A five minute documentary telling the story of Willunga slate is a very welcome addition to the displays at the Willunga Slate Museum. It was filmed locally in 2012 by Gabriella Szondy as part of her studies at Flinders University. It can be viewed in the Slate Museum at 61 High Street in Willunga.

The story of Willunga slate began in 1840 when farmer Edward Loud noticed an outcrop of slate on his land while quail-shooting with friends in the hills behind Willunga. He established the first slate quarry, but this particular slate was of inferior quality. More slate was discovered nearby and the Delabole Quarry was soon set up, with associated workers’ cottages and church.

Subsequently, Martin’s and Bastian’s Quarry and the Bangor Quarry were established. By 1870 the slate industry had become a very important part of the social and economic development of Willunga district. The slate was carted by bullock dray down the steep hills from the quarries and across the Aldinga Plains to be shipped out from Port Willunga.

Visitors to the Museum see and hear about the discovery of slate, the development of the industry and the influence of the Cornish quarrymen and their families on social and cultural life in the district. Also featured are the tools used by the quarrymen and descriptions of how they were used in the traditional slate-working skills of splitting, sawing, measuring and trimming. A skilled slate worker could produce 200 roofing tiles per day. One such worker was Cliff Reed, whose collection of tools is a special feature of the display. Also of interest is a foot-powered slate trimmer, the first to be used in the Willunga quarries. Stories of everyday incidents and tragedies are brought to life.

The Slate Museum and the adjoining Courthouse Museum at 61 High Street, Willunga, are open from 1-4pm on Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday and most public holidays. Group visits can be arranged at other times. Ph 8556 2195 or email willunganationaltrust@gmail.com.

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