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Published August 23rd 2015
Combining modern art with historic buildings
The combination of majestic old buildings with the colour of modern art murals provides Nairne with a unique tourism venture that attracts the young and the old. Historic buildings have been around in Nairne since it was first founded in 1839 with many of them holding stories of a great past while large murals have appeared in recent years to provide an alternative description of that great past.
However it was in 2013 when a series of fifteen large art murals were strategically painted and positioned throughout the town that gave rise to some of the inner meanings of the early life of the Nairne township. The Nairne mural and historic walk, commencing from Byethorne Park, now provides all visitors with a chance to relive the glory days of Nairne.
Nairne was first surveyed in 1839 by Matthew Smillie who named the village in honour of his wife, Elizabeth Nairne. The market square, near the first surveyor's peg, was set aside for public and social gatherings with a plaque to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the town. Another plague in the square recognises the 102 years that Chapman's Smallgoods dominated the town as the major factory and employer of the region before its closure in 2001.
Nearby there are a series of large murals with one of them portraying the early story of Matthew and Elizabeth Smillie in Nairne including her weekly journey to the church sitting on a big sofa strapped to their cart.
The opening of the toll road and gate at Glen Osmond in the 1840's saw the growth of Nairne as a destination but also a major stopping point approximately halfway between Adelaide and Murray Bridge, and the first part of the long haul to Melbourne. This growth then created a need for hotels and the Millers Arm Hotel and the District Hotel both opened in the early 1850's.
The hotels survived on passing trade plus also the growing number of workers employed at the two flour mills in the town. The Albert mill, still standing, remains a tall and attractive building. The nearby mural shows the multi-uses that the building had during its life including as a hardware store, grain storage outlet, bed and breakfast, and a community centre during World War Two.
It was about the same time that Henry Timmins moved to the town and opened up a Tannery in Thomas Street, where he also later built a shop and a home. Work in the tannery was often challenging, and the mural across the road from the Timmins House reflects those days.
The early 1880's saw further growth in the town with the opening of a police station, post office and the Soldiers Memorial Hall. The murals on the walls of these former buildings reflect how difficult life might have been for criminals as well as a scene from 1909 at the Post Office associated with the arrival of the telephone and telegrams in to the world.
It was 1883 when rail arrived at the town and with it came a delightful railway station building. The introduction of rail reduced the travel time to Adelaide from 15 hours to two hours, as is depicted in the large mural in Byethorne Park at the entrance to the town.
The introduction of rail was only beaten in significance by the arrival of pigs and cattle, the majority to head to the eastern end of town where the budding Chapman's Smallgoods enterprise was about to commence. The "pig run" was a regular event at Nairne where children would help corral and move the pigs and cattle from the Station to Chapman's Smallgoods Factory for processing.
Chapmans would become an icon in Nairne and indeed across the whole of South Australia, and would last just over hundred years before eventually changing hands and falling foul of emerging economic conditions. Today the factory is an Industrial Park, while the plaque in the Market Square was a gift to the town from George Weston Foods when the factory closed in 2002.
The other small community / meeting spot in town is around the Old Gum Stump. Formerly a majestic gum tree holding pride of place in the main street and providing shade and shelter for locals and passers-by, the gum tree was thought to have been diseased and was chopped down while at the prime of its life. Later it was discovered that the tree was in fact still healthy and a mural and a plaque reflect the significance of this tree to the local community.
Nairne is located 38km along the South Eastern Freeway and today is a picturesque town featuring some pleasant cafes, bakeries and antiques shops. The Nairne mural and historic walk is just over 2km and allows visitors to see the whole town as it was in its hey day, and as it is today. For further information, please refer to the Nairne website or to their Facebook page.
I love liitle towns that display their history on plaques or information boards. We recently took and 80 road trip around the eastern states and wlking around the small towns was a personal favourite activity, made better if the history is on display. These beautiful murals take it one step further. I will add it to our next planned trip.