Riverton – Artists, Agriculture and Assassinations

< Inspiration / Category: Road Trips / Tags: South Australia

A journey to the mid north region of South Australia takes you through sheep farming and wine country. Towns in the Clare Valley or the historic copper mining town of Burra are popular spots to visit. On the way, make sure to stop in at the town of Riverton to uncover some hidden gems.

The Barrier Highway passes through Riverton but apart from road trains, one of the first things you’ll notice in the town are the many historical buildings lining the road. Quite a few still bear their original signage. A great place to start a day in Riverton is with a good coffee and cake at the Emporium Bakehouse. Here you can sit inside or out and plan your walking tour of the town.

Early Settlers

Torrens Road runs through the centre of town, with many examples of original buildings from when the first white settlers arrived in 1856. Riverton was on the bullock track from Burra to Adelaide. Some examples of the town’s first buildings can be found in a group that make up Scholz Park Museum.

Riverton church

The stone home and other structures are on their original four town blocks. This land belonged to August Scholz, who was a wheelwright and then, with his three sons, became blacksmiths and saddlers.  Volunteers work in the blacksmith shop. Stop by to get a glimpse of the historical tools in the collection and blacksmiths at work.

It’s just a short walk past Scholz Park to the Pioneers Garden. It was originally the Anglican cemetery and has been restored as a town garden to commemorate the pioneers who founded the district. At the rear of the garden are 18 original headstones which have been preserved and date back to 1861. The garden has a rose garden and a seat to rest a while and enjoy the surroundings. The seat is dedicated to rural women and commemorates the establishment of the ‘Women in Agriculture and Business’ organisation, founded in Riverton in 1917. This organization still exists today making it the oldest women’s rural group in Australia.  

Other historical buildings on Torrens Road include the two original hotel buildings. The impressive two-storey Hotel Central still bears original wrought iron work on the balcony and verandah.  Across the road from the hotel is a newer addition to the town, a striking sculpture of an Aboriginal woman holding a child.

Riverton hotel

It was unveiled in 2016 and is an acknowledgement of the Ngadjuri people and their culture in the region. The statue was created by acclaimed Australian artist Robert Hannaford (AM) who was born in Riverton. He has won many art prizes over the years including the Archibald viewer prize. Today he and his wife and fellow artist, Alison Mitchell, have an art gallery and studio near this sculpture on Torrens Road.

Rail History

From the main street, take a walk through the streets to the west. You will pass row cottages, artifacts, sheds and stone buildings that speak of the town’s rail link history. A short walk takes you to the railway line and station which were built and opened in 1869. The original station was wooden and burnt down in the early 1870s but was rebuilt from stone in 1875. The structure is a very long and grand looking building. It was once a busy hub with trains passing through and connecting to Terowie, Broken Hill, Alice Springs and Perth. 

The station was also the setting of a dark moment in history. In 1921 it was the scene of Australia’s first ‘political assassination’. A member of the NSW Legislative Assembly, a passenger on the train that day, was fatally injured in a shooting rampage at the station. Percival Brookfield, was travelling on the Broken Hill Express from Adelaide when the train made a stop at Riverton. As passengers were having a meal and refreshments, another passenger started firing an automatic pistol into the crowd on the platform. Four people were injured. Brookfield (who was attempting to disarm the man) was fatally injured, dying later in hospital. The bullet holes from that day are still visible in the station wall.

The Riverton station was used until 1988. In the years since it has been a gallery and tea rooms. Accommodation could be found in a few of the old carriages in the grounds. It is now privately owned and there is no public access. You can still see the station building, water tower and goods shed from nearby roads and from the walking track in Duck Pond Park, behind the station.

From Duck Pond Park you can take a walk or bike ride on the track, following the route of the old railway line for 19 kilometres to the town of Auburn.  This path is called the Rattler Trail. It continues on as the Riesling Trail for another 33 kilometres from Auburn through the valley to the town of Clare.

Not far from Riverton is one more spectacular historic building to see. The town of Saddleworth is a 12 kilometre drive north on the Barrier Highway and once you get there, follow the signs and a steep drive up a hill to see the 1869 built Catholic Church of St Stephen, perched high above the town.

From Saddleworth you can continue on another 53 kilometres to Burra, or head towards Auburn and the Clare Valley. To check out camping options, visit our website.

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