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Willunga Slate Museum

Home > Adelaide > Day Trips | Escape the City | Historic Houses | Museums | Places of Interest
Published July 17th 2021
The only such museum in Australia
Willunga Slate Museum
Willunga Slate Museum


Housed in the stables of the old courthouse and police station complex, Willunga Slate Museum tells the story of slate mining in the hills behind the township as well as the Cornish miners who did this dangerous work. An outcrop of slate was discovered in 1840 and quarries were opened soon after. A village was also established to accommodate the quarrymen.

Slate rainwater tank
Slate rainwater tank


By 1870, the slate industry had well and truly developed with more than a hundred workers shipping out tens of thousands of roofing slates each week. Slate was adapted and ingeniously used for all sorts of purposes including roofs, floors, paves, fences, water tanks, garden walls, mantelpieces and gravestones. Examples of these varied uses can still be seen in multiple spots around town today. Just download the map and follow the trail to see them.

slate trimming machine
Slate trimming machine


The first point of interest is the slate museum itself, located at the top end of High Street. A slate rainwater tank stands proudly outside while a collection of slate working tools are on display inside. The slate trimming machine was used to trim slate roofing tiles. The wheelbarrow was used in transportation, with slates packed upright to prevent breakage. Various types of tools were also used by the quarry blacksmith to make and repair equipment.

wheelbarrow
Wheelbarrow


The slate industry is not without its tragedies though. Sadly, in 1936, two men were killed while working on a 15-metre high cracked rock face. Six hundred tonnes of rock slid and overwhelmed both father and son. Although the accident occurred before they had lunch, the men's bodies were only discovered later that evening by their son/brother.

quarry blacksmith
Blacksmith's tools


In all my years living in Adelaide, I was not aware of this part of South Australia's history. I definitely learned a fair bit that day when I visited the National Trust site. Willunga Slate Museum is open from 1pm to 4pm monthly on Tuesdays and Sundays. More information can be found on their website.

willunga slate museum
The stables of the old courthouse and police station complex

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Why? The only such museum in Australia
Where: 61 High Street, Willunga, SA
Your Comment
An very interesting and informative article Audrey. Visiting a slate museum may not be on everyone's bucket list, perhaps just on a pail list. It is nice to see museums like the slate museum recording local history.
by Neil Follett (score: 3|3191) 100 days ago
I've driven past this a few times - will have to stop by one day and check it out :)
by Tema (score: 2|877) 100 days ago
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