National Heritage List inscription date 7 November 2008
The Adelaide Park Lands and City Layout is widely regarded as a masterwork of urban design and signifies a turning point in the settlement of Australia. Adelaide was the first city in Australia to be planned and developed, not as a penal settlement or military outpost, but as a place for free settlers.
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The colony of South Australia was founded in 1836, after the colonies of New South Wales, Western Australia and Tasmania had been established. Unlike the other colonies, South Australia was not established as penal settlement, but rather as a commercial venture. Instead of granting free land to settlers, land was sold, and the proceeds used to fund the immigration of free settlers to the colony.
Surveyor Colonel William Light planned and founded the new capital city (named by royal request after Queen Adelaide) in only eight weeks. His vision, outlined in the 1837 Adelaide Plan, was for a metropolitan city surrounded by more than 900 hectares of park lands, wide streets, gardens, grid pattern of major and minor roads, several town squares, and the flowing Torrens River separating two major city areas. These lasting elements of his 1837 plan are still in existence today.
A city in a park
Adelaide is the only Australian city to be completely enclosed by park lands and has the most extensive and intact 19th century park lands in Australia. Adelaide Park Lands also has strong links to the Adelaide community as a place for many leisure activities and civic events. There is evidence that the first game of Australian Rules football in South Australia was played in the northern Park Lands in April 1860. Community groups have campaigned for the protection of the park lands as far back as 1869.
The Adelaide Park Lands and City Layout is regarded throughout Australia and the world as a masterwork of urban design and the model has been used widely by other towns in Australia and overseas. It is recognised by town planners and historians as a major influence on the Garden City planning movement, one of the most important western urban planning initiatives in history. The picturesque Adelaide Park Lands is important to the identity of South Australia. It is a hallmark of the city’s original design, which has maintained elements of its historical layout for more than 170 years.
Adelaide Park Lands and City Layout site includes 900 hectares in total and is defined by the 1837 layout of streets including parks in the city centre and significant areas such as Victoria Square, Hindmarsh Square, the Botanic Gardens, Palmer Gardens and Brougham Gardens in North Adelaide.
Privately owned land between the road reserves in the city layout, the railway reserves and State Government lands and institutions have not been included in the National Heritage Area.