History of Burra

After Kapunda, Burra is the earliest mining and industrial town to be established in Australia, copper having been discovered in 1845 and mined from that year. Two shepherds, Thomas Pickett and William Streair simultaneously discovered copper in two localities near the Burra Burra Creek in 1845. Revealing their lodes to two rival companies proved costly for the shepherds with both of them, only receiving a few miserable pounds.
history-burraTwo mining syndicates, Nobs and Snobs, were quickly established and each applied to the government to buy the land, at a cost of twenty thousand pounds. Upon purchase the two syndicates drew lots for the land. Fortune favoured the Snobs, who drew Pickett's northern half, while the Nobs' mine was less profitable and their half was sold as grazing land in 1851


Miners were brought to Australia from Cornwall to work the Snobs' Burra Burra 'Monster Mine'. The Cornish miners, however, set up their own township by the creek, digging their homes from the soft clay on the banks. 1600 men, women and children, lived in tiny dugouts in the banks of the Burra Creek. Although some were fitted out with comforts such as carpets and wooden doors, the conditions in the riverbank homes were often unsanitary and led to the spread of disease amongst their inhabitants, floods, eventually forcing them out of their homes and the Cornish community subsequently moved to the government township of Redruth.
Burra’s Redruth Gaol, was the first built outside Adelaide. It remained a penitentiary until 1894. It was then converted to a girls' reformatory and remained as such until the 1920s. The premises were later used at a setting in the filming of the 1979 movie 'Breaker Morant'.
Burra has survived as one of Australia's significant historic towns because of its magnificent collection of historic buildings that give an insight into the life and times of Australia's early settlement.

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The copper mine at Burra closed in 1877 after yielding almost 5 million-pounds worth of copper during its operation. Mining ruins remain around the town today. Over time it has evolved into an important rural centre servicing the surrounding agricultural and pastoral holdings and more recently a tourist attraction because of its rich history.

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