Victoria Square

Victoria Square

 Grote St, Adelaide SA 5000, Australia +61 8 8203 7203 Website 12am – 11:59pm Adelaide Campervan Hire

tartcodes (contributor)

Victoria Square is in the centre of Adelaide’s one square mile grid and part of Colonel William Light’s blueprint for the new City of Adelaide in the mid 1830s. If you venture away from North Terrace and Rundle Mall you will come across it as thousands of locals do on a daily basis as city workers and commuters.

While the square has a number of interesting statues, a fountain and some of Adelaide’s grandest buildings – including the General Post Office, Courts of three levels, the (former) Treasury and the Cathedral Church of St Francis Xavier – surrounding it, I have never been able to warm to it, as I do to squares and small parks in other towns and cities. Far from being able to relax here, I get restless and want to move on. It’s too planned for my liking.

As such I recommend it as a place to visit to see other things rather than an attraction in itself or a place to linger.

In an attempt to make it more palatable as an attraction in itself, over the years the square has gone through a number of refurbishments – most recently in 2013 when things (the Three Rivers Fountain and the Statue of Queen Victoria) were moved around a bit, new grass/paving laid, a new road constructed through the centre, etc. Despite these works, it remains a busy traffic intersection (and a stop for the Glenleg tram – this is a positive, actually) and it still lacks sufficient shade – until newly planted tree grow- ambiance and warmth (of the non heat variety). On a positive note, following the 2013 refurbishment, it does have a nice suite of toilets and undesirable drunks that used to congregate here have been moved on making it feel much safer.

The square has be laid out in such a way that it can accommodate, and it does accommodate, large cultural events (such New Years eve celebrations) and public meetings.

It actually has two official names, Victoria Square and Tarndanyangga.

It was named Victoria Square on 23 May 1837 (a year after the proclamation of the Colony of South Australia) after Princess Victoria, then heir presumptive to the British throne. Victoria became Queen less than a month later.

Prior to European settlement the area was known as Tarndanyangga (“The Dreaming Place of the Red Kangaroo”) and the square, then a dusty, treeless paddock, was a central meeting place used by the local Kaurna Aboriginal people. In recognition of this, from 2002 the square was formally granted its second official name, Tarndanyangga, by the City Council.

On 12 July 1971, the red, black and yellow Aboriginal flag was flown for the first time – in Victoria Square – in support of land rights for Aboriginal people. Since 2002 it has flown permanently alongside the Australian flag in the centre of the Square.

My photos attached attempt to depict the square as a whole. I have written separate reviews, on this page, on the statues and the fountain within the square and on some of the buildings around the square.

ascendbumf (contributor)

I should state upfront, lest people who have visited this fountain prior to 2014 think I have lost my sense of direction, that this fountain is at the southern end of Victoria Square and not the northern end, having been moved in a 2013-14 redevelopment of the square.

To commemorate the visit of Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness, The Duke of Edinburgh in 1963 the local council decided to build a fountain. After much debate local artist and prolific sculptor, John Dowie, was engaged to design a fountain worthy of their Royal Highnesses.

In describing his fountain in the Advertiser newspaper on 22 February 1967 Dowie said:

“‘It’s an ancient tradition for fountains to honour the gods of the rivers that feed it. We have no river gods, but the water feeding this fountain will come from the Murray, the Onkaparinga and the Torrens and I decided to make it symbolic of this’. The rivers are represented by human figures and birds: ‘I made the two lesser rivers female figures (a woman and a black swan for the Torrens and a woman with a heron for the Onkaparinga). These are the cultivated areas, so I made the women European. But the old substantial Murray is male and had to be Aboriginal’. The Aboriginal man holds an ibis.”

While I quite like the granite and aluminum fountain and think that it adds substantially to the ambiance of the Square, Prince Philip, when he switched the fountain on during a subsequent visit to Adelaide on 28 May 1968 was not so sure. He commented:

‘although there is not material advantage in having a fountain, it will give future citizens a great deal of pleasure, and no doubt a great deal to argue about’.

and later reputedly referred to it as a ‘monstrosity’ – a the view shared by the council gardener at the time.

evasivekorki (contributor)

The subject of this statue requires no introduction. It is Queen Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 1837 to 1901, Empress of India from 1876 and Queen of her dominions, including the Australian colonies, from various dates to 1901.

This statue of Queen Victoria, which takes pride of place in the centre of Victoria Square, named after her while she was still Princess Victoria, was chosen by South Australian brewer, parliamentarian and philanthropist Sir Edwin Thomas Smith while on a visit to England in 1893. This statue, by English sculptor Charles Bell Birch, is a replica of one in the entrance hall of the Imperial Institute in London at the time. Both were based on the design of one Birch had earlier produced for the Maharajah of ‘Oodeypore’ [Udaipur] in 1889. While the Adelaide one was cast in London it incorporates copper from Wallaroo Mine in South Australia.

The statue was unveiled at 4pm on Saturday, 11 August 1894, a time carefully chosen by Smith to permit attendance by the largest crowd possible yet not clash with the football or racing of which he was also very fond.

The statue is very simply inscribed ‘Victoria R.I.’

Readers familiar with the current British Queen’s ‘signature’, Elizabeth R, may wonder why Victoria had an additional I appended. R.I stands for Regina Imperatrix meaning Queen Empress. The latter signified Victoria’s role as Empress of India, a title which the current Queen, Queen Elizabeth does not have. Victoria’s official title from 1 May 1876 to her death on 22 January 1901 was ‘Her Imperial Majesty, The Queen-Empress Victoria’.

On Victoria’s death the statue was draped in black as a sign of mourning. My final picture attached, courtesy of the State Library of South Australia, depicts the statue in its mourning drapery on the day of the Queen’s funeral.

While I indicated earlier that the statue was in the centre of the square it is actually slightly off centre, to the south, though the average observer would not notice. It was moved from its former exact central position in 2013-14 to make way for the road which now crosses the square, built as part of a major redevelopment of the square at that time. The re-positioning of Queen Victoria caused much amusing Council debate. When two councillors proposed that the statue be relocated to the northern end of the square, facing up King William Street towards the Town Hall (on the face of it a very plausible suggestion), the mayor protested and said it would be “farcical beyond belief” and “completely undignified” if people in the square only ever saw Queen Victoria’s “derriere”.

As it is now, your positioning in the northern or southern part of the square will determine whether or not you sight Her Majesty’s ‘derriere’.

cynicaljubilant (contributor)

This rather pompous looking statue is of Charles Cameron Kingston somewhat detracts from his achievements and lifestyle which were anything other than highbrow or pompous in nature.

I must say that on first seeing this statue I had not heard of Kingston and wasn’t going to bother writing a review. I make a point of not writing reviews on statues unless the subject is well known (to me at least!) or unless there is an interesting story to tell. With Kingston, having now read up on him, it is the latter. Do let me tell you about this interesting man.

Kingston, a barrister by profession, was elected to the South Australian parliament in 1881 where he served as attorney-general three times and as State Premier from 1893 to 1899.

It was under Kingston that, in 1894, South Australian women became the first in the world to win the right to vote and to stand for Parliament. In the same year registered trade unions won the right to enter legally enforceable industrial agreements with employers, on behalf of their members.

Kingston, a keen supporter of the federation of the Australian colonies, assisted in the drafting of the Australian Constitution and helped get it through the British Parliament. Having secured federation in the form of the Commonwealth of Australia, Kingston displayed his colours (this time in the Federal Parliament – in Melbourne before it moved to the Capital, Canberra) as a staunch nationalist. He pursued strong protectionist policies for Australia and set up a crippling tariff system. He was also a ardent supporter of the Immigration Restriction Act of 1901 – the infamous White Australia Policy – something which remained contentious for many decades thereafter.

Kingston, who the Advertiser newpaper in 1916 christened ‘the declared foe of all class privilege’ was not averse to a bit of scandal which left him shunned from polite society but popular with the masses.

In 1873 he almost had his application for admission to the Bar refused when a brother of Lucy May McCarthy, unsuccessfully, objected on the ground that Kingston had seduced Lucy. Kingston married Lucy later in the same year though was subsequently not averse to the favours of other ladies.

In 1892, just before becoming State Premier, he was named as co-respondent in a society divorce and was arrested in Victoria Square for when he turned up with a loaded pistol for a duel with a member of the Legislative Council who had denounced him as a ‘coward, a bully and a disgrace to the legal profession’. Well who wouldn’t?

He was also the subject of assault on two occasions though in both instances his counter attack proved superior to that of his assailant. One of these attacks took place, again in Victoria Square, in 1895 when the Adelaide Manager of the South Australia Co. whom he had allegedly insulted, took to him and drew blood with a riding whip. Kingston wrested to whip from his assailant and returned the favour and later told the press: ‘Who can now say that I have not shed my blood for South Australia? “What a pity”, my capitalistic friends will say, “that there was not more of it”’.

Kingston was, when it suited him which was often, vindictive, rude, intemperate, obstinate and more. A senior official in the Colonial office referred to him, in 1896, as ‘perhaps the most quarrelsome man alive’ while the State Governor, the Earl of Kintore, in a private letter to the head of the Colonial Office cautioned that ‘in dealing with Kingston you are dealing with an able but absolutely unscrupulous man. His character is of the worst; he is black hearted and entirely disloyal’. Charming.

Kingston died in 1908.

It is rather touching, don’t you think, that Victoria Square – the venue of some of his more colourful escapades – was selected as the location for his memorial? Incidentally, where he now, in bronze, stands atop his marble and granite pedestal, he looks down Groote Street to his former, working class, constituency of West Adelaide.

The statue was designed by British sculptor Alfred Drury and cast in London. It was unveiled on 26 May 1916 with speeches referring to Kingston’s role as a patriot and statesman. No mention was made of some of Kingston rougher edges or his preference for the dueling pistol over the ceremonial sword which he now carries while, most inappropriately given his hated of privilege and the fact that he had refused a knighthood, dressed in the attire of a privy councillor . The reason for the attire is that Kingston was, in fact, a privy councillor.

Around the base of the pedestal are a number of bronze reliefs two of which depict important events in his political career while the third depicts his father, Sir George Strickland Kingston, also a politician and the first Speaker of South Australia’s House of Assembly.

I trust I have managed to portray a little of the flavour of this colourful gent such that perchance you come across him in Adelaide you will not pass by in ignorance.

mournejam (contributor)

With a name like John McDouall Stuart it will come as no surprise to my reader that this chap was of Scottish extraction. He was, indeed, born in Scotland in 1815 and emigrated to Australia and Adelaide in January 1839.

A surveyor by trade, Stuart got a taste for exploration on Captain Charles Sturt’s 1844-45 expedition and subsequently undertook six major inland expeditions of his own. Stuart’s primary focus from 1860 onwards was to cross Australia from south to north – a task that I found arduous enough when I did a similar trip nearly 150 years later using a combination of luxury train and air conditioned four wheel drive vehicle.

On his first attempt in 1860, Stuart made it to the centre of the continent only to be turned back by Warumunga people at a place now called Attack Creek. A second attempt a year later also failed.

On his third attempt, which he commenced on 25 October 1861, he succeeded in reaching the Indian Ocean sightly to the east of modern day Darwin, getting there on 24 July 1862. This journey, however, exerted a great health toll on Stuart who was, for the final five weeks of the return trip to Adelaide, carried on a stretcher, having succumbed to the severe bout of scurvy. Stuart, shortly after this trip returned to the United Kingdom where he died in London on 5 June 1866.

The simple inscription on this stature of Stuart refers to this third successful trip:

John McDouall Stuart
Adelaide to Indian Ocean 1861-62

This Italian (Carrara) marble statue of the explorer was jointly funded by the Royal Caledonian Society and the State Government. It was designed by William Maxwell though, dying in 1903, he did not see the final statute unveiled in Victoria Square on 4 June 1904.

Though hard to make out from my pictures, the New South Wales trachyte pedestal features a globe showing Australia and, on it, the epic route across the continent taken by Stuart.

Sadly, the unveiling of the statue was marred by controversy as none of the four surviving members of Stuart’s final expedition attended the ceremony, in protest against Maxwell’s design. They argued that the statue bore no resemblance to Stuart and was a mere artistic representation and ‘for the public and posterity we would like Stuart to appear as the typical bushman he undoubtedly was’. They were equally, if not more, upset that the names of the nine members of Stuart’s party were relegated to appear on the side of the memorial as opposed to the front.

The 2,834km long Stuart Highway, which today connects Adelaide (or more correctly Port Augusta) and Darwin, is an enduring memory to Stuart and approximates the actual route he took on his epic journey.

My final picture is a 1904 photograph of the unveiling of the statue, courtesy of the Royal Caledonian Society.

muffledboy (contributor)

A walk in Victoria square is a very pleasant way to spend some time.
As I walked around, I found quite a few statues of famous people. Located in the centre of the square, with traffic and pedestrians whizzing past her, was Queen Victoria. The square was actually named after Princess Victoria on 23 May 1837. Less than a month later the King died and Princess Victoria became Queen.
I noticed the statues were located on the corners of the square. A few I saw were Right Hon. C.C. Kingston, a Statesman who was born in S.A. His statue was built in 1916 with public money.

The famous Australian Explorer, Captain Charles Sturt was standing on a marble pedestal with his hand up to his face, looking into the sun. This was also paid for by the public in 1916.

John McDouall Stuart, another great Australian Explorer, has a statue that was erected in 1904. This was a little different, as it was white, instead of bronze.

My last statue was of an important person I had ready many times about when researching S.A.
He was Sir George Strickland Kingston.

Latest Images of Victoria Square, Adelaide

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