First Creek appears on Colonel Light’s section map of Adelaide and surrounds as Green Hill Rivulet and it later became known as Greenhill Creek. The creek originates in the Adelaide Hills, flows through Waterfall Gully and eventually though Kent Town, Hackney and the Botanic Gardens before entering the Torrens.
The River Torrens has five, mostly hidden and controlled, creek tributaries serving it across the inner Adelaide metropolitan area. First to Fifth creeks were once named Greenhill, Hallett, Todd, Anstey and Ormsley rivulets.
First, Second and Third creeks have been heavily modified into concrete channels; others run through private gardens or underground pipes. Introduced species including olives, bamboos, boxthorn, watsonia and blackberries have replaced native flora along the creeks.
First Creek begins in Cleland Wildlife Park to Waterfall Gully falls and through Hazelwood and Tusmore parks before discharging into the Torrens near Adelaide. Much of its course through the suburbs has turned into canals, some of them underground. About 7.5% of its flow is diverted within the Adelaide Botanic Garden to create the First Creek wetland, to ensure water security and to support the area’s diverse flora and fauna. Botanic Creek runs north-south through the eastern Adelaide city parklands, into the botanic garden before joining First Creek.
As it enters the Botanic Gardens some of the water is diverted into the First Creek Wetland.
“First Creek Wetland
First Creek Wetland, in Adelaide Botanic Garden’s south-east corner, helps the community learn about wetlands – how they work and why they’re important for maintaining healthy environments, especially urban ones. The garden exposes visitors to new plants and a function of plants they may never have considered.
First Creek Wetland also forms an important part of the water security plan and long-term sustainability of Adelaide Botanic Garden. By 2022 it’s hoped First Creek Wetland will be able to recover up to 100ML of water a year from the underground aquifer – enough to irrigate the entire Adelaide Botanic Garden.
Following rainfall a small amount of stormwater – a maximum of 25 litres per second – is diverted from First Creek (which begins in Cleland Wildlife Park and merges into Adelaide’s River Torrens) as it enters the Garden, and it’s treated through the wetland via a series of purification processes. The water’s then stored in and subsequently recovered from an underlying aquifer.“
As can be seen from Light’s section map above. First Creek flows through Kent Town (Section 255) although it is no longer visible and serves as a storm water drain rather than a water supply. In the early days of settlement, the situation was different. The following excerpt contains a number of inaccuracies but is included to give some idea of the Creek’s significance to the early settlers.
George Birrell was an early vine-grower with 10 acres on First Creek and beside him Joseph Gillard held 5 acres, which he later extended. Other vineyards were those of Edward Cartwright, A.H.W. Meyer and Joseph Edmunds and gardens had been established by Edward Coke, George Soward, Charles Bonney, Joseph Edsall, and others.
Charles Robin bought Section 255 in 1854 [see Section 255 – Kent Town Residents Association (ktra.net) for a less simplified version] , subdivided, and named it Kent Town. Under the conditions of sale, a 13 acre block was reserved for Dr Kent, and included the land on which his cottage stood. Dr Kent left South Australia in the following year. He lived only a few months in the suburb named after him. [While Dr Kent left Adelaide to return to Britain in 1854, he later returned and only departed permanently in 1857. In fact he lived in the same cottage from 1841 to 1854 but the area (Section 255) only became known as Kent Town in 1854).]
Robin reserved 13 acres for himself and a further 4 acres, with a frontage to Flinders Street was reserved for his brother James. The remainder of the land was divided into 127 quarter acre allotments. On 27th May 1854, the Observer reported that the land sale held three days earlier “was remarkably successful being the largest weekly Government Land Sale upon record in South Australia … ” 19 Despite this, Kent Town did not develop quickly. The first Assessment made in 1858 shows 63 dwellings, 3 shops, the Kent Town Hotel, the Kentish Arms Tavern, a brewery and 112 vacant allotments in addition to Charles Robin’s 17 acres and Dr Kent’s 13 acres. All of the occupied allotments were north of the present Parade West. The Kent Town Hotel is currently licenced.
Crawford and Logue built a brewery on the site previously Grayling’s Smelting Works and Dr Kent’s mill. Smith had a controlling interest in the brewery and in 1876 erected new premises (the present malthouse). Among the residents of Kent Town at this time were Charles Gooch, Daniel Fisher, Frederick B. Carlin, William Rhodes and James Mattingly. Fisher and Carlin were later Mayors of the town, and James Mattingly’s son, the first child born in Kent Town, also became Mayor. Carlin built a house in Flinders Street, which was tenanted by Lady Charlotte Bacon from 1871 to 1875. James Shaw made a painting of this house in 1861. The painting is in the Art Gallery of South Australia, Historical Collection, and the house is still standing, largely unchanged. [18 flinders Street]
18 Flinders Street, Kent Town in 2022