Adelaide Arcade: Coat of Arms

If you stand in front of the Adelaide Arcade in Rundle Mall, you will see Australia’s Commonwealth Coat of Arms proudly displayed high above on the building’s dome. But how is this possible? The Adelaide Arcade was built in 1885, and the first Coat of Arms was not proclaimed until 1908, 24 years later!

The Adelaide Arcade was built at the end of a time of great prosperity for the colony. Rundle Street had become the city's main retail area. On 6 May 1885, the foundation stone was laid for what would be the largest arcade in the Southern Hemisphere. It was designed by Withall and Wells, who also designed the Jubilee Exhibition Building on North Terrace. The Adelaide Arcade is arguably the firm’s most important surviving work.

At the time there was much discussion about the Australian colonies adopting a coat of arms. Competitions were held, and the Adelaide Arcade promoters decided to adopt a design they thought would win. Messrs W. Pett & Sons manufactured this coat of arms. it was installed on the building's two domes facing Rundle and Grenfell Street. 

Unfortunately, it was not the winning design. On 7 May 1908, King Edward VII officially granted the Coat of Arms to the Commonwealth of Australia. However, the design did not refer to the states and had to be changed. On 19 September 1912, King George V granted the second Commonwealth Coat of Arms. We still use this design today.

The most obvious difference between the arcade’s coat of arms and the official design is in the position of the native animals. The coat of arms on the arcade has the emu on the left and a kangaroo on the right. It also includes the words "Advance Australia". The official design reverses the kangaroo and emu and simply reads "Australia".

While not the official design, the inclusion of the coat of arms on the Adelaide Arcade shows the optimism of the South Australian colony at the time and the promise of Australian Federation.

Images

Adelaide Arcade's Coat of Arms, Rundle Mall, 2014

Adelaide Arcade's Coat of Arms, Rundle Mall, 2014

Another point of difference between the arcade's coat of arms and the official design can be found in the shield. The arcade's shield is divided into four sections and includes a sheep, anchor, sailing ship and a pick and shovel. In the official design, the six states are represented in the shield. This includes the Cross of St George (NSW), the Southern Cross (Vic), a blue Maltese Cross and Crown (Qld), the piping shrike (SA), a black swan (WA), and a red lion (Tas). | Source: Photograph by Jessica Cronin, National Trust of South Australia, Image ID: ADL.DIG.2014.11592 View File Details Page

Adelaide Arcade, Grenfell Street, 1891

Adelaide Arcade, Grenfell Street, 1891

It took just a few short months to complete the new arcade. Over two million bricks were used to build the walls. It included some of the latest construction materials and techniques including cast-iron and plate glass. There were also 16 electric lamps, which were still a rare sight in the city. | Source: National Trust of South Australia, Joyce Photographic Collection ID: 233 View File Details Page

Rundle Street looking east, 1911

Rundle Street looking east, 1911

The Adelaide Arcade's dome was a prominent feature of Rundle Street (now Rundle Mall). Note the former Grand Central Hotel (now Hungry Jack's carpark) in the centre background of the image. | Source: National Trust of South Australia Joyce Photographic Collection ID: 61 View File Details Page

The Adelaide Arcade, South Australian Weekly Chronicle

The Adelaide Arcade, South Australian Weekly Chronicle

The construction of the Adelaide Arcade was a popular topic in the newspapers at the time. This article was published one week after it opened on 12 December 1885. | Source: "The Adelaide Arcade", South Australian Weekly Chronicle, 19 December 1885, p.23, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article94334746 View File Details Page

Interior view of Adelaide Arcade

Interior view of Adelaide Arcade

There were 49 shops in the arcade when it opened, including what was described in the press as 'Turkish and warm baths for both ladies and gentlemen' near the Grenfell Street entrance. There was also a 'tea and coffee saloon' in the basement of the building. In this centre of this image, you can see the ornate stairs leading down to the basement tearooms. Unfortunately these are not open to the public anymore. | Source: Image courtesy of Michael Burden. National Trust of South Australia, Image ID: 2014.DIG.00546 View File Details Page

Adelaide Arcade today

Adelaide Arcade today

In 1968, the walkway was added to the upper floor and many of the internal stairways were removed. View File Details Page

Adelaide Arcade, Grenfell Street, 1900

Adelaide Arcade, Grenfell Street, 1900

Fred Burmeister's Printing and Engraving company (visible in this image) was one of the many businesses that has occupied the Adelaide Arcade. Fred moved his business to the ground floor shop facing Grenfell Street in the early 1890s, only a few years after its construction. He remained a tenant of the arcade for nearly 30 years! | Source: National Trust of South Australia, Joyce Photographic Collection ID: 243 View File Details Page

Adelaide Arcade, Rundle Mall, 2014.

Adelaide Arcade, Rundle Mall, 2014.

The arcade's coat of arms can be seen on both the Rundle Mall dome and the Grenfell Street dome. | Source: Photograph by Jessica Cronin, National Trust of South Australia, Image ID: ADL.DIG.2014.11591 View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

“Adelaide Arcade: Coat of Arms,” Adelaide City Explorer, accessed March 24, 2017, http://adelaidecityexplorer.com.au/items/show/60.
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