A Brief Kent Town History

(Based on Kent Town’s History from the PKTA website)

Before European settlement the Adelaide plains were home to the Kaurna people.

Their territory was a narrow tract of land stretching from the mid-north to Cape Jervis, and was bounded on the east by the Mount Lofty Ranges. The Kaurna people had an enduring spiritual relationship with the land that informed their daily life and beliefs.

In 1836, when the British province of South Australia was founded, it is estimated that there were 300 Kaurna people living on the Adelaide plains. The population had been decimated by exposure to smallpox carried down the River Murray by settlers from the Eastern colonies.

Within twenty years of Adelaide being settled, the few remaining survivors of the Kaurna people were relocated to a mission settlement at Poonindie, near Port Lincoln.

Dr Benjamin Archer Kent arrived in the Province of South Australia in April 1840 but prior to his departure from London he entered into a land agreement with Lieutenant Colonel Robert Torrens. Within a few days of arriving in the colony, Dr Kent renegotiated his lease and settled on land in Section 255 near Norwood instead of settling at Section 46 (near Thebarton) as originally intended.

He erected a wooden prefabricated cottage in a grove of wattles on the corner of Rundle Street and Dequetteville Terrace. It was called East Park Cottage and he established a garden and orchard around his home and the remainder of the section was referred to as East Park Farm.

For a number of years, Dr Kent’s house was the only building between the city and Kensington Village with the country between described as ‘heavily timbered, with an abundance of wild life.’

In 1840, at Governor Gawler’s urgent request, Dr Kent converted the brick-making machinery he had brought from England to be able to grind corn. His East Park Mill was the first mill in the province and was located on First Creek between Little King William Street and North Terrace. In 1857 (after the urban subdivision of Section 255, it became Logue’s Brewery in King William Street. At it turned out, neither brick-making or grinding corn were a profitable enterprise and so Dr Kent returned to the practice of medicine. He was appointed to the first S.A. Medical Board and was one of the founders of St Peter’s College.

Kent’s right of ownership of Section 255 was not clear and after nineteen years of legal wrangling with Colonel Torrens and others, an agreement was finally reached. Prior to 1854, Torrens sold the land to Charles Robin, who, in 1854,  paid compensation to Dr Kent and reserved for him thirteen acres on which East Park Cottage stood. After allocating a further 13 acres to himself (now Prince Alfred College) and four acres to his brother James, Robin had  what was left subdivided into quarter acre residential blocks and the first auction was held on May 18, 1854. Dr Kent, at last financially solvent, left for a visit to England late in 1854, renting out his cottage and farm.

He returned to Adelaide in 1857 but left permanently for England in 1858 where he died in 1864. Prince Alfred College (PAC) was established in 1869, on the remainder of what was Robin’s land and Kent Town quickly developed into a residential area for the wealthy and their servants. In 1875, Kent Town Brewery was erected on the site of East Park Cottage. and in 1882, James Robin  built St Jaques on the four acre block reserved for him by Charles. This survives as the residence of the PAC Headmaster.