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Published July 7th 2015
The birthplace of the quick wit and the witty quick
Most visitors to the Clare Valley have fond memories of the township of Auburn as being the gateway to the Clare Valley. Vines, wines and signs all start to appear which gives a great indication as to what lies ahead. Bed and Breakfasts, coffee shops and antiques shops all add to the experience which is known as today's Auburn. But what about the past ?
Auburn is a town rich in history and heritage buildings. First used for grazing in 1839, the town began to form around 1849 as the copper trail from Burra passed through the town to the Port. Vines were first planted in the 1850's, and many buildings and industry were formed during the 1860's and 1870's laying the heritage to what we know as the quaint little township of Auburn.
To commemorate the past the National Trust and the Auburn Community Development Committee have created a short historical walk around the town entitled"Walk with history in Auburn" highlighting some 26 pieces of interest. Brochures are available from most mid-north Tourism Offices, and I picked up one recently and went for a walk around this historic town.
I started the walk at the site of the former Auburn Hotel, which was the birthplace of Clarence James (CJ) Dennis, Auburn's most famous son. Dennis was born in 1876 and found fame as the author of the "The Songs of the Sentimental Bloke" and "The Moods of Ginger Mick" before becoming a much loved writer for the Melbourne Herald. The 'Laureate of the Larrikins' as he was known passed away in 1938, and a drinking fountain, birdbath and model of the former Auburn Hotel stand in memory of Dennis.
Across the road the walk passes the Cogwebs Café, a must for those wanting to hire a cycle to tackle the Riesling or Rattler Trails. Next door is the Auburn Institute and Town Hall (1866) which is a significant example of Joseph Meller's stonework which features prominently throughout the town including the former Primitive Methodist Church (1869).
The introduction of wine and cellar doors over the last 40 years has seen a renaissance with some buildings. The former butter factory, a common sight in country towns, is now Grosset Wines with an attractive cellar door. Meanwhile the former Auburn Railway Station (1918) was restored and reopened in 1998 at Mount Horrocks Wines. In addition the former Riverton to Clare rail line has now been converted in to the Riesling Trail to the north of the cellar door, and the Rattler Trail to the south, making the cellar door an ideal point for the completion of a walk or ride. It also marks a convenient resting point for those traversing the long distance Mawson Trail.
Back in to the main street of town and there are a number of historic buildings which have been converted in to bed and breakfasts, antique shops or micro-breweries, including the former Castine and Goss Store (1862), Boot factory (1886), Saddlery and the former Jewellers. The creek through the centre of town is known as Dennis Creek, allegedly named after James, the father of CJ.
Meller's 'footprint' is all over Auburn, and in particular at the information bay where at the side of the road is a Ladies Mounting Stone (1864). This stone was used by passengers seeking to board or disembark horses and carriages as they made their way through Auburn. The former Corn Store (1860) stands on the corner, before we uncover the birth place of Auburn's most famous sportsman, and 2nd famous son, Ernie Jones.
Llaneast (1855) is the elegant residence where Ernie Jones, a great fast bowler for Australia was born. Ernie toured England three times in the 1890's and was famous for two notable achievements. Firstly Jonah, as he was nicknamed, was reported to have delivered a ball so fast that it went through WG Grace's beard which resulted in a number of colourful remarks from WG. Secondly, and perhaps more infamously, Jonah's erratic and slinging style was to attract the eye of the umpires, and he eventually became known as the first ever bowler to be called in a test match for throwing.
Continuing our walk through the town took us past the Auburn Primary School (1860) complete with the schoolyard bell. St Vincent Street was next with a series of Meller-built buildings restored and maintained by the National Trust including the St John's Anglican Church (1862), Courthouse (1865), Police Station (1859) and the Post Office (1862). The combination of restored Watervale sandstone and Auburn bluestone provide a true heritage feel while the gas light outside the Post Office remains a rarity in South Australia.
Back on to the main road, we pass Glover's (1855) whose store had many uses over the years, the still operating Rising Sun Hotel (1850) and the General Store and Warehouse (1860) which is now known as Mellers of Auburn Café and Luxury Accommodation. With light meals and good coffee all day long, this is a perfect place to end the walk of this historic town.
Auburn is 110km north of Adelaide, and is first main town in the Clare Valley. The Historic Walk is approximately 5km long, but can be shortened by driving to or bypassing a couple of the outlying churches. Further details on the walk are available from the website , local Tourism Offices or from the two pages posted below.
I love Auburn and the thing that brought me there first was the fabulous restaurant Terroir (http://www.terroirauburn.com.au/). The restaurant is rated in SA's TOP 5 restaurants. Not sure if you went there, but I'm sure if would have gotten a mention is this article if you did. Local brothers run it and only source their produce from other locals in the area. They've trained in top restaurants in London and Paris but came back to good ol Clare. Clare is so lucky to have that restaurant.
Like your article Steve.Auburn still retains much of yesteryear,but most travellers do not see it as they head towards Clare.A short stroll down towards the creek from the Rising Sun Hotel as far as the old Railway Station and around a few streets and back,is a pleasant stroll bypassing,most of the oldest part of the town.The hotel has good basic accommodation.Dining on the front veranda,overlooking the main street,with the old buildings opposite, on a sunny evening,is a delightful way to enjoy some of the nice meals they serve.The history contained in your article was enlightening! It makes these articles really worthwhile.For people wanting to stay a couple of nights in the "Clare Valley",they would not find a better place.