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River Murray Towns: Renmark

  • Situated about 260 kilometres north east of Adelaide, Renmark is the largest town in the Riverland.
  • It is suggested that the town takes its name from an Aboriginal word meaning 'red mud', however, the mud at Renmark is not red. Another suggestion is that it derived from the name of Bookmark station of which it may initially have been an outstation. Alternatively, some believe is it derived from the name of a settler in the district in thee 1860s, William Renny.
  • Renmark was the first irrigation settlement in Australia, established in 1887 by the Canadian Chaffey Brothers. The brothers had successfully founded several irrigation colonies in California and Victorian parliamentarian Alfred Deakin (later to become Australia's second prime minister) invited them to set up similar schemes along the River Murray. After negotiations with the Victorian government about the establishment of an irrigation colony at Mildura stalled, the Chaffeys came to an agreement with the South Australian government and Renmark was settled.
  • The Chaffeys' original irrigation plan created open channels to carry the water to the land but in 1959 these were converted to underground pipelines.
  • The Chaffey brothers' enterprise folded in 1893 and the Renmark Irrigation Trust was created to administer the irrigation works.
  • Under the government's agreement with the Chaffey brothers, Renmark was designated a dry town, but this resulted in the proliferation of sly grog shops. Editor of the Renmark Pioneer newspaper, Chris Ashwell, led the campaign to establish a community hotel, the profits of which would be returned to the town to be spent on community organisations, projects and programs. The Renmark Hotel was opened in 1897 and was the first community hotel in the British Empire.
  • The town of Renmark was proclaimed and a local government formed in 1904.
  • Angove's, the first winery and distillery on the River Murray in South Australia, was established at Renmark in 1911.
  • Renmano Winery is the first co-operatively owned winery in Australia. It was first founded in 1914 under the name Chateau Tanunda, but in 1916, the winery was bought by a group of local growers achieving this first.
  • Today, Renmark's principal products are citrus and stone fruits, grapes and wine, vegetables, wheat and wool.

Further reading

Grosvenor, G. Arch. Red mud to green oasis, Richmond, SA: Raphael Arts for Corporation of Town of Renmark, 1979.

Johnson, YM. Historic Renmark: established 1887, Renmark, SA: YM Gurr, 1999.

Johnson, YM. The Renmark Hotel, 1897-1997: the first community hotel in the British Empire, Berri, SA: J.C. Irving & Co., 1997.

Wells, Syd. Paddle steamers to cornucopia: the Renmark-Mildura experiment of 1887, Renmark [SA]: The Murray Pioneer, [1986].

Links

MurrayRiver.com - Renmark

Sydney Morning Herald Travel - Renmark

Cobb & Co. coach, Renmark
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Fruit drying, Renmark
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Fruit drying, Renmark
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Irrigation channel, Renmark
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P. S. Queen loading cargo
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Paddlesteamers at Renmark
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Portraits of the Chaffey Brothers
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Pyap Street, Renmark
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Renmark
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Renmark
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Renmark Hotel
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Renmark Hotel
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