Over the last couple of days, we have explored most of the flat agricultural area of the Yorke Peninsula. Today, we moved through some more undulating country which is more focused on grazing rather than grain cropping. In a previous post I mentioned that most of the land on the peninsula is used for growing wheat. I have to take that comment back; I learned yesterday that this area is mostly growing barley.
We found our first stop today by accident. As we were travelling towards Burra (our overnight stop) we saw a signpost pointing to the Bute Art Silo. A quick deviation took us to the little town of Bute.It takes its name from the Isle of Bute in the Firth of Clyde, Scotland. This is one town that did have a railway and the nearby grain silo is beautifully painted. The railway stopped operating long ago.
We found Bute was a good stop for a break, so we stopped for a coffee by the Lions Club fauna park which had a few geese, peacocks, an alpaca and a kangaroo amongst other animals. The town has a population of about 400 people.
I was fascinated to see that the soldiers memorial from WW1 was so extensive. A small rose garden is set beside the Memorial Hall and at the back of the garden is a monument, An Honour Roll plaque containing four columns of World War 1 names, six columns of World War 2. Such was the loyalty at the time to the British Empire, over 100 men from this little community went to war in WW1. It made a similar contribution to WW2. Eight local people served in Vietnam although that may have been a result of conscription that randomly called people up into the army.
Travelling on, we passed through the town of Snowdon. It became famous in In May 1999 when the remains of eight individuals were discovered in an unused bank vault. They had been stored in barrels filled with acid. More remains were found buried in the backyard of a house occupied by one of the men charged.
The murders happened in various locations around Adelaide and the bodies were later moved to Snowtown. None of the victims were local residents of Snowtown. Many victims were first tortured and forced to give up their bank account details and some were receiving welfare benefits that the killers continued to claim after the murders. Four men were eventually arrested and convicted.
By lunchtime, we had reached the town of Mintaro where we found a nice picnic table in the gardens by the bowling club. The town is situated near the Clare Valley wine region. It is so historic that the complete town has a National Trust classification. Mintaro was originally intended as a stopping and resting place for the bullock teams carting copper ore from the Burra mine to Port Wakefield. By 1876 the population was recorded as 400. Mintaro continued to develop as a rural service centre during the 1870s and early 1880s, when pastoral and agricultural activities boomed in the area.
The Mintaro district includes the very prominent Martindale Hall. Just out of town is this superbly preserved Georgian style mansion with Italian influences. It was built in 1879-1880 for Edmund Bowman Jr. who lived in the house until 1891. When it was built it cost £30,000, had 32 rooms and a huge cellar. Bowman surrounded the house with a racecourse, a lake, a cricket pitch and a polo ground. He employed 14 servants. It was used in the movie Picnic at Hanging Rock.
The main house was constructed for Edmund Bowman Jr., in 1879-1880 to a design prepared by London architect E Gregg, while the coach house was probably designed by Adelaide architect EJ Woods. The construction of the mansion and other structures was supervised by Woods and main builder Robert Huckson.
Martindale Hall is an outstanding example of the grand country mansions constructed by wealthy pastoralists and represents the `baronial’ lifestyle achieved by them. The property including the mansion, its interiors, and coach house retain a high degree of integrity and illustrate a way of life that no longer exists in South Australia.
The classical styling, proportions and detailing of the external elevations of the mansion and coach house are of a very high quality, and the elaborate detailing of interior features such as timberwork, parquetry floor and plaster work to cornices, ceilings and gallery are finely executed.
This mansion is exceptionally palatial. It is like a grand English country house in the wrong place. It certainly gives an insight into how the very rich ‘other half’ lived.
By mid afternoon, we had reached Burra. It is a pastoral centre and historic tourist town in the mid-north of South Australia. The town began as a single company mining township that, by 1851, was a set of small townships (company, private and government-owned) collectively known as “The Burra”. The Burra mines supplied 89% of South Australia’s and 5% of the world’s copper for 15 years and the settlement has been credited with helping to save the economy of the struggling new colony of South Australia.
The Burra Copper Mine was established in 1848 mining the copper deposit discovered in 1845. Miners and townspeople migrated to Burra primarily from Cornwall, Wales, Scotland and Germany. The mine first closed in 1877, briefly opened again early in the 20th century and for a last time from 1970 to 1981.
When the mine was exhausted and closed, the population shrank dramatically and the townships, for the next 100 years, joined and supported pastoral and agricultural activities. Today the town continues as a centre for its surrounding farming communities and, being one of the best-preserved towns of the Victorian era in Australia, as a historic tourist centre