Yorketown …… p.1
Located west of Adelaide at the southern end of South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula (which lays between St Vincent Gulf and Spencer Gulf), Yorketown was originally known as Weaners Flat when the township was settled in 1872 because it was where the pastoralists separated the lambs from the ewes. The name Yorketown was officially gazetted in 1876. Among the other suggestions were Salt Lake City, in honour of the numerous salt lakes which lay within a 13 kilometre radius. Indeed, the town owed most of its prosperity in the early days to these lakes. Pastoralists began moving to the area in the 1840s in the hope of exploiting the region’s grain growing potential. They planted crops of barley and wheat and grazed sheep. Before white settlement began the region was home to the Narungga Aboriginal people. By 1872 the Melville Hotel had been built, and four years later the Yorke Hotel and Methodist Church had both been completed. It wasn’t until 1905, however, that Yorketown had its first Town Hall.
The salt industry reached its peak during the First World War.Prroduction ceased in the 1950s when the salt refinery closed in Edithburgh. The Yorke Peninsula is still a major producer of grain, and particularly barley.
Image: Left: ca. 1860. Right: Edithburg Road, 1932. Source: State Library of South Australia.
YORKETOWN TOWN HALL
The Yorketown Town Hall was officially opened on 4 October 1905 and over the next fifty or more years hosted countless civic and social events. These included balls, lectures, council and public meetings, exhibitions and local and touring entertainments such as concerts, theatre, and minstrelsy and vaudeville. It also served for many years as the town’s cinema. The first recorded variety entertainment staged in the hall was in November 1905 when the 4 Darmodies headlined a sports night assisted by local talent. In 1906 Bruce’s Cinematograph and Vaudeville Company put on one of the hall’s earliest pictures and variety shows. The venue was also utilised in later years by the town’s musical and dramatic society, among other organisations.
1: The land on which the Town Hall was built was donated by Dr. M. Erichsen in memory of his late father, a former mayor of Yorketown. According to the Pioneer newspaper the official opening was preceded on 1 October by an as-yet unidentified engagement. Among the earliest lessees of the hall were the local hospital (ball) and several clergymen who gave lectures on such topics as intemperance. The building was wired for electricity in 1919.
2: Later vaudeville and/or film and vaudeville companies to play the Town Hall included the World’s Electric Light Entertainers (1911), Christy Minstrels (1914), The Ethiopians (1920), Austral Players’ Vaudeville Co (1921), Newspaper Minstrels (local, 1921), and Arthur Farrell and His Jazz Band and Variety Show (1922)
3: In the early 1930s the Yorketown Comedy Company produced several original musical comedies by A.E. Balnaves – these being The Singing Girl (1930), The Revue Star (1931) and Hello Princess (1932).
4: Although a new Town Hall was muted as early as the mid-1940s the local community was still awaiting its construction in December 1954. Reports of the “shocking state” of the building were published as early as 1949 (Pioneer 4 Nov. 1949, 2).
Image: Early 1900s. Source: State Library of South Australia.