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Architecture in South Australia: Pubs and churches

This State Library of South Australia guide explores the architecture of SA, characterised by six chronological styles, starting with Old Colonial to 1840, Victorian to 1890, Federation to 1915, Interwar, Postwar and the Late Twentieth Century from 1960

State Library resources

Choose from the Library's selections below for images and brief histories.

Pubs and churches

"There has probably never been a time when Adelaide had more churches than hotels, but 'city of pubs' was not an image that the colonial fathers encouraged'.
Wakefield Companion to South Australian history,
p. 46.

One wouldn't be mistaken for thinking whilst walking through Adelaide that at one point in our history there was a pub for every day of the year and a church for every Sunday!

In that devout age the churches were a vital force in society and various denominations soon erected places of worship.  These developed from thatch structures and prefabricated buildings such as the Quaker's Society of Friends meeting house in North Adelaide, which is still standing, to the many grand stone and brick structures with high steeples and roof lines which once dominated the Adelaide skyline, giving the city the name 'City of Churches'.

Just as quickly the province soon proliferated with pubs, much to the horror of reformists. In the early stages of colonisation, the pub offered more than just food and drink, it also offered accommodation to new arrivals and facilities for communal events such as meeting rooms, reading rooms and lending libraries and postal service as well as facilities for entertainments such as dances, cock fighting and boxing.  The pub also was a welcoming place to the lonely newly arrived male, who was able to meet and mingle with others in similar circumstances and alleviate some of the loneliness.

Initially many pubs consisted of a single storey of brick or clay which quite often reverted to housing if the bar trade dwindled.  As Adelaide's importance and prosperity grew the need to rebuild many pubs occurred with the addition of an extra storey and the inclusion of deep verandahs and balconies.

The Wakefield Companion to South Australian history, p. 46 states: 'There has probably never been a time when Adelaide  had more churches than hotels, but 'city of pubs' was not an image that the colonial fathers encouraged'.

Further reading:

Prest, Wilfrid (Ed), The Wakefield companion to South Australian history. Kent Town, S. Aust. : Wakefield Press, 2001.

Marsden, Susan (Ed), Heritage of the city of Adelaide : an illustrated guide.  Adelaide : Corporation of the City of Adelaide, 1990.