, art galleries and loads of historically significant buildings, it is an ideal weekend getaway for all the family.
Only 2 years ago stopped for a while in Riverton..mainly to see the Railway Stn.,which I had seen ,many years before this.Drove/walked here and there to try and find an entrance...but to no avail.A local in the main street told me that if I contacted the owners(have no idea who they are),it may be possible that they would let me in.As I was just passing through,I continued on my journey.What a pity this magnificent country Railway Station is blocked off to tourists.A trip through the Gilbert Valley to Auburn or the other way round,is well worth the slight detour and there is a nice feel about Riverton as soon as you arrive.