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Old Salisbury Town and Heritage Centre

Home > Adelaide > Museums | Historic Houses | Family | Community Centres | Walks
by Kat May (subscribe)
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Published September 30th 2015
Bringing the heritage of old Salisbury alive
The City of Salisbury in Adelaide's north was once natural bush land. The first landholder was John Harvey, who had a vision for developing the area. Harvey managed the Old Spot Hotel on the Burra Road, now known as Main North Road. There was no railway line as yet, so this was a busy thoroughfare with copper ore being transported by bullock teams from the mines at Kapunda and Burra. Many transport workers would have stopped here for a nights sleep, or a meal and an ale to sustain them for the rest of the journey to Port Adelaide. Harvey was a man of vision and he must have worked hard, as he soon purchased a considerable amount of land along the Little Para River. Then in 1847 he applied to the government to subdivide the land. He designed and mapped out the town of Salisbury, naming it after his wife's home town in Wiltshire in England. The enterprising Scotsman then sold allotments and soon after town streets took shape and the first buildings were erected. Churches, dwellings and stores were the earliest to be built. The oldest building to remain is the small chapel behind the currently used larger Anglican church.

Early Anglican church Salisbury Adelaide
The oldest building still standing today in Salisbury is this small Anglican chapel from the late 1840s. Image copyright to this writer.

Many of the buildings that followed were businesses Harvey was involved in. Harvey also had farm land along the river. Local Salisbury streets bear his name, as well as many other important first settlers. Ann Street in the centre of town near the shopping mall bears the name of Harvey's wife. They are buried in the cemetery and you can visit their graves. They are easy to locate as his headstone is one of the tallest as he was one mighty important man in his time. He was referred to as "The King of Salisbury" and was well respected.

Salisbury Heritage Centre

The original police station is now the Heritage Centre and home to the Salisbury District Historic Society and the Adelaide Northern Districts Family History Group Inc. At the rear of the building is the original stable for the police horses and rigging, as well as the cells and outdoor toilet. This building has had many changes over the years, and is still part of the adjacent TAFE complex. The use of this fine old building has now been handed over to the community and holds many local records. This is the place to go if you would like to search local history and or to discover some information of your ancestors.

Salisbury Heritage Centre
Old artifacts on display inside the museum.

Although small, this museum part contains of wealth of information about the area. Volunteers are happy to assist you with any genealogy questions you may have. They have many records from churches, such as baptism, marriage, death and burial records. School and business records also give clues to past enterprises and employment of residents in the district. The research room is open for the public to use on Thursdays from 10 am to 4pm and some Saturday afternoons. Charges may apply for extended assistance.

Parabanks Shopping Centre, plaque for John Harvey
On the elevator in the Parabanks shopping mall you can find this plaque to the memory of John Harvey and the site of his home.Image by the writer.

The Salisbury District Historic Society based at the Heritage Centre, arrange walking tours of the old town area heritage sites for group bookings and on special occasions. Along the way you will see many buildings and churches still standing and hear the story of how they came to be. There were some interesting facts I learned on a walking tour such as what once stood on the ground of the current Parabanks Shopping Centre. This was where the home of John and Ann Harvey once stood. It would have been a grand old house and apparently had a verandah that wrapped around the sides of the stone home. All that remains is some of the original gum trees that lined the main carriageway to the house. These gums now almost 160 years old, can be seen in the carpark on the eastern side of the shopping centre.

Parabanks Shopping Centre, Salisbury, Historic Gum Trees
The historic majestic gums along what was part of the Harvey's carriage way to their homestead. Most were cut down to build a carpark. Image by the writer.

There is so much to see and discover on a walk around old Salisbury town. Old churches, cemeteries, pubs and halls all have a story to tell. We were taken to see all of these buildings and also an old hall and the historic water wheel museum You can do your own walking tour of Salisbury with a map from the museum, but to join a guided walk with one of the knowledgeable volunteers will bring the history alive. Our guide shared many anecdotes of his life in Salisbury and even showed us the hall where years ago met his future wife at the local Saturday night dance.

Grave of John Harvey, Salisbury, Adelaide.
Grave of John Harvey, Salisbury, Adelaide.

Anglican Church Salisbury Adelaide
St John The Evangelist Church, Salisbury, Adelaide. To the side of this church is a small cemetery where the Harvey's grave is. This church had a huge fire in recent times. Repairs were made with the wooden beams being replaced by steel ones. This church is still used by the community today. Image by the writer.

Salisbury is now a busy place with buses and cars whizzing around and people doing their shopping. When you walk around you can stop and look at what lies unnoticed in the harried life of suburbia, and imagine how the place looked all those years ago with horses and carts on dirt roads, and ladies in their long heavy skirts. I really was intrigued as to what I learned about Salisbury, and saw some things for the first time even though I have been to the area many times. It's amazing what one can notice when you walk and talk rather than driving past. The volunteers were helpful and made the slow paced walk, which took around two hours an enjoyable experience. In addition there is much more information on the heritage of Salisbury at the local council library.

Native plant by the footpath on a walk around old Salisbury Town. Image by the writer.
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Why? The past is interesting with remnants all around us.
When: Open Thursdays and on 2nd and 4th Saturdays of the Month.
Phone: 0457436123
Where: 10 Ann Street Salisbury
Cost: Heritage Centre is free to pop in, small fee for guided walk.
Your Comment
It can be hard to find interest and colour in a busy shopping district, but you have done a great job of finding some interesting angles. Thanks.
by Dave Walsh (score: 4|11307) 1818 days ago
I've oftened visited relatives in Burton over the last 20 years but I had not idea there was anything interesting to see nearby.
by Gayle Beveridge (score: 3|7956) 1813 days ago
I lived in Brahma Lodge (next to Salisbury) for over 10 years and didn't know a lot of these anecdotes, particularly the trees at Parabanks. Thanks for this article!
by Beth (score: 0|4) 1813 days ago
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