Henry Parker helped build Murray Bridge – now his story is being told like never before

A revitalisation of the Round House has given Murray Bridge a community museum the equal of any in South Australia.

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A man believed to be Henry Parker, second from left, poses for a photo outside the cottage where he lived before Murray Bridge’s Round House was finished. Photo: State Library of South Australia (B-46145).

Sometime in the late 19th century, a well-dressed gentleman pauses to have his photograph taken in front of the pug and pine cottage he calls home.

It was here that Murray Bridge’s story began.

No, literally – see the fence around the vegetable patch?

Those metal panels were used as part of the 1879 road bridge, beneath the hand rails that run along the footpath on each side.

The gentleman second from the left in the picture is believed to be George “Henry” Parker, an engineer who oversaw the bridge’s construction.

The cottage behind him was a temporary home, as he would soon move into grander accommodation: the Round House.

Now, almost 150 years later, the man and his story – and many other stories from the time of Murray Bridge’s establishment – have been made more accessible to the public than ever.

The History Trust of South Australia and Murray Bridge council have revitalised the Round House, with new displays about the people who lived there and the lives they led.

History Trust CEO Greg Mackie said the community museum, given an official opening on Wednesday, had now “set the bar” for others around South Australia.

“The newly revitalised Round House stands as an excellent example of ... how it is possible to tell authentic and significant stories through connecting well-researched history with best-practice and creative methods of interpretation,” he said.

“Prior to this project, the Round House had been furnished with ‘vintage’ items by well-meaning volunteers to create a feel of an historic home ... objects generally not specifically related to the Round House or the people who lived there.

“Today we see a beautiful, unique, historic building telling clearly defined stories about the people who lived here.”

Visitors can now see plans and photos of the bridge’s construction, payslips belonging to the workers who built it, kitchen utensils like those used by housekeeper Annie Whalen in the 1870s and surveyors’ maps of the Hundred of Mobilong.

The area’s pre-colonial history has been acknowledged for the first time as well, and there are plans for further tributes to the Ngarrindjeri people, the traditional owners, in the garden.

Mayor Brenton Lewis paid tribute to the volunteers who had so faithfully maintained the Round House for many years, and to those who continued to offer tours today.

Volunteer Dianne Burbidge demonstrates one of the new attractions at the Round House: a corner where you can dress up for a selfie with Mr Parker. Photo: Peri Strathearn.

The Round House is open to the public between 11am and 3pm, Wednesday to Sunday.