history burra graphic
Roads Around Burra

South Australian Register

15 August 1846

A punt formed of bull’s hide has been used to ferry one or more horsemen across the river at Gawler in the prevalent floods. [The horses having to swim.] The River Light is also in flood and a driver lost his life trying to ford it.

9 September 1846

The bullock’s hide punt at Gawler was again in use last Thursday. Two men embarked, but the vessel capsized. One man, who was a strong swimmer, got himself out of the torrent, but the other would have drowned, but for the prompt assistance of others.

24 July 1847, page 4

The ‘Reformer’ Stage-cart Upset

The cart left Harris’s Hotel on Tuesday morning and stopped at the Gilbert for dinner. The river had risen and the mail cart was detained. Reformer then crossed the river safely, but the passengers had remained on the other side. The driver agreed to return and collect the passengers, but he forgot to shift his weight to the windward side and the cart tipped over, breaking the roofing. The horses brought it into about 18 inches of water. The cart was then righted and the driver assured everyone the accident had been entirely due to his omission to shift position, but no passengers were prepared to risk the crossing and the driver continued on alone.

Reformer is also reported to have swum across the Gawler River yesterday unaided, while all others crossed with the aid of ropes.

7 August 1847, page 3

The Road to Burra Burra Mines is reported by a traveller to be strewn with laden drays bogged to the axles. In endeavouring to escape most drivers have shattered poles, shafts etc. and numbers have been stuck for weeks, immovably imbedded. The whole route is a quagmire.

6 December 1848, page 4


On Friday 24 November a young man named Albert Abbott was driving his bullock team laden with ore from the Burra Mine, when opposite the Smelting House he stumbled over a stone. His left shoulder became jammed under the upper felloe and he was dragged some distance before being released by a passer-by. His injuries were such that little hope was held for his recovery and he died on 30 November.

2 February 1852, page 3


The Burra Mail was involved in a fatal accident at Gawler last Friday. The mail from Burra did not reach Gawler till 9.30 p.m. on Friday, the roads being so heavy due to the rain. On turning into the main street, the driver checked the horses to avoid a dangerous hole in the middle of the road and having avoided that, the horses trotted on. Scarcely 100 yards further on it was found that the pole had snapped off. The road was on an incline and the driver found it impossible to prevent the coach from running on the horses. As a result they became unmanageable and the coach tipped over 50 yards from the Post Office. When lights had been obtained it was found that Patrick Joyce, a farmer from near the Catholic Chapel on the Light, had been killed on the spot.

His body was lying in a confusion of luggage. Several other passengers were injured, including J.W. Macdonald, the Special Magistrate, returning from holding court in Burra. He had a deep gash on his forehead and severely injured a knee.

An inquest was held on Saturday at the New Bushman Inn on the body of Patrick Joyce. His injuries are described as a fractured skull, two broken collarbones, a dislocated right arm, dislocated thigh and four or five broken ribs. The fractured skull or the broken ribs would have been adequate to have caused death. The driver was George Beams and the Guard Thomas Simpson. Simpson gave evidence along the lines of the story above. Beams corroborated the account. He said the pole had been broken previously, but had been mended in Kooringa and Friday’s break had been in another place. J.W. Macdonald gave evidence and completely exonerated the driver. The verdict was death by accident and misadventure. The jury did, however, recommend that Mr Chambers keep one or two spare poles along the road.

Cartage roads from Burra to the coast from 1844

Cartage roads from Burra to the coast from 1844
Courtesy of the Dept of Mines & Energy

The above image superimposed on Google Terrain, 2017, showing the lines of hills, etc

The above image superimposed on Google Terrain, 2017, showing the lines of hills, etc

24 June 1852, page 3


An accident occurred to the Burra mail cart crossing the River Light on the Adelaide side of Kapunda. The mail cart from Burra on Monday evening crossed without trouble. Mr Opie’s coach an hour later became jammed against the bank when the horses turned round in the stream. The passengers endured the position all night and were released in the morning without injury. The driver, William Newman and a passenger known as Billy the Pieman managed to escape during the night and reached the Adelaide side.

On Tuesday morning the Burra mail from Adelaide dared not cross the swollen stream and was delayed from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Then a man crossed from the north on horseback without apparent difficulty. The mail arrived from Adelaide driven by John Nash and William Newman and Billy got seats on the mail cart to return to the Kapunda side. The man who had crossed attached his horse to the four on the cart and was ridden by the man as pilot. While they were crossing strong flows of water seem to have suddenly come down. There swept away the leading horse and its rider, but both managed to reach the Kapunda side. The cart and its four horses were swept downstream. The driver and three passengers, Messrs George Pyke of the Hamilton Hotel, Mr Charles Ware of Kooringa and Mr Joseph Genders of Kooringa managed to save their lives, but William Newman, Billy the Pieman and two passenger were drowned. One of the latter was Dr Hamer, late of Kapunda, but the other name we have not ascertained.

The four horses, worth £100 were also drowned. Up to yesterday the bodies had not been recovered. The Burra Mail arrived in town between 6 and 7 last evening. The Government is bound, we believe, to extend the utmost leniency to mail contractors in respect to over-time at the present season. In a country where roads are in a miserable condition and there are virtually no bridges infraction of the regulated time must often be beyond the power of the contractor to prevent.

[William Newman died 22 June 1852, River Light, age not stated.

Billy the Pieman: William Stewart died 22 June 1852, River Light, age not stated.

Dr Hamer: B. Hammer died 22 June 1852, River Light, age not stated.

Joseph Hocking died 22 June 1852, River Light, age not stated.]

8 November 1852, page 3

Kapunda News

The crossing place of the Light at Kapunda is all but impassable. Loaded drays sink to the axles at the risk to damage of the goods they carry. Money has been voted for a bridge, but a few loads of stone would remedy the present situation until labour to construct the bridge can be obtained.

12 July 1853, page 2

The State of SA’s Roads [Editorial]

Everyone who lives outside Adelaide claims their road is the worst in the colony and no other can compete for ruts, bogs and broken bridges. The Central Road Board seems totally unable to remedy the situation. Residents at Gumeracha say they cannot get their produce to market. The North Road beyond Gawler is in a state of nature; nothing what ever has been done to make it a road. The residents complain loudly considering the value of produce sent down from this district and the amount of money spent on roads south of Adelaide. A bridge is most urgently wanted over the Light; and that in time for the transport of the next wool clip. Last year we are assured that no less than six persons were drowned attempting to cross it. Half the price of land sold ought by the Constitution be spent on roads and bridges. At the rate and prices that land is selling a good many roads and bridges should by now be appearing across the colony. The Central Board should not be perpetually able to cry want of funds. If it is not adapted for its object, let it be abolished. If it the best method we can devise then let it be supplied with the necessary funds.

11 August 1853, page 2

Bridge Over the Light.

Mr Bagot will move on Friday for a return revealing the number of persons drowned in the River Light at the crossings for the Great North and Burra Road. This spot has been more fruitful of fatal accidents than any place on the colony’s roads. It is hoped the debate this move will cause may lead to the speedy erection of a bridge at this crossing.

16 June 1859, page 3

Gawler News, 15 June

The mule teams from the Copper Company’s Works, each carrying 2½ tons of cake copper, reported as having passed through Kapunda on Monday, reached our railway station this afternoon [Wednesday]. The severest part of their journey being at its close; in passing through the heavy bed of wet sand brought down by the floods into Murray Street and which is still allowed to remain two feet deep, to the great hindrance of vehicles of all kinds.

21 June 1859, page 3

Kapunda News, 20 June

Having had occasion to travel lately, I must call attention to the abominable state of the Main North Road, about two miles on the Adelaide side of the Light Bridge and also another section of a few hundred yards, two miles closer to Adelaide. Both are between fences, and cut up to a depth of about two feet, so that it is only with difficulty that any vehicle can be dragged through. I saw two of the Copper Company’s drays stuck there last week, though with light loads and double teams. ‘It is strange that while the Willunga, Mount Barker and other roads are metalled throughout, this one should have patches left in a state of nature, although five times more wealth passes over it than is conveyed on the above mentioned roads.’

The mule teams, with a return load of hay, timber, barley, etc. passed through on Saturday evening en route to the Burra.

18 November 1859, page 3

Gawler News, 17 November

The dusty traffic of copper, ore, wool and coal etc. along Murray Street has recently been heavy and without being very profitable to the street and indeed being injurious to it in some respects, so that some ratepayers are thinking of erecting toll-gates to pay for the cost of maintaining the street and of watering it in summers to keep down the dust.

2 December 1859, page 3

Gawler News, 1 December

Accident. A carter named Cummins has been crushed while camping at Saddleworth, when a dray loaded with coals fell on him. Dr Braddock of Auburn attended him, but the case is viewed as hopeless. He has a wife and two young children living at Williston.

[Death registered as Henry Cumings died 25 December 1859 Saddleworth, residence Willaston aged 45.]

Murray Street, which was passable only with difficulty a few weeks ago, due to its newly macadamized surface, has since been pulverised into a mere sand bed. Recently in a single day 80 drays and wagons loaded exclusively with coal passed along it on their journey northwards.

7 January 1860, page 3

Gawler News, 6 January

The Burra Mining Co. continues to send all its copper direct through Gawler to Port Adelaide and the return traffic of their drays is large, subjecting the road to considerable wear and tear.

26 July 1861, page 3

Kooringa News, 24 July

The roads between Kooringa and Adelaide are appalling. There is a paucity of travellers and this with the holes and quagmires has resulted in the mail cart running only two or three days a week, with the mail carried on horseback on other days.

29 April 1863, page 3

Mintaro News, 27 April

There have been rains here, which though gladdening the hearts of farmers, have rendered the roads almost impassable. Their condition is due to the absence of any local council and a memorial is being circulated urging His Excellency to form a District Council here.

Mintaro News, 8 June

The recent rains have enabled most of the land around her to be placed under crop. The road to Burra is next to impassable and to add to frustration, if farmers have to camp overnight due to the state of the road they are quite likely to find that any straying working cattle are impounded and they face a fine. A meeting to address these grievances was held last Tuesday evening at the Devonshire Hotel. A resolution was passed asking our members to get the impounding clauses of the Waste Lands Act repealed. About 150 attended.

Mintaro News, 14 July

The roads are in a poor state and are unsafe for wheeled vehicles unless in broad daylight.

5 September 1863, page 3

Kooringa News, 2 September

The weather has been rough for some time. As a result more water has come down the creek than for all the winter. The roads are fearful for passengers by either of the mails.

17 October 1863, page 3

Kooringa News, 15 October

It has been cold with more rain. This has put a stop to shearing for the moment and the roads are again very bad.

14 May 1864, page 3

The Great North Road

A meeting of settlers north of Gawler was held at the Gawler Belt Inn, better known as Grotegut’s on Thursday to see the portion of road extending from Gawler to Gilberton restored to the schedule of main roads.

[Gilberton does not appear in Manning’s Place Names of SA, but he does mention a Gilbert Town surveyed about 10 miles south of Saddleworth.] This stretch of c. 25 miles has been extensively bought up for agriculture and is now enclosed for farming.

[On the present road Riverton is 25 miles north of Gawler and 6 miles south of Saddleworth.]

This restricts the line of transit to a chain in width. Traffic has increased tenfold and in winter it is impassable in many places, forcing farmers to send produce to market prematurely and only during the time of year when the road is passable. The Government has made much money through the land sales and pledged to maintain the main line of road. Motions were passed calling for the Government to honour its commitment and further action is assured, this being only a preliminary meeting.

20 May 1864, page 3

The Old North Road

[This article is on the follow-up meeting held at Grotegut’s Gawler Belt Inn on 18 May. The meeting is extensively reported and though there were more speakers and much greater detail is given, it is essentially a repeat of the arguments in the report of 13 May.]

The Old North Road

A very vigorous meeting was held at the North Star Inn at Templers on Thursday last of upwards of 100 farmers to consider the road from Gawler to Gilberton.

[The arguments paralleled those noted for the meeting at Gawler Belt. Some noteworthy examples of the problems are mentioned:

Mr Woods had taken two days with 12 bullocks to get 12 bags of corn ten miles.

Mr Newman: ‘Once was bogged on the Saturday and it took 20 bullocks and the best part of Sunday to get unbogged. Was once capsized in a Government waterhole with a load of flour and a fine piece of pastry it produced. On another occasion had a load of beer and wine and bottles drowned and in fishing for them half a day caught a cold and a full suit of mud.]

24 August 1864, page 2

W. Prince writes re Northern Roads:

During 15 years residence I have been through a few boggy roads, but I have never experienced such difficulty on account of the state of the roads as between Kapunda and Kooringa. Few vehicles escape unscathed. Horsemen are delayed and the mail is occasionally breaking down. It is time attention was devoted to the formation of a road from Kapunda to Kooringa.

26 August 1864, page 2

Kooringa News, 25 August

The roads have been so bad that several times recently the mail has been late.

3 November 1864, page 2


Mr Harris was proceeding north with a survey party last Saturday with a dray loaded with almost a ton of rations etc. At a steep slope about six miles beyond Chewing’s station and 36 miles north of Burra, the two leaders headed down slope just as a wheel passed over a stone and the dray was hurled completely over. Mr Harris was seated in the front between the driver and Mr Morris, a surveyor. The other two were thrown clear, but Mr Harris seems to have been struck on the hip by the falling load and the iron rail of the dray came down on the small of his back. He could not be released for almost ten minutes. Medical aid was sent for and a gentleman recently arrived by the Murray travelled all night and found Mr Harris in a very low state. After treatment Mr Morris constructed an ingenious litter and Mr Harris was conveyed carefully to Burra where he is being attended by the Doctor and Mrs Harris.

19 October 1866, page 4

Kooringa News, 19 October

The road between Kooringa and Yarwood is in a deplorable state. Accidents like broken axles are frequent. It is to be hope the Central Road Board will act because the north and north-eastern traffic is compelled to use this road. [Yarwood was a few miles down to road towards Sod Hut and Black Springs.]

Apoinga News, 2 July

The old line of road to Burra through here is in a very bad state. Due to this and the stoppage of the Burra Mine business is very dull.

Apoinga News, 30 July

Things here are very quiet. No one is coming along this way due to the bad road.

3 October 1867, page 2

The Old Burra Road

Mr Neales moved for a sum not exceeding £2,000 for repairing the Tothill’s Creek-Burra Road. He said it was still largely used.

The Treasurer said the Government could not support such a request.

Mr McCulloch said there was not a more wretched piece of road anywhere. In October 1863 no less than 40 drays, for the most part loaded with wool had been stopped for nine days on account of its bad condition.

Mr Coglin & Hon. W. Milne spoke in support.

Mr Bright said the reason for the condition was the large traffic by the Copper Company’s drays. He thought the people in the district needed to form one or two District Councils and that would be the way to attend to the road, the main line of road now having been shifted. The vote was lost 16 to 6.

7 October 1867, page 2

Width of Tires Act

At the last meeting of the central Road Board Mr Everard drew attention once again to the need for a measure to prevent the wholesale destruction of roads by the carrying of heavy loads on narrow wheels. He hoped an attempt would be made in the House of Assembly to reintroduce the Width of Tires Bill.

Such a Bill was passed in 1865 by the House, but thrown out by the Upper House. It was intended to prevent carters from carrying more than 8 cwt for every inch of tire.