The Kaurna people are the original inhabitants of Marion
The original inhabitants of Marion, the Kaurna people of the Adelaide Plains, were supported by the Sturt River and surrounding bushland which provided food and shelter.
The Kaurna people's name for the Sturt River is Warripari. It means a windy place by the river. Warripari was an important travel route for the Kaurna people.
The early settlement of Marion
European settlers also found the banks of this river inviting and in 1838, just two years after the colony was founded, Colonel William Light laid out the Village of Marion.
The rich soil in the area produced vegetables, almonds, stonefruits and grapes.
The first grapevines were planted in the winter of 1838 on the banks of the river by Richard Hamilton, forebear of the Hamilton family who were to become major wine producers in the district.
Read more about the early settlement of Marion on the Stories of the Sturt River virtual tour.
Photo: Early land grant.
Marion was a rural community
A primarily rural community, Marion nevertheless had a sprinkling of local industries including mining and brickmaking.
The manufacture of cement at the Brighton Cement Works in Seacliff Park in 1882 was the beginning of a major Australian industry.
However progress was slow, the population at the turn of the century still being less than 350 people.
Market gardens flourished
The market gardens flourished, earning Marion the title of 'the Garden of Adelaide' with almond blossom tours being a highlight of winter.
Grape production also increased until as well as producing a wide variety of wines, Marion at one stage was supplying 85-90% of Adelaide's table grapes.
However, the Depression of the late 20s and early 30s caused much hardship in the small community of less than 6,000.
Photo: Market gardeners in Marion, 1945.
Development continued slowly over the next few decades.
Road and rail links gradually improved, easing transportation difficulties between the plains of the north and the hills areas of the south.
The First World War had little impact on this small farming community. Glenthorne, a former horse stud farm at O'Halloran Hill, did its duty for King and Country training horses for the Australian Army.
Local industries thrived
After the war, new suburbs such as Clovelly Park were opened and the bitumenising of roads began.
Local industries now included Pengelley's huge furniture factory, Furness Ltd (piano, caravan and door manufacturers) and Wunderlich's, makers of terracotta roof tiles.
Photo: Pengelley factory, 1914.
Post war population boom
Whilst the Second World War had few immediate effects other than causing labour and materials shortages, the period after the war was to change the face of Marion forever.
With the post war population boom, Australian cities expanded, increasing the demand for both housing and consumer goods.
There was a huge demand for houses
In the early to mid 1950s the South Australian Housing Trust began buying up large tracts of land for industrial development and the provision of low-cost rental housing.Large companies such as Hills began to establish in Marion while existing companies expanded.
By 1954, the population had risen to over 31,000 from less that 11,000 only seven years before.
The following year Chrysler purchased 71 hectares of land in Clovelly Park and established a car assembly plant, one of the largest such operations under one roof in the southern hemisphere.
Photo: Housing Trust house.
Marion Shopping Centre
With industrialization in the northern part of Marion and the growth in housing in the southern suburbs of Hallett Cove, Trott Park and Sheidow Park in the 60s and 70s, the modern Marion emerged... an era had passed.
The opening of Marion Shopping Centre in 1968 firmly established Marion as a major retail force in southern Adelaide.
Photo: Marion shopping centre pamphlet, 1968.
Today, Marion offers a vibrant mix of industry, commerce and a relaxed lifestyle with an exciting future.
Tonsley Park's previous motor-industry site is now a high-value industry and educational precinct with a prestigious TAFE college and Flinders University's $120million School of Computer Science, Engineering and Mathematicals which opened in 2015.
In the south, the Cove Civic Centre with library, community and small business enterprise facilities opened in 2015. It also contains a cutting-edge art installation of slowing evolving videos of the Hallett Cove shoreline.
Oaklands Wetland opened to the public in 2013 and is delivering treated stormwater to council reserves while providing a haven for wildlife and a place for people to enjoy the natural environment.
The international standard SA Aquatic and Leisure Centre adjacent to Westfield Marion is now a firmly established destination for community and elite swimmers since opening in 2011.
In 2002, the Living Kaurna Cultural Centre opened to the public at Warriparinga. With Kaurna heritage displays, an art gallery and exhibition space, meeting and function space, the Living Kaurna Cultural Centre promotes learning of Kaurna culture and provides a unique cultural tourism experience.
In 2001 the innovative Marion Cultural Centre was opened in The Domain, an area immediately to the north of Westfield Marion. The Cultural Centre contains a modern library, multi-purpose theatre, art gallery, meeting rooms, licensed cafe and an extensive plaza.
Photo: Cove Civic Centre (above) and Oaklands Wetland (below).
Sources for further research
Visit the Marion Heritage Research Centre for further information and research in relation to the City of Marion's history.
Research tools available:
- Ancestry website is free for the public to access.
- Local history reference book collection, containing many new publications as well as older and rare books, useful for historical research.
- Free access to a great new website, Primary Sources and Personal Narratives. This website contains high-definition scanned images of important and early manuscripts from collecting institutions all over the world including the State Library of South Australia's Archival Collection
Some useful books
- The History of Marion on the Sturt, by Alison Dolling, 1981
- MARION 1945 - 2000:A Suburban City, by R.J.R. Donley, 2001
- The History of "Oaklands" and its Tragic End, by David Jarman, 2014
Books are available for purchase from the City of Marion's Administration Centre, 245 Sturt Road, Sturt or can be borrowed from any three branches of the Marion Library Service or the Mobile Library Service.