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Published March 28th 2016
Weird and wonderful factual tales of Adelaide
Sketch of the First Execution By Hanging in Adelaide 1838 (Image: State Library SA B7797)
The history of Adelaide is full of curious stories about life in the city. Human nature hasn't changed much over the years, it just finds different ways to express itself. Here are seven strange stories about Adelaide's history that will either shock or amuse you.
Lovers Lane - St Johns Lane Off South Terrace 1935 (Image: State Library SA B6727)
Courting couples have always cared for quiet corners. A romantic refuge where they can murmur and mutter until mouths meet to "make out". When I was younger the dark and silent lanes off Greenhill Road were the perfect place to park a panel van. It wasn't that far from the Lovers' Lane of the 1880's.
St John's Lane ran between Gilles Street and South Terrace back then. It was private property with a fence at one end, and a pillar (post) box in the middle of the lane. But after dark lustful lovers flocked to St John's Lane like moths to a candle, much to the annoyance of local residents.
The Salvation Army Whitmore Square, Where Judge Cooper's Drawing Room Once Stood
In the early years of South Australia there was no building to house the Supreme Court, so Judge Charles Cooper held hearings in the drawing room of his new house in Whitmore Square from 1837 until 1841. Notorious bushrangers Curran, Fox and Hughes were just a few that the good judge condemned to death in his drawing room. At least eight other escaped convicts shared the same fate. The house was later demolished for a Salvation Army building.
Robber's Lair Brownhill Creek is a popular place to follow the walking trails or ride a bike through the sylvan setting - but in the nineteenth century it held a dark secret. A robber and gaol escapee named Dyer was hiding in a cave near the crushing plant, but police Inspector Tolmer heard the news and came to arrest him on a moonlit night.
After attempting to smoke Dyer out of the cave, Tolmer discovered that he had already escaped. Dyer was recaptured soon after, naked near the Upper Para.
Is the House on the Left the Tiny Cottage on South Terrace in Adelaide? (Image: State Library SA)
The Tiny House In the 1930's a tiny detached house on South Terrace was thought to be the smallest in Adelaide. With a frontage less than 4.5 metres wide, the cottage had only three rooms and was believed to be at least eighty years old. With property sizes shrinking, I wonder if this little house would still have won the title today?
Buried By the Sea - Michael Featherstone's House at Brighton (Image: State Library SA B-63458-2)
Michael Featherstone was one of the early settlers of Brighton, having arrived in South Australia in 1839. He loved living by the sea, and when he died he asked to be buried in the family vault by the sea. In 1856 an Act of Parliament was passed to allow the vault to be built on his property, between Minda Home and the beach.
After the vault was vandalised several times, Featherstone's remains were removed to the North Brighton cemetery. The family vault was removed, and there is no trace left today of this strange story from the history of Adelaide.
Crazy Curved Cottages on Coglin Street Adelaide (Image: State Library SA B6754)
As we walk about Adelaide we are very thankful for Colonel Light's sensible street plan with our roads in a rectangular grid. There are a few exceptions though, and Coglin Street (between Wright and Gouger streets) is one. A bend in the street did not deter an early developer - he simply designed a curve into the cottages he built too.
The cottages have since been demolished for yet another multi-storey monster.
Wattle Wreath at the Dardanelles Memorial in Adelaide (Image: State Library SA PRG-280-1-23-398)
A Flying Tree
The Dardanelles Memorial on South Terrace was the first ANZAC memorial in Australia. It was originally unveiled near Sir Lewis Cohen Avenue in 1915, surrounded by a grove of wattles.
In 1919 South Australian flying ace Captain Harry Butler dropped a wattle tree from a passing plane for Chief Justice Sir George Murray to plant at the site, commemorating the role of Australian aviators during the First World War. By 1935 only the tree guard and a bronze tablet remained - the tree had disappeared.