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Our History

The City of Mitcham founded in 1853 is Adelaide's second oldest Council area with a current population of approximately 65,000 people. The diverse community accommodates residential living, regional shopping centres, secondary and primary schools, a thriving business environment and campuses on the Universities of Adelaide and Flinders.

Architectural styles of residences range from those in Australia's Heritage listed best garden suburb, Colonel Light Gardens, to the colonial styles of Coreega, once home to Lord Howard Florey and Urrbrae House, once home to prominent pastoralist and benefactor, Peter Waite. Modern developments, cottages and other styles are also present.

Mitcham is also home to some of the State's finest metropolitan tourist attractions, including Carrick Hill, the Mitcham Village Tourist Precinct, Windy Point lookout and Belair National Park.

150 years ago on May 11 1853, our great City was proclaimed the District Council of Mitcham, its name taken from the village of Mitcham which had been established earlier in 1840 near Brownhill Creek. This name came from Mitcham in Surrey England.

Over the past 150 years the City has developed and grown to have an enviable blend of both urban and rural environments, with a prestigious heritage and a strong sense of tradition. The City of Mitcham offers a unique experience for those tempted by rural settings, native bushland, our heritage and architecture, scenic and panoramic views and so much more within this City.

Initially the Council was larger covering an area of about 108 square km's, extending from the south parklands to Mt Baker Road in the east with the Sturt River forming both the southern and western boundaries. However, over time the area was change when in 1867 the western boundary was realigned to South Road, enabling the formation of a District Council of Brighton.

The City of Unley was formed in 1871 between the south parklands and Cross Road and after the railway drew more settlement to the hills, the District Council of Stirling was formed in 1883 taking in the area east of the Government Farm in Belair National Park.

In 1853, according to the first assessment undertaken in the District Council of Mitcham, there were 12 public houses, five 'mansions' and 457 dwelling houses, "varying from two to twelve rooms" with a population of approximately 3,000 people with settlements at Coromandel Valley, Mitcham Village and St Marys.

Today the Council, with a population of approximately 65,000, covers an area of 75.7 square km's, stretching from Cross Road in the north, to the Sturt River in the South; from Mount Barker Road in the east to South Road in the west. We now have 29,250 households with only 4 public houses.

Residents of Mitcham live in 30 suburbs all of which have their own particular style and community spirit. From the leafy backdrop of the Hills environment, to the foothills homes which share magnificent panoramic views of Adelaide and the plains.

Our suburbs include Springfield, one of Adelaide's most prestigious areas, our heritage and now nationally listed garden suburb Colonel Light Gardens, which provides an excellent example of 1920's town planning, historic Belair, a unique suburb surrounded on three sides by parks including Australia's second oldest park Belair National Park and the new housing development at Craigburn Farm about to proceed to the second stage.

At the beginning of the District Council of Mitcham's formation, the Council rented accommodation to conduct their business. From 1854 to 1869 Council met in offices in King William Street, Adelaide and other rented properties as well as hotels such as the Hawkstone Arms which was located in Lower Mitcham.

From 1870 to 1908 the Council operated in the east wing of the Mitcham Village Institute, and then between 1908 to 1934 the office relocated to a converted house on the north east corner of Tutt Avenue and Unley Road, Kingswood which is now the Mitcham RSL.

Today we stand in the original Council Chambers built in 1934. Council found as their duties and responsibilities increased it became apparent that there was a need for proper Council Chambers where staff could be housed and business conducted. These art deco style Chambers, designed by architect Dean Berry, were built by Grove and Son.

As the Council grew so did the need for accommodation and in 1954 a north-eastern extension was built to accommodate offices and the Mayor's Parlour and in 1960 a single storey cream brick addition was built on the southern side. Finally in 2000, a redevelopment of the Council Offices was undertaken with a new extension built on the site of the 1960 addition with the original art-deco style portion restored and enhanced.

Education also played an important role of Mitcham. At the time of proclamation there were 3 schools; Thomas Mugg's Village school conducted in the Union Chapel at Mitcham; the day school in the first St Mary's Church of England; and Reverend Samuel Gill's school at Coromandel Valley.

In 2003 Mitcham is particularly rich with regard to educational institutions, we have 27 schools, they include 11 Government and 6 non-Government Primary Schools, 5 Government and 4 non-Government Secondary Schools and highly regarded tertiary institutions such as Flinders University, Waite Agricultural Research Institute and Panorama TAFE.

Our first Council consisted of five members led by the first Chairman Benjamin H Babbage, Mr Pickworth of Unley was appointed the Council Clerk, and Mr Carlington was the Assessor. One of their first roles was to assess the value of all the properties, so that the rates could be declared and collected to provide the new Council with some funds to mend the roads and collect the rubbish. This was the main reason to form the City.

Today we have 14 members who are elected on behalf of the community to manage the City's business. We have developed and grown considerably since 1853, and now provide a wide range of services including:

Community service programs for all age groups; excellent Library and Toy Library facilities at Blackwood and Mitcham; first class waste management and recycling services; building and planning services; environmental and public health services including water pollution surveillance, immunisations, animal control, fire and traffic management; roads, drainage, footpath and street tree development and maintenance; and 27 excellent sports and recreational facilities with 200 parks and gardens, the list goes on.

  • In 1877 the first government owned public school was built at Mitcham, reputed to be the longest continuous running school in the State having been established by Thomas Mugg in 1847.
  • In 1878 the horse tram was laid to Mitcham, this form of public transport was replaced by electric tram and later a bus.
  • In 1880 a water supply was laid to Mitcham from Brownhill Creek.
  • In 1883 the railway across the district was opened. It was the biggest public works undertaken in the district.
  • In 1886 Cabra Catholic Convent was opened at Cumberland Park by the Dominican Order.
  • In 1891 the first National Park in South Australia and the second in Australia was proclaimed in Belair. It was also the year that Manure Pits were erected on Brownhill Creek to stop the pollution of the water supply. Market gardeners would off-load wet manure on the side of the road when it was too heavy for the horses to pull the cart any further. They returned later when it had dried out and carted it to their gardens.
  • In 1901 a telephone was connected to the Mitcham Council office which was part of the Mitcham Institute. Council also agreed to pay for new tyres for the Town Clerk's bike as he undertook Council business on it.
  • In 1902 "Nunyara" at Belair was opened by Dr Gault for patients with consumptive complaints. He was the district's doctor, Council health inspector and drove one of the earliest cars in the district.
  • In 1919 Scotch College at Torrens Park was established.
  • In the 1920's Colonel Light Gardens - The Garden Suburb was developed. This suburb is now heritage protected and internationally recognised.
  • In 1928 Springfield was promoted for prestige housing and the Arboretum plantings at Waite Research Institute began.
  • In 1929 the First Nursery School or Kindergarten for the Commonwealth of Australia was established in Lower Mitcham.
  • In 1944 the District Council of Mitcham became a Corporation and in 1947 the Corporation of the Town of Mitcham became the City of Mitcham.
  • In 1965 the Mitcham Memorial Library opened.
  • In 1966 Flinders University, the first University outside Adelaide was opened at Bedford Park by the Queen Mother.
  • In 1970 Winn's Bakehouse at Coromandel Valley was saved and a National Trust Branch was established to manage the first public museum in the district.
  • In 1984 Misses Gamble donated their property to Mitcham Council. The Cottage Garden is maintained by a Friends Group and the 1902 cottage has been restored for community receptions and meetings by Coromandel Valley and District National Trust.
  • In 1989 the community and the Council lobbied State Government successfully to prevent the dissolution of the City of Mitcham.