Author Archives: antyhennessy

“Really? Only two?”

In 1992, a heritage survey was undertaken in the City of Tea Tree Gully. One of the heritage places listed in the survey was the “Thatched Shed”, or, as I am more familiar with it, “Boord House”. The description of the house was a good equivalent of two paragraphs, complete with a picture, and some information on the location, but I was admittedly shocked when I saw the number of references these consultants had used: a grand total of two, one of which was an “historic marker on site” – which could have been either the memorial plaque outside the depot, or the little plaque installed on one of the walls of the house.

Of course, I knew that it would be impractical and impossible to gather a substantial amount of information on each individual heritage site, and then compact that information into a summary for each site in a city-wide survey. But another part of me thought, “Really? Only two?”. Naturally, I tried to compare it to my own experience in gathering information on Boord House, and really, I was quite lucky to have been provided with initial research materials: excerpts from books, shipping records, even an entire interview with a descendant from Alexander Boord. And then I considered the extra research materials I had to gather to fill in gaps in the research: construction materials, when they were used, property histories, and so on.

It took me a semester to write up a final report on my findings for my directed study, most of which referred to the significance of the house. It took a considerable amount of effort to compile information on a single site, with multiple visits, to attempt to justify its significance to State history, so I can only imagine the time it would take to cover an entire city’s heritage sites. It really put into perspective the workload and time restrictions consultants may face, even in an area where history is apparently appreciated.

I am very happy to have been able to work on a site with a surprising amount of history, and has attached to much such a historically rich area of Adelaide which I wouldn’t have otherwise known about.

-Antoinette Hennessy, blogpost 4

From cellar to cold store

At the beginning of my directed study, I centred my focus on the historical building that is Boord house – a sturdy, sandstone structure consisting of a thatched roof, 2 rooms, and a cellar below. Aside from the surrounding, evidently non-native fruit trees, it hadn’t occurred to me until later to extend my focus on the two storage sheds that are attached to the house.

At first glance, it would seem like a couple of huge storage sheds, and a piddly little hut attached to them, but these buildings were part of a different complex a few decades ago – one involving fruit and fruit processing. Now this may seem like a mundane fact, but horticulture was actually a very big business in Tea Tree Gully, and provided a means of stability for the settlement. With fertile ground, and proximity to the River Torrens, it was the perfect place for garden, orchards, nurseries, and vineyards.

Alexander Boord was known for his beautiful garden and orchards, but he was also a vigneron who apparently had unconventional methods of maintaining his plants and making wine. Apparently, he would smash grapes against a wooden grating, and he did not use a wine press of a grape mill for fermentation. Regardless, he made a variety of red and white wines (though I couldn’t find anything regarding the quality!). Rusted farming implements have been recovered, and have been placed on the southern end of the complex for display – these supposedly belonged to Boord. Following his death, his property maintained a long history of owners who were gardeners, and orchardists, according to state land title records.

Technological progress accompanied the passing years. These sheds are an example of cold storage which used ammonia to help preservation which was pumped through a system of pipes. In fact, these pipes and their accompanying pump are still intact, but are not in use. The system itself would be a fascinating subject for research.

It appears that the cellar of Boord’s house was used for packing. Fruit would be rolled down the shaft leading to cellar, and into great boxes that would be shipped all over Australia. Indeed, past visitors have claimed that stencil plates were present in the house, but are now kept in the Highercombe Museum. These plates were used to label crates, some of which would be shipped interstate!

Today, the complex is used as a horticultural depot for the City of Tea Tree Gully; however, the development of the horticulture industry is illustrated by the combination of Boord House, and the two cold store sheds. I wouldn’t have otherwise managed to reach this if I hadn’t broadened by scope from the little thatched house. It truly shows the significant progress made from smashing grapes against a grate to make wine, to packing fruits for interstate.

-Antoinette Hennessy, blogpost 3

The Basement Bedroom – Boord House and the Truth

I had an interesting conversation with a friend today. It was on different perspectives and values; how one person might perceive an object – well … let’s say “site” because we were talking about archaeological sites – as one thing, and how another might perceive it as something else and value it in a different way. I had just come from a lecture that touched on the issue of differing values and value systems, specifically scientific values versus, say, social values. One may seek truth by means of rational and logical explanations and investigations into the what, how, and when of a site; however, another might believe a site to be an important factor to their identity regardless of the scientific facts. They are different values, but ultimately both truths and realities.

Now as stimulating a debate as it may be, I won’t be covering it on this post. It just got me thinking …

It got me thinking about Boord house, and the issue I had when I looked at the house for the first time. I was shown the holes in a wall that were the purported gun slits that were made to protect the Boord family from threats (so a plaque on a wall tells me). I took down notes about the site, now a storage depot for the Tea Tree Gully council, from the caretaker who was interested in the local history, and who took much of what he knew from what locals had told him throughout the years. There was an obvious sense of pride in the little cottage, and its connection to local history; the narratives that made it so interesting for such a quaint little place; the gunslits encapsulating the romantic notion of the frontier and its hardy pioneers.

It makes it difficult to share my views, which contradict some of these stories, based on observations some friends and I had made about some of the house’s features. One of these was in regards to the basement. I was told that this was where the family would have slept, having my attention drawn to a squared alcove in the northern wall that seemed to resemble a fireplace. And why not? It was quite cool, and would probably be cosy in the winter as well. How intriguing!

But it was probably just a cellar. Indeed, it was used as a storage place in later years, indicated by an end of a shaft on southern wall, directly to the left of the doorway.

There were no windows, or proper means of ventilation to support a family, let alone with a fire burning. And the “fireplace” did not seem to be a fireplace at all – it didn’t even have a chimney – and was probably just an alcove to store something in. Had it a chimney, we approximated that it would have come up at the entrance-way of the room above, and would have probably left some people disgruntled at the sootiness of their feet.

What was my point to this?

Stories often play an entertaining and educational role in our lives, and they often give something meaning. I believe there is a kind of pride in the unconventional; the unique; the idea that “you’ve probably never heard of it”. The story about the basement bedroom is one that seemed to make the house unconventional in its structure, and interesting. That’s not to say it could be wrong. It could have been a room, much like a panic room, especially if the stories about the gunslits were true: in the face of an attack, the family runs to the basement and takes shelter as Alexander Boord takes his gun and fires at the encroaching enemy through the gunslits he so wisely built …

… but is there any truth to this? Is it important if there is, or isn’t? Will it make the cottage any less significant to the community than it is now?

Just some things I thought to consider.

-Antoinette Hennessy, blog post 2

Keeping up with the Boords

Blog post 1

As part of my directed study, I am assisting the Florey Reconciliation Task Force in drafting a heritage nomination for a little house in Highgate (Tea Tree Gully) that is affectionately called, “Boord House”. The name doesn’t imply magnificence, but I think it is one of the most fascinating historic places in Adelaide – and only a 15 minute drive from the CBD! It left an impression from the beginning when Associate Prof. Heather Burke told me about the house and its odd accoutrements. One of its defining features is a wall with what are believed to be gun slits and which is still very much intact. Much of the cottage, in fact, is still intact, and under the sturdy cover of a shed which was obviously built much more recently.

When I went to the Florey Electorate building for the first time to meet with Lea Crosby, she was kind enough to provide me a variety of resources, all referring to the Boord family, their history, and a little about the house itself. The more I found out, the more I wondered why such a place wasn’t listed yet, and I was genuinely worried. She was also kind enough to show me the house – easy enough to get to down a scenic route off Lower Northeast Road.

The surrounding area is part of the Linear Park project of Campbelltown, with a creek running through, and is speckled with a mix of native and non-native trees. Most, if not all of the latter are old fruit trees which I believe are part of the Boord’s orchard. Lea led me down the trail through the trees and to the house nearby. Little did I know that my first problem would be waiting in the form of a big black metal fence surrounding the house, and a conspicuous sign stating, “PRIVATE PROPERTY”, and with that went my initial plans to visit the house regularly – apparently, they were recent additions. Despite the barrier, the tall black bars reassured me that there were precautions being taken in preserving such a beautiful historic building, despite not being heritage listed. While the property may no longer (or for the moment) be available for public visitation, a memorial plaque is available for passers-by to read about the house and a brief history of the Boord family in South Australia.

Antoinette Hennessy