Adelaide Workmen's Homes

Adelaide Workmen's Homes

Sir Thomas Elder bequeathed £25,000 to establish an institution to be called the Adelaide Workmen’s Homes. These three remaining blocks of the Adelaide Workmen’s Homes were built from that bequest. Sir Thomas directed the trustees to have regard to the Peabody Donations Trust Fund in England, his wish being that the Adelaide trust should be similar in format. But the land tenure system, property values and residential density were different from those in London and the Adelaide trustees a opted for a garden cottage design.

The annual reports of the Adelaide Workmen’s Homes Trustees of 1898 was stated: “All the advice tendered to us has gone in the direction of suburban cottages with a garden, and ... in the matter of the style of building we may be obliged to deviate from the Peabody [Trust] buildings, but an important question is, how far are Adelaide workmen in want of accommodation within the City? The objects of the two trusts are the same, namely the comfort and health of working men, giving them convenient nearness to their work, but we may be by the circumstances of our case compelled to seek for the same ends in different ways of building.”

There was a competition to assess architectural proposals and Charles W. Rutt’s was chosen. The trustees bought a site on Wakefield/Angas streets and proposed to build 32 cottages, each with bedrooms, living room, fair-sized cellar, pantry and bathroom. The cottages were “designed mainly with an eye to comfort, and the rooms are all of a good size, averaging about 14 foot x 12 foot and 11 foot high. The fronts which have been kept plain, will be constructed of Tapley’s Hill hardstone, with red brick dressings.”

Such amenities contrasted markedly with the cramped and primitive cottages built by other wealthy men for rental to much larger numbers of working-class residents.


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These cottages were the first to be built for the Adelaide Workmen’s Homes, with subsequent developments in Mile End, Hilton and Richmond. Begun in 1899, the city site eventually contained 48 cottages, all of similar design. In 1965, just before 35 of the cottages were demolished for the extension of Frome Street, the institution’s capital was reported to be £100,000, with 147 houses.

Although now much diminished, the complex is a testimony to Sir Thomas’ philanthropy, which also included the Adelaide Benevolent and Stranger’s Friend Society, and the rotundas in Elder Park and the Zoological Gardens.

The cottages reflect colonial Adelaide’s socioeconomic structure, in which capital was associated with a few “great” men to whom benevolent institutions looked for assistance.

Philanthropy based on the benevolence of the gentry was a notable theme in the social history of the city, and its impact is still evident in several charitable organisations.

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Images of Adelaide Workmen's Homes

  • Adelaide Workmen's Homes, 2014
Charles W Rutt, Edward Davies
J T Brown, H Peel
Building materials
Stone, Bluestone
Architectural styles
3 Federation Period (c. 1890–c. 1915)
1899/08/15 - 1900
Architecture and design features
Ornamental woodwork on front porches
Engineering features
South East Corner
Council Ward
Alternative Addresses
Town Acre
Planning Zone or Policy Area
Original owners
Adelaide Workmen's Home Incorporated
Original occupant
Workmen and families
Later occupant/s
Purposes and use
Dwelling, Cottage
AS2482 classification
16010 - House
Public Access
Private residence
State Heritage ID
10771, 10772, 10773, 10774, 10775, 10776, 10777, 10778
ACC Reference No.
DPTI Heritage No.
Certificate of Title No.
CT 5118/702 F102160 A2
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
2.3 City Dwellers: Householders, Boarders and Tenants
3.7 Working Men and Women
3.7.6 Labouring
4.4 Residential Development, Building Types and Living Conditions
4.4.4 Philanthropic Housing
Sir Thomas Elder
Australian Curriculum references
Year 5: The Australian Colonies


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