Adelaide Benevolent and Strangers' Friend Society Hall (Elder Hall)

Adelaide Benevolent and Strangers' Friend Society Hall (Elder Hall)

Founded in 1849, the Adelaide Benevolent and Strangers’ Friend Society is reputedly the oldest secular philanthropic society in South Australia. Its chief work is to provide housing for the poor.

The South Australian Register of February 28, 1849, described the need for providing relief to the sick and indigent, especially among newly arrived immigrants, and for promoting the moral and spiritual welfare of the recipients and their children. It went on to state that “It was formerly said there were no poor in South Australia. This was perfectly true in the English sense of the word; but there was always room for the exercise of private charity and now, we regret to say, owing to some injudicious selections of emigrants by the [Colonization] commissioners, and the uninvited and gratuitous influx of unsuitable colonists, who having managed to pay their own passages, land in a state of actual destitution, we have now a number of unexpected claimants for whom something must be done.”

The society identified immigrants who had used up their meagre funds buying what they needed in England for passage to the colony. Landing without means of support while they searched for work, they “were reduced to great distress by their inability to pay the exorbitant weekly rents demanded for the most humble shelters” . Often the society paid such people’s rent for a short time and this assistance, together with rations from the Destitute Board, “enabled many deserving but indigent persons to surmount the unexpected and unavoidable difficulties attending their first arrival in a strange land”.

Seldom making headlines, the society continued to provide cottage homes at a reasonable rent for the “battlers”, voluntary “dole” tiding over the unemployed until they received their cheques, grants to needy hospital patients and toys to children. It still performs its original role of bridging gaps in official services.

Funds from several well-known benefactors have enabled the society to build, buy and lease property to provide cheap housing for the needy. The annual report for 1898 noted that through the years, and including the legacy in his will, the society had received more than £170,000 from Sir Thomas Elder. Accordingly, its hall was named in his honour. It seems the architect was Daniel Garlick, who was a committee member for several years. The modest hall was completed in 1898.

This building is architecturally notable for the “gem-like” quality of its facade, tightly contained by bluestone rubble side walls. It resembles a single-fronted house, but has a small pediment bearing the society’s inscription and a parapet topped by a small finial. These embellishments lift the building’s domestic appearance. The interior is unchanged except for partitioning to create further office space.

Elder Hall’s location is as modest as the society’s public image. Morialta Street is very narrow and dominated by the rear wall of a modern multi-storeyed development. The hall is a surprising feature of this minor, almost forgotten street.


show more


[edit | edit source]

Elder Hall is significant in it's link to the Adelaide Benevolent and Strangers' Friend Society. It is a good example, having very few changes to either the exterior and interior.

Connects with

Related places
Related people
Related organisations
Related events
Related things

See also

Images of Adelaide Benevolent and Strangers' Friend Society Hall (Elder Hall)

  • Adelaide Benevolent and Strangers' Friend Society
Daniel Garlick
Building materials
Stone, Bluestone
Architectural styles
3 Federation Period (c. 1890–c. 1915)
1898 -
Architecture and design features
plinth, gable, quoins, pediment
Engineering features
Victoria Square- Tarndanyangga
Council Ward
Alternative Addresses
Town Acre
Planning Zone or Policy Area
Original owners
Adelaide Benevolent and Strangers' Friend Society
Original occupant
Later occupant/s
Purposes and use
Recreational, Clubs and association
AS2482 classification
12560 - Hall
Public Access
Business/trading hours
State Heritage ID
ACC Reference No.
DPTI Heritage No.
Certificate of Title No.
CT 5986/803 F181240 A398
NTSA file exists
Heritage Status
State Heritage listed
State heritage listing
State Heritage listed
Date of State heritage listing
Local heritage listing
Date of Local heritage listing
NTSA listing
Date of NTSA listing
Section 23 (4) crtiteria
Risk status
Historic Themes
2 Peopling a city
2.2.1 Early Colonial Settlement
4.4 Residential Development, Building Types and Living Conditions
4.4.4 Philanthropic Housing
6.4 Forming Associations
6.4.2 Philanthropic Associations
Sir Thomas Elder
Australian Curriculum references
Year 5: The Australian Colonies


Further reading

External links

Something to add or share?

blog comments powered by Disqus