BAG History Group / Blackwood Beginnings
In 2014, the focus of the Blackwood Action Group History Subcommittee’s regular articles was on celebrating the 100 year anniversary of the 1914 Blackwood Magazine.
In the April 1914 issue of The Blackwood Magazine, Blackwood is eloquently described as:
"…a semi-suburban township, situated 11½ miles [18k] from Adelaide by rail. … It’s charm begins when we have left the level suburbs below Mitcham, and begin to climb. Adelaide has the sea ─ a blue line across the plain; but when the train roars out of the viaduct tunnel and on to the iron bridge, there, round the shoulder of the hill, smiles a more enchanted ocean, set in the beauty of the high lands."
Blackwood had developed from 1847, named after Blackwood Vale Farm which in turn was named after the large number of dark limbed native trees of the district. Four small settlements grew in the area known as “The Top of the Ranges”: Coromandel Valley, Belair, Eden Hills and Blackwood at the geographic centre where roads from the four settlements met.
The first road from the Plains was a “steep and tortuous route from Mitcham across Brownhill Creek” which was a track from as early as 1841. [Old Belair Road] In 1865 the Government built a road from Clapham, winding up to Windy Point.” [Belair Road] (Painter ‘Fun and games’ p2).
In 1854 Shepherds Hill Road was opened, named after Ann Shephard who owned property at both the top and bottom of the hill. Given that transport was on foot, on horseback or by bullock wagon, the 1883 opening of the first section of the railway line between Adelaide and Melbourne, passing through the hills, was welcomed. The railway signalled the opening up of the area and a special land holder appeal to professionals was made.
The blocks were advertised as:
“…within half an hour’s train ride from Adelaide, possessing a most salubrious climate, with delightful scenery, and excellent conveniences of communication”. (Auckens ‘More about Mitcham’ p42)
The track to the Blackwood railway station, about 1883, added a fifth road at the intersection, creating what in later times became known as Five Ways, now the famous (or infamous) Blackwood Roundabout.
The first 75 years saw Blackwood grow from a few scattered settlements to a thriving town. The 400 plus residents of 1914 Blackwood (Sands & McDougall Directory, 1914) had access to banks, churches, a post office, shops, and a telegraph station. Electricity and water supply was yet to come. The grand houses on Coromandel Parade had been established for some years, along with a Temperance Hotel. The residents valued open space and the natural amenity of the district. Ovals had already been created and Belair National Park established since 1891.
Culture was thriving, centered around the Boys Club with chess, a literary society, Mopokes Club, Blackwood Band, a choir, dancing, music, and sporting clubs such as rifle, cricket, gymnastics, billiards, skating and tennis all well supported