Adelaide Club

Adelaide Club

Since it was built in 1863-64, this building has represented the male gentry of South Australian society who controlled its mercantile, political and rural pursuits.

The Adelaide Club was formed on July 2, 1863. It was based on the British institution of corporation social clubs for men, which multiplied during the reign of Queen Victoria. The first South Australian club was formed in 1838, but it was declared bankrupt during the economic depression of the early 1840s.

Most of the colony’s “great capitalists” were members. Thomas Worsnop, town clerk of the Corporation of the City of Adelaide between 1869 and 1898, described the club as “deemed to be par excellence the resort of merchants, squatters and country gentlemen”, and as wielding power in the political arena. Robert Barr Smith, Sir Thomas Elder, David Murray, Joseph Fisher, J. H. Angas, Andrew Tennant, and Peter Waite were members. They were associated with each other in such organisations as Elder, Smith & Co., the Bank of Adelaide and the Adelaide Steamship Company. The club hosted the men who held most of the capital in the colony, and provided a meeting place for negotiations and business transactions.

Blewett and Jaensch described the Adelaide gentry as a resilient group who “progressed” from being political, economic and religious innovators and non-conformists to being traditional and conservative political, economic and social leaders who “hankered after the days of Victorian England” and “fought to preserve a 19th-century constitution, a hierarchical social order and a laissez-faire economy”.

This building was sponsored by a group of mainly English and Scottish merchants, professionals and farmers. Only a few of them, according to Van Dissel, “would have been considered ‘gentry’ in Great Britain, but they prospered during the general economic expansion of the Colonial period, thereby establishing [themselves and] their families as the ruling class of South Australia”. These families, some of whose antecedents had been devout and militant non-conformists, often became traditionally Anglican and further strengthened their bonds by intermarriage, or through social and business ties fostered by membership of the club.

Building plans were prepared by architects G. & E. Hamilton. The site, opposite Government House, cost £2000 and the building was estimated to cost £6000. The South Australian Register of January 20,1864, reported that it would “present a somewhat imposing elevation ... the walls will be of picked Dry Creek stone with brick dressings, moulded bricks being used for the strings, window-heads etc”.

The foundations and basement storey were built by English and Brown, and the contractor for the completion was William Lines. The amount of the contract was £6280.

The building is similar to Barry’s Travellers’ Club in London. Between 1866 and 1890 there were various additions and improvements. These included completing finishes to the top floor in 1875, and stabilisation due to subsidence caused by the construction of the adjacent Bank of New South Wales building in 1886. In 1890, there were substantial additions to the rear, designed by English & Soward, and Grainger & Naish. Since then there seem to have been few major alterations, although the cantilevered balcony has been shortened.


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The building is highly significant because of the part it has played by association in the development of South Australia. The building remains historically and architecturally one of the most significant structures in South Australia embodying the confidence and aspirations of Adelaide's influential elite. It was a substantial building for its time, and remains an important element of the major townscape of North Terrace. The building continues to this day as an elite members club.

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Related places
Adelaide Club
Related people
Related organisations
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See also

Images of Adelaide Club

  • Adelaide Club Building, 2014
Edward Hamilton, G Hamilton
William Lines
Building materials
Stone, Bluestone
Architectural styles
2 Victorian Period (c. 1840–c. 1890), 2.9 Italianate
1863 -  

Additional Works


Construction commenced
Construction completed

Additions to rear

Designed by Grainger and Naish
Construction commenced
Construction completed
Architecture and design features
portico, cast iron railings
Engineering features
Cultural Precinct
Council Ward
Alternative Addresses
Town Acre
Planning Zone or Policy Area
Original owners
Adelaide Club
Original occupant
Later occupant/s
Purposes and use
Recreational, Clubs and association
AS2482 classification
11550 - Restaurant - Cabaret - Nightclub
Public Access
Opening hours only
State Heritage ID
ACC Reference No.
DPTI Heritage No.
Certificate of Title No.
CT 5803/624 F26236 A50
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
NTSA classified
Date of NTSA listing
Section 23 (4) crtiteria
Risk status
Historic Themes
2.4 City Dwellers: City, state and business leaders
6.2 Recreation and Entertainment
6.2.3 Hotels, Bars and Wine shops
6.4 Forming Associations
6.4.3 Friendly Societies
Male Gentry, Robert Barr Smith, Sir Thomas Elder
Australian Curriculum references
Year 5: The Australian Colonies


Further reading

External links

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