Adelaide Pre 1841
(Taken from Geoffrey H. Manning’s A Colonial Experience).
Brought from the discomforts of shipboard, we were lodged in a square of not exceeding ten feet, exposed to wind, water, heat and cold. During our sojourn in these quarters it often occurred that in same small square were crammed two families, evincing the great regard paid by the authorities to decency and general comfort, ‘sadly destroying morality and engendering in the habitus from many steaming carcases, diseases, miseries and death.’.
The square, situated in the Park Lands in the vicinity of the modern-day railway yards and north of the Newmarket Hotel, consisted of a good number of weatherboard houses which had been brought from England in framework. They were fixed on brick, about a foot from the ground, and had strong board floors and gabled ends, with the door and window facing west and east..
Interspersed with these structures were ramshackle huts each comprised of two rooms, each compartment being 16 feet square, with sapling sides, the roofs being thatched and filled with reeds gathered from the banks of the River Torrens. The hospital, the dispensary and the resident doctor’s quarters were in the centre of the square..
There were twenty or more of these houses forming the square, but only one or two had a fireplace, the fuel consisting of green bushes brought by the Aborigines. To kindle a fire required a certain expertise because safety and/or lucifer matches were not in common use. Accordingly, the following method was utilised – In one hand a piece of flint was held, and in the other a piece of steel and these had to be struck against each other until the sparks went down on to the tinder..
Shortly after our arrival the miserable sheds forming the Emigration Depot were declared to be incapable of affording that comfortable and healthy shelter that persons coming off so long a voyage require. I recall, vividly, a mother lying on a bed and groaning with dysentery, while in the same room two hulking fellows narrated past adventures with flippant indecency of tongue. Diseases gained strength in the foul air and the great number of beings congregated in such confined spaces should have called for remedial action by the authorities. But, alas, during our period of occupation, no positive action was undertaken..
Further, the medical attention supplied to the emigrants was exceedingly defective and it was believed, generally, by the inmates that the necessity for cool, pure water could have been alleviated at a moderate cost by sinking wells..
I might add that the first general store in South Australia was established here in 1837 when John B. Hack and his brother, Stephen, brought to the colony a quantity of groceries and drapery. A Mrs Chittleborough purchased some of the stock and opened a shop in ‘Buffalo Row’ but, unfortunately, the family’s reed hut and store caught fire in the middle of the night and was razed to the ground..
One event I recall was a banquet prepared by John Adams for about a dozen colonists at a cost of a half-a-crown per head. A special fire was made in the open air as there were no fireplaces. Two forked sticks were put in the ground on each side of the fire and a cross piece on the top. A bullock’s heart was suspended before the fire and kept revolving, a dish underneath being utilised to catch every drop which, I assumed, was to be combined with some flour to make a ‘piquant’ gravy. It was no sooner pronounced as being ready for the table when it was attacked with gusto and ‘there was none wasted’..
Information on the square is in the SA Record,
November 1837, page 8c,
17 January 1880, page 114b,
12 April 1924, page 58d,
31 December 1894, page 6e..
“Cruel Robbery” at an Immigrants’ Depot is in the Register,
8 January 1855, page 2g..
The reminiscences of Nathaniel Hailes are in the Register,
9 July 1857, page 3f,
20 July 1907, page 44c and
James Chittleborough (ex Buffalo) in the Advertiser,
29 November 1912, page 12b;also see
26 April 1900, page 6g..
Emigration Square is described in the Observer,
29 December 1906, page 37c,
20 July 1907, page 44c,
27 July 1911, page 9c under “Landing in Pioneer Days”:.
The square consisted of a good number of weatherboard houses which had been brought from England in framework. They were fixed on brick, about a foot from the ground, and had strong board floors and gabled ends, with the door and window facing west and east… The hospital, the dispensary and the resident doctor’s quarters were in the centre of the square..
Brought from the discomforts of shipboard, he is lodged in a square of not exceeding ten feet, exposed to wind, water, heat and cold…; often into the same small square are crammed two families, evincing the great regard paid by the authorities to decency and general comfort, sadly destroying morality and engendering in the habitus from many steaming carcasses, diseases, miseries and death.
13 April 1839, page 3c; also see
18 February 1843, page 2d,
16 May 1846, page 2c,
26 June 1839, page 2e,
8 January 1932, page 14i.).
…those miserable sheds forming the Emigration Depot – a place notwithstanding the outlay of a large sum of money in repairing it… has been pronounced… to be “incapable of affording that comfortable and healthy shelter which persons coming off so long a voyage require.”
(Adelaide Chronicle, 22 July 1840, page 3d.).