Victoria Square, Adelaide

Victoria Square, also known as Tarntanyangga[1] or Tarndanyangga[2] , is a public square in the South Australian capital of Adelaide. The area was named "Victoria Square" by the Street Naming Committee on 23 May 1837, after Princess Victoria, then heir presumptive of the British throne.[3] Less than a month later the King died and Victoria became Queen. The Kaurna people know the area as Tarndanyangga, "The Dreaming Place of the Red Kangaroo". In line with the Adelaide City Council's recognition of Kaurna country, the area is officially referred to as Victoria Square/Tarndanyangga. The square was upgraded in 2014, new lighting was added and the fountain was moved from the northern end to the southern tip of the square.[4] During the Christmas period, it is traditional for a 24.5 m high Christmas tree to be erected in the northern part of the square.


Victoria Square is in the centre of the city's grid of one square mile. It is bordered by numerous public institutions at its north and south ends, including the Supreme Court of South Australia, the Adelaide Magistrates' Court, the Federal Court of Australia, the historic old Treasury building (now a hotel run by the Adina hotel chain) and the Adelaide General Post Office. On the eastern side is the Roman Catholic Cathedral Church of St Francis Xavier, the SA Water headquarters, State Government offices, including the office of the Premier, and the Torrens Building. The Torrens Building currently houses campuses of several international universities including the UCL School of Energy and Resources (a specialised graduate school of University College London), Heinz College Australia, Carnegie Mellon University, Torrens University Australia and other institutions. The west side of the square contains more commercially oriented buildings, including the Adelaide Central Market, the Hilton hotel, and the offices of various consultants, law firms and insurance companies.

King William Street passes through the square, making a diamond shape, with the southbound carriageway passing through the east side, and the northbound carriageway passing through the west side of the square. The square is bisected by the piece of road (technically part of the square) that connects Wakefield Street (entering from the east) with Grote Street (to the west). A tram stop (formerly the terminus) for the Glenelg Tramline is just south of the Queen Victoria statue; it was shifted from the centre to the western edge of the square in 2007, as part of the extension that was made to the tram line around that time.[5]


The link between the Aboriginal people and the square, as a centre for the surrounding area, stretches back many centuries, to a time when Tarndanya (Red Kangaroo Dreaming) people gathered there for special ceremonies and dances. Tarndanyangga was the "headquarters" or central camp of the "Dundagunya tribe", a community numbering in the thousands.[6][7] During the 1960s the Aboriginal community renewed its activities in Victoria Square, with the area in front of what was then the central Police Station, (and is now the Commonwealth Law Courts building), becoming a social and gathering point.

19th century

In 1837, Surveyor General Colonel William Light mapped a plan for the City of Adelaide. The design incorporated a central square to function as Adelaide's focal point and provide open space for recreational activities. On his first map, Light called the precinct 'The Great Square'. It was eventually named in honour of Princess Victoria, then heir to the throne of England. The square was a dusty, treeless paddock until 1854, when the Adelaide City Council embarked on a planting program, constructed four broad diagonal pedestrian paths and erected a wooden fence. Other work on the square included construction of an east-west roadway that created two garden areas. A fountain was also considered, but it took a further 100 years for this idea to come to fruition. By 1883, plans were under way to extend King William Street directly through Victoria Square, dividing it into four garden areas. The original wooden fence was replaced by ornate iron railings. A statue of Queen Victoria – who had ascended to the throne in June 1837 – was erected in the centre of the square in 1894.

20th century

The layout remained unchanged until 1967 when the square assumed its present diamond form. The Three Rivers Fountain by John Dowie was built to commemorate the visit of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, in 1968. The three South Australian rivers, the Murray, Onkaparinga and Torrens, are represented by an Aboriginal male with an Ibis, a female with a heron, and a female with a black swan. On 12 July 1971, the red, black and yellow Aboriginal flag designed by Harold Thomas was flown for the first time – in Victoria Square.[8] It now flies permanently alongside the Australian flag on one of the two tall flagpoles in the centre of the square.

21st century

In 2002, the Adelaide City Council formally recognised the areas heritage by bestowing the dual name Victoria Square/Tarndanyangga. In 2012 the Adelaide City Council endorsed $24 million in funding to begin rejuvenating Victoria Square. Construction commenced in March 2013 and the first of two planned stages (the northern half) was completed in February 2014. The planned redevelopment of the southern half has been held up due to lack of funding.[9] The full development included:[10]

  • A relocation of the statue of Queen Victoria slightly to the north
  • Future 'Fire' themed artwork
  • Relocated tram line
  • Perimeter streets
  • Information Experience Centre
  • Water feature
  • Mullabakka Centre (Kaurna Centre of Culture)
  • Cafe
  • Productive gardens
  • Perimeter gardens
  • Event Lawn to accommodate medium to large events of
    up to 9,000 people, with terraces and service area
  • Extended tram stop
  • Bicycle Hub
  • Public toilets
  • Bio-filtration & Wetland gardens
  • Garden terraces
  • Arcadian Grove relocated
  • Arbours
  • Perimeter footpaths
  • Three Rivers Fountain relocated to the south


Queen Victoria statue

Located in the centre of the square, adjacent Reconciliation Plaza, is a statue honouring Queen Victoria from a model by C. B. Birch.[11] The statue was presented to the city by Sir Edwin Smith, based on a design viewed in England in 1893.[12][13] It was cast by Moore & Co. of Thames Ditton using bronze specifically made from Wallaroo and Moonta copper,[14] Inscribed simply with "Victoria R.I.", the statue was originally unveiled by Lady Smith on 11 August 1894.[15] The statue was symbolically draped in black as a sign of mourning following the death of Queen Victoria in 1901.[12] For many years the a wreath laying ceremony was held at the foot of the statue each 24 May (or 23rd when the 24th was a Saturday), the anniversary of her birth in 1819.[16] It was removed, cleaned and polished in May 2013 as part of the upgrade of Victoria Square and returned in December 2013 in a modified location.[17]

Reconciliation Plaza

The east-west road connecting Grote and Wakefield Streets was named Reconciliation Plaza in 2013. The plaza hosts two flagpoles flying the Australian National Flag and the Aboriginal Flag, which has flown permanently in the square since 2002. In 1971, the square was the first place the Aboriginal Flag was flown, at a land rights rally.[18] Reconciliation Plaza was officially opened on 26 May 2014 by then Lord Mayor Stephen Yarwood, Reconciliation Committee Chairperson Yvonne Agius and Journey of Healing SA Chairperson John Browne.[19]

The State Survey Mark

Located at the northern end of the square, the State Survey Mark commemorates the placing of the first peg for the survey of the City of Adelaide by Surveyor General Colonel William Light on 11 January 1837. This survey mark is the reference point for all other survey marks in South Australia.[20] The mark was unveiled, along with a commemorative plaque by then Minister of Lands, Susan Lenehan on 21 April 1989.

Three Rivers Fountain

Originally located at the northern end of the square, it was later relocated to the southern end, and was officially reopened by then Lord Mayor Stephen Yarwood in July 2014.[21] The fountain was erected to commemorate the visit of Queen Elizabeth II to Adelaide in February 1963. It was first set in operation by the Duke of Edinburgh on 28 May 1968.[22]

Sculptured by John Dowie, the centrepiece in the shape of a crown represents the royal visit, and the fountain represents the three rivers that Adelaide draws water from;


  1. City of Adelaide > Victoria Square - Tarntanyangga Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  2. Kaurna Warra Pintyanthi > Tarndanyangga, 'red kangaroo dreaming' Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  3. "History of Adelaide through street names - Land forms". Retrieved 2008-04-09.
  4. Victoria Square fountain complete InDaily, 31 July 2014. Retrieved 8 February 2017.
  5. "Tramline Extension". Archived from the original on 31 August 2007. Retrieved 2008-04-09.
  6. Adelaide Botanic Gardens Conservation Study - 5.0 Assessment of Cultural Significance DEWNR, 2006. Accessed 13 September 2014.
  7. Adelaide Park Lands & Squares Cultural Landscape Assessment Study > 3.1.33 Tarndanyangga/Victoria Square Report David Jones, Corporation of the City of Adelaide, 2007. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  8. "Indigenous Australian flags". NAIDOC. Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 11 July 2011.
  9. Council's funding showdown on half-finished Vic Square InDaily, 19 October 2016. Retrieved 8 February 2017.
  10. Adelaide City Council reveals masterplan for $95 million Victoria Square redevelopment Sunday Mail (SA), 5 May 2012. Retrieved 8 February 2017.
  11. The statue was from an improved model Birch created for an Indian prince variously cited as the Maharajah of Oodeypore, Dodeypore, and Bulrampore (yet to be identified), unveiled by Prince Albert Victor in 1889.
  12. 1 2 Elton, Jude. "Queen Victoria Monument". Adelaidia. History SA. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  13. "The Queen's Statue". South Australian Chronicle. 28 February 1894. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  14. "The Queen's Statue". South Australian Chronicle. XXXVI, (1,853). South Australia. 24 February 1894. p. 7. Retrieved 17 May 2016 via National Library of Australia.
  15. "The Queen's Statue - The Unveiling Ceremony". South Australian Register. 13 August 1894. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  16. "Empire Day on May 23: Food Parcels for Britain". The Advertiser (Adelaide). South Australia. 14 May 1947. p. 2. Retrieved 21 May 2016 via National Library of Australia.
  17. Nunn, Louise (9 December 2013). "Statue of Queen Victoria being cleaned and polished before return to Victoria Square in December". The Advertiser/AdelaideNow. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  18. Williams, Tim (27 November 2013). "Adelaide City Council endorses renaming middle of revamped Victoria Square Reconciliation Plaza". News Corporation. City Messenger. Retrieved 14 December 2016.
  19. "Reconciliation Plaza in Victoria Square/Tarntanyangga". Adelaide City Council. Retrieved 14 December 2016.
  20. "Victoria Square: The State Survey Mark, Reference Point". Retrieved 14 December 2016.
  21. Hough, Andrew (30 July 2014). "Water turned on at Adelaide's historic Three Rivers Fountain in Victoria Square". News Corporation. The City. Retrieved 14 December 2016.
  22. "Three Rivers Fountain". Adelaidia. History Trust of South Australia. Retrieved 14 December 2016.

Coordinates: 34°55′50″S 138°36′15″E / 34.93056°S 138.60417°E / -34.93056; 138.60417

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