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Old Quarries & Underground Tunnels

Torrens Parade Grounds (Park 12)

photo-icon Calvert's lithograph of Adelaide, City of Adelaide Archives, CC000324, circa 1876
photo-icon View of Adelaide from the River Torrens, State Library of South Australia, B 6854, circa 1843
photo-icon Elder Park, State Library of South Australia, B 13309, circa 1890
photo-icon Sketch of the railway tunnel under King William Road en route to the Exhibition Building, circa 1887
photo-icon Jubilee Exhibition building, North Terrace, State Library of South Australia, B 10212/1, circa 1887
photo-icon Rear of the Exhibition Building, State Library of South Australia, B 10212/4, circa 1887
photo-icon Interior of the Main Hall, Exhibition Building, State Library of South Australia, B 10212/9, circa 1887
photo-icon Interior view of the Jubilee Exhibition building, State Library of South Australia, B 73233, circa 1887
photo-icon Royal Adelaide Show at the Jubilee Exhibition grounds and oval located at rear of the Jubilee Exhibition Building on North Terrace, Adelaide, State Library of South Australia, B 73669, circa 1900

A stretch of sandstone, from Elder Park past the Torrens Parade Grounds, formed the Government Quarry in early settlement days, as it was a convenient source of stone for buildings in Adelaide. The outcrop is part of the Pliocene Hallett Sandstone formation, a reddish, calcareous sandy limestone.

In 1839, construction material for South Australia's Government House was extracted from the Government Quarry, as it was immediately behind the present grounds. Sandstone from this quarry was also used to construct parts of the Old Parliament building and the Holy Trinity Church on North Terrace. Continual excavation of the site led to a steep embankment from the top of the Government House down to what became the Torrens Parade Ground. After the quarry was closed in the 1850s, the site became and unofficial rubbish dump, and was only levelled out and beautified in the 1890s for military use.

Historically, a tunnel ran under King William Road, linking the former Government Survey Department Stables and Goods Shed (located on current day's Adelaide Festival Centre) and the Adelaide Jubilee Exhibition Building and Grounds. The tunnel was created to enable the safe passage of livestock and equipment to the Exhibition Building.

The Adelaide Exhibition Building was opened in 1887 and demolished in 1962. It was located on North Terrace between the Napier Building and Bonython Hall at the University of Adelaide.

The building housed the Royal Adelaide Show showcasing livestock and produce, and was used throughout the year for exhibitions and concerts. Due to this, the tunnel under King William Road was widened to accommodate a railway line. This railway tunnel was reported to be lined with bluestone and continued to be in operation for another forty years. It was even used to transport Boer War troops from the Torrens Parade Grounds to Port Adelaide!

In 1924, when the Royal Adelaide Show moved to its current location in the Wayville Showgrounds, the underpass railway line was considered superfluous and thus discontinued. The tunnel was backfilled and sealed, gone from the public consciousness, only to be "rediscovered" in 1973 during the opening of the Adelaide Festival Centre.

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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