Smithfield is located in an area that was once known as the Gawler Plains. It lies on the north bank of Smith’s Creek between the Gawler River in the north and Little Para River in the south. Well into the twentieth century Smithfield was an agricultural district noted for its cereal crops, particularly wheat and hay, and livestock. Rapid expansion of the metropolitan area since the 1970s has seen the old township of Smithfield closed in by housing developments.
The Smithfield Township was an early settlement to South Australia originally named Smith’s Creek after John Smith, a Scottish migrant and one of the first settlers in the area. Smith a wheat farmer and hotel keeper had arrived in South Australia in 1838.
His land was situated near the Main North Road known at that time as the Great North Road which linked Adelaide to Gawler. The first home Smith built was on the very edge of the Main North Road. Smith had seen potential in positioning his homestead close to the road travelling north and set up part of the Homestead as the first inn at Smithfield. With the establishment of a mail service and the discovery of copper further north Smith’s inn soon became a popular staging point by those making long journeys between towns. A trip from Adelaide to Gawler would take twelve hours by bullock and dray.
Within six years Smith became the largest land owner in the area. By 1852 ideas of a township were beginning to form. Smith had sketched out plans in his ledger that year which included a site for his new inn, shops, and school all fronting the Main North Road. Smith’s Creek had been sketched and it was noted as having running water, an important asset for early settlers. By 1853 section 3165 was surveyed and subdivided into town allotments for Smith’s new township. Smith came under close inspection as private ownership of a town was not considered appropriate and the government ordered that an auction be held to sell the allotments to the public. The allotments went up for sale on 18 April, 1854 and the auction was commenced with the firing of a gun. Only nine allotments were sold and the balance remained in John Smith’s ownership for some time.
The township had streets in a grid pattern which surrounded a central square. Smith named the central square in his plan, Augusta Square. Smithfield was a mainly Scottish settlement and here in the centre of town Smith wanted the site of a Presbyterian Church for the local Scottish Community. Land was donated by Smith to build the church in 1855, one of the first buildings in the area. Within two years Smithfield had a store, post office, telegraph station, granary, a coach building business, undertaker, railway station, cattle yards, institute building, a new inn and a blacksmith.
By the 1860’s Smithfield was an industrious and thriving rural centre with the railway line and the Main North Road its main routes of communication.