Thursday, January 28, 2016

Penfield township

Penfield Township was laid out by William Penfold, a pioneer settler and hotel keeper who subdivided Section 4057 into allotments in 1856.  Situated at the intersection of Penfield and Argent Roads, it was a small village which serviced the surrounding farms.  It contained only a few buildings such as the post office which received mail carried by horse and cart from Salisbury, a house or two, blacksmith, a one-roomed school and the plough and harrow hotel for which William Penfold held the licence between 1853 and 184.  The hotel closed in 1893 and reverted to being a private dwelling.  At the village shop horseshoes were sold over the counter and tea and sugar were still weighed loose on a set of scales until the compulsory acquisition of land in 1940.  A large stone barn was used for dances and social gatherings.

Penfield was a close-knit community and local families were predominantly Methodist.  In the days before Methodist Union they were served by two churches: Sturton Primitive Methodist Church – a mile or two south of the township – and Zoar Bible Christian Chapel – a little to the north.  The few Catholic families in the district travelled by pony and trap to the Catholic churches in Salisbury or Virginia.
The village was situated in the heart of the premier wheat and hay growing district of the Northern Adelaide Plains.  Although the local farmers were not wealthy, a good living was made while there was a big demand chaff to feed the growing number of horses used in horse-drawn vehicles in Adelaide, well into the early years of this century.  With the arrival of the automobile the demand for hay gradually lessened and farmers turned to wheat growing and raising livestock.

The comfortable and predictable routine of farming life in Penfield was shattered in mid 1940 when Britain faced a crisis after the fall of France and the devastating loss of equipment in the Dunkirk evacuation.  Essington Lewis, Director General of Munitions, was requested by the Australian War Cabinet to look for a suitable site for a new munitions factor.  South Australia’s far sighted Premier, Thomas Playford, already planning the State’s future industrialisation, bid for the project and as an inducement offered his government’s agreement to finance the supply of land, and to meet the cost of bringing water, roads, power, transport and sewerage to the factory’s boundaries and magazine areas.  Penfield was deemed to be the best site, providing flat land close to existing railway services and close enough to Adelaide to draw upon its workforce, while being sufficiently distant for safety.

Under the Supply and Development Act, the Commonwealth government accepted the South Australian offer and moved swiftly in September to compulsorily acquire two, 020 hectares of land in the Penfield area for the factory and magazine.  Twenty local farmers, including names such as Thompson, Griffiths, Bubner, While, Worden, O’Leary, Jeffries and Fatchen suddenly found they were faced with a major change in their lives.  While surveyors appeared and were busy surveying land among the ripening crops, the farmers made preparations for their last harvest before they moved.

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