Book reveals rich local history

Read about a new book about Marion’s early history featuring Oaklands Estate.

City Limits Magazine October 2014 This article appears in City Limits magazine - Issue 46 - October 2014.

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Marion’s early history is documented in a new book tracing Oaklands Estate from South Australia’s first great mansion to popular wetlands development.

The book, The History of Oaklands and its Tragic End, is the culmination of four years research by former teacher and local historian David Jarman, who traces the original homestead through four families of ownership to government acquisition and its untimely demolition.

It tells how Englishman Samuel Kearne seized the opportunity to buy a huge tract of land in 1843 for 947 pounds; how he built a 22-room mansion with bricks, slate, glass and wood brought as ballast from England. The book follows the ownership of the landmark building as it was purchased by Marion’s first mayor John Crozier, then Thomas Tait and finally by well-known landowner William Pethick.

City Limits - Oct 14 - Issue 46 - Marion Historical SocietyFor David, the work was a labour of love. As a teacher at Westminster School from 1964 until 2004, he had noted a distinct lack of historic information about the Marion district and felt compelled to research its past.

“I’ve always had a passion for the area but found there wasn’t a lot written about Marion’s history,” he said.

“I went about doing my own research on the Kaurna people and the settlement of Marion and, in that research, I came across this beautiful home.

“I saw the home in 1965 when it was an empty shell of its former self and became concerned when it was demolished in 1967. I was actively involved in Marion’s history and organising the heritage walks and the Township Road Display Centre when the suggestion arose that we should have an exhibition revolving around the house.

“We didn’t know much about the house, it was something of a secret. I set about researching it, gave a talk on what I’d uncovered and that led to an article and eventually the book.”

David said that while the first owners returned to England, he received a great deal of help and support from descendants of the last three families to own the house. This included receiving newspaper clippings and photographs, which appear in the book.

The State Government bought the estate in 1949 and allowed the Pethicks to continue leasing the land until they were ready to use it, presumably as the centrepiece of a new hospital. When the decision was made to create a hospital alongside the newly built Flinders University, that idea was shelved but the land was kept for the abandoned MATS Plan involving a proposed north-south freeway.

“The terribly sad aspect of this whole situation is that they scrapped the MATS plan after the house was demolished,” he said.

“They didn’t need to knock it down and a great part of South Australian history was lost for no reason.

“This house was the largest in the colony and the state’s first great mansion.”

The estate was located adjacent to what is now Oaklands Wetland and Reserve. 

The History of Oaklands and its Tragic End can be purchased for $10 from the City of Marion Administration Centre, 245 Sturt Road, Sturt.


City Limits Magazine

The City Limits Magazine is a community publication that keeps Marion residents in touch with what is happening in their community. It includes information about major projects, council initiatives and events, as well as profiles of community members.

It is published three times a year and distributed to 40,000 residents and businesses in the Marion Council area.