A walk through the gold mines

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(Image of the Captains house)

On Sunday the 8th of September I was lucky enough to be invited out on a tour of the Lady Alice Mine by the South Australian Mining Heritage Group. Cameron Hartnell, with whom I have been working for my Directed Study, took the group on a tour of the Lady Alice in the second half of the day.

The first half of the day was a guided tour by Greg Drew from the South Australian Mining Heritage Group. Greg took the group on a tour of some of the Barossa Gold Fields. The trail that we followed was opened in 1991 and Greg helped produce the signage himself. Much of the information on these signs comes from first hand accounts from the miner’s families.

The walk took us through many of the main mines that once operated during the late 1800s. The tour was highly insightful; it showed ruins of 1-roomed cottages that once housed a whole family. Hearing stories of 14-year-old children who would walk for kilometres to buy the family’s groceries from the nearest town of Gawler put the life of the miners and their families into context.

In the second half of the day Cameron took the group over to the Lady Alice Mine which he has been researching. The Lady Alice Mine is the site that I have been doing by Directed Study on for the past two semesters. The first semester of my Directed study was aimed at the mining side of the mine, and this semester the focus has been on the domestic side of the mine.

The tour started at the site of the old school house, which sat adjacent to the schoolmaster’s house, which—mind you—wasn’t very small. The tour of the Lady Alice made me look at the whole site a lot differently. I was able to stand back and take the site in for what it was. Cameron brought along some photos of the site in the many stages of its life. Taking a look from the same perspective, as the photographer would have back when the photos were taken, allowed for a different appreciation of the site, including seeing how much the site had changed over time and the difference that mining had made to the landscape

The tour took us to a few of the onsite buildings and we ended up in front of a building that, only less than a month ago, was still standing. Since then a wall has collapsed as a result, we guess, of recent wild weather. The buildings were made from mud mortar, which puts them at risk.  We then ended up at my favourite building of the whole site; it is one of the largest near the Lady Alice Mine. It sits by the dam and when visited in spring the whole area surrounding the site is in bloom.

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The whole day was very interesting and I learnt a lot by being the student. It has allowed me to think about the site in a different way and take in others’ views of what certain places may have been. In all it was a very exciting day, enjoyed by all.

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2 responses to “A walk through the gold mines

  1. A great post! Thanks for sharing this one with us all. Here in the UK I’m pleased to say that several of our old mines have now been converted into open air museums. Some even have underground trips and working ore dressing plants. Such visitor attractions further increased the profile of this fasinating area of industrial-archaeology which hopefully will help keep Britain’s industrial heritage alive for future generations to enjoy and get involved with.

  2. Parts of the mine are on Conservation property and can only be accessed by going off the trails, which is good due to the fact that a lot of the ruins are vulnerable and have fallen down in a matter of days since my last visit. The main ruins, like those featured in this blog are all on private property and cannot be accessed by the public, which i think is great. However, it would be nice to share the information we have on this mine but we are highly reluctant to do so because we are scared of vandalism.
    I am very jealous of your open air museums, you are very lucky that the heritage of the UK is seen as highly important.