Sixth Street, Bowden

These  Bowden street scenes are a part of Adelaide's working class and urban history. Bowden--- and Brompton--- were once counted among the least desirable suburbs in Adelaide. The expansion of the very industrial and commercial premises which had sustained the working class community in the nineteenth century caused a decline in the close-knit working class  community and  by the 1930s Bowden and Brompton was classified as one of Adelaide’s slums.   

 The  Metropolitan Adelaide Transport Study, released in 1968,  meant that  the Highways Department proceeded to buy properties.  Many houses owned by the Highways Department showed that their standard fell much below the general standard of housing in the area. Even though he North-South Transportation Corridor proposal was finally abandoned in 1983   The  suburbs became  progressively more run down during the 1990s,  the small scale housing  degenerated, and as a consequence of its closeness to Adelaide and manufacturing districts, the suburbs become a centre for storage, commercial or wholesale purposes.      

The closure of the gasworks that dominated Brompton in 2000 and Clipsal Industries' relocation from Bowden in 2009 provided an opportunity for re-development of these suburbs.  Many of the buildings in Bowden have been pulled down as part of the process of urban renewal. The factories, working class cottages and warehouses have been replaced by  parks and houses by what is known as Bowden Village. 

These street scenes, and the people who lived there,  are part of Adelaide's history that is forgotten. Few will remember them.  Few lived here. Little will be protected as heritage, for Bowden signified, for respectable  Adelaide, the negative of  civilised urban living. It was seen as dystopia: a polluted,  industrial place  full of dead  beats, bums and  alcoholics. 

The gasworks dominated the urbanscape with its high chimneys and enormous footprint. Bowden  was seen to be  a place  for respectable middle class people to avoid at all cost. In the imaginary of  the respectable  law and order crowd Bowden-Brompton was populated by thugs and criminals. Consequently, there was little effort made to preserve the district’s surviving built heritage.   

Slowly, though Bowden started to be redeveloped. The first sign of this was the new  compact, low income  housing built in Seventh Street. Industry had to leave if Bowden was to become a place of people rather than people again. 

5 responses
Nice photo. I live here, since '73 - your ideas are imaginary. But one thing that is improbable as well as imaginary is the idea that decay continued after the transfer of MATS land to the SAHT and into the 1990's.
Bob, maybe you are right that my assertion that decay continued in Bowden after the transfer of MATS land to the SAHT and into the 1990's is imaginary. I lived in Bowden in the 1980s and I had a photographic studio there in the 1980s and I used to walk around the area photographing it. I noticed the decline in the numbers people living there and the disrepair of many buildings.
Bowden south of Hawker street contained two of the three industries most responsible for destroying residential use - Elleries foundry and Gerards. Both were stopped in their tracks by Bowden Brompton residents forming a housing co-op and securing the key block of land between 7th and 8th streets - the same residents you remember as "dead-beats, bums and alkos".
I didn't say that Bowden was populated by "dead-beats, bums and alcos". I said that Bowden signified the negative of urban living. It was seen as dystopia and that in the imaginary of the law and order crowd these suburbs were populated by thugs and criminals. I will change the text to make it clearer.
[not for publication] my apologies. When I first got here, I used to wonder about the locals violent habits of argument. Now I'm doing it myself it seems. even tho the west end of Adelaide (city) was -I'm told - really violent - and Bowden Brompton just immiserated - nobody has ever had much idea of what should be done. till now: shift out all the poor people.