In 1845, a shepherd, William Streair, found an outcrop that indicated copper at the site of the Princess Royal Mine. Shortly after, another shepherd, Thomas Pickett, discovered a large mass of red copper oxide at what was to become Burra.
The mines were opened only after the unlikely combination of two groups. One was comprised of wealthy pastoralists and the other of tradesmen. Together they raised the 20,000 Poundsdemanded by Governor Grey for mining rights to the area.
The purchase accomplished, the 'Nobs' and the 'Snobs' as they were named with typical irony, drew lots for areas. The Nobs drew Princess Royal, which, by 1851, had petered out to become sheep country. The Snobs claim at Burra Burra became the Monster Mine, resulting in enormous wealth for those concerned.
Copper mining at Burra preceded the Victorian gold rush. In fact for a time, between 1851 and 1853, the mines closed, as miners succumbed to the lure of gold.
Cornish miners, Welsh and German smelters, Irish teamsters, English labourers and Spanish muleteers lived in villages, with names of varied derivation :
Kooringa (Aboriginal), Redruth (Cornish) and Copperhouse (Cornish), Aberdeen (Scottish), Llywchrr (Welsh), and Hampton (English). One theory is that Burra Burra was the name given to the creek by Indian coolie shepherds. The word is Hindustani and means Great Great.
The great Jinker, an exhibit near Market Square, recalls Burra's colourful past. With some 40 bullocks, four abreast, straining to the vivid exhortations of six bullock drivers under the leadership of William Woollacott, the boiler for Morphett's shaft was carried aboard the massive jinker for a two month's weary haul over the 100-mile journey from Adelaide to Burra. What an exciting road that must have been, up through Gawler, bustling with teamsters, muleteers and roistering miners on their way to and from the mining towns.
When mining ceased in 1877, Burra became mainly a pastoral centre and continues as such today. Many fascinating buildings and sites remain today, to remind us of those great days. The Burra township is a State Heritage listed area and as such, places great importance on its history and heritage as you can see by the many restored and preserved sites that are a highlight of any visit to this area.