Richards’ Refreshment Rooms, 6 Railway Terrace, Willunga

Also known as Willunga Cafe, Railway Refreshment Rooms, Willunga Pre-School.

This house was built as the family home of Harry and Margaret Richards and their seven surviving children, on land which had been owned by the Richards family since 1898. It was probably built by Harry Richards himself. He was a local second-generation builder who had campaigned vigorously for the building of the Willunga Railway but died in 1911, four years before the line opened in January 1915.

The home was conveniently located on Railway Terrace near the terminus of the Adelaide to Willunga line. The Willunga Cafe, later known locally as the Railway Refreshment Room, was opened in 1915 in a front room of the family home. It can be seen in the background of one of the many photographs of the official opening of the Willunga Line on 20 January 1915. It took advantage of not only the influx of train travellers but also the upturn in commercial activity that accompanied the building of stockyards, a stock-siding, sale-yards and a selling ring adjacent to the railway. Passengers alighting from the train at Willunga would enjoy lunch here before travelling on to Yankalilla by Hill and Co’s coach.

The Cafe was established and managed initially by Margaret Richards, widow of Harry Richards, who was in her forties with young children still at home. From the 1920s her daughter-in-law Myrtle, became involved and eventually took over the running of the business. Myrtle’s husband Gordon was the local chaff merchant until the early 1950s. The business continued into the 1940s as a popular lunch and refreshment venue for travellers. The excellent food, especially the pastries made by Myrtle, were a special treat for the customers, particularly the school children of that period.

Myrtle Richards was active in community affairs and was President of the Local Comforts Fund supporting soldiers during the War. She died in 1971. The Willunga Pre-School Centre opened here in 1979, but moved to the Primary School in 2004.

This building is on the City of Onkaparinga’s local heritage list (SA Heritage Places database #5444)

Related Articles: Willunga Railway Station, Opening of Willunga Railway.

References:

R Baxendale and F Lush Willunga Walks Willunga National Trust Willunga.

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