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Dugouts History

Investigations > Burra > The Dug-Outs




During the early mining period in Burra, the population grew rapidly and soon there were approximately 5,000 people living in the area which at the time was greater then the population of Perth and Brisbane combined. This also meant a shortage in housing so the miners had to look elsewhere to make their homes. The dry looking creek bed seemed to be the place and soon, like rabbits, they had dug out homes in the banks of the creek. This soon became known as Creek Street.

It would have been an amazing sight, as 1800 people were living here. Six hundred homes lined 3 miles of the creek on both sides. A census taken in 1851 showed that a third of the population then were children under the age of 14. It is interesting to note that one of those children living there has a connection to one of our other investigation sites... the Adelaide Gaol. Elizabeth Woolcock, the only woman to be hanged in South Australia, spent the first part of her childhood in these dugouts before being moved to Victoria by her father.

Diseases such as typhoid, smallpox and typhys was rife in this 'street' due to unsanitary conditions and in 1851 alone, 153 people died, mainly young children. If this wasn't bad enough then also in 1851 a devestating flood came through driving the miners from their homes. By 1860 the dugouts had all but been deserted.

These days only two of the dugouts remain, thanks to the work of the National Trust in restoring and preserving them. The 600 other homes have been lost to time.

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