Home' InDaily : April 22nd 2010 Contents Vol21No3April2010|5
Digging down into the State's heritage
The 1942 bombing of Darwin is a well-
documented reminder of the vulnerability
of the Australian coastline to attack -- but
earlier generations of colonial South
Australians had their own fears of a foreign
invasion, and took steps to repel it.
In the 1880s, in the wake of the Crimean
War and withdrawal of British troops from
Australia, a torpedo station was built on 13
acres of swampland at the confluence of
the Port River and North Arm.
The station consisted of several structures
including a slipway and shed for a small
torpedo boat and was designed to bolster
fortifications and gun emplacements
along the coastline.
As part of National Archaeology Week
(NAW), which runs from 16 to 22 May,
Flinders PhD candidate James Hunter -- with
the help of Jan Perry, great-granddaughter
of the torpedo station's original caretaker
-- will excavate to determine just what
remains of the station.
"There are visible traces of the station in
the form of barely discernible
embankments marking the locations of
some of the buildings," Mr Hunter said.
"We want to investigate the
integrity and extent of those
structures and compare them
with the features of torpedo
stations throughout Australia
and the UK," he said.
The dig is one of four projects to be
conducted by Flinders staff and students in
and around Port Adelaide for NAW,
including the exhibition Digging Up The
Dirt in collaboration with the Port Adelaide
Local Library, which showcases the
importance of the area in the daily life of
early South Australians.
Fellow PhD candidate and NAW's South
Australian coordinator Adam Paterson will
excavate the basement of the South
Australian Maritime Museum, looking for
details of the construction of the buildings
in the 1850s and artefacts relating to their
past function and use.
"The museum building was actually
constructed as two separate buildings and
they are among the oldest in the Port,"
Mr Paterson said.
"They were used to store goods -- the Bond
Store which had special customs approval
to temporarily hold goods like alcohol and
tobacco without paying duty, and the Free
Store held goods for which duty was not
charged such as flour and wool," he said.
"There's a chance that remains of earlier
structures, deposits or objects might also
survive at the site. Little is known about
these buildings and we hope to determine
how they were constructed and what they
were used for."
While Port Adelaide will be a focal point of
NAW activities, Senior Research Associate
Dr Pamela Smith will lead a group of
students and volunteers in excavating the
Built in 1879, the extensive scheme --
comprising a 137,000 litre brick water tank,
weir, valve tank, settling pond, more than
three kilometres of pipe and a reservoir --
supplied the village of Mitcham with water
until around 1930.
In 2002, Dr Smith and colleagues located
the scheme, which had been almost
entirely buried by sediment eroding from a
"The Mitcham Waterworks represents an
example of 19th century water storage and
reticulation technology that would have
been absolutely essential for any new
colony starting up," Dr Smith said.
"As far as we can tell, this is the
only surviving intact example
of that particular type of
technology left in Australia
and, for that reason alone, I
consider it to be quite
significant," she said.
Guided by the original 1879 technical
drawings, Dr Smith and her team plan to
expose the dam wall and some of the pipe
system to be able to assess their condition
and make a recommendation for its
conservation or heritage listing.
"Most heritage listings in South Australia
are the big and the obvious, the grand
mansions. But the Mitcham Waterworks is
completely buried, the pipes are
underground, no one knows it's there. By
excavating it hopefully we can get some
promotion or recognition of its heritage
value," Dr Smith said.
"At the moment the entire Waterworks is
not on the State heritage register and
although the big water storage tank is on
the heritage list, it's part of this much
To take part in Flinders National
Archaeology Week activities, contact
Adam Paterson on 8201 2575 or
Torpedo station design
Mitcham Waterworks well and valve tank
Links Archive April 21st 2010 April 23rd 2010 Navigation Previous Page Next Page