History of Sunnybrae Farm

The heritage & history

HistoryThe area on which the farm is sited was originally called Tam O’Shanter Belt, named after the ship Tam O’Shanter that went aground near North Arm in 1836. The passengers walked to North Adelaide and on looking back saw the ship over a fine belt of trees.

The 4.5 acres of what we know today as Sunnybrae Estate, was the nucleus of the southern hemiphere’s first water bourne sewerage system, officially know as the Islington Sewage Farm established in 1879. Prior to the Government purchasing 628 acres all of Adelaide’s sewerage either ran into the River Torrens or was dumped in the parklands.

Richard Day purchased land in this area in 1853, which became known as Days Farm, with his buildings on what is now the Regency Golf Course. The Government acquired 480 acres of this land in 1880. Of interest is the price paid for the land over the years, 1839-42 original grant was $2.00 an acre. In 1852 Henry Ayers paid $12.75 an acre, selling to Richard Day for $20 an acre in 1853, who received $50 an acre in 1880. On being resubdivided in 1975 for light industry it sold for $75,000 an acre!

New buildings soon appeared – Cow Shed, Machinery Shed and Cheese Room in 1882, the Homestead, piggeries and stables in 1883, with the Smoke House in 1885. The Straining Shed, with the brick arches, can be seen just off Regency Road, this side of the railway bridge. There was also a mechanics workshop and a small tramway system which have both disappeared.

Livestock such as pigs, horses, sheep, bullocks (until 1924) were depastured. Root crops and fruit being supplied to the Adelaide market from 1903-36. This discontinued when the ground became “sick” (nutrient rich), but wonderful crops of grass were harvested, not to mention the large worms many fishermen obtained in various ways, until the farm’s closure in 1966.

The sewerage was strained of solids in the Straining Shed and dumped onto the land to dry out, then it was burnt. The liquid was run along flumes (troughs) into 21 paddocks for depasturing cattle, the surplus being drained into the North Arm Creek. In 1948, the concrete outfall channel was extended to North Arm Creek. Due to an increase in population after World War 2, the Farm became overloaded and raw sewerage was diverted to the North Arm Creek. By 1960 plans were being drawn up for a new sewerage works, which saw Bolivar Sewerage Treatment Works take over in 1966. Islington Sewerage Farm was then closed and the buildings fell into disrepair.

The farm was renamed Regency Park and subdivided by the Government in four phrases for light industry in 1975, 1977, 1979 and 1981. In 1981 4.5 acres containing old farm buildings was declared a Historic Conservation and Recreation Centre and transferred to Enfield Council. Restoration of the buildings was carried out by the Council, with the assistance of a State and a Bicentennial grant.

In 1999, $1m of additions and improvements consisting of a large function room (the Pavillion) and extensive kitchen facilities were opened. Sunnybrae also appeared on Channel 9’s “Postcards” programme.

The Cow Shed

Built in 1882 and restored in 1987. Used for milking from 1882-1884, when vendors refused to accept milk, it was then used for general purposes, although cattle were kept until 1924. In 1895 a storm damaged the barrel roof, being replaced by a gable roof. Mechanical shearing was carried out from 1925. A recent name change, to Coach House, was felt appropriate for the weddings and functions now using the building between 120 and 400 guests depending on the type of function.

The Garden Terrace

Built in 1999. A recent addition faces the Rose Garden, can be used for weddings or as an annex to the Pavillion for presentations etc. Roll up clear plastic side blinds making it an excellent all weather venue.

The Pavillion

Built in 1999. Can accommodate between 50 and 150 guests for weddings, cocktails etc. The bar also serves the Garden Terrace. Doors open up onto the Rose Garden.

Manager’s Residence and Dairymen’s Quarters

Built in 1883 and restored in 1993. Constructed around a central courtyard (The Atrium). The room on the right was formerly the Dairymen’s dining room now known as the Richard Day Room. The next room on the right was the bunk room but now known as the Heritage Room. These rooms can be used for conferences, weddings or dinner functions.

Pepper Tree Gazebo

Constructed in 2000, it became an instant success for weddings, set within a grove of old pepper trees, small fountains, a running stream and rockery with a backing of old farm carts giving a tranquil setting.

Cheese Room and Cellars

Built in 1882 and restored in 1992. Butter and cheese was only made here from 1882-1884 when it became a fodder store and the cellars for silage. In 1936 a portion was opened up and used as a workshop. This room in recent time has been used by various dancing groups but is now solely for conferences. Around the walls are framed pictures and plans describing the workings of the original farm.