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Mount Torrens is one of a small number of places in South Australia that have been given State Heritage Area recognition for an entire area, because it is an outstanding example of a 19th century settlement in the leafy Adelaide Hills. It's a gem of South Australian tourism, transporting visitors to a completely different era.
Situated less than an hour's drive due east from Adelaide, Mount Torrens is on the Onkaparinga Scenic Drive between Hahndorf and Birdwood. It is a very popular area for people to tour when taking a South Australian holiday.
This sleepy town in the Adelaide Hills was settled in the 1840's. Originally known as Barton Springs its growth was probably partly fuelled by a copper mine discovered nearby in 1845, then the town had a brief flurry of excitement in the 1870's when gold was discovered.
The mid 1800's must have been a prosperous time for the area, because the buildings along the main street are larger than average for this period and a number have two storeys.
By World War 1 Mount Torrens' importance was diminishing and has almost left the town in a time warp from the 1800's. Many of the buildings on the main street are pleasing in appearance and are made from a variety of local quarried stone.
Taking a walk along Townsend St (the main street), there are heritage plaques to provide visitors with the history of the more significant buildings. A leaflet is also available from the General Store to guide you around town, and this article looks at some of the properties described in the leaflet. You can download the Heritage Trail Brochure here.
If you start from the Mount Torrens Hotel (built in 1850) and walk along Townsend St, you will soon see an well preserved two storey former cobbler's cottage at number 6 with its rambling English style garden. It was built in 1865 and during its long life has been used as a store, barber's premises, and a bank agency.
Next on the western side of the road is Sumner's Bakery house and shop. Originally built in the 1860's, it was later re-built in 1923. Three generations of Sumner's operated the bakery until it moved to bigger premises outside town in 1977. Sadly the business has not survived to the present day.
The next rather distinctive building pictured is the General Store and Post Office, also constructed using locally quarried stone around 1860. It has remained true to purpose over the last 150 years and continues to serve the local community to this day.
Another large two storey building from 1860, the former warehouse at 16 Townsend St was used for many years by the shop across the road and at other times by Sumner's bakery as a store. It has now found a new life as an attractive private residence.
Townsend House is another pretty two storey residence, built alongside an old bullock trail in 1854, and later purchased and renamed by the Townsend family. AMSCOL, once an iconic manufacturer of dairy products in SA purchased the property in the 1920's for use by their local manager as accommodation.
Opposite the church on the corner of Prescott St was the epicentre of town on a week day - Coopers Farm Supplies. By contrast the hotel and other areas of town were deserted, but industrious farmers were busily buying their agricultural needs. Clearly the work ethic burns bright here.
The rustic charm, attractive heritage buildings and slower pace of Mount Torrens is a delightful contrast from city life, and the drive through the Hills is pleasant with good roads. It makes a fascinating place to visit, and it's a pity it's not promoted more as part of South Australlian tourism for overseas and interstate holiday makers.