Town History of Birdwood

 


The name Birdwood comes from Sir William Birdwood, an Australian General during World War I who led the Anzacs at Gallipoli. His name was an obvious choice when the World War I place names committee decided to replace the town's original name of Blumberg.

How the first name came into being is still a matter for debate, but the most likely source was early settlers coming from the Prussian town of Blumberg, which is close to the river route used by the Silesian pioneers on their way from the likes of Züllichau and Klemzig.

Blumberg, then, was predominantly German in origin. Migrants who had temporarily settled at Lobethal began looking for land of their own in 1848. Pastor Fritzsch recommended this spot beside the Torrens, where he camped on the way to Bethany.

Birdwood grew with homes on land leased from G F Angas and a church some distance away; then complications were caused by the split in the Lutheran church. There was also another small village called Oliventhal, separated from Blumberg by a single farm.

Oliventhal is little more than a memory, though a German style half-timbered cottage is named Oliventhal and reflects the mid-19th century beginnings of the village.

Blumberg soon provided support for outlying farmers as well, particularly with its flour mill. There were also periodic gold finds in the area, and this helped establish Blumberg as a supply centre. Such factors helped Birdwood become an influential township in the upper Torrens region.

First in line for the visitor is the National Motor Museum. From modest beginnings, simply known as Birdwood Mill Museum, its large and historically important collection of motor cars, motor cycles and commercial vehicles deserve its more commanding title of National Motor Museum.

The Blumberg Hotel managed to reverse the trend of substituting allied names for German ones during World War I. Originally (1856) a single-storey hotel known as the Napoleon Bonaparte (apparently because some early settlers had been conscripted into Napoleon's army while still living in Silesia), it gained large-scale extensions two decades later. This brought to its present form of a two-storey bluestone building with balcony and impressive iron lacework.

Two other hotels had by then been de-registered. One was the Bismark, whose licence only existed for a couple of years or so - it still stands as a private dwelling in the main street. Other surviving buildings began as a blacksmith, butter factory, post office, primary school and more. One of Theodore Pflaum's houses is now part of Birdwood High School.

Structures still serving their original purpose include the Institute, a Catholic church and a complex with the Lutheran church at its heart. The Holy Cross Lutheran Church was built west of the main town area. Its cemetery is the earliest portion of the complex, while the Gothic Revival church was erected in 1860.

North of Birdwood is the Cromer Conservation Park.

During the 8km run from Birdwood to Gumeracha the Torrens begins to assert its presence as a river. The country still holds a pleasantly rural aspect with gently rounded, grassy hills. The views are park-like, often with a canopy of towering river red gums.

At times the River Torrens provides a delightful vision; the stream is broader and more open with its water tumbling over stones and little boulders like mini rapids.

 

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