Unley's history

Naming Unley

There is much speculation as to the origin of the name Unley.

 Early settler Thomas Whistler is credited with naming Unley, but there is doubt about any actual connection or reason.

Whistler was one of 15 land holders in Unley in the late 1830's. He owned approximately 420 acres which he subdivided to create Arthur, Mary and Thomas streets.

Some believe that Whistler originally named Unley after Undley Common in the Parish of Mildenhall in Suffolk, and that the name Unley was derived as a result of mirroring local speech which omitted the letter 'd'. However, investigations show that he had no actual connection with Undley, and it has been noted that on all of his land transfers the name is spelt Unley.

Another theory is that Unley was the maiden name of Whistler's wife. However, research has proven this to be false as records show that Whistler never married.

The First Unley Council Meeting

The first Unley Council meeting was held on 19 June, 1871, and was presided over by Unley's first Mayor, John Henry Barrow.


Thomas Whistler

Thomas Whistler was one of 15 land holders in Unley in the late 1830s and is credited with giving Unley its name.
On 19 February, 1839, Thomas Whistler, a colonial agent of Fenchurch Street, London, was issued land orders by the colonisation commissioners for three town acres in Adelaide and three country sections each consisting 134 acres which became known as Unley and Unley Park.

On 4 April, 1840, Whistler boarded the ship the Fairliee and set sail for life as a gentleman farmer and land speculator. After spending a short time living in Adelaide and Mitcham, Whistler settled in a two-room wooden cottage on Section 236 located on the bank of Brownhill Creek. This area is now called Heywood Park.

Whistler's first recorded land sale was to the Chigwedden brothers, Charles and Alexander, who purchased allotments 67 and 68 on Arthur Street in the Village of Unley.

In 1855 Thomas Whistler, wishing to return to England, sold 'slips, pieces or parcels of land situate in and forming the roads and streets of Unley' to the Mitcham District Council for five pounds, an amount he believed to be 'well below the actual value of the land in question'.


Unley's Own

The City of Unley has a long relationship with the 10th/27th Battalion, the Royal South Australia Regiment, known as 'Unley's Own' due to the large number of Unley residents who served in war.

It is also the battalion of Colonel Walter Dollman, VD (Volunteer Officers' Decoration or Colonial Auxiliary Forces Officers' Decoration) who was the Mayor of Unley during World War I and commanded the battalion at the landing at ANZAC Cove.

The Roll of Honour in the Town Hall commemorates all Unley residents who served in this and subsequent world conflicts. The Honour Roll lists 1,189 men and 16 nurses from Unley who enlisted in WW1. 308 of those are from Unley, who died in this 'war to end all wars'. 790 more were wounded, leaving the City of Unley with a casualty list of 1,100, all from a population of about 29,000 in 1915. Few families in Unley remained untouched or exempt from this toll.

The 10th/27th Battalion, The Royal South Australia Regiment have previously been granted the Freedom of the City to exercise their rights and privileges to 'pass through the City of Unley with swords drawn, bayonets fixed, drums beating, bands playing and colours flying'.

Information for this article is taken from 'Dolly's Dinkum Diggers' - written by Colonel Dollman's grandson, Mr. Chris Colyer.


Unley's Mayors

This information is listed from December to December
  • John H. COOKE, J.P. 1904-1907
  • Alfred S. LEWIS 1907-1909
  • John H. CHINNER, J.P. 1909-1912
  • Walter DOLLMAN 1912-1914
  • Thomas E. YELLAND 1914-1916
  • William N. PARSONS 1916-1918
  • William H. LANGHAM 1918-1920
  • Herbert C. RICHARDS, M.P. 1920-1922
  • Alfred E. MORRIS 1922-1924
  • Ethelbert BENDALL 1924-1926
  • George W. ILLINGWORTH 1926-1928
  • Benjamin J. SELLICK 1928-1930
  • Charles M. REID 1930-1932
  • Frederick J. BARRETT 1933 to June 1935

This information is listed from July to June

  • John McLEAY 1935-1937
  • James McG. SOUTAR 1937-1939
  • Colin R. DUNNAGE, M.P. 1939-1941
  • Keith T.A. BENTZEN 1941-1943
  • Henry S. DUNKS, M.P. 1943-1946
  • Capt. William M. HARRELL 1946-1948
  • Samuel GILD 1948-1949
  • Claude S. COOGAN 1949-1952
  • Joseph Y. WOOLLACOTT 1952-1953
  • Theodore F. BALLANTYN 1953-1955
  • Alfred G.M. FREEMAN 1955-1957
  • George S. BARLOW 1957-1959
  • Claude F. PAGE 1959-1961
  • John E. McLEAY 1961-1963
  • Leonard ILES 1963-1965
  • Alexander L. HOOD 1965-1967
  • Lewis G. SHORT 1967-1970
  • Clement COLMAN 1970-1972
  • Eric H. PARISH 1972-1974
  • Laurence K. SIMON 1974-1975
  • Lloyd L. LOVELL 1975-1977
  • John H. SOUTHERN 1977-1980
  • Cecil S. ROWE 1980 to September 1982
  • Denis A. SHERIDAN October 1982 to May 1985

This information is listed from May to May

  • Barry L. SCHUETZ 1985-1987
  • David H. McLEOD 1987-1991
  • A. Michael KEENAN 1991- 2006
  • Richard THORNE 2006 - 2010
  • Lachlan CLYNE 2010 - 2018
  • Michael HEWITSON AM 2018 – present


The Black Forest

The name 'Black Forest' is reputed to have been given as a result of the dark-coloured tree bark and thick green foliage.

The area formerly extended from the eastern foothill suburbs of Burnside, Erindale, Beaumont, Glen Osmond, south-west through to Urrbrae, Malvern, Mitcham, Unley, Goodwood, Wayville, South Adelaide, Black Forest, Hyde Park, Clarence Park, Plympton, Edwardstown, St Marys and the River Sturt near Marion.

The Urban Forest Biodiversity Program reports that grazing, agriculture, horticulture, residential development and industry have progressively all but replaced the unique flora and fauna of the Adelaide Plains. Less than 2% of the original habitat is left intact and remaining native plants and animals are finding it increasingly difficult to survive.

Individual trees from the original Black Forest still exist within the City of Unley but only one remaining stand of grey-box woodland can be found - in Heywood Park at Northgate Street, Unley Park.

Information for this article was sourced from local Millswood resident, Mr. Darrell Kraehenbuehl and taken from his book 'Pre-European Vegetation of Adelaide: A Survey from the Gawler River to Hallett Cove' (1996).


Heywood Park

A fierce battle was fought in the 1920s to save Heywood Park for the Unley community.
The park takes its name from the Lancashire birthplace of its last private owner, State MP William Haslam, who bought 14 acres of land and a house by Brownhill Creek in 1896. Locals began looking longingly at tree-covered Heywood in1909 but the land was not for sale.

When eight acres of the land became available in 1917, shortly after Haslam's death, Unley councillor William Langham took up the cause. Three years later, while he was mayor, he suggested the council should buy the land to use as a park.

There was a heated public debate and a poll on whether the council should acquire the land was lost. But Mayor Langham was not willing to give up the fight and decided to raise the money himself by calling for public donations.

Some councillors cried foul and another row broke out but the mayor had managed to raise more than 4,000 pounds. The council gave in and paid for the land in April 1920. The stoush was still not over though, with two rival buyers taking the matter to court because the poll had failed.

After a year of legal action, the council eventually took possession of the land and Heywood Park finally had its gala opening - complete with pony rides and a merry-go-round - on 10 December, 1921.



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