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From Slaughterhouse to Playground

Bonython Park / Tulya Wardli (Park 27)

photo-icon Cattle Market, North Terrace, State Library of South Australia, PRG 631/2/1768, circa 1903
photo-icon Cattle / Sheep pens, City of Adelaide Archives, HP1440, 5 September 1913
photo-icon Cattle / Sheep Market, City of Adelaide Archives, HP1445, 5 September 1913
photo-icon Slaughter House, State Library of South Australia, B 260, circa 1914

Though it may not seem like it, this area of the Park Lands was once the location of a slaughterhouse and its associated holding yards. It was decommissioned in 1913, after slaughterhouses were banned by Council.

The City Slaughterhouse was established by the Council in 1841 and quickly became a source of revenue. Around 10,000 heads of cattle were slaughtered annually, provided by the nearby cattle and sheep markets located in the area where the Royal Adelaide Hospital currently resides.

The condition and nature of the slaughterhouse were not well regarded. Historian Peter Morton suggested that the ugly rumours circulating in the 1890s about the slaughterhouses were true. These rumours included the lack of care, quality and ethics regarding the killing of cattle in unregulated conditions.

The slaughterhouse building itself dated back to the early days of the South Australia colony and originally served as barracks. The roof was lofty, with no ceiling, and made of crumbling old slate covered with iron. The place where the meat was hung was a mass of dirty, stained timber posts and beams, impossible to keep clean.

The desire to remove the slaughterhouse and associated cattle yards in an attempt to beautify the area was apparent from the early 1900s. In 1913 the Metropolitan Municipal Abattoir was established at Gepps Cross, and the functions of the City Slaughterhouse and the numerous private slaughterhouses were transferred to it.

The City Slaughterhouse was demolished in 1915, although the aspirations for the area were not realised until 1958, when Town Clerk William Veale presented a master plan for Bonython Park. The park as it is known today came into being in the 1960s, following the removal of the slaughterhouse and cattle yards, and extensive landscaping works in the area.

The Kaurna name for Bonython Park, “Tulya Wardli”, means “soldier house”. There are no “s” sounds in Aboriginal languages. When the Kaurna people tried to say the word “soldier” they substituted “s” with a “t”, made with the tongue between the teeth, for the “s”. Thus “soldier” became “tulya”. The Kaurna people are the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the Adelaide Plains.

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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