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Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Kapunda, South Australia

A town with a mining past


Kapunda owes its existence to the discovery of copper by sheep farmers in the early 1840s. This discovery also helped the fledgling South Australian colony avoid bankruptcy. Unlike the other Australian colonies, South Australia had no convicts, it was founded as a free colony with settlers paying the South Australia company (not the local indigenous people!) for land. Unfortunately for those early bureaucrats, money was running out and what saved the colony was copper. 



As you drive into Kapunda from Adelaide, you are greeted by this huge statue of a miner. The original miners to Kapunda were from Cornwall in Great Britain, this statue is called "Map Kernow" which in the Cornish language means "son of Cornwall"

The old mine site is now a park, with the open cut mines fenced off. It's an easy 1.5km stroll around the old mine site and it seems to be a popular area for the locals to walk their dogs. I met quite a few!

Initially the copper was mined from the surface, the miners just cut into the ground, later when the copper was harder to find they dug shafts into the ground.



The old open cut mine, I was surprised by how big it was, the miners cut away so much of the landscape.


A smaller mine, with traces of copper (the green parts of the rock) that still can be seen.


The mines are fenced off, with danger signs as there are deep shafts in the area, the miners mainly worked underground.


The mine chimney, the cornish mine chimneys are round, as compared to square ones from other areas. When I drove up to the old mine site, I initially drove past it! In my defence, the signage is very small and discrete, you literally have to be in the carpark to see it. It was when I backtracked that I saw the chimney and realised that was where the mine site was. School history lessons that taught me South Australian history meant that I learned about the miners and their chimneys. Visiting Cornwall years later, I saw the chimneys there and was excited to see the resemblance to the South Australian ones! (Very much a history nerd!)


This reproduction in the mine site is called a 'Whim', horses were attached to the posts and then trained to walk around in a circle, a rope and bucket would go down to the mine on pulleys and lift the ore out of the mine. I loved the horse sculpture made of discarded and rusted iron found on farms.

Once the mining came to an end in the late 1870s the town became a pastoral town for the local area. It also was a base for Sidney Kidman who owned a house in Kapunda, when he retired to Adelaide in 1921, he gave the house to the Education Department and it's still part of Kapunda High School.


Eringa, Sidney Kidman's house.

Sidney Kidman was Australia's cattle baron, he owned a huge amount of property, if one property was in drought, he was able to move stock to another one in another part of the country. He came from very humble beginnings and built up his rural holdings during his lifetime. Before World War I he owned 68 stations (ranches) around Australia, after his death and with new laws in Australia not permitting anyone owning so much land, many of the stations were sold or divided up. But even today S. Kidman and Co is the largest private landowner in Australia. The family (who are the major shareholders) tried to sell their landholdings in 2015 but ended up being blocked by the Australian government as the sale could have gone to foreign investors and the treasurer sited that it was against the national interest clause in the Foreign investment act. (research!!)



The yards at the back of this hotel figured prominently in the sale of livestock in the area, with Sidney Kidman being a major force. In October 1900 Kidman sold 350 horses, at its peak 3000 horses were sold in a day! (Information courtesy of helpful sign!)


Kidman's imprint is still there today, with this building in the main street. 'Kidman's buildings'.

With the copper and later the pastoral industry, Kapunda was quite a prosperous town, and with many towns of the 1800s, this prosperity is still seen in the churches that were built. 


This rather substantial building had been the Baptist church, it's now the Kapunda folk museum with items from the local area.


The old railway station, now a B&B. In its time the Kapunda railway station was the largest station outside of Adelaide. It transported products from the Kapunda and Burra mines to Port Adelaide for export. It also claims that the remains of explorers Burke and Wills, who died trying to find a route across Australia, were brought to the station to be sent back to Victoria. Australia's first saint Mary McKillop used the station when travelling to visit her nuns, Sidney Kidman used the station. And even royalty Prince Alfred, son of Queen Victoria, on his visit to Australia, came through the station as he stopped in Kapunda.


Up past the high school, there is a scenic lookout where you can see the town and fields beyond the town. All very green as it's now winter, summer time it's all brown!


The track up the hill with the paddocks (fields), not sure what's growing, cereal crops of some sort I think.

Kapunda is about an hour's drive from Adelaide so a nice little day trip. It's a pleasant place to explore and there's a traditional bakery in the main street, perfect for a spot of lunch!





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