The first thing that you notice on entering one of these buildings is the height of the doors and ceilings – they are low! All miners’ huts in Moonta are the same.
The miners employed traditional building methods utilising local resources – wattle and daub, locally made mud bricks, clay and limestone. A coat of plaster and whitewash would have set the final touches.
Early in the town’s establishment, wooden palings or shingles would have been used for the roof but later, corrugated iron was used. Floors would have been dirt covered by packing cases. Internal walls were paper covered hessian with a coat of whitewash. They made do with what they had.
The new migrants may have brought some furniture from the old country. There would have been a small bed (by today’s standards) and a tall boy (chest of drawers.) A wash pitcher and basin would have taken pride of place on the washstand.
Guests would have been received in the parlour (lounge) where several wooden chairs and a small table would be the extent of the furniture.
The housewife would cook over an open fireplace with a camp oven and large cauldron. Here she would make breakfast, lunch and dinner for the family regardless of the outside temperature.
Clothes would be washed outside in a copper that would be boiled. A wringer may have been used to squeeze as much water out as possible before hanging the clothes out on a rough clothesline.
Cottages may have had small but extensive vegetable gardens in the rear to supplement the family larder. At the front, a garden enclosed by the typical wooden fence made a statement about its owner.
If you would like to see a restored typical Cornish cottage and garden from the 1870s, visit the National Trust Miners Cottage at Verco Street Moonta Mines.