Wheal Watkins mine

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Wheal Watkins
Wheal Watkins is located in South Australia
Wheal Watkins
Wheal Watkins
Location in Australia
Location Glen Osmond
State South Australia
Country Australia
Coordinates 34°57′53″S 138°38′55″E / 34.9648°S 138.6486°E / -34.9648; 138.6486Coordinates: 34°57′53″S 138°38′55″E / 34.9648°S 138.6486°E / -34.9648; 138.6486
Products Lead
Opened 1843
Closed 1916
Company Wheal Gawler Mining Association
Adelaide Silver Lead Company
Tarcoola Development Syndicate

Wheal Watkins mine is an historic lead and silver mine in Glen Osmond, South Australia. The mine first operated from 1844 until 1850, and again briefly in 1888 to 1889, and 1916[citation needed]. From 1986 onwards, the mine was accessible by guided tour, until a rockfall event prompted its closure in 2005.


The Wheal Watkins mine was preceded by the Wheal Gawler mine, which was opened in May 1841. The initial discovery of galena in the field is attributed to James Heneker.[1]

The property containing the Wheal Watkins lead and silver deposit was purchased by Mr Watkins of Worthing, England in December 1841. It was purchased through his South Australian agent, Peter Peachey, who opened a mine there on his behalf in 1843. He first worked the deposit in May 1844.[2][3] The lode was found to contain 70% lead and 30 ounces of silver per ton. The ore was sold in London for £13 13 shillings per ton.[2]

The mine's principle contractor was Thomas Williams, and a team of Cornish miners was employed.[4] In its first year, the mine employed twelve to eighteen people. In the mine's first seven months, 150 tons of ore was extracted, 100 tons of which was shipped to England.[3] A nearby hotel called The Miner's Arms provided accommodation and provisions to visitors to the mine and region.[5] Peachey died in 1850, but work on the mine continued. The mine was abandoned due to a combination of "extravagant" management, the "ridiculously high" impost of royalties and miners seeking more lucrative prospects during the Victorian gold rush of 1851.[2]

Later workings[edit]

The field, which included the adjacent Wheal Gawler and Glen Osmond mines, enjoyed a short-lived revival in 1888.[6] At this time, the operation was led by Captain Rowe,[7] and the mine's secretary was Mr H. Conigrave.[8] A report on the mine from 1888 referred to the mine by the alternative name of "Peachey's lode".[9]

In 1913, a prospector became feint while down the mine, and was saved from falling to his death by his partner. A bow-line loop of rope was lowered around his body and the prospector was hauled safely to the surface.[10]

The last entity to formally work the mine was the Tarcoola Development Syndicate in 1916.[11][12][13]


After the closure of the mine, some shafts and adits remained open. Several incidents are known to have occurred whereby people or animals fell down holes or became stuck in adits. These include a dog[14] and a cow,[15] both of which were safely recovered.


The mine was added to the National Estate Register in 1996, and re-opened by then South Australian Minister for Mines, Stephen Baker MP.

In 2004, tours departed from the Burnside Council Chambers with a round trip two hours in duration. Tours ran on the third Sunday of every month, and tickets cost $7 for adults and $4 for children.[16]

In 2005, the mine was closed after a rockfall event.

In 2008, a bequest of $30,000 AUD was given to the City of Burnside Council in trust, to facilitate repairs and make it possible to reopen the mine for tours. The late donor, John Clark, had previously facilitated tours of the mine from 1986, and appeared in an episode of the TV series Postcards which was dedicated to the Glen Osmond mines, and presented by Keith Conlon.[17]

In 2008, Ross Both and Greg Drew wrote of the Glen Osmond mines in the Journal of Australasian Mining History: "It is essential that further restoration of the [Wheal Watkins] adits be carried out so that public access will again be possible to one of Australia’s most significant mining heritage sites."[18]

In 2013, Mayor David Parkin stated that "ratepayers have outlaid considerable funds on preservation of these mines over the years and it is a matter of judgment when enough is enough."[19]

As of March 2016, the mine remains closed to the public. The Burnside Historical Society plans to work with the council to reopen the mine for tours and develop a display for public viewing which will feature a pick found in the Glen Osmond mine and a piece of galena.[20]



  1. ^ "Mr. James Heneker, sen. - Observer (Adelaide, SA : 1905 - 1931) - 10 Mar 1917". Trove. Retrieved 2016-03-10. 
  2. ^ a b c "Mining Days At Glen Osmond - The Mail (Adelaide, SA : 1912 - 1954) - 9 Oct 1943". Trove. Retrieved 2016-03-10. 
  3. ^ a b "SOUTH AUSTRALIA. - The Courier (Hobart, Tas. : 1840 - 1859) - 11 Jan 1845". Trove. Retrieved 2016-03-10. 
  4. ^ "LOCAL INTELLIGENCE. - Adelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904) - 29 Jun 1844". Trove. Retrieved 2016-03-10. 
  5. ^ "Advertising - Adelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904) - 27 Jul 1844". Trove. Retrieved 2016-03-10. 
  6. ^ "Mining Days At Glen Osmond - The Mail (Adelaide, SA : 1912 - 1954) - 9 Oct 1943". Trove. Retrieved 2016-03-10. 
  7. ^ "Unexpected Fall of Mullock at the Wheal Watkins. - The Express and Telegraph (Adelaide, SA : 1867 - 1922) - 29 Sep 1888". Trove. Retrieved 2016-03-10. 
  8. ^ "THE WHEAL WATKINS MINE. - South Australian Weekly Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1881 - 1889) - 1 Sep 1888". Trove. Retrieved 2016-03-10. 
  9. ^ "OLD MINES ROUND ADELAIDE - Gold, Silver, and Copper in Ranges ABANDONED SHAFTS DOT COUNTRYSIDE - News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 - 1954) - 17 Sep 1929". Trove. Retrieved 2016-03-10. 
  10. ^ "SAVED BY A BOWLINE. - The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929) - 27 Nov 1913". Trove. Retrieved 2016-03-10. 
  11. ^ "TARCOOLA DEVELOPMENT SYNDICATE. - Observer (Adelaide, SA : 1905 - 1931) - 18 Nov 1916". Trove. Retrieved 2016-03-10. 
  12. ^ "MINING IN S.A. - SIX MONTHS' OPERATIONS REVIVAL IN COPPER AND GOLD MINING. - Daily Herald (Adelaide, SA : 1910 - 1924) - 10 Oct 1916". Trove. Retrieved 2016-03-10. 
  13. ^ "TAROOOLA DEVELOPMENT SYNDICATE. - Observer (Adelaide, SA : 1905 - 1931) - 23 Sep 1916". Trove. Retrieved 2016-03-10. 
  14. ^ "Out among the People - Observer (Adelaide, SA : 1905 - 1931) - 8 Jan 1931". Trove. Retrieved 2016-03-10. 
  15. ^ "Twenty-four Days Without Nourishment, - Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 - 1912) - 7 May 1889". Trove. Retrieved 2016-03-10. 
  16. ^ Duckeck, Jochen. "Show Mines of Australia: Glen Osmond Mine Tour". www.showcaves.com. Retrieved 2016-03-10. 
  17. ^ "Postcards - Glen Osmond Mines". www.postcards-sa.com.au. Retrieved 2016-03-12. 
  18. ^ Both, Ross A.; Drew, Greg J. (2008-09-01). "The Glen Osmond silver-lead mines, South Australia: Australia's first metalliferous mines" (PDF). Journal of Australasian Mining History. 6. Retrieved 2016-03-12. 
  19. ^ Altschwager, Emma (2013-03-18). "Burnside Historical Society push to have Glen Osmond's Wheal Watkins Mine opened to the public". Eastern Courier. Retrieved 2016-03-11. 
  20. ^ Ide, Meredith (2016-03-01). "President's message" (PDF). Burnside Historical Society Inc. Newsletter. 36 (1). Retrieved 2016-03-11.