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Walk your way into history
A Slaughterhouse in the Adelaide Parklands 1914 (Image: State Library SA B-260)
The Adelaide parklands have a rich and often controversial history. There has long been a diversity of views about their purpose, how they should be used, and whether buildings should be permitted. One example is an early controversy over development in 1855 when a grandstand was built at the racecourse, now Victoria Park. The issue was not the activity of horseracing, but whether a permanent structure was appropriate. The debate still rages today.
Nowadays the parklands are places of recreation, where people can picnic, walk their dogs, cycle through, be married, and enjoy at festivals. But it wasn't so long ago that our park lands had much more pragmatic uses: fireworks displays, balloon ascents, tightrope acts and parachuting, army and police training, and even World War 2 air raid shelters.
The Adelaide Lunatic Asylum Morgue (Dead House) in the Parklands
By 1839, the parklands were threatened by extensive timber cutting, rubbish dumping, brick-making, quarrying, squatting, and grazing. To control this, special constables were appointed to patrol the parks. Despite this the parklands were used for rifle target practice, slaughterhouses were built, and later a lunatic asylum and morgue were established.
Martin Haese, Lord Mayor of Adelaide is passionate about city history and our green spaces. He regularly hosts the Lord Mayor's Park Lands Rambles, a casual stroll lasting an hour or two in a selected park in Adelaide. The public are invited to join the Lord Mayor on this free guided walk and discover the hidden history of the park of the day. Indigenous history is touched on as well as the history after European settlement.
Each walk takes place in a different park, and you'll learn interesting and unusual facts as you stroll. For example on May's ramble, the walkthrough Bonython Park visits the sites of the old slaughterhouse, and the first state hanging. To find out the location and details of the next Lord Mayor's Park Lands Rambles, see the City of Adelaide events page on Facebook. You are asked to book online to ensure that numbers are manageable.
Please be aware that the ramble is a casual stroll but can involve some uneven ground. A reasonable level of mobility is required. Be sure to wear good walking shoes, comfortable clothes, a hat, and bring sunscreen, a jacket and umbrella in case it rains. After the walk, there's a chance for refreshments together and to chat with other walkers.
If you enjoy these free guided walks in the Adelaide parklands, remember that the Adelaide Parklands Preservation Society also offer similar walks that are dog and child-friendly.