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What's in a Name ?

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by Steve Hudson (subscribe)
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Published October 19th 2015
The history behind the name of Adelaide's suburbs
Suburb names have been around for a long time and often mean a lot more about a suburb than what we realise. Most suburb names in Adelaide provide a snapshot of the area's history, or royalty, or the pioneers who settled there, or first impressions of the area. But have you ever wondered about the background behind some of the stranger suburb names?

What is in a name, History of Adelaide Suburbs, Colonel Light, Tea Tree Gully, St Agnes, Piggery Park, Colonel Light Gardens, Eagle on the Hill, St Peters College, Mile End
Light's vision - Steve Hudson


For example, did you know that Rosewater was named to offset the smell of stagnant water from a nearby swamp. Or that the suburbs of College Park and St Peters were named after the already existing St Peters College which is located in Hackney. Or that "Piggery Park" with its pig farms and abattoirs was the original name of Royal Park.

What is in a name, History of Adelaide Suburbs, Colonel Light, Tea Tree Gully, St Agnes, Piggery Park, Colonel Light Gardens, Eagle on the Hill, St Peters College, Mile End
St Peters .... or College Park - Steve Hudson


Some of the first suburb names in Adelaide came from early settlers such as those onboard the Coromandel that arrived in 1837. A number of Methodists on board held the first Methodist service in Adelaide in 1837, and then subsequently settled in Happy Valley. Meanwhile ten of the ship's crew deserted and found refuge in another valley, which was to become known as Coromandel Valley.

What is in a name, History of Adelaide Suburbs, Colonel Light, Tea Tree Gully, St Agnes, Piggery Park, Colonel Light Gardens, Eagle on the Hill, St Peters College, Mile End
Sturt River in Coromandel Valley - Steve Hudson


Meanwhile down South there are a series of names related to the environs with Black Forest and Forestville named after a local dark forest that was frequented by bush rangers and cattle thieves. Nearby Blackwood was apparently derived from the dark barked blackwood trees, and there are no surprises about which trees Cherry Gardens was named after.

The theme of naming suburbs after first impressions also led to Woodville being named after the woods in the area, Hillbank and Hillcrest adopting names associated with their elevation, and Waterfall Gully adopting one of the state's best descriptive names. Tea Tree Gully was a haven for tea trees in its early years, while Wattle Park had a grove of wattle trees flowering profusely every spring.

What is in a name, History of Adelaide Suburbs, Colonel Light, Tea Tree Gully, St Agnes, Piggery Park, Colonel Light Gardens, Eagle on the Hill, St Peters College, Mile End
Trees alongside the Gully Hotel - Steve Hudson


Directions also feature prominently in the names of Adelaide suburbs with West Beach, so named because it was a beach to the West of the City. To the east is Eastwood, a suburb near a large grove of trees, while to the north we have Northfield which overlooked the plains of the area. Mile End was named because it was located one mile from the City, while Parkside was alongside the parklands.

What is in a name, History of Adelaide Suburbs, Colonel Light, Tea Tree Gully, St Agnes, Piggery Park, Colonel Light Gardens, Eagle on the Hill, St Peters College, Mile End
Only a mile from the City - Steve Hudson


Clearview originally offered great views of the Adelaide plains while Broadview had some panoramic views gradually diminished by subsequent housing developments. After this we had Valley View, Seaview, Vista, Panorama and Gulfview Heights, all of which are descriptive names associated with the great views from these suburbs while Angle Vale was named after the angled road cutting through it.

What is in a name, History of Adelaide Suburbs, Colonel Light, Tea Tree Gully, St Agnes, Piggery Park, Colonel Light Gardens, Eagle on the Hill, St Peters College, Mile End
Sunset from Gulfview Heights - Steve Hudson


Aboriginal names also feature strongly with Munno Para being taken from an aboriginal word meaning "golden wattle creek" and Cowandilla coming from an aboriginal word meaning "the locality of the waters". However some conjecture exists regarding the naming of Aldinga with locals uncertain as to whether it refers to "much water", "good place for meat", "open, wide plain" or "tree district", all of which appear relevant when one travels south.

The influence of pioneers from Great Britain is also considerable with Beulah Park and Cumberland Park both being of Welsh origin, while Blair Athol and Clarence Gardens have Celtic origins. English suburbs reign supreme with Devon Park and Dover Gardens being just a few while Ireland also features strongly with Erindale originating from Erin and Kilkenny from Kilkenny. Other overseas influences include Moana, named after the Maori word for "blue water" and Marino which comes from the Italian spelling of "marine".

What is in a name, History of Adelaide Suburbs, Colonel Light, Tea Tree Gully, St Agnes, Piggery Park, Colonel Light Gardens, Eagle on the Hill, St Peters College, Mile End
The Famous Eagle - Steve Hudson


Some of the stranger names exist in the Adelaide Hills with a gully once known as Paddy Carey's Gully, despite Paddy Carey never actually owning any land there. And Eagle On The Hill was named after a stone eagle that was kept at the hotel on the hill, one of the few survivors of the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires. By contrast St Morris was named after Henry Woodock's wife who had been twice married - her maiden name was Morris and her first married name was Saint.

And aside from naming Adelaide, Colonel Light features prominently in other suburbs, albeit for odd reasons. Colonel Light Gardens was named by Charles C Reade in 1915 who was so unimpressed with Adelaide's haphazard development, he wanted to create a model suburb with tree lined streets, recreation areas and public buildings. And in more recent times the location where Colonel Light erected a flagstaff during one of his early surveys has become known as Flagstaff Hill.

What is in a name, History of Adelaide Suburbs, Colonel Light, Tea Tree Gully, St Agnes, Piggery Park, Colonel Light Gardens, Eagle on the Hill, St Peters College, Mile End
Wide streets in Colonel Light Gardens - Steve Hudson


Hectorville was named after the first full time officer for the Savings Bank of SA, John Hector, while in the 1850s the road to Woodforde was known as "Road to New Town", which became "Newton Rd", which eventually became the area's name. A bit further up the road is St Agnes, which is named after the patron saint of purity, or perhaps the local distillery? And talking beverages, Auldana stands on the site of the famous "Auldana" vineyard established by Patrick Auld.

What is in a name, History of Adelaide Suburbs, Colonel Light, Tea Tree Gully, St Agnes, Piggery Park, Colonel Light Gardens, Eagle on the Hill, St Peters College, Mile End
Former distillery at St Agnes - Steve Hudson


Over the years, Adelaide has also lost some good suburb names as well, as boundaries were changed and suburbs were merged and renamed. Kilburn residents used to live in Little Chicago, Morphett Vale was once known as Emu Downs, Glenside was known as Knoxville, and Scott's Bottom was eventually changed to Dorset Vale in order to attract more residents in to the area. And Slapes Gully doesn't quite have the same ring to it as Burnside.

What is in a name, History of Adelaide Suburbs, Colonel Light, Tea Tree Gully, St Agnes, Piggery Park, Colonel Light Gardens, Eagle on the Hill, St Peters College, Mile End
Slapes Gully Village? - Steve Hudson


So perhaps the next time you are looking to move suburbs, a little bit of research may help provide some context and meaning, and perhaps create that perfect conversation starter to your house-warming party.
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Why? Always wondered why .....
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Where: Adelaide, South Australia
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Your Comment
Kilburn may no longer be Chicago, but a surprising number of its streets have US names still. This once run-down area is showing lively shining-up now.
by daviddon (score: 2|210) 497 days ago
very interesting!
by leann (score: 1|43) 1066 days ago
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