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Newsletter March-April 2018

Welcome to the early autumn edition of the Glenelg Historical Society (GHS) Newsletter.  Your Committee hopes that your favourite football team is on the way to a victorious season and that you all enjoy a pleasant Easter. The weather has just started to give us some of those fabulous autumn mornings and evenings to enjoy.  

Review of Events:

On Sunday 25 February, at the Jetty Hotel Beth Duncan gave a most informative talk entitled “From Fishing Village to Burgeoning Township.  C1837-1867”.  The news of this event made it to the local paper and so we welcomed many additional guests. Beth will deliver Part 2 of this very information Glenelg background later in the year.

Sunday 25 March 2018 saw us enjoying a private guided tour of the local historic Glenelg Air Raid shelter. This was a fabulous tour and anyone who could not attend may want to go to one of their general open afternoons.   The stairs were much better than expected and the whole shelter is very well lit.   We had a great guide who gave us such a lot of previously unknown (to most of us) information about the “preparations for war if it came to South Australia”. After the tour we all met for an excellent meal at the Glenelg Football Club.

Sunday 15 April 2018, Tour of Fort Glanville, Largs Bay.  Our visit to Fort Glanville is to learn something of its fascinating history, since the Russian Invasion Scare subsided, and of its restoration and preservation by the Fort Glanville Historical Association.

This tour will be preceded by lunch at the Grange Hotel at 12 noon with the Fort Glanville tour commencing at 2.30pm-4pm max.  (Details are below at #).  Beth Duncan has kindly provided us with some information to help set the scene before the tour.


The flagship of the Russian Pacific Squadron visited both Sydney and Melbourne in 1863, just seven years after the end of the Crimean war. Tensions between Russia and Britain had not subsided and Britain was very wary of potential Russian expansion particularly into India and beyond. Another visit by a Russian warship in 1870, this time to Hobart, also caused considerable concern. Although these visits were ostensibly goodwill in nature, they were unannounced, and the warships had been able to gain access to port virtually unnoticed. Britain’s view that Australian coastal centres were vulnerable to naval invasion and advice to upgrade defence capabilities, resulted, at the request of the colonies, in the War Office, instituting an enquiry into Australia’s coastal defence needs, during the latter part of the 1870’s.  Sir William Jervois, a highly qualified military engineer specializing in land based fortifications against naval attack, was appointed to undertake the task. Co-incidentally Sir William Jervois was commissioned South Australia’s 10th Governor in October 1877.

 Coastal defences were non-existent in South Australia. Troubled citizens pressured the Government to put in place the plan recommended by Jervois, in his former military capacity, which would protect, particularly, Glenelg and Port Adelaide from attack from the sea. However, the Government was very slow to act probably due to lack of funds. 

A further unannounced visit by Russian warships brought matters to a head. On the morning of February 26 1882, the residents of Glenelg woke to find three Russian naval vessels anchored in Holdfast Bay. Once again the visit appeared to be friendly and Admiral Alsenbergoff and his officers were received cordially by Glenelg’s Mayor and Councillors. A ball attended by the Governor, Sir William Jervois, was held in the Glenelg Institute (now Glenelg Town Hall) in their honour. The ships were opened to the public and crowds of sightseers flocked to Glenelg in something of a festive atmosphere, curiosity seemingly overcoming their earlier anxiety and fear of a ‘Russian invasion’.

Nevertheless, on the fleet’s departure, Governor Jervois again strongly advised that South Australian shipping and coastal settlements were vulnerable to Russian attack and that his plans for three coastal forts at Glenelg, Glanville and Largs be fully implemented; the Glenelg defence to protect Adelaide and the Adelaide plains and those at Fort Glanville and Fort Largs to protect Port Adelaide. By this time construction of Fort Glanville had been underway since 1880 and work on the remaining two coastal defences was begun. The three defences were to be connected along the coast by a road built on the eastern side of the sand dunes, and now known as Military Road.

While both Fort Glanville and Fort Largs were completed, and are both still in use today although no longer as coastal batteries, the fort at Glenelg was never built. A couple of sandbag batteries, armed with ‘ancient’ 24-pounder howitzers were temporarily set up in the sand hills on the northern side of the Patawalonga, but were removed in 1885 in preparation for the permanent fort. Two breech loading guns were imported from Britain and in mid-1888 they were transported from Port Adelaide to the site by barge and off loaded into the sand hills. The project assumed something of a farcical, comic opera quality when insurmountable difficulties over valuation and price arose in the purchase of the land for the fort. Plans for its erection were abandoned in 1889, leaving the guns lying in the sand hills. The guns were sold to an English firm four years later at a cost to the state of £25,000.

*REFERENCES FOR FORT GLANVILLE TEXT The West Torrens Historian, Vol.4 No.1, December 2012 The Russians Are Coming. Wikipedia    Australia–Russia relations pp1-3;   Fort Glanville Historical society, Jervois, William, pp15-23


MAY EVENT  - Sunday 20th May: Cummins House tour & Devonshire Tea at 2.00pm Details will be issued closer to the date

JUNE EVENT: Sunday 24th June: Negotiating, but NOT finalised, for a visit to the Police Museum, Thebarton for a tour & Devonshire Tea.

JULY EVENT: Sunday 29th July. Mark the date in your diary. TBA - event.

AUGUST EVENT: Sunday August 26th. Jetty Hotel @ 4.00pm. Beth Duncan presents second half of her Glenelg History talk, Glenelg 1868 – c1900.

SEPTEMBER EVENT: Sunday 23rd September. Negotiating, but NOT finalised, Tour of West terrace Cemetery.

OCTOBER 2018 - we anticipate holding a major event in October.   This will be centred on the unveiling of a plaque to the memory of Mary Thomas and all of the early pioneering women who helped to establish early South Australia.  More details will be circulated as they become available.

#Fort Glanville Tour details:

Lunch at the Grange Hotel at 12 noon.  Bookings essential.   Please email: OR Jo Cole on 0418 809 763

by Sunday 9 April 2018. Directions - travel along Seaview road to Jetty Street, Grange, Turn left.  The Hotel is on the northern side of the Esplanade & Jetty Street, 489 Esplanade, Grange.

Fort Glanville: Continue along Military Road to Fort Glanville, cnr Bower Road and Military road.   Tour will commence at 2.30pm and the Fort closes at 4pm.

Member participation:

Members are encouraged to think about taking an active part in the GHS Committee. The Executive meets at the Jetty Hotel on the first Tuesday of the month at 7pm.  If you are interested, please contact Jo Cole or Bronwyn Schoen and let them know you would like to attend so that we can confirm the meeting date and greet you before the meeting starts.

We hope you have enjoyed 2018’s events so far and we look forward to your continued active participation in the Society.

With best wishes to all GHS members.

Peter Alexander, President

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