Moonta and Moonta Copper Mines
The attractions at Moonta and Moonta Mines encompass a number of venues which are operated by the National Trust SA, Moonta Branch. The National Trust SA, Moonta Branch was formed in 1964 with the specific purpose of preserving and promoting the heritage assets of the district. Coupled with a strong tradition for conserving, restoring and maintaining our local historical sites we have also used an innovative approach to develop a variety of tourist attractions that draw visitors locally, from interstate and also from all over the world. The National Trust, in Moonta, is privileged to have a large band of volunteers, currently numbering 117 active members. These volunteers give of their time and considerable expertise to enable “The Trust” to run a total of seven venues and attractions, which encompasses the historic Moonta Mines State Heritage Area – 1861-1923.
The Moonta Mines were established by Cornish immigrants who came to the area as experienced copper miners and established themselves as hardworking miners in Australia. In turn, the miners built a strong town and resilient community which formed the basis for the modern Moonta and Moonta Bay areas which are located on northern Yorke Peninsula, approximately 165 kilometres north west of Adelaide.
The Old Railway Station – Located on Blanche Terrace in Moonta, the Old Railway Station was built and opened in 1909, replacing the original timber and iron station that was built in 1878. In 1985 the Station became part of the Moonta Mines State Heritage Area. The Station now houses the Moonta Tourist Office, which provides a comprehensive range of tourist information and is manned by a significant number of experienced and knowledgeable volunteers. There is also a large variety of souvenirs and gift-ware available through this venue. All of the management and administrative work for the National Trust SA, Moonta Branch is also conducted from this site. Located within the grounds is the 1914 Moonta Memorial Gun 1918. The dedication and formal opening of this display was held in February 2007.
The display holds a fully restored 105 mm Light Field Howitzer used in WWI, and a number of other articles with historical significance. It is dedicated to those servicemen and women who served in WWI and the citizens of Moonta who supported the war effort. Also, twice a year the Station Markets are held at this location. They have been highly successful and the last market had a record number of 58 stallholders. The train and road trams run continually on the day and live music, children’s amusements, face painting and a variety of food and drink stalls are provided on site.
Another regular event is the Christmas Lights Tram Tours. They run for approximately 2 weeks leading up to Christmas and involve three road trams conducting nightly 1 hour tours of the Christmas lights in Moonta. This is a hugely popular tour and books out quickly each year.
Moonta School of Mines – The School of Mines is located within the township of Moonta on Ellen Street. It was opened in 1891 after a need for further training in mining had been established in Adelaide and a grant was received to build a school at Moonta where practical knowledge could be obtained in the nearby Moonta Mines. Today it houses a variety of working scale models of mining machinery as well as displays of historic mining photographs.
There is also an extensive collection of medical equipment from the early days of Moonta and an apothecary display. Along with all of these wonderful attractions the School of Mines houses the Family History and Resource Centre which assists people with family history research and also researches the history of Moonta and its residents since the establishment of the district. There is a large collection of newspapers on microfilm that can be accessed and they include the Wallaroo Times, Yorke Peninsula Advertiser and People’s Weekly; all newspapers from the Copper Coast region dating back well over 100 years.
Moonta Mines Museum – This building was the former Moonta Mines School and was built in 1878 to educate the children of the Cornish miners. The mines closed in 1923 and in 1968 the dwindling number of students were sent to the school in Moonta. In 1969 the building was taken over by the National Trust in Moonta. Today it is an imposing museum which possesses a variety of valuable collections.
There are a number of rooms which house displays covering the following themes: Cornish Settlement of Moonta, Cornish Mining, Extensive Display of Minerals, War Memorabilia, Social History and Shop Fronts, Water and Natural Resources, School Room, Sports and Pastimes, Lodges and Friendly Societies, the Cornish Way of Death and the Headmaster’s Office. All of these rooms hold hundreds of objects which have been donated by local people and their relatives. They are each specific to the Moonta area and its culture and history. The collection is invaluable and irreplaceable and is constantly commented on as being one of the finest museums of its type in Australia.
Miner’s Cottage – The Miner’s Cottage is located at Moonta Mines and was originally opened by the local National Trust branch as a museum. It is considered an excellent example of the hundreds of cottages built by miners between their shifts at the Moonta, Yelta, Karkarilla, Parramatta and Hamley Mines. It is constructed of a combination of hand fired bricks and what is known as “Wattle and Daub”. The cottage also has a beautifully maintained “cottage garden”.
The interior is furnished lovingly to reflect the history and culture of the time that it was built, approximately 1870. All of the items on display in the cottage have been donated by local people and their families, adding to the authenticity of the experience. Guided tours are provided to tourists, often by an experienced volunteer in period costume. This also adds to the experience and the volunteers receive many positive comments from visitors.
Moonta Mines Tourist Railway – The railway was established in 1982. It is a narrow gauge railway which is 61cm in width. Originally it ran on a track around the mining display and reservoir at Wheal Munta, on a continuous loop. Since then it has developed into a 50 minute guided tour which runs for 3.2 kilometres. The train is driven by a band of experienced volunteers who explain the significance of various sites throughout the mining heritage area. They tell the story of Moonta Mines with humour and great enthusiasm and the response from visitors is very positive. The train has a diesel engine and can tow up to 12 carriages. This is excellent for group bookings and arranged tours, which happen regularly throughout the year, as it can hold up to 60 people for one trip.
Old Sweet Shop – The Old Sweet Shop is located opposite the museum at Moonta Mines and was built in 1946. It was originally the post office at Moonta Mines and is a small building filled with character. These days there has been a modern extension added at the rear of the building for storage of sweets and drinks and to act as a preparation area for the making of the Old Sweet Shop’s famous Spuds. The shop sells a large variety of old fashioned sweets and English lollies, as well as old fashioned traditional soft drinks, made at Gladstone in South Australia.
Heritage Walking Trails – The Heritage Walking Trails consist of three distinct walking trails that cover heritage listed areas of the Moonta Mines district. Visitors can pick up a booklet at the tourist office and can follow these self guided trails at their leisure. They are provided with maps and information about the various historic highlights along the way.
Moonta Mines State Heritage Area – Moonta Mines was declared a state heritage area on 10 May 1984. The state heritage area is an important collection of 19th century mining structures. It covers most of the former Moonta Mining Company lease, and includes the main mining, industrial and residential components of Moonta Mines and Yelta. The National Trust, Moonta Branch and its large group of volunteers conserves, maintains and promotes the various structures associated with the Moonta Mines area.
There are a variety of shafts, mining pump-houses, engine-houses, ruins of mining offices, residences, precipitation works, tailings heaps, ruins of halls, churches, cottages and workshops. These are all visited by tourists on a regular basis and are a very important source of the state’s mining history.
Information courtesy of National Trust SA Moonta Branch
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