Fremantle Stuff > Early Days: Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society

Early Days: Volume 1, 1927-1931

Perth street nomenclature

By J.S. Battye

(Report of an address before the Society October 28, 1927.)

Battye, J.S. 1927, 'Perth street nomenclature', Early Days, vol. 1, part 2: 49-55.


The first survey of Perth was made in August-September, 1829. It was a very rough survey which was not intended to be accurate in any respect. Subsequently a more detailed survey was undertaken and the first accurate plan of Perth with street names was prepared by Alfred Hillman under the direction of the the Surveyor-General and issued in 1838. That plan was revised in 1841 for the purpose of making the alignments of the streets a little more perfect. It was again revised in 1845 and the landholders were shown that the Government was really interested in bringing the boundaries up to a definite street alignment.

The first plan of Perth showed some rather peculiar phases. For instance, it demonstrated that it was never intended that the centre of the city should be around Barrack and Hay-streets. The centre of the city as originally laid out was at the intersections of Goderich and Lord-streets, the site of the Roman Catholic cathedral. The main portions of the city were at the intersections of St. George’s-terrace and William-street, Murray and William-streets, and James and Stirling-streets. That was evident from the fact that Lord-street, St. George’s terrace and Goderich-street as well as William, Murray, Stirling and James-streets Were all surveyed as the widest streets in the city. St. George’s-terrace beginning at Adelaide-street, and Stirling-street and Lord-streets were all surveyed to a width of 99 feet. James and Wellington-streets were 77 feet and afterwards altered to 66 feet. Hay, Pier, Barrack, Lamb and Mackie-streets were surveyed to a width of 66 feet. Francis-street was amongst the narrowest streets. At the time it was surveyed it was intended that this street should be 33 feet wide.

Many of the names of the streets had been changed since the original plan was drawn. The plan was changed in 1897 when the City Council decided to re-arrange street names and get rid of the anomaly of having two names for different portions of the same street. For instance, Hay-street was only so named from the west to Barrack-street. From that point to Bennett-street it was known as Howick-street, and the further


continuation eastward was called Twiss-street. The present Newcastle-street was Ellen-street from Lake-street to Beaufort-street and Mangles-street from Beaufort-street to Lord-street. Later on the three streets were amalgamated in Newcastle-street.

It was not difficult to conceive the reason why Mount-street was so named. From what was known Bazaar-terrace was not named in those days. The Esplanade only extended as far as Barrack-street because the allotments on the south side of St. George’s-terrace and Adelaide-terrace all ran down to high-water mark. That was one of the difficulties with which the Government had to contend when the foreshore was altered, as the owners still had the right for their blocks to run down to high-water mark. St. George’s-terrace was named after St. George, the patron saint of England. It was said that the name was also chosen because it happened to be the same as that of the ruling sovereign. Adelaide-terrace was not named until 1830. It was named after Queen Adelaide, the wife of William IV.

Hay-street as far as Barrack-street, was named after Robert William Hay, who was one of the permanent Under-Secretaries of State for War and the Colonies at the time of the foundation of the Colony. Hay was one of the principal men who took part in the discussions and in the correspondence with Captain Stirling with regard to the foundation of a new colony at Swan River. He appeared to have been friendly with several of the original officials, more particularly with John Morgan, colonial storekeeper. Crossing Barrack-street, Hay-street became Howick-street in honour of Earl Grey, Viscount Howick, Grey was Prime Minister 1831-34. During his regime the Reform Bill of 1832 was passed.

Murray-street from the west to Barrack-street was named after Sir George Murray, Secretary of State for War and the Colonies at the time the Colony was founded. It was to his decision that the foundation was in fact due. Murray was a Scot and represented Perth in the House of Commons. That was the reason why the name was given to the capital city of the new colony.

After crossing Barrack-street Murray-street became Goderich-street in honour of Frederick John Robinson, who was created Viscount Goderich in 1827. Goderich


was Prime Minister from 1827 to 1828. For four years (1830-33) he was Secretary of State for War and the Colonies.

Hay-street took a twist at Bennett-street and was named Twiss-street after Horace Twiss, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies during that period. Twiss sat in the House of Commons as member for Wootton-Bassett from 1820-30, and was actively interested in the formation of the Swan River Colony.

So far as could be gathered, Twiss was a friend of Captain Stirling.

It was quite obvious that Wellington-street was named after the Duke of Wellington and Waterloo-street after the great battle that he fought. These names were perhaps very appropriately used as street names, as the actual foundation of the Colony took place during the period that the Duke of Wellington was Prime Minister of Great Britain.

Roe-street was not on the original plan. Roe-street ran across the continuation of William-street as far as Beaufort-street, but no street was possible along its present site, as the whole of that area was part of Lake Kingsford, sometimes called the first swamp. Subsequently the lake was drained through to Claise-brook, thus making the land available upon which the present railway station stood. Roe-street was named in honour of the first Surveyor-General of Western Australia, John Septimus Roe, to whose accurate surveying the excellence of Western Australian survey work was mainly due. James-street had to be taken in conjunction with Stirling-street.

From Lake-street in the original plan Francis-street became John-street. Why one portion of the street was called Francis-street and the other called John-street he had never been able to discover. It was just possible that someone might know the reason for the name. Some people considered that Francis-street owed its name to Francis Singleton, but this was doubtful.

Lamb-street stretched from what were then the confines of the city to Beaufort-street and was called after William Lamb, who was one of the first purchasers of Allotments in the town itself. Lamb also had a location to the north of Perth and was also interested in some


property at Fremantle. West of Lake-street Lamb-street became Aberdeen-street after George Hamilton Gordon, fourth Earl of Aberdeen. The latter was Secretary of State for the Colonies in the administration of Sir Robert Peel.

From the Lake-street boundary to Lord-street Newcastle-street was known as Ellen-street. To distinguish the particular EIlen it referred to the name of that part from Beaufort-street to Lord-street was subsequently changed to Mangles-street. Ellen Mangles was the daughter of Captain James Mangles, of Woodbridge, near Guildford, and also the wife of Captain James Stirling. Westward of Lake-street the street was named Newcastle-street after the Duke of Newcastle, Secretary of State for the Colonies, 1852-54. Newcastle was associated with the Colony, because during the period of convict settlement he had the temerity to suggest that the colonists should agree to receive women convicts. Profiting by the lessons learned by the eastern colonies, the young colony strongly resisted the pressure. The names Ellen and Mangles disappeared in 1897 and the thoroughfare became Newcastle-street. Newcastle and Duke-streets represented the title of the Duke of Newcastle. In 1838 Newcastle-street formed the boundary of the town, but the boundary was subsequently extended to Brisbane and Bulwer-streets.

It was quite impossible to discover the origin of Brisbane-street. Possibly it owed its name to Sir Thomas Macdougall Brisbane, one of the Governors of New South Wales. Again it might have been named after the town of Brisbane, which was called after that gentleman. Bulwer-street was named after Edward George Bulwer Lytton, first Baron Lytton, a novelist of the 19th century. Lytton was Secretary for State for the Colonies during the years 1858-59.

Among the cross streets which still retained their names was Moore-street, which was called after George Fletcher Moore, Advocate-General for Western Australia from 1830 to 1846. Moore was a young Irish solicitor who had come to the Colony in its infancy when legal men were not so numerous as they were to-day.

His services had been availed of by the Government, and when the courts of law were established in 1832 Moore received the title of Advocate-General, although he had been acting in that capacity before the title was conferred.


Moore was one of the colonists most active in the operations of the Government and one of the men who had left a very definite imprint upon the early history of the Colony.

Another street which still retained its name was Short-street, which ran between Mackie and Lake-streets. At the time it was the shortest street in Perth. Water-street was another thoroughfare which owed its name to the circumstances of its environment. Portion of the low lying marsh lands on the north side of Wellington-street was practically under water and the fact that Water-street was surveyed through water gave it its name.

Trafalgar-street was named in honour of the battle of Trafalgar. Bay-street was so named because it led down to a little bay situated near the Causeway. Bennett-street was one of the streets named on the original plan of the city, but there was no means of discovering the origin of the name. Bridge-street owed its name to the fact that it traversed a bridge which crossed a little stream connecting with the Claisebrook. The bridge enabled people to get to the cultivable lands in the East Perth area. Hill-street was possibly named after Rowland Hill, one of the generals associated with Wellington throughout the Peninsula campaigns. Lord-street had to be taken in conjunction with Goderich-street. Both streets were named after Lord Goderich, who afterwards became the Earl of Ripon.

In some quarters it was considered that Lord-street was called after a retired Anglo-Indian merchant who came to the Colony in the early ’forties. This man desired to arrange communication between Australia and India for the purpose of making Western Australia a sanatorium for officers and men in the Indian forces who desired to recuperate. He did not come to Western Australia until after Lord-street was named.

Further westward Irwin-street was called after Frederick Chidley Irwin, who came to the Colony in H.M.S. Sulphur in command of a detachment of soldiers sent out for the protection of the settlers. He was in command of the 63rd Regiment and subsequently became permanent commandant. Irwin was second in command of the settlement and, during the absence of Sir James Stirling, he acted as Governor. He also took over the office when Governor Clarke died in 1846. From


September, 1846, to the end of 1847 Irwin was not only acting Governor, but he actually assumed the title and carried out the work of Governor of Western Australia.

There was some doubt about the origin of Pier-street. In the early days of the Colony there was a little jetty opposite to the street at which boats from Fremantle unloaded goods. Subsequently the jetty was removed to the foot of William-street, but it was probable that it was responsible for the name. Curiously enough, while one side of the street was marked on the survey plan of 1838, the other side was left blank.

Barrack-street owed its name to the fact that barracks for the soldiers who came out to protect the colonists were built on the block bounded by St. George’s-terrace, Hay-street, Pier-street and Barrack-street. There could be no doubt on that point, because a sepia drawing made in 1829 showed the military tents on the block.

William-street was first known as King William-street in honour of William IV. Subsequently another street was surveyed to go through from St. George’s-terrace to Wellington-street. The name was then split into two parts, one street being called King-street and the other William-street. North of William-street was not surveyed at that time. Later on it was surveyed and called Hutt-street after the second Governor of Western Australia (1839-46). This man was not particularly popular during his period of Governorship, but the colonists recognised that he had done many things to the advantage of the Colony. Hutt-street disappeared in 1897, the whole thoroughfare taking the name of William-street.

Mill-street was possibly so named because of the old Shenton mill at South Perth could be seen when looking down the strqet. Most of the traffic between the town and the mill came to a jetty at the foot of the street.*

* Several members contended that Mill-street (originally Mill-lane) was so named because a mill had been in the immediate vicinity. They cited a water mill in Mill Lane, run by Mr. Kingsford, and a second water mill, conducted by Mr. Reveley, at the back of the present Technical School.

The street at the end of the city was not named at the time. Later it received the name of Milligan-street in honour of Dr. Milligan, who was from necessity the first Colonial Surgeon. Dr. Daly, the appointed


surgeon, sailed with the others on the Parmelia, but unfortunately, owing to an accident at the Cape, Dr. Daly and his daughter were drowned. Dr. Milligan, who was surgeon for the regiment, was compelled to take the position of Colonial Surgeon.

A continuation of Milligan-street was called Melbourne-road. It was named at a much later date. The reason for the name was difficult to determine, unless it was called after Lord Melbourne, who was Prime Minister during the ’thirties and held ministerial rank for many years afterwards. George-street might have been named after anybody.

Other streets surveyed subsequently included Harvest-terrace, named after Colonel E. D. Harvest, who was commandant in Western Australia from 1872-78. Irwin and Harvest appeared to be the only two commandants honoured by having streets named after them.

Nedlands owed its name to the son of a commandant, Colonel John Bruce. In course of time the property passed to his son Edward. It was generally known as “Ned’s lands,” hence the name.

Havelock, Colin and Outram-streets were named after Sir Henry Havelock, Sir Colin Campbell and Sir James Outram, three generals concerned in the Indian Mutiny. Delhi Square also owed its name to the capital of India which was concerned in the mutiny.

Thomas-street was called after J. H. Thomas, who was probably the first Director of Works. Mackie-street, north of Wellington-street, was named after William Henry Mackie, the first Civil Court Commissioner. who held the position for something like forty years. He occupied the positions of sole Judge, Commissioner of the Civil Court, Criminal Court and chairman of Court Sessions. The term judge was not used prior to the appointment of Sir Archibald Burt. Beaufort-street was called after the Duke of Beaufort, who was one of the Secretaries of State for the Colonies during the early ’thirties.

“The rapid expansion of Western Australia has brought into being names of city streets the origins of which it is difficult to trace,” concluded Dr. Battye. “Even if it were possible to trace them it is probable that not one of them would be worth the trouble and research that would be involved.”

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