Sea Change, A pictorial history of Holdfast Bay

Sea Change

A pictorial history of the city
of Holdfast Bay

Jim Blake
and the Holdfast Bay History Centre

South Australia’s First Fleet did not contain convicts but a few hundred enterprising, hopeful free immigrants, many of whom had already bought land in the new colony before leaving England. The fleet consisted of such ships as the Rapid, Cygnet, Duke of York, Africaine, John Pirie, Emma, Lady Mary Pelham, Tam O’Shanter and the Buffalo, which arrived with Governor Hindmarsh on 28 December 1836.

Sea Change portrays the history, mainly through photographs and paintings, of the site where they landed and what in 1997 became the City of Holdfast Bay. Upon arrival at Holdfast Bay near the Patawalonga and the Old Gum Tree, they erected their tents, transportable huts or just some canvas or brush shelter to provide protection from the elements.

They had high hopes and even higher expectations and before long they made attempts to realise them by altering their physical environment. Tents and huts soon gave way to proper houses and before long the first shops, churches and hotels appeared and its swamps and the Patawalonga were tamed. With increased colonial prosperity pastoralists and wealthy Adelaide people built their holiday homes or mansions along the coast or on the dunes.

Other substantial structures erected, to cater for the permanent population, were meeting places, auction rooms and schools. This in turn was followed by buildings to cater for sporting clubs as well as the seasonal influx of tourists. Glenelg, as it was known, rapidly developed from a small village to a holiday resort with substantial mansions and public buildings.

With the later development of railways and trams the area became an easy destination to reach from Adelaide. As early as 1855 Glenelg became a corporation, followed three years later by Brighton. Brighton on the other hand developed at a much slower pace but Institutions soon built their establishments along the coastal area too as it was considered a healthy environment. It retained its village atmosphere until after the Second World War. Glenelg and Brighton amalgamated in 1977 to form the City of Holdfast Bay.

Since the first arrival of migrants 175 years ago, new settlers continue to be welcomed, as are tourists, making it a vibrant cosmopolitan society. Holdfast Bay has continued to be a desirable place to live and to visit. Sea Changes is appropriately dedicated to the early inhabitants and new settlers who had no idea how the events of 1836 would alter both the landscape where they landed and the way of life that would evolve over the following 175 years.

A very pleasant and informative day can now be spent visiting some, or all of the sites covered in this photographic publication and with the help of it compare the old with the new. No tour guide is needed as all is documented, including the locations, by Jim Blake and the volunteers of the Holdfast Bay History Centre.

Most of the old black and white images used in the book are part of the City of Holdfast Bay’s historic collection of paintings, photographs, objects and memorabilia. The ‘now’ images of sites and buildings were taken by Jim Blake. Through the juxtaposition of rare archival and contemporary images Sea Change has successfully brought to life the development and changes of such suburbs as Glenelg, Brighton, Seacliff and others that make up the City of Holdfast Bay.

Sea Change also shows the many houses, mansions and other structures which have been demolished to make way for new buildings such as shops and multi-storey apartment blocks or recreation areas. St Margaret’s on Colley Terrace, built in 1864 for Edward William Andrews, part owner and editor of the Register and later Mayor of Glenelg is one of them. Among others that suffered the same fate were Wigley’s House on Adelphi Terrace and Tremere, built in 1857 with 13 rooms and once owned by the Rounsevells was demolished in 1974.

Seacombe House at Seacliff Park, the largest mansion at Brighton, was designed by G.S. Kingston. It fell victim to the 1954 earthquake and was also demolished. However Kingston House built in 1839 by Kingston at Kingston Park has been preserved. Brighton House on King George Avenue at North Brighton was built around 1842. Originally named Providence House its name was later changed to Avenue House and then to Sunbeam House. This is now listed on both the South Australian Heritage Register and the National Heritage list.

Many of the original Inns and Hotels also had to make way for newer constructions. Among them St Leonard’s built in 1848, Brighton Inn built in 1849 and the Pier Hotel built in 1856. Some of the early churches at Glenelg and Brighton have survived the ravages of time although often altered or rebuilt. They include St Peter’s on Torrens Square built in 1851 and Our Lady of Victories, South Australia’s first Roman Catholic Church built in 1869.

Recreation and sport, which have changed dramatically during these 175 years is also documented with many photographs. Among these are buildings and facilities for sporting and sailing clubs, the baths, beaches and foreshores, Luna Park, Magic Mountain, esplanades and the jetties.

Both the Glenelg jetty and the one at Brighton have seen some remarkable changes during these years. The original jetty at Glenelg was 381 metres long. Its wooden lighthouse was destroyed by fire in 1873. In 1906 a three-storey pavilion and railway tracks were added to service coastal shipping. Last but not least an aquarium was built in 1929. All was destroyed during the 1948 storm. The present day jetty, much shorter, was opened on 3 May 1969.

The first Brighton jetty was completed in 1886. It too suffered damage from the elements, particularly during the storm of May 1994. Not to be outdone by Glenelg, a new concrete jetty, nearly two metres higher, was opened in June 1996. All of this is documented with superb black and white and colour photographs. Through its use of old paintings and photographs, this well presented and attractive book shows the places as they were and as they are now, clearly portraying the history and development of the city during the last 175 years. The contrasts of the 19th century photographs and today’s landscape are just stunning.

Review by Nic Klaassen

Sea Change by Jim Blake
and the Holdfast Bay History Centre
includes a bibliography and Index and is available at $45.00 from
Wakefield Press

Telephone 08 8352 4455


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