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Published October 23rd 2015
There is more than just shopping
For most people, Marion means a monolith of a shopping centre in the southern suburbs of Adelaide where the latest and greatest fashion, foods and technology can be purchased before packing the waterbag for the trek back to the carpark. But Marion hasn't always been like that – there was a time when Marion was a perfectly laid out village with all facilities within a short distance of each other.
The Marion Historic Village, located at the intersection of Finniss Street and the Sturt River, was affectionately known by locals as "The Marion". Land which was destined to be marked out as Marion Village had been inhabited by the Kaurna people of the Adelaide Plains who called it "Warriparinga" meaning a windy place by the creek.
The original village was surveyed in November 1838 by Colonel William Light and his survey team of Light, Finniss & Co. It was a private township of 32 hectares with the proprietors being Henry Nixon and Boyle Travers Finniss, who was later to become the first Premier of South Australia. The neighbouring land was granted to Edward John Eyre whose name is all over exploration in the west and northwest of SA.
A Heritage Walk takes visitors through the highlights of the Village in an innovative and clever way. Each of the 24 historic sites includes a tiled marker which is highlighted with a two-tone concrete 'survey line' crossing the footpath. The survey lines refer to the laying out of the village of Marion by Colonel Light with each survey line originating from Light Square, Marion, the site of the original survey peg. And at several of the sites, iron statues of Little Marion have been placed to encourage understanding of the history amongst children.
The walk commences at Annie Doolan's Cottage and is approximately 3km in length and suitable for families and wheelchairs. Annie Doolan's Cottage was built in 1876 and was originally used as a convent for the teaching Sisters of St Joseph founded by Mary McKillop. The restored cottage is open for viewing on the fourth Sunday of each month during school terms.
Next door to the cottage is St Ann's Chapel which was used by the strong Irish Catholic community in its early days. On a gum tree outside the church is the Chapel Bell which was placed there due to a mix up in ordering the bell's size, with this bell being too big for the proposed bell chamber.
St Ann's Chapel and Bell in the Tree - Steve Hudson
The Sturt River crosses through the village and under the Finniss Street Bridge. Today's bridge is third bridge built over the Sturt River, with other bridges not standing the test of time and the raging waters that occur upon a heavy rainfall. In fact, when the second bridge was demolished, a time capsule containing an original survey plan of the village was uncovered. The popular Sturt Linear Park runs alongside the now-controlled Sturt River.
All good villages had the essential establishments, and Marion was no different. The Marion Inn at the top of Finniss Street was the 'local' while Laurel Cottage saw the establishment of the first general store and post office. Subsequent growth in demand saw a new shop, post office and residence built on Finniss Street, most of which still stands as shops today.
The central attraction or piece of the Marion Village is Light Square and the Tiled Benches. Light Square was named in the 1930's when the original surveyor's peg that had been placed there by Light, Finniss and Co, was discovered and placed besides the huge gum tree. Despite being much smaller than its namesakes in Adelaide and Gawler, it was still considered appropriate that the square be known as Light Square. In recent years, the tiled benches have been added to the square, with each bench telling a different story of the people and settlement of the village.
The remainder of the village includes a number of cottages belonging to significant contributors to Marion including market gardeners, brick makers, midwives and woodsmiths. Brick making was a significant activity in the early 20th Century, and the George Street Reserve is on the site of one of the original pug holes. Another significant, albeit later industry, is that of nut making with the Charlesworth Nut factory having its home on Township Road.
The Marion Historic Village Heritage Walk is available all year round, with guided tours also available. The Village Display Centre also opens every Sunday between 2 and 4pm with locals and community groups highlighting their wares and celebrating the Village community and the past 175 years. For further details and a walk brochure refer to the City of Marion website.