A freelance writer and traveller who likes to explore the spiritual, literary and hidden gems of Adelaide and beyond.
Published October 5th 2014
History come alive
History comes alive with a visit to Willunga Courthouse. Willunga has a vivid history of pioneers and was established in 1839 as the new half-way town between Adelaide and Encounter Bay, with a fortnightly mail service carried to and fro by the police escort. The courthouse consists of a solid stone building and various outhouses. It was established from 1855 to 1872, and built in stages. Major additions, including the cells and stables were constructed in 1864 by contractor John Wadham.
The buildings were initially used as a female immigrant depot in 1856. It became a place for displaced aboriginals from Adelaide who were accommodated here and provided with supplies for a while in 1859.
In 1929, after over seventy years, the police station and court house closed to be replaced by a new police station built in Main Road, Willunga. The dilapidated complex was restored by the National Trust in 1969 and the Court House museum was opened to the public in February 1970. The unique Willunga Slate Museum opened in 2005.
Today visitors have the opportunity to explore the Willunga Slate Trail and see the Slate Museum. The Willunga National trust have preserved the history of the early settlers and promote the Slate Museum.
Find out how slate was discovered in 1840, quarried and the traditional skills and tools used by the Cornish quarrymen who migrated to this first quarry town "the slate capital of Australia".
You can pick up a copy of the Willunga Slate Trail brochure and explore Willunga's back streets, churchyards, cottages and grand homes. There are many tiny Cornish cottages dotted among the streets of Willunga.
The heritage-listed Courthouse Museum is an authentic 19th Century courtroom with jury and prisoner boxes, cells and exercise yard - ideal for courtroom re-enactments.
The courthouse is situated in grounds sheltered my majestic old gums. These trees are full of character in themselves. The courthouse is fenced by an old post and rail fence, typical of the times in which it was built. The beautiful grounds are also available for hire for functions and weddings.
Visitors to Willunga can walk around the Heritage Precinct of the town aided by a "Willunga Walks" brochure available at the Courthouse Museum. As part of the tour visitors will see many original buildings with slate roofs, which are still lived in or are used for shops, B&B's or coffee shops. The three hotels operate in original buildings. Willunga also offers a monthly Quarry market and Artisans market, in addition to the popular Farmers market held every Saturday.