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Adelaide’s First Commercial Garden - where exactly was it?

Bonython Park / Tulya Wardli (Park 27)

photo-icon Thomas Allen

South Australia’s first commercial nursery was established by Thomas Allen, a botanist and gardener employed by King William IV to design and plant St James’s and Regent’s Parks in London.

The garden existed between 1837 and 1840, however we cannot say with complete certainty where the garden was exactly.

The garden was first thought to have been established roughly where the new Royal Adelaide Hospital is now located and a plaque was installed there in 1983 to recognise the location.

Subsequent research indicated the garden formed part of the original Governor’s Garden, which sat in what is now Elder Park near where the rotunda is located. The Governor’s Garden primarily serviced Government House.

Recent research however indicates that Allen’s Garden was located on the site Colonel Light (in his plan for Adelaide) allocated to the Botanic Gardens (nowhere near the current Botanic Gardens), in present day Bonython Park.

According to a description in 1838 by James Chittleborough, an early settler, Allen’s garden was the only piece of ground in the colony that was cultivated and pleasant to roam through, with “its cucumber and melon beds, and solace from the glare and dust of Currie and Hindley Streets”. It is described as being a low, swampy piece of land that had formerly been flooded, and was capable of “producing astonishing crops of both English and Colonial vegetables”.

City of Adelaide acknowledges the traditional Country of the Kaurna people of the Adelaide Plains and pays respect to Elders past and present. We recognise and respect their cultural heritage, beliefs and relationship with the land. We acknowledge that they are of continuing importance to the Kaurna people living today. We also extend that respect to other Aboriginal Language Groups and other First Nations.

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