Home » Towns » South Australia » Classic Country » Kapunda, SA
Print

Kapunda, SA

Oldest copper mining town in Australia

Kapunda is a substantial rural service centre which, since 1842, has had three definable periods of development - it was created to develop copper mining; after the copper mining period it became the base for Sir Sidney Kidman's huge cattle and horse operations; and currently it is an important service centre for the surrounding rural area. It is still partly defined by copper mining with the huge Map Kernow (the Son of Cornwall) statue of a miner at the entrance to the town and the fascinating, and colourful remnants of the copper mines still an attraction for visitors.

Location

Kapunda is located 82 km north-east of Adelaide via the Thiele Highway.

^ TOP

Origin of Name

It is believed the town's name comes from a corruption of the local Ngadjuri words 'cappie oonda' (probably meaning "jumping water") which was the name given to a spring near the town.

^ TOP

Things to See and Do

Map Kernow the Miner
Located on the Thiele Highway at the southern entrance to Kapunda is 'The Big Miner' or 'Map the Miner'. This is a depiction of 'The Cornish Miner' who was instrumental in the development of this whole region. The plaque on the miner reads:
"THE CORNISH MINER. The Kapunda Mine. This statue is a monument to the profound, role and contribution of the Cornish miner in the Kapunda and in due course in other mines in South Australia. The Kapunda mine, established in 1844, was the first successful metal mine in Australia and contributed greatly to the economic development of South Australia. Up to its closure in 1878 ore to the value of more than £1 million was produced and up to 340 men and boys, mainly from Cornwall were employed.
"THE STATUE. The statue was named Map Kernow, being the Cornish dialect for 'Son of Cornwall'. It was unveiled on 5 June 1988. The sculptor was Ben Van Zetten who was commissioned."
The statue was destroyed by fire in 2006 but the original artist Ben Van Zetten, assisted by Lawry Love Grima, agreed to rebuild the work and the new statue was rededicated in 2007. For more information check out http://monumentaustralia.org.au/themes/technology/industry/display/50956-map-the-miner.

Kapunda Heritage Trail
There is a remarkably simple way to experience the full glory of Kapunda. The Kapunda Heritage Trail, which covers 42 places of interest, can be downloaded at https://www.barossa.com/uploads/507/kapunda-heritage-trail.pdf. It is described as a leisurely drive of 10 km which will take around two hours. It starts and ends at the Visitor Information Centre at 51-53 Main Street. It is worth taking the effort because the end result leaves the visitor with a sense of the historic richness of the town as well as a great understanding of the early mining industry. The un-numbered places are not listed on the Heritage Trail but are worth visiting.

1. Bagot’s Fortune Interpretative Centre (1866)
Located at 5 Hill Street is Bagot's Fortune, an excellent introduction to the rich mining history of the district with a series of interpretative displays which depict the lives of the early miners. There is a model of a miner pushing a load of copper ore; a small mine; a miniature of the main Kapunda mining operation; an accurate recreation of an Irish workers cottage, "Rosie's Cottage", at Kapunda in the 1840s; a 38% scale model of a Cornish Buhl Pumping Engine and an audio visual presentation. 
The building, the old Herald Printing Office, was completed in 1866 to house the Northern Star, a local newspaper which had started in 1860. The first English Language country newspaper established in South Australia. The Kapunda Herald was published in the building from 1864-1950. It is open from 1.00 pm - 4.00 pm seven days a week. Tel: (08) 8566 2286 for more information.

2. Soldiers’ Memorial Hall – The Institute (1870)
Located next door to Bagot's Fortune in Hill Street, this handsome structure was originally built as a single storey Institute in 1870. The second storey was built after WW1 and became known as the “Soldiers Memorial Hall”.The Kapunda Herald reported, on 23 May 1924, that "When the question arose of erecting a memorial in Kapunda to those men who had enlisted from here during the Great War, a scheme for enlarging the Institute was the first adopted, and subscriptions were solicited to carry it into effect. For various reasons, which need not be revived now, the response was not so generous as had been anticipated, but nevertheless an amount of about £1,300 was paid or promised toward the movement. The estimated cost of the work proved to be nearly double what was thought it would be and for that reason the committee in charge were nonplussed, consequently for some time the scheme has been in abeyance.  At a meeting of subscribers to the Institute it was decided, on completion of the work, to make all returned soldiers, sailors, and nurses life members of the institution." For more details check out http://monumentaustralia.org.au/themes/conflict/display/50954-kapunda-institute-soldiers%60-memorial-hall.

3. Kapunda Historical Museum (Former Baptist Church) 1866
Located at 11 Hill Street, the building was built in 1866 as the local Baptist Church.George Fife Angas, one of South Australia's most significant early citizens, helped to pay for its construction. From 1948, when it stopped being a church, it was used as a technical school. In 1967 it was purchased by the Kapunda Council and it opened as a museum in 1971. The unusual architectural style of the building is known as French Romanesque.  It has one of the finest collections of old record players (from cylinders through to 78 rpm machines) in the country and an important collection of early motorcycles. The museum's interesting memorabilia includes an historic fire engine, an old ambulance. The upper floor includes the Hawke Gallery which commemorates the engineering firm founded in 1857 by Henry Binney Hawke. Downstairs include the story of the ships named Kapunda.. It is open from 1.00 pm - 4.00 pm seven days a week. Tel: (08) 8566 2286 for more information. For more information check out http://community.history.sa.gov.au/kapunda-museum.

North Kapunda Hotel
Along from the Bagot's Fortune Museum, on the corner of Crase and Main Street, is the North Kapunda Hotel which was first licensed in 1849. The yard behind the hotel was used for stock sales from the 1850s onwards but it prospered when Sir Sidney Kidman began using it for his horse sales. There was one auction where 3,000 horses, all owned by Kidman, were offered. The sale lasted a week. The yard was the centre of Kidman's empire from 1904 to the 1930s. The rear section of the hotel was probably built in 1866 when the hotel was completed. 

4. Dutton Park (1877)
Located in Baker Street, the Dutton Park is named after Francis Henry Dutton who donated £500 to the purchase of the land in 1875. The aim was to establish a recreation ground for the local community. The park was established in 1877.

5. Dutton Park Sporting Complex
Part of Dutton Park is the beautiful AFL football grounds (see https://www.facebook.com/duttonparkcomm for photos and information) which is the home ground for thte Kapunda Football Club. The club was formed in 1866 and, still playing under its original name, is the oldest Australian Rules Club in South Australia.

7. Pluckrose Cottage (c. 1870)
There are a number of historic cottages in Queen Street. Pluckrose Cottage, which dates from the 1870s and is near the corner with Coghill Street was originally two miners’ cottages. The cottages were converted into a single dwelling  which was used as a “Girl’s Finishing School’. The cottage next door was once the home of John Hill who raised the British Standard at a ceremony in Glenelg, where the colony of South Australia was officially proclaimed in 1836.

9. Railway Station (1860)
The Kapunda railway line was declared open on 13 August 1860 by the South Australian Governor, Richard Graves McDonnell. The station became an important railhead for goods from the north and mid-north of the state. In recent times it has become the Kapunda Station Bed & Breakfast. It has three rooms available.

12. Kapunda Mine – established 1845
Located off Mine Street, this is the best place to get an overview of the old mine and to observe the distinctive mine chimney. The remnants of the mine, with their distinctive colouring, are a reminder that this was the first commercial copper mine in Australia. The copper was discovered by Charles Bagot and Francis Dutton and the ore produced was believed to be the purest copper mined in Australia. The mine was exhausted and finally closed in 1879.

13. Hillside Mine – established 1880
Located on the corner of Perry Road and East Terrace is the Hillside Mine - the mullock heaps are still clearly visible. Copper ore was discovered here in 1880 and the Hillside mine operated until 1912. It only produced around 1000 tons.

14. Cameron Lookout
Located on Cameron Street is a lookout which was named after Robert Cameron, who was a local implement manufacturer in Kapunda. It has informative signage and an excellent view across to the Mine Chimney. It is directly opposite the old St Rose's Convent.

15. St Rose’s Convent (former) established 1892
In 1892, the Dominican sisters established a Catholic school and took over the education of Catholic children from the Sisters of St Joseph. The schoo, which is located in Cameron Street,l closed in 1968. When it was sold for $1.2 million in 2011 the Adelaide Advertiser noted "The Kapunda mansion once owned by convicted paedophile Peter Liddy is on the market for $1.2 million. The circa 1891, 12-room Victorian mansion, called Mount Saint Rose, is set on more than 1.5 ha of land and has a decorated history, including time as a school established by the Sisters of St Joseph and as a Catholic convent. It also is infamous for its association with disgraced magistrate Liddy and convicted conman Terry Stephens, who purchased the property and also its contents for $500,000 in late 2001. The property was sold to the current owners after Mr Stephens defaulted on his loan in early 2002. During their ownership, the present owners have completed extensive renovations and stripped the Shenandoah name Liddy gave it during his ownership. They said yesterday Mount Saint Rose should be recognised for its history long before Liddy's association and it now was a great family home. "We wanted to forget the past and get rid of the (Shenandoah) name," they said. "It was formerly known as Mount Saint Rose and we returned it to Mount Saint Rose with the blessing of the Catholic Church. "The place was already 100 years old before Liddy got here and it's now just a nice family home." The vendors said they had spent considerable time and money restoring the property. "We've spent big dollars renovating the place and everybody says we have done a wonderful job," they said. "It's a unique property with a lot of history ... the most prestigious property in Kapunda." It is now a private residence.

16. St Roses Catholic Church – established 1938
Located at 27 Mary Street and built on the site of the original St Rose of Lima Church which was used by the Sisters of St Joseph (Josephites) as a school. The Sisters’ founder, Mary Mackillop, was a regular visitor to Kapunda. In 1949 the Kapunda Herald provided an interesting history of Catholicism in the town: "The Catholic Parish of Kapunda was founded in 1849, the Rev. John Fallon being the first Priest in charge. At the time of his appointment there was neither Church nor Presbytery. He lived at Gawler for a few months, while the farmers at St. John's were constructing a slab hut which had to serve as Church and Presbytery. In 1850, the Church at St. John's was begun, and was opened the following year. Father Fallon served the Parish for eleven years, and died at St. John's in 1860 and was buried in the cemetery adjoining the Church. He was the first priest to die in South Australia. Father Fallon was succeeded by the Very Rev. Michael Ryan, Vicar General, who, in 1862 began the erection of the first Church in Kapunda, the old Church of St Rose of Lima. Previous to this the Catholics of Kapunda township attended Mass at St.John's. Father Ryan, however, soon after his arrival, secured the use of a forge in the town for Mass. The forge was situated where the Soldiers' Memorial Hall now stands, and was, we understand, owned by Mr.Hogan. Later a piece of land was bought from Dr. Blood for the purpose of erecting a Church. On this land was a stable, which was used for Mass until the Church of St Rose's was built. After 75 years of useful service, the old Church gave place to the new Church of St. Rose's, which was built in 1938."

^ TOP

Other Attractions in the Area

The Story of Copper at Kapunda
Copper was discovered at Kapunda by Francis Dutton in 1842. Dutton went into partnership with Captain Bagot who, noting the green colour of the rocks in the area, suspected that there was copper in the region. They purchased 80 acres of land for £1 an acre but it was nearly impossible to determine the worth of their claims. It took two years for samples to be dug, transported to Adelaide, sent to Britain, tests be undertaken, and the results to return to South Australia. The results were almost unbelievable. The copper was 22.5% pure. Many experts now believe that it was the richest lode ever found ... anywhere in the world.
The first mining was initiated by Captain Charles Bagot. He employed the farm labourers on his property to dig the surface copper with picks and shovels. In the first year they dug 600 tons (544 tonnes) of ore which was worth £7000. By December 1844 Cornish miners, experienced in mining for copper, had arrived in the area and the process of underground mining commenced. Francis Dutton sold his 25% share in the mine for £16,000 (a huge sum at the time) in 1846. Captain Bagot now had a 55 per cent controlling share in the mine.
The task of processing the copper was daunting. The copper-bearing rocks were transported by bullock dray to Port Adelaide (a journey which took around 6 days) where it was loaded onto ships and transported to Swansea in Wales. The ore was then smelted in Welsh copper smelting works. By 1850 the mine was producing 100 tons of ore per month.
Once the richness of the Kapunda copper seam was recognised copper experts and labourers travelled from Europe to mine the seam. There was a fascinating division of of labour according to nationality. The Cornish were the expert miners. The Welsh specialised in smelting the copper. The Germans, who had settled in the area before the discovery of the copper, cut down the trees and sold them to fuel the smelters. The Irish worked as labourers and later became the main bullock team drivers and German women grew fruit and vegetables which they sold to the miners. They used to walk their farm produce to the town in wheelbarrows.
German-made smelters arrived at Kapunda in 1849 and the ships which carried the copper to Britain began to stop at Newcastle-on-Tyne where they loaded coal to be shipped to the smelters.
By 1850-51 the mines had reached a depth where they were below the water table (it was found at around 24 metres) and a Buel steam engine was imported to pump the water out. The mines were sunk to 480 feet (around 150 metres).
By 1852 the Kapunda mine almost deserted as men left to try their luck on the Victorian goldfields. Miners did not return to Kapunda until around 1855 and by 1857 production was back at peak production with 4,103 tons of ore being produced.
By 1861, as the sign in the Bagot Museum reveals, there were:
43 miners - mostly Cornish
106 pitmen
23 children - mostly Cornish
82 labourers - mainly Irish
13 boys - mainly Irish
36 smelters and furnacemen - mainly Welsh
The mine at this time was employing 302 men and 36 boys.
The copper was used for copper kettles, copper ladles, candlestick holders, bread-making equipment, copper coins, copper sheeting for ships and also taps and pipes. It was also used to produce brass.
The importance of the Kapunda copper mine declined with the discovery of copper at Burra where the lode was four times the amount of Kapunda and then the mine at Moonta on the Yorke Peninsula was found to be four times the size of the Burra mine.
By 1863 the Kapunda ore lode had been worked out. It was closed down in 1878 and the equipment sold the following year. It opened again on a small scale and continued until 1912. During this time a total of 12,800 tons of copper was mined.
As the mining industry declined the town turned to agriculture. Sir Sidney Kidman, one of Australia's richest rural entrepreneurs and a man who once owned more land than the entire British Isles, moved to the town. When he died in 1935 he controlled 68 large properties which covered 64 million acres of Australia. He regularly held horse sales behind the North Kapunda Hotel and at one famous sale a total of 3,000 horses were offered in an auction which lasted a week. The horses were all the property of Kidman.

^ TOP

History

* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the district was home to the Ngadjuri Aboriginal people.

* By 1840 the district had been settled by two pastoralists, Captain Charles H. Bagot and Francis Dutton.

* Francis Dutton and Captain Bagot both discovered copper on their properties in 1842.

* Copper mining started in 1843.

* By 1844 copper mining was fully operational in the district.

* In 1846 Francis Dutton sold his 25% share in the copper mine.

* By 1851 a copper smelter had been built in Kapunda.

* The railway reached Kapunda on 13 August, 1860. That year saw the first edition of the Kapunda Herald published.

* Open cut mining started in 1865 - the first in Australia.

* The Kapunda Council was formed in 1866.

* The copper in the area had been exhausted by 1877 when the mines closed down.

* By 1877 the population of the town was nearly 2,000.

* By 1878 there were ten hotels in the town. That year saw the railway extended to Eudunda and Morgan.

* The mine machinery was sold off in 1879.

* In 1988 the statue of Map Kernow was installed in the town.

* In 2006 the Map Kernow statue was destroyed by fire.

* In recent times Kapunda has prospered as a successful service town for the local district.

^ TOP

Visitor Information

Kapunda Visitor Information Centre, 51-53 Main Street, tel: 1300 770 301 or (08) 8566 2902.

^ TOP

Useful Websites

The most valuable website for the town is https://www.barossa.com/uploads/507/kapunda-heritage-trail.pdf which has a map and 43 places of interest.

^ TOP
Got something to add?

Have we missed something or got a top tip for this town? Have your say below.