Mounted Police Stables, 61 High Street, Willunga

The establishment of mounted police in the fledgling South Australia Police Force was necessary due to the need to police the rural part of the Province. However, it also meant extra costs in terms of maintaining the horses. At Willunga Police Station, like other rural police stations, there was the need to provide secure shelter for the horses and for their tack and fodder. Before the current stables were constructed in Willunga, there was a shed/stable, the location of which is unknown. It is also unknown whether the hay and oats were stored separately.

In 1854, the senior mounted constable complained that: “At present one of the police constables is obliged to get as much sleep as the cats and mice will allow him, in the place where the hay is kept and where, of course, he can neither take care of his kit nor have a light at night.”

The current stables were built in 1864 by John Walter Wadham during other work extending the Court House and Police Station.  The stables comprised three stalls with a loft above and a forage/harness room adjoining the stalls area. The stable floor was laid with cobblestones which were believed to have been brought from Sellicks Beach. It has been suggested that the stones were laid by prisoners. The harness/forage room was paved with slabs of slate. The windows still have wooden louvers and it has been suggested that these are some of the oldest preserved in South Australia.

On 8 February 1970, the Court House and Police Station was opened after considerable restoration. As part of these ceremonies, the South Australia Governor, Sir James Harrison, was invited to inspect the stables, complete with police horses in the stalls. In March 1975, a Federal Grant was allocated to the Willunga Branch of the National Trust to restore the stables. The completion of this restoration was celebrated at the end of 1977 and the stables were opened by Justice Roma Mitchell, CBE.   In 2005, the horse stables were converted into the Willunga Slate Museum, Australia’s only slate museum, with the retention of many of the original stable features.

This building is on the City of Onkaparinga’s local heritage list (SA Heritage Places database #5268).

References:

Willunga Courthouse Research Room folder 22-7

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