A wealthy Irish settler named Daniel Brady had land surveyed into 54 blocks so that he could establish a township. The town he called Virginia, after his home town in County Cavan, Southern Ireland. Many of the early settlers to the Virginia district came from the British Isles and amongst them the Irish escaping the 1846 potato famine. Virginia became well known as an Irish settlement.
Early settlers worked long and hard hours to clear thick bushland in the area. Initially wheat was one of the major crops planted at Virginia until Adelaide required large amounts of hay to feed the increasing number of horses being used for transportation.
Before the railway line to Virginia was opened in 1916 people would travel through on the Cobb and Co Stage Coach as Virginia was a staging point. The journey to Adelaide would take all day.2
The Wheatsheaf Hotel was the first prominent building erected at Virginia in 1854 by Daniel Brady. The hotel was there for four years before Brady sought and was granted permission for the township.3
Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church was built in 1861 on land donated by Daniel Brady and is National Trust listed. One of the features of the church is the hand crafted Italian and Irish marble altar which arrived from England in 1865. Even though Brady was Catholic he donated a block of land for the building of the Bible Christian Chapel named Bethlehem, in 1858 (National Trust listed). This church was used as a school for many years before the public school was established. A new Methodist Church (National Trust listed) was built alongside in 1937.4
Virginia continued to develop and by 1858 a small shop and a post office were in operation. In 1871 there was a blacksmith and by 1873 St Augustine’s Church of England was built. Soon after saw the building of the first formal school.5
The Virginia Institute was officially opened 9 November 1908 and lit by gas lamps. Over the years the Institute has been used for a variety of purposes from church celebrations, dances, fetes, library and is still used by the community.6 On the land next to the Institute approximately 17 trees were planted on 1 September 1916 in memory of the soldiers who fought in World War I.7
A remount depot was built by the Army during World War I, as a place to train horses for cavalry units. The depot was located near the five corners intersection.8
Today an ever growing market gardening industry has been established at Virginia by the migrants who settled in the district from the 1950s.9Geotag
Education Department, South Australia, 1979, pp. 11-2.
2. City Of Playford Local History Collection, Virginia, 1976.
3. Virginia; The Garden On The Plains 1876-1976, Virginia School Centenary Committee, 1976, p. 59.
4. Virginia; The Garden On The Plains 1876-1976, Virginia School Centenary Committee, 1976, p. 104-12.
5. Sarah Laurence and Taylor Weidenhofer (comp), City Of Munno Para Heritage Survey 1996, Department Of Environment And Natural Resources, South Australia, 1996, p. 287.
6. District Council Of Munno Para And Education Technical Centre, Munno Para: A Brief History, Education Department, South Australia, 1979, p. 11.
7. City Of Playford Local History Collection, Virginia, n.d.
8. Sarah Laurence and Taylor Weidenhofer (comp), City Of Munno Para Heritage Survey 1996, Department Of Environment And Natural Resources, South Australia, 1996, p. 287.
9. District Council Of Munno Para And Education Technical Centre