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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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.
The Round House is open to the public between 11am and 3pm, Wednesday to Sunday.
More information: Learn about the Round House at www.murraybridge.sa.gov.au, or what it’s like to volunteer there in our story from March.
Volunteer: Visit www.murraybridge.sa.gov.au/volunteering, or contact volunteer coordinator Ngareta Cronin on 8539 1182 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Roundhouse was very successfully managed by the Rural City of Murray Bridge - Roundhouse Volunteers for 25 years, as Mayor Lewis stated " had so faithfully maintained the Roundhouse " as a Historic House and told the stories of the beginnings of Murray Bridge from the first superintendent March 1873 - October 1874, Frank Rees George, 2nd superintendent, Henry Parker, October 1874 - March 1879 bridge completion and unofficial opening and all the stories following regarding the 1st School, Post Office, School and Council Chamber before entering it's longest ownership with the SA. Railways right up until the 1080's. The House was lovingly furnished as house/home 1876 to 1918, the year of extensions to the house were made, with the assistance of our Community with loans and donations of many items and over many years tourists from all over the world raved about the house and its volunteers with regular entries in the visitor books. For the History Trust CEO to suggest in his quoted opening remarks that "Prior to this project, the Roundhouse had been furnished with " vintage " items by weii meaning volunteers to create a feel of an historic home..... objects generally not specificly related to the Roundhouse or the people who lived there." shows that he appears to have a complete lack of knowledge its previous history and those words could be seen as very offensive to the Staff, Volunteers and Community that were involved in the Roundhouse management since 1988 when the RCofMB purchased this State Heritage Icon os S.A.'s History, and provided a much complemented tourist attraction and community building. A nice touch that did not happen would have been invitations to those staff and volunteers who were involved in the management of the Roundhouse over the past 30 years.
Thanks Peri getting the story and interest out concerning the Round House as a lot of people do not know it’s there