Historical Towns Directory

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 Mount Gambier

Find Mount Gambier

The city of Mount Gambier is located on the slopes of the extinct Mount Gambier volcano, 460 kilometres south-east of Adelaide. The crater of the volcano contains the well-known 'Blue Lake' which changes to a striking turquoise colour from September to March each year before turning grey for the winter.

On 3 December 1800 Lieutenant James Grant was sailing along the coast in the HMS Lady Nelson when be spotted two mountains and two capes, one of which he named Gambier Mountain in honour of Admiral Lord Gambier, commander of a fleet at the battle of Copenhagen. Grant's sighting of Mount Gambier was commemorated a century later when the foundation stone was laid for the almost-ten metre high, red dolomite Centenary Tower which now overlooks the city's lakes.

In 1839 Stephen Henty became the first European to set foot in the area. The Henty brothers soon determined to bring stock to the area and had built the first hut in the district by 1841. The Hentys farmed the area without government intervention until the mid 1840s, when a police patrol discovered the illegal squatting outpost and the brothers were ordered to shift their operations back to Victoria.

The indigenous Buandig Aborigines were also unhappy with the Henty's presence in the area and conflict between the Aboriginal people and the pastoralists was common.

Presbyterian Church with old church in foreground - since demolished (courtesy Mount Gambier Heritage and History Society Inc)

The first European to officially take up land in the district was Evelyn Sturt, brother of explorer Charles Sturt, who obtained his holdings soon after the Hentys were removed.

The first inn at Mount Gambier opened in 1847. The first medic, Dr Wehl, arrived at the settlement in 1849. His 'Mia Mia' home is still standing.

A postal service to Adelaide was operating by 1850.

Hastings Cunningham established the private 'Gambier Town' in 1854. In 1861 a government township was laid out adjacent the private one.

The dolomite (a limestone-type rock used in many of Mount Gambierís buildings) St Paulís Roman Catholic Church was built in 1855. The Anglican Christ Church (1865) is another dolomite building and features a many-gabled roof. Pink dolomite was used in the construction of St Andrew's Uniting Church (1871).

Old dolomite and limestone civic buildings (courtesy Mount Gambier Heritage and History Society Inc)

Giffords (now Mount Gambier) Hotel was constructed in 1862 and holds the city's oldest liquor licence. The second story was added in 1883 and the balcony in 1902. The dolomite and limestone Jens Hotel was built in 1884 and later extended.

The Mount Gambier Gaol was built from 1862 to 1866 and closed in 1995.

The original dolomite courthouse at Mount Gambier was constructed in 1864-65 and was used for this purpose until 1975.

Mount Gambier became a municipality in 1876. It received a rail connection three years later.

The impressive former town hall, built using dolomite and limestone, was completed in 1882. It is now the Community Arts Centre.

Centenary Tower 1904 (courtesy Mount Gambier Heritage and History Society Inc)

The pink dolomite Blue Lake Pumping Station opened in 1884, providing Mount Gambier with its first reticulated water supply.

Mount Gambier was officially declared a city in 1954. It has a current population of almost 24,000 people.

Mount Gambier History Group
Information: Formed 1985. The Society's aim is to locate, preserve and promote the built heritage, local history and family history of Mount Gambier and surrounding districts. The Society's history room is located in The Reidy Park Centre, O'Halloran Terrace, Mount Gambier.
Publications: "Heritage Watch" newsletter published quarterly. Series of Local History books for sale.
President Phone: Phil: 08 87255872
Secretary Phone: Lynn: 08 87256617
Address:

PO Box 252
Mount Gambier VIC 5290

Email: mountgambierhistorygroup@gmail.com
Website: http://mountgambierhistorygroup.weebly.com
   
The Lady Nelson Visitor Information and Discovery Centre
Information: Open daily from 9am to 5pm. Extended hours during periods of seasonal demand
Phone: 1800 087 187
Fax: 08 8723 2833
Address:

Jubliee Highway East
Mount Gambier SA 5290

Postal Address:

PO Box 56
Mount Gambier SA 5290

Email: theladynelson@mountgambier.sa.gov.au
Website: http://www.mountgambiertourism.com.au
   
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