Change from Hahndorf to Ambleside

The town of Hahndorf was struck by intense anti-German feelings during World War I, even though that most of the residents could trace their origins back to 1839.  As a result the name was changed from Hahndorf to Ambleside by a 1917 Act of Parliament.  

It was not until 1935 that the town was renamed Hahndorf as part of South Australia's recognition of its German pioneers, for the State's centenary celebrations the following year.

Extract from "German Place Names, South Australia - World War I"

(by Maureen M Leadbeater)

During World War I anti-German feeling ran high in South Australia.  Despite the Lutheran communities pledging support for the British Crown and those of German descent contributing to the Wounded Soldiers Fund, "Germans" were victimised.  It mattered not if the German-born were naturalised or if an Australian-born were a third generation born in Australia.

The German newspaper, schools and clubs were closed.  Many, particularly community leaders, were interned, at first on Torrens Island and later in New South Wales.  Some internees had sons serving with the Australian Army and many of these were casualties of the war.  Other "Germans" lost their jobs, leaving their families in financial difficulties.  Hermann Robert Homburg, born 1874 in Norwood to a father who had arrived 20 years earlier, was forced to resign - and he was the Attorney-General!

By 1917 the anti-German frenzy had spread to German place names.  A Nomenclature Committee was set up to make recommendations for changes from names of "foreign enemy origin" to British or South Australian native names.  Some suggested names were altered by the Government.  The Nomenclature Act was passed in late 1917 and the final list of sixty-nine South Australian place name changes were gazetted in January 1918.  Some names were translations into English, eg Steinfeld to Stonefield, Bethanien to Bethany.  Others were given an aboriginal name, eg Friedrichswalde to Tarnma, Mount Ferdinand to Mount Warrabillinna.  Other names commemorated the battles in France eg Verdun, Polygon Ridge, Jutland, or the names of Australian military leaders, eg Haig, Allenby, Jellicoe.

Extract from - "The Register News-Pictorial"  -  Friday 15 November, 1929

German Place-Names Proclaim The Glory Of Britain - Show That Liberty Could Live Under Her Flag

Talk With Old Hahndorf's Residents

In what for 80 years was Hahndorf and is now Ambleside, most famous of our German settlements, the proposal to restore historic German name places to the map of South Australia is meeting with the keenest delight.  “These names proclaimed the glory of Britain, because they showed to future ages that these pioneers had been accorded in a British province, the liberty denied them in their own country.”

This summary of the residents' views, given me by Mr. Thiele, one of the old settlers, expressed the spirit of all the views I heard.

To the residents, it is still Hahndorf, the great settlement founded by their persecuted forebears, in the first years of the colonisation of the State, I found the news of the move to restore these old names on every lip.  Old Hahndorf is perhaps the finest example of the solid developmental work of the German settler.  The pioneers turned the rugged hillside into one of the choicest of our hills towns.  Its fine main street it lined with elms, gardens are everywhere, and its very cleanliness proclaims at once its German influence.
None of the original settlers are left; the last died about eight years ago.  The present residents are their descendants.
They pointed with pride to the war memorial in the main street bearing the names of the 50 Hahndorf boys who served with the A.I.F.

Proud Of Ancestors

It is pride of what their forebears did for Australia that prompts them to adhere to the old Teuton customs.  Tales of the early colonisation have been handed down from one to the other.  One whom I saw produced an age-old book in which, inscribed in German, was some of the early history of the settlement.  Two or three generations had added their tales to the volume.
Love of their religion in times of persecution in Germany brought these early pioneers to our shores, and religion still holds the most important place in the community.  There are two Lutheran churches, each with a big congregation, and one of them celebrated, this year, its 90th anniversary.

Religious Influence

A century ago, King Frederick William III. of Prussia ordered a union of Lutheran and all reformed churches in Germany, and those whose consciences would not permit them to fall in with the new order were subjected to such harsh disciplinary measures that they were forced to seek a new home.
The second party to arrive found its way to Hahndorf, and their first act was to establish a church which they named St. Michael's.  Pastor Blaess, who at present ministers at St. Michael's, told me that the first church was a plain building with mud-plastered walls.  But to the congregation it was a place of worship of which they could say “Unser Gotteshaus”, and where they could pray without interference.
Pastor Kavel, the first minister, had a great influence over the development of the district.  Pastor Blaess believes that the reversion to Hahndorf would be a wise measure, because of the great work of the original pioneers.
For some years Hahndorf boasted of a college, conducted under the guidance of the Lutheran Church.  Many of its scholars became Lutheran teachers, and others well known in the ranks of law and medicine.  Lack of funds necessitated its closing, and now the fine old college buildings are used in part as a hospital.
From the earliest days there was a Lutheran school, but this was closed, with others, in 1917, and has not been reopened, although there is talk of doing so.
Pastor Braun, who ministers to the other congregation in the newer StExtract from "German Place Names, South Australia - World War I"  (by Maureen M Leadbeater). Paul's, has lived in the district for nearly 50 years.  He, too, believes that residents would delight in the reversion to Hahndorf because of its connection with the State's early history.  Residents of the present generation, he said, know nothing of Germany, but the associations with early times would make the change welcome to them.

Leader Hahn

Sitting in front of their houses along the main road I met many old residents with tales of the long ago.  Capt. Hahn, who brought out the second batch of immigrants in his ship the Zebra, they told me, refused to leave until his charges were happily settled.  So greatly was he loved for his help and devotion, that the settlement was named after him by general consent.
Mrs. Wittwer, wife of the famous Hahndorf miller, is one of the oldest residents.  She recalled that in her girlhood she used to sit with groups of the settlers and listen enthralled to tales of the pioneers.  When Capt. Hahn's party landed at Port Adelaide, then almost a swamp, they had to drag their belongings to the hills in primitive hand-carts of their own construction.  Travelling over the uneven country many of them became footsore.  There was only 20 acres of wheat under cultivation in the State, and harvesting was done at £1 an acre with a sickle, and 1/ a bushel was paid for threshing with a flail.
When after days of painful travelling they arrived at their new home the first thing done was to hold a service of thanksgiving.  For a time they endured hardships and privations, and their only food was herbs and the few wild animals they could kill.
A resident of Ambleside, who is of British origin, claimed that the old German names were really an honour to the country as they were monuments to British justice which had allowed the German residents to settle in a British country.

Please Note:  Further information regarding the History and Heritage of Hahndorf is available by 'clicking' on the ( Hahndorf ] and ( History & Heritage - Hahndorf ] tags below which will give a list of all pages similarly 'tagged'.