Burra, S.A.

An historic former copper mining town nestled in the rolling hills north of Adelaide. The rich lode of copper discovered in the banks of the Burra Burra Creek in 1845 saved South Australia from bankruptsy.

Where is it?: 160 kilometres north of Adelaide.

Burra Tourist Information Centre, 2 Market Square, Burra SA 5417. Ph: (08) 8892 2154.

Today, thanks to the no-nonsense craftsmanship of its original masons and carpenters, Burra survives as a living museum of the industrial and domestic architecture of the mid-1800s. The ruins of the mine shafts, chimneys, engine houses and powder magazines still stand today as stark monuments to the arrival of the Industrial Revolution in a peaceful rural setting.

Two of the dugouts which once housed 1500 miners are preserved in the banks, the others were washed out during the floods of the 1850s, while the terraces of workers cottages and the free-standing houses with their white quoins, all built of the same local stone as the mine buildings, testify to the Celtic origins of the original inhabitants.

Chimneys leading to shafts deep below the ground, square to a traditional Welsh design, round in the Cornish style, still stand starkly on the hills around Burra after 130 years.

Market Square is actually more of a triangle, and is the centre of Burra, where roads from Adelaide, Morgan and Broken Hill meet.

The Mine and Enginehouse museums incorporate many of the restored and un-restored buildings of the original Burra copper mine including offices, cottages, enginehouses and the 1847 powder magazine, believed to be the oldest mine building in Australia.

After many years of neglect, the picturesque Burra Railway Station was restored between 2011 and 2014. The Burra Burra railway was initially proposed as early as 1850, before any other railways north from Port Adelaide. The first stage of the broad gauge Burra line from a junction at Roseworthy to Forresters (now Tarlee) opened on 3 July 1869. It extended to Manoora on 21 February 1870, Burra on 29 August 1870, Hallett on 10 March 1878 and Terowie on 14 December 1880.

Terowie was a break of gauge station with the line continuing north to Peterborough as a narrow gauge line, opening on 11 May 1881. On 12 January 1970, this 22.9 kilometre section was converted to broad gauge, thus making Peterborough the break of gauge point with the narrow gauge Peterborough to Quorn and standard gauge Port Pirie to Broken Hill lines. Regular Australian National passenger services ceased in December 1986, with the line north of Hallett closed on 26 July 1988, followed by the Burra to Hallet section on 14 November 1990. The line north of Burra was removed in 1992/93. The last passenger train was a SteamRanger train hauled by steam locomotive 621 on 19 September 1992. Grain services last operated in January 1999, with the line last used by an Australian Southern Railroad locomotive in March 2004.

Historic Passport

The Historic Passport is a self-drive local tour program which covers a total of 43 heritage sites and includes details of an 11 km walk. There are some of the historic sites that need to be opened by a key and that is provided with the Historic Passport. For details contact (08) 8892 2784. The historic sites available to the Passport purchasers include:

The Burra Mine Site and Powder Magazine

Take the turn left off Market Street and drive up the hill (to the north of the town centre). This is a huge old copper mine which ensured the town's continuing existence. The mining area also offers excellent views from the Lookout and vast amounts of information about the mines which are contained on photographic boards around the site, all of which are accessible without the key or Passport. The Burra Mine Open Air Museum was developed to conserve the history and extensive remains of the Burra Mine. The Burra Mine which operated between 1845 and 1877 was once the largest in Australia. The site is one of the most significant mining heritage sites in Australia. Visitors can explore the site along self-guided walking tracks. Interpretive panels at key points explain the various mining operations.

Morphett Enginehouse Museum

In the same area, and only available to people with the key, is the Morphett Enginehouse Museum, a remarkable building which has been fully restored and has a number of displays of Beam Engines and Engine Houses. Also available is access to

Miners Dugouts

The Miners Dugouts are in Blyth Street (east of the town centre) these dugouts were built in the 1840s as a simple kind of accommodation for the miners who flocked to the diggings. They were very basic accommodation in a time of great hardship. By any measure they are extraordinary and it is still possible to walk inside and inspect these simple dwellings. The 1851 census recorded that out of a total Burra population of 4400 about 1800 people lived in dugouts along Burra Creek and its tributaries. Of these one-third were children under the age of 14 and the unsanitary living conditions contributed to outbreaks of typhus, smallpox and typhoid fever. During 1851 alone there were 153 deaths in Burra, many of them young children in the dugouts.

Police Lock-up and Stables

Also available by key is the Police Lock-up and Stables. On the corner of Ludgvan and Tregony Streets the police station was completed in 1847 when, after a number of years as frontier town some semblance of law and order arrived.

Redruth Gaol

Redruth Gaol

Located off Tregony Street, Redruth Gaol was built in 1856. This gaol now has an interesting collection of pieces depicting the kinds of prison conditions which existed in the 19th century. It was used extensively during the filming of Breaker Morant and there is now a room devoted to 'Breaker Morant' with suitable memorabilia from the film.

The placards around the gaol offer a rare insight into the life of the prisoners. A couple of favourite captions: 'In 1902 on escaping two girls cut their hair, donned boys caps and breeches and roamed for ten days in the guise of two lads looking for work. In 1919 three girls Violet Benson, Ada Newchurch and Ursula Cruse were on the roof, dancing, singing low songs, swearing downright insolence, destroying the government property and undressing and exposing themselves to all passersby in only their flannels and bloomers.'

The key will also provide access to the Unicorn Brewery Cellars (in Bridge Terrace and built in 1873) and to Hampton, the ruins of the village which originally housed the English miners.

Bon Accord Mine Complex

Located on the corner of West and Linkson streets, the Bon Accord Mine Complex is an interpretative centre which allows visitors to experience what Burra was like in the 1850s when it had a population of over 5,000. For details of opening times and conducted tours contact (08) 8892 2056

Burra Market Square Museum

Located off Market Street and opposite the Anglican Church this museum includes recreations of a family home, a general store and a post office all of which have their original furniture and fittings. For details of opening times contact (08) 8892 2154.

Malowen Lowarth

Located on Paxton Square (just across the Burra Creek from the town centre) this delightful run of cottages was built between 1849-52. One of the cottages is open for inspection and some of them are available as accommodation for visitors. Contact (08) 8892 2154 for details.

Hampton Township

Of particular interest is Hampton Township which was the original settlement for the English who came to live in Burra. It is distinguised by the fact that there are now no complete buildings. All the town is in ruins. Over the years locals have pilfered bricks from the site. It offers the best view over the town but it was the last to receive electricity and water and consequently people moved from Hampton into the main town.

Surrounding Area

Burra Creek Reserve

Burra Creek Reserve is just off the Barrier Hwy about 16 kms SE of Burra. The reserve is marked at its entrance by an old abandoned sandstone homestead and is a fairly large Council sponsored area that stretches along a small gorge and small dry creek set amongst farmland. The place is pleasant enough without being spectacular. There are many stately Gum Trees with their huge buttress trunks that were scattered throughout the gorge.


Hanson (formerly Davies) is a town in South Australia, located 29 kilometres north-east of Clare and 13 kilometres south-west of Burra at the intersection of the Barrier Highway and the Hanson-Farrell Flat Road. It is also adjacent to the former Peterborough railway line as the next station towards Adelaide from Burra which was the terminus for some time.

The town was surveyed in 1865 and originally known as Daviestown, Davieston, or Davies Town, named after Sir Richard Davies Hanson (1805-76), a Chief Justice of South Australia and acting Governor of the then colony from 1872 to 1873. A decision was made around 1890 to rename the town Hanson, although the name was not officially changed until 19 September 1940. The change brought the town's name into line with that of the nearby Hanson railway station. On the same date, the nearby town known as Hanson officially became Farrell Flat, also aligning that town's name with that of its railway station.

Over the years Hanson has comprised a church, a hall, a school, a shop, a railway station and a few houses.

Mount Bryan

The town of Mount Bryan is situated on the Barrier Highway and former Peterborough railway line, 20 kilometres north of Burra at the northern end of the Mount Lofty Ranges. At the 2006 census, Mount Bryan had a population of 137. The town was named after a nearby peak, Mount Bryan, which was named in December 1839 by Governor George Gawler in honour of Henry Bryan, a young man who became lost and perished of thirst during Gawler's expedition. Among those accompanying Gawler were Charles Sturt and Henry Inman.

Once the heart of a thriving farming community, including some of Australia's best known Merino sheep studs, the town today is largely represented by the Mount Bryan Hotel - an old pub. The views of and from the surrounding hills are scenic. A popular route is north east to Sir Hubert Wilkins cottage, the restored home in which the polar explorer was born and grew up. The historic Mackerode Homestead is listed on the South Australian Heritage Register.

The addition of Hallett Wind Farm in the late 2000s and early 2010s has seen wind generating energy from some of the ridge-tops north of Mount Bryan.


When approching Burra from Gawler, travellers pass through the rural locality of Koonoona. The area was originally the territory of the Ngadjuri people. It takes its name from Koonoona Station and Merino stud, which was established in 1863 by Walter Duffield and T. S. Porter. Koonoona Station was described in 1929 as "one of the oldest estates in this district" and "noted for the breed of its merino sheep"; another correspondent in 1933 labelled it "one of the most important [Merino studs] in the Commonwealth".

Brief History

Burra's copper deposits provided not only a much-needed financial stimulus for the infant colony of South Australia but also 30 years of regular employment for the thousands of Cornish miners and Welsh and German smelters who flocked to the region.

The Burra, as it was known, was made up of the original mining company town with an attendant group of government-sponsored villages, each with its own characteristics. The English lived in Hampton, the Scots in Aberdeen, the Welsh in Llywchwr, and the largest group, the Cornish, 600 came here from a single parish in Redruth. In time, the villages merged to form Burra, and North Burra.

The 1860s saw the beginning of the break-up of some of the old runs while the following decade also saw the spread of smaller farms in the newly proclaimed hundreds to the east.

Redruth police lockup

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