Burra, was once a bustling mining area, with the discovery of copper near the Burra Burra Creek in 1845, the town of Kooringa rapidly grew to be Australia's largest inland town by 1851. All that is left of the mining activities are a lot of ruins, as well as fine examples of the buildings and townships which now make up the village of Burra. Burra is actually a collection of townships, each with their own history and buildings to explore.
Burra Heritage Trail : The town has a Heritage Passport system of key and guide book, which enabled us to discover the many sites of historical interest. After picking up our keys, we set off to explore. Two places we found of particular interest are listed below:
First stop was the old dugout homes of the Copper Miners Dugouts. (1850) The homes were literally dugout of the soft clay banks of the currently dry, and nearly always dry, creek. The first creek dwellings were being dug in 1846, they were favoured by the miners as they were rent free and close to the water. The downside to living along the creek bed was at times it floods; and when it did the waters came with a vengeance. In 1851 about 1,800 people out of a total population of 4,400 lived in nearly 600 of these dugouts. Three floods in 1851 devastated 'Creek Street' (as it was known), driving the inhabitants from their homes. By 1860 the dugouts were virtually deserted. Two dugouts have been preserved by the National trust as a tourist attraction. Disease was rife amongst the miners and their families and so the government of the day built cottages to entice the people to move out of the dugouts. A group of some of the houses built for the miners, are displayed in the attached photo.
- The Old Redruth Gaol built in 1856 it was the first gaol in South Australia outside of Adelaide. It provided for thirty prisoners, male and female. When it closed in 1897, the prisoners being transferred to Gladstone Gaol; it was renovated and opened as a Girls' Reformatory and finally closed in 1922. It is now in the care of the National Trust. In recent years the old gaol has also been the setting for a few scenes in movies, including the trial scene in the Breaker Marrant picture of a few years ago. In the centre of the exercise yard is a toilet - commonly know as a Dunny to those of us in Australia and New Zealand. Any thought of escape over the walls would not be too easy, note the broken glass at the top of the gaol walls!
Note: the Information on the dugouts and gaol is from the booklet - Discovering Historic Burra - G.J. Drew for the National Trust of South Australia