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Adelaide History

The South Australian Colonization Act received the royal assent of King William IV on 15th August 1834, the first colonists arriving on 20th July 1836 and landing on Kangaroo Island, the first place in South Australia to be settled.

The new Governor of South Australia, John Hindmarsh, arrived on 28th December 1836, together with the first Surveyor-General of South Australia, Colonel William Light.

Adelaide is, of all the Australian capital cities except Canberra (which dates from almost a century later), that which shows the greatest influence of thoughtful planning. In its centre it is the work of one man, Colonel William Light. He had first to choose a site for his capital. Despite opposition, he chose Adelaide and commenced his survey, at the junction of the present North and West Terraces, on 11th January 1837.

adelaide light square

An obelisk marks the place. The survey was completed on 10th March and the naming of the streets occurred on 23rd May 1837.

The city was named Adelaide after the Queen of the time, the consort of King William IV. Light’s plan consisted of a city of one square mile, completely surrounded by park land, and with five additional small parks in its centre. That plan survives today and sets Adelaide apart from the other capital cities which, although not lacking in green spaces, seem to have had them positioned as an afterthought. In fact, Adelaide is regarded as one of the best planned cities in the world.

There are two places in particular where Light is remembered. One is at Montefiore Hill in North Adelaide. His statue was moved to this apt location so that he could have a commanding view over the city which he had created, the place and statue now being dubbed Light’s Vision.

The second place is his grave in Light Square, right in the heart of his city. He resigned from his position in 1838, feeling that the task assigned had been performed, but also tired of the criticism and disputes, and he died of tuberculosis, almost penniless, only a year later, on 6th October 1839, at the age of 53. On 10th October, he was buried in Light Square, and a towering monument has been erected over his grave, a tribute to all that this city owes him.


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