History of the Old Kitchen

Many banquets and balls were held in this hall before 1926 and there was a need for a kitchen of some sort to cater for these occasions. Almost no information has come to light about the kitchen facilities prior to 1926 other than a note in the local paper the Burra Record in January 1913 stating that gas was extended to the side entrance and to the copper.

Perhaps the largest function to be held in this building was the banquet and presentation of medals to returned men, sponsored by the Burra Cheer-up Society for the returned men of the town and district. This celebration was held on 29th October 1919. Nearly 400 attended. The hall was artistically decorated and all was a great success. More than one sitting was required and guests waited outside under the trees on seating which was supplied. Compared with today’s catering facilities the conditions were primitive indeed and we can but wonder how the organisers coped with such a crowd.

Big changes occurred to this hall in 1926 when the stage was enlarged by demolishing the two dressing rooms at the back of the stage and building dressing rooms at the rear. The fire place on the stage is all that is left of the original dressing rooms. The kitchen was enclosed and a useful passage created.

The Annual General Meeting of the Burra Institute of January 1927 reported the following

There is now a side entrance to an enclosed kitchen on the south side and a stairway leading to dressing rooms. The kitchen was enclosed on the south side and extended by a long underground passage, fitted with a table and also a servery through the wall to the supper room. The stage can be screened to serve as a supper room and stage at the same time. The opera Les Cloches de Corneville on 15 & 16 December was the first performance after the alterations.

The report suggests that the previous kitchen was not enclosed and was indeed a very small working space. What a luxury the extension passage and servery would have been.

Oral history records that the local women would spend days at home baking before a big event and on the day would have to trudge up the rough path at the south side of the hall to this kitchen laden with baskets of cakes and savouries. Their home made delights would be arranged on plates and laid out for serving to guests on a long bench in the passage. The window as well as the servery was thrown open, the copper filled and stoked the fire in the stove lit so the oven would be hot enough to warm the savouries brought from home. After the event was over there would have been many able hands available to help with the washing up – no running water in this kitchen. At the conclusion of events the ladies were always thanked for providing a fine supper.

Until 1926 the lodge room may have been used as the supper room. Today this is the room to the left of the southern foyer. It seems quite an inconvenient location. In 1926 the stage was screened to serve as a supper room or stage, this location must have suited the organisers as this little kitchen served the hall for approximately 36 years until the present kitchen was built and the reading room of the library converted to the supper room as we see it today. How times have changed and what time consuming events needed to occur to provide a supper for many at the Burra Institute.

Funds for the 2007 restoration of this old kitchen have been provided by the Goyder Council Heritage Fund with many hours of volunteer labour by Roy Taplin.