This classically styled Victorian building, featuring Corinthian style ornamentation and built of local Tea Tree Gully freestone and Dry Creek bluestone, was designed by Edmund Wright, a former city mayor. The building opened in 1866 and was touted as the largest municipal building in the southern hemisphere at the time. In 1872, writer Anthony Trollope, who was touring Australia at the time, rated the building, and town halls he had seen in Australia generally, as greatly beating those in Britain at the time.
Do look out for the carved keystones on the front of the building. I have subsequently read that there are three of these, featuring the heads of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and Governor Daly. I have to say, though, that I am at a loss to work out which of the three is depicted in my picture attached. Given the beard, I can probably safely surmise that it is not of Queen Victoria but based on the limited research I have carried out, neither Prince Albert nor Governer Daly sported a beard – both had moustaches and receding hairlines. I got to wondering if, in fact, there are more than three carved keystones and if the one I have captured is perhaps another gentleman. Very fuzzy pictures which I have suggest that there may be seven in total. I shall investigate further on a future visit to Adelaide.
What I can tell you with certainty is that the clock tower on the building is called the Albert Tower (named after Queen Victoria’s consort) and stands 146 feet high (44 metres). The tower contains eight bells which have rang out to mark significant occasions (as well as many less significant ones!) throughout the history of the city. A local newspaper in 1929 remarked that the “Albert bells have rejoiced at many famous events, and mourned the death of South Australia’s greatest sons and daughters. Victories of the Boer and European war were made known to the public through their sweet-toned chimes’. While the tower had its bells from the beginning, the clock, donated by Councillor Sir John Lavington Bonython, a former mayor, was not added until 1935. Picture 3 attached (courtesy of History SA. South Australian Government Photographic Collection ) is a 1910s depiction of the building without its clock.
Continuing in a musical vein, the Town Hall hosts a very impressive organ which I have yet to see. In fact, to date I have not had the opportunity to take a tour of the interior of the building, apart for a quick look around the foyer. When I take a tour I will update this review.
Located in the foyer of the building, which you can have a look at without signing up for a tour, is a rather grand marble staircase, which I neglected to photograph, and a statue of Queen Adelaide, after whom the city is named and which I did manage to photograph.
Over time the building has had a number of renovations and additions. One of these additions was the former Wesleyan Methodist Church Meeting Hall, to the rear of the main building which the Council hires out for, yes – you have guessed it, meetings. You can see pictures of this rather delightful building and read a little more about in my separate review – Pirie Street Methodist Church and Meeting Hall.
The Town Hall, in addition to being home to the Adelaide City Council and its officials, is an important venue for concerts, civic receptions and public meetings. Two historic public events which took place here stand out above all others, for me.
In 1904 the Town Hall played host to the infamous Rev John Alexander Dowie and sixty years later, in 1964, an estimated 30,000 people gathered in the street in front of the Town Hall (300,000 gathered throughout the city) to pay homage to The Beatles (for those who don’t know – a rather famous pop band from Liverpool, England!) who made a brief appearance on the balcony. As readers will most likely be less familiar with the Rev John Alexander Dowie than The Beatles I have prepared a separate review on the visit of the Reverend Dowie – The Prophet Elijah visits the Adelaide Town Hall.
Visiting the Town Hall
The ‘Bürgermeister’ of Adelaide would seem to be hell bent on denying access to the inner sanctum of his fiefdom. Entry to the building is by means of guided tours which are only held on non-holiday Mondays at 10am. Should you be able to make it at this time, you need secure your place online at http://www.adelaidetownhall.com.au/. Tours last approximately one hour and are free of charge. Details of concerts and other public events can also be found on the Town Hall website.
Address: 128 King William Street