A new historic cellar for Beltana

Community stories: 26 October 2020

Beltana is a remote town with a permanent population of around 35 people, located 540 kilometres north of Adelaide in South Australia. The picturesque place is a state heritage listed town, with many of the original buildings still standing and in use. Despite the incredible remoteness of the community, they have approximately 50 cars pass by the town every day, and this can be up to 150 cars per day in peak tourist times.

The Beltana Progress Association begun restoration works on the local Assembly Hall to establish a local gallery and artefacts exhibit and a small café for tourists and locals alike. An underground cellar measuring 20m x 7m and 3m deep hadn’t been accessed in years but provided an opportunity to create a new historical space and also a cool gathering space in the warmer months. However, it was unsafe to enter and needed significant restoration works.

With thanks to the ANZ Seeds of Renewal Program, FRRR was able to provide the Beltana Progress Association with a $15,000 grant to contract a local carpenter to carry out the restoration works and create a new space for residents and tourists alike!

Upon gaining access to the cellar it became apparent that there was significantly more dirt and debris that initially anticipated. Residents came together and worked to remove nine tons of it, bucket by bucket. Pleasingly, the original stairs were still there, although they needed a significant restoration to be made safe.

Local tradespeople worked together to reset the original stones that were used to establish the stairwell when it was originally constructed, before creating new timber treads. Finally, a new balustrade was constructed to ensure that the stairs could be used safely.

The Beltana Progress Association also discovered that rather than a stone floor, they cellar actually has a natural sleet reef, and received advice on how to safely preserve that floor, while still allowing for the space to be operational as a gallery.

Jan Ferguson AM, who is the President of the Beltana Progress Association, said of the project; “There were 468 hours of volunteer time in the project as well as significant donations from the community. There has also been significant interest from tourists in the cellar even though it is not open to the public yet.

“The cellar has not been in use for at least 70 years. The fact that it is now a usable space and has been restored meticulously has brought a great deal of community pride. Our volunteers faced with 9 tons of rubble that had to be manually removed just stuck at it day after day in very difficult circumstances.

“We are most proud of the replacement of the original staircase which looks amazing and that as a very small community we have been able to achieve the project.

“The local tradespeople talked about it as once in a lifetime project and worked tirelessly to achieve the result in partnership with the community.”