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

Early Days: Volume 1, 1927-1931

Guildford: 1827-1842

Mr Paul Hasluck

(Read before the Society, June 24, 1927)

Hasluck, Paul 1927, 'Guildford: 1827-1842', Early Days, vol. 1, part 2: 1-19.


On the high banks of the Swan River to the north of the railway bridge at Guildford is a spring, the waters of which gush from the heart of the hill and trickle through a tangle of rush and bracken to the river. This spring marks the starting point of Guildford’s history. It is named Success Spring and, according to local tradition, handed down from men who took part in the scene, it was here that Captain Stirling (later Sir James) halted and replenished his water kegs on his journey of exploration up the Swan River in March, 1827. On that journey Stirling’s boats penetrated as far as Upper Swan, Henley Park was named and two gardens were planted in the neighbourhood of Guildford. All were delighted with the beauty of the scenery and impressed with the apparent fertility of the soil on the upper reaches of the river.

It was the alluvial flats near Guildford that pleased Stirling in 1827 and when he returned with the first settlers in 1829 he selected a tract of land lying between the Swan and Helena Rivers as part of his personal grant. He named his estate Woodbridge, formed a farm there and built a cottage overlooking the Swan. It is still the proud boast of the old residents of Guildford that the first viceregal residence in the State was built at their town. The site of the building was near that of the present Woodbridge House School. The building was described as a cottage ornee, constructed of pug.

At the same time as Woodbridge was founded the foundations were also laid of many other large estates in the district. When the first agricultural grants in


the Colony were issued in September, 1829, the majority of the land taken up had a frontage either to the Swan or the Helena River. Within a year of the landing nearly all the river frontages from the present site of the Causeway to the Upper Swan had been assigned. Among the landholders in the Guildford district and on the Upper Swan were Stirling, Roe, Brown, Shenton, Tanner, MacDermott, Walcott, Ridley, Whitfield, Thompson, Trimmer, Wells, Lewis, Boyd, Drummond, Captain Meares, Colonel Lautour, S. Moore, G. F. Moore, Lennard, Brockman, Burges, Shaw, Bull, Leake, Mackie and Major Irwin. It was a company that included many notable men.

Townsite Formed

In the centre of this settlement was founded Guildford. The townsite was enclosed in a peninsula formed by the Swan and the Helena Rivers and its eastern limit was the boundary of Woodbridge. It was surrounded on all sides by agricultural lands. I have been unable to find out when the townsite was declared. The first town lots were sold in September, 1830, a year later than the opening of the agricultural lands, but the boundaries were not fixed until 1836. There is, however, a map of the townsite dated as early as 1829. The next dated map is 1836, showing the boundaries of the town, the next 1839 and the next 1842. The map of 1842 has been taken as the official map for subsequent surveys. Other maps made about the same period are undated.

The earliest map extant, that made by H. C. Sutherland in 1829, shows streets marked out, but not named, corresponding to Market-street, Helena-street, James-street. East-street and Bridge-street. In one interesting respect it differs from later maps. The church square occupies the whole of the centre of the town and extends from what is now Swan-street to what is now Helena-street, breaking James-street into two sections. The allotments fronting the square are Government reserves, presumably for Government offices. A similar plan in some respects is shown in the map published by John Arrowsmith in 1839. In this map streets are named. On one side of the church square the main street is called James-street and on the other side Mangles-street. This nomeclature was preserved in later maps and in current use long after the square had been reduced in size and the main street made to run in one


continuous line. Other points of interest in Arrowsmith’s map are the provision of a reserve for a library on the south side of Helena-street and of a school reserve on the flats below. There is also a public landing place shown near the present site of Barker’s Bridge. In later maps the library reserve has been subdivided, the church square reduced in size and the landing place removed. From the liberal reserves in these earlier maps it is probable that Guildford was designed to become a semi-official country resort—a minor Simla, as it were. It was laid out on more ambitious lines than would be expected of an ordinary country town, compared with the standards set by the plans of Perth and Fremantle. The large square in the centre of the town—Perth did not have a larger one—the liberal reserves for Government purposes, for a library and for a school indicate something of this nature. It will be remembered that on the east of the town was the country residence of the Lieutenant-Governor. On the west was the country residence of the Colonial Secretary (Mr. Peter Brown).

If this were the intention, however, it was not realised. The map of 1842 shows a smaller church square, reduced Government reserves and no space for a library.

A glance at the maps of 1842, 1836 and 1839 will reveal striking differences in the lay-out of the town, particularly in respect to the approaches to the town. This brings us to consideration of the roads and other means of communication with Guildford in the ’thirties. The majority of the early settlers came up to Guildford by boat. They transported their stores and maintained their communications by water. The map of 1829 makes no provision at all for roads leading into the townsite. On all sides are the unbroken grants of the large landholders. One of the features noticed already in the map of 1839 was the provision of a large public landing place on the river. Water carriage was general in the early years and, indeed, as late as the ’sixties, when Solomon Cook’s “puffer” chugged up and down stream.


The first road from Perth to Guildford was on the right bank of the river. It followed roughly the line of the Old Guildford Road, through Maylands. This


road came into use early in the ’thirties. Later, bridges were built across the gullies and in 1835, it was recorded, there was communication for carriages, although the sandy nature of the ground made the travelling very heavy. In travelling along this road one passed the Pine Apple Inn, at what is now known as Maylands. but apart from a few houses and gardens in its vicinity, no other settlement was passed until one arrived at the Cleikum Inn, situated at West Guildford. Here a ferry crossed the river to Guildford.

The road on the left bank through Belmont did not come into general use until after the construction of the Perth Causeway in 1842. From early times there seems to have been some sort of a track for the convenience of the proprietors of the estates of Golden Grove, Burswood, Belmont and Red Cliff and one of the roads to the Canning, which in those days went from Perth via Guildford, stretched in that direction. In those days the first bridge across the Helena River was built. It was placed about a quarter of a mile east of the present South Guildford bridge. It stood at the north-west corner of the grant of James Drummond and was known as Drummond’s Crossing. The exact point at which it crossed is discoverable to-day. In fact, two small piles may be seen on the south bank, which old residents declare are the vestiges of the original structure.

The agitation for the construction of the Causeway and opening of the road from Perth on the left bank of the river commenced in 1837, settlers on the Swan taking a lively interest in the question. There was considerable delay even after it had been decided to make the new road and it was not until November, 1840, that the first pile of the Causeway was driven. Meanwhile, in anticipation of the change, the old Guildford Road, past the Pine Apple Inn, was allowed to get into such a state that, according to a contemporary record, “parties aware of the circumstance positively refused to let their horses for hire to go upon this road.” In January, 1842, a bridle path was opened on the Causeway for pedestrians and horsemen. It was a timely opening, for not only had the old road got into disrepair but the ferry boat— tenders for the repair of which had been called regularly for years—sank in midstream and the Guildford Town Trust, lacking funds, perforce let it stay where it was for a time, until the General Road Trust came to their


help, had it raised and literally gave it a new lease of life.

On the opening of the bridle-path across the Causeway the track through Belmont became the general thoroughfare to Guildford and the left bank of the Upper Swan. By October of the same year the line of the new road had been marked out, but little seems to have been done towards constructing a road, the wearing of a track in the firm clay being considered good enough for the time being. In May, 1843, the Causeway was completed and opened for general traffic. It was after this that the first bridge across the Helena on the site of the present South Guildford bridge was constructed. Before the construction of this bridge the road through Belmont followed much the same route as now, but when in sight of the Helena river it turned sharply past the cottage of William Edwards, to cross the stream at Drummond’s Crossing. It then crossed the meadows and entered the town via Drummond-street, passing a dense ti-tree swamp on the left. Drummond-street has been closed since. After entering the town the road—it was in reality only a track through the scrub—did not observe the street lines but curved through the square into Terrace-road and onwards along the line of the present road to York.

The principal roads leading out of Guildford were to Upper Swan, to York and to Toodyay. The road to York followed approximately the same line as at present and was a monotonous track, passing through very little settlement, excepting at Mahogany Creek, where there was a military post, and at one bright spot called the Half Way House, where teamsters and others had glorious times in the few years before money became short in the Colony.

Roads to the Upper Swan from Guildford were on both sides of the river. The one on the right bank ran from the Cleikum Inn, past Lockeridge, where William Tanner had an experimental garden, over Bennett’s Brook and nearly parallel to the river as far as Ellen’s Brook, where was situated a military barracks and Cruse’s Mill, on the farm of Mr. George Leake. With the construction of the bridge on the present site of Barker’s Bridge, at Guildford, the road started from the centre of the town.


The road to the Upper Swan on the left bank followed roughly the course of the present Gingin Road. At Oakover Mr. Samuel Moore built a bridge across the river to connect the eastern and western portions of the farm. After the Upper Swan church was built persons wishing to travel there from Guildford generally used the road on the left bank as far as Middle Swan and crossed Mr. Moore’s bridge.

The road to Toodyay was in general use in the 'thirties, but there was an argument concerning the correct line to be followed and consequently the surveying was delayed and no work was done on the road until the early ’forties.

Of public conveyances along these roads there was apparently none in the ’thirties. In 1838 it was suggested that a caravan should run to York, but the suggestion came to nought.

Guildford’s Growing Importance

The extension of the roads was but a symbol in the story of the general development that was taking place. After the first five years Guildford gradually changed in character. In the early years it was an agricultural district and the principal residents within the townsite were small-holders, who farmed their two-acre allotments. But after five years the rich lands across the hills were opened up, many Swan men sharing in their development. Guildford increased in importance because of the extension of settlement and became something more than an agricultural village. Roads to the country were opened, new lands were tilled and Guildford entered the second stage of its history as the centre of the principal agricultural districts of the Colony. It was the head of the roads and, later, became the starting point of the mails to Upper Swan, York, Toodyay and Albany. The produce of the farmers was in many cases carted to Guildford and unloaded there to be carried down the river in boats. The headquarters of the Agricultural Society, the most influential public body in the Colony, was moved to Guildford. Stores, inns, wharves were raised. The first church in the Colony was built. Guildford was a place of growing importance.

A glimpse of Guildford in these days—the late thirties and early ’forties—may be of interest. Travellers described it variously as a “scattered hamlet” and a


“scattered village” of “cottages with neatly fenced fields contiguous.” The traveller approaching Guildford found much of it was still covered with scrub and that little attempt had been made to clear the streets. The cottages were widely apart and, in moving from neighbour to neighbour, the villagers had worn tracks in total disregard of street lines. The majority of the cottages were built of pug, with thatched roofs of rushes, and they were low and squat. The fences were of rough split rails or of split palings. This was the third town in the Colony—a place of importance and, as all agreed, of prettiness too.

The Old Inns

The centre of the civic life was at the east end of the town, outside the townsite, at Woodbridge, where was situated Jones’s Inn. The exact location of this inn I have not been able to decide definitely. A succession of partnerships among the families of Jones and Jecks kept hostelries under the names of Jones’s, Jones’s Inn, Woodbridge and the Guildford Hotel. The Guildford Hotel, which was kept by Jonathan Jones about 1840, stood in the Woodbridge Estate, on a site about three hundred yards east of the present East Guildford railway station. The ground on which it stood has since been cut away for a brick yard, but the stump of an old fig tree, which may be seen from the train, on the right hand side of the line, travelling eastwards, marks the site of the old establishment. It is not definite whether this was the same inn that was known by the names of Jones’s and of Woodbridge at an earlier date, the inn which was first established by Walter Jones, at which the Agricultural Society held its meetings for many years, where stock sales were held, licensing courts were conducted and where nearly everything of importance in the town took place.

Jones’s Inn was not the oldest in the district. The first inn was the Cleikum Inn at West Guildford. It has been stated that this inn was situated on the site of the building formerly owned by Mr. J. T. Short, that is on the bank of the river between the traffic bridge and the railway bridge. Contemporary maps and the evidence of old residents, who did not see the complete building but remember its ruins clearly, establish the fact that it was situated on the opposite side of the road, on the site now occupied by “Abbotsford,” the residence of Mr.


Wicks. This inn was the first meeting place of the Agricultural Society in Guildford.

A third inn was established by Mr. Devenish in James-street on the site now occupied by the residence of Mr. Clarke. The old inn originally comprised a pug building standing on the east side of the existing building and another detached pug building at the rear for bedrooms. It was famed for its beer because the water in the well sunk on the premises was supposed to be peculiarly suited to brewing. This inn was opened in 1840 and within a few months of its opening the Agricultural Society again transferred its favours and made it its meeting place. At these Agricultural Society meetings, it will be remembered, business was always followed by a dinner. Of the first meeting at Devenish’s it was reported that the gentlemen present were much pleased with the entertainment provided, which was on a most liberal scale.

A fourth inn—the Rose and Crown—was opened by Thomas Jecks in July, 1841. It stood on the same site in Swan-street as the building which was known as the Rose and Crown until its delicensing last year. Thomas Jecks had previously been associated with the Jones family at Woodbridge. Besides being one of the earliest inn-keepers he opened one of the first stores in the town.


The question of what was the first store in Guildford is undecided. As early as November, 1830, George Fletcher Moore recorded that a store had been opened at Guildford. Whose that store was I have been unable to discover. In the late ’thirties and early ’forties there were four stores—Alfred Waylen’s, Thomas Jecks’s, George Bracher’s and Woodbridge. Alfred Waylen, who was the owner and occupier of Garden Hill, dealt principally in such things as chests of tea (at anything from 5/- to 8/- per pound), barrels of pork, pipes of wine, and rum by the gallon. Thomas Jecks had a wide range from common groceries to rose-water and hair oil, from plough lines to silk dresses, buff and dark nankeens, stout dowlas and feather tippets, and, pride of the establishment, advertised in larger type, “a very superior musical box.” Woodbridge had a similarly wide range, but its stock was a little more comprehensive as


regards men’s requirements. There were “gentlemen's superior taglionies,” gambroon trousers, “a great variety of fancy dittoes, fancy waistcoats and figured black satin dittoes,” not to mention “strong negro-head tobacco.” These early shopkeepers advertised in a quiet unpretentious manner, stating merely: “The following are on sale at the stores of the undersigned,” and giving a list of their stock. In 1839, however, a more original spirit struck the town. George Bracher, whose store was situated above the ferry, on the site of the house now occupied by Doctor Pitcher, proclaimed “Bargains Extraordinary,” and “Greater Bargains Than Ever,” in capital letters. He also had a wide range of stock, with a preponderance of ironmongery. In 1841, A. M. Moulton opened a store and did an extensive mail order business with York. His store was situated in Meadow-street opposite Garden Hill and the renovated building still stands to-day under the name of Rose Cottage. Below his store was a large wharf. He, unfortunate fellow, was murdered by mutineers aboard his own ship, while on a voyage to the Straits in 1846.

Among other early business establishments in Guildford was the silk dyeing and clothes cleaning business established by William Robinson in October, 1840, possibly to satisfy the foppishness engendered by the figured satin waistcoats from Woodbridge.

The Town Trust

The first local government in Guildford was by the Town Trust, of which the first chairman was Captain Richard Meares, late of the Life Guards. His principal grants of land were on the Murray, of which district he was Government Resident at one time, but his home was at Guildford. He lived in a pretty house called the “Bower,” standing on the north-west corner of the intersection of Swan and Meadow-streets. His house was surrounded by a well-cultivated garden, containing many exotics and choice trees. The furnishings of his house are now almost a tradition among the old residents. On the walls of his drawing room, it is reported, were painted life-size pictures of the incidents of the Battle of Pinjarra. Unfortunately no clear recollection of the pictures remains. Besides being first chairman of the Town Trust he was a director of the Agricultural Society and also interested himself in the public good in


such matters as the introduction of skinless oats into the Colony, the introduction of hundreds of choice vines and trees, the distribution of seeds of new grasses, the experimenting with clay for pattery and the formation of the first stud club in the Colony.

The second chairman of the Town Trust was Charles Pratt, who assumed office in 1842. He resided at the property now known as “Bebe Moro.” He was succeeded the following year by Mr. Thomas Jecks. After a quiet existence of several years this Town Trust lapsed altogether. It was revived again in 1863, but, although the records of the new trust are still preserved in the Guildford Council Chambers, I have been unable to find any trace of the records of the original body.

In the early ’thirties there was a Government Resident at Guildford and for a few months in 1838 there were Residents at both Guildford and the Upper Swan. In July, 1838, however, Francis Whitfield, Esq., the Resident at Guildford, was transferred to the Residency at Toodyay and Thomas N. Yule, Esq., the recently appointed Magistrate for Upper Swan, Was appointed for the whole of the Swan district above Perth. In addition to the Resident the district was well-sprinkled with justices of the peace and the law was also represented by one constable stationed at Guildford. John Edwards held this office for several years until succeeded by George Syred in 1840.


The only other Government official was the postmaster. The post office was established at Guildford in July, 1839, and Abraham Jones was appointed postmaster. As he was at this time in partnership with James Jones in the conducting of Woodbridge, it is probable that the first post office of the town was established there. There was a delivery between Perth and Guildford three times a week. The postage rate on single letters was 4d. and on double letters 6d. At first there was no delivery beyond the post office, but in the second year a delivery to both banks of the Upper Swan was inaugurated and letters for York, instead of lying at the Guildford post office until arrangements were made to collect them or have them delivered privately, were despatched over the hills once a fortnight. Early in 1841 a weekly service to York was commenced, James Lockyer being the mailman. He was succeeded later in


the year by James Jones. John Ellis was the carrier between Perth and Guildford.

About May there was trouble over the carrying of the Upper Swan mail. The returns from the service were stated to be inadequate to meet the expenses and the delivery was suspended. After two months, however, it was resumed under a new arrangement. Persons residing on the Swan who wished their letters to be delivered at their residences were required to pay a sum of not less than 6d. per week and the Government subsidised the undertaking to the extent of £10 per annum. The delivery was undertaken by the post-master. Abraham Jones, himself.


No account of Guildford at this period would be complete without reference to two institutions—the Western Australian Missionary Society and the Agricultural Society.

In 1835 the Western Australian Missionary Society, afterwards known as the Colonial Church Society, was formed in England, largely as the result of the efforts of Major Irwin, who was visiting the Old Country at the time. The society selected Guildford as the scene for its work and in July, 1836, their first missionary arrived in the Colony. He was an Italian named Dr. Louis Giustiniani. In the words of the society’s annual report he was “received with the greatest kindness in the Colony and began his labours with great assiduity and much encouragement.” His first work was the erection of a church at Guildford and the forming of a mission farm on the Middle Swan.

The Church he built stood in the graveyard at East Guildford, at the east end of the Grammar School Chapel, the land having been donated by Sir James Stirling out of the Woodbridge Estate. The foundation stone of the church was laid in September, 1836, and the building was opened for divine worship towards the end of the year, although from subsequent references and the fact that in 1841 tenders were called for flooring it with well-burnt bricks and plastering the walls, it must have been left by the builders in a rough state. Most of the labour was given voluntarily and the total cost of the building was between £80 and £90.


This was the first church built in the Colony and was naturally the pride and delight of the builders. “It has the finest roof in the Colony,” the Reverend Doctor exclaimed in his first enthusiastic annual report.

The church was described by him as a firm and solid building 40 feet long and 20 feet wide. The walls were eleven feet high and a foot and a half in thickness. The building could seat 200 persons.

According to the descriptions of those who saw it in later years and worshipped beneath its roof, it was octagonal in shape. The walls were of pug and the roof was shingled. The windows were square. There was a porch at the west end and over it was a frame for a bell. A bell was never hung there, however, the belfry, as in most of the early churches in the Colony, being a gum tree in the church yard. What became of the bell which first summoned Guildford to worship is not known.

Unfortunately for the happiness of the congregation and the glad answering of the summons of the bell, Dr. Giustiniani contrived to make himself very unpopular; there was a minor scandal and a few weeks after the opening of the building the Perth Gazette recorded, not without private exultation in the fact, that “the number of attendants had been sorely diminished to the dejection and confusion of the Reverend Medical Doctor.” The popularity of the missionary also suffered by his championship of native criminals brought to trial and he made himself more unpopular still by his association with the short-lived Swan River Guardian, edited by that stormy petrel, William Nairne Clarke. Eventually, in February, 1838, he left the Colony, apparently having succeeded only in making himself disliked and having confessed, to the great glee of the opposition, that he had been tempted by the evil one. Two years after his departure the Perth Gazette could not mention his name without reference to him as “that veritable charlatan, Giustiniani.”

The Society was more fortunate in its choice of a successor. The Rev. William Mitchell, who arrived in August, 1838. was welcomed cordially. He was accompanied by his wife, his four children and a Miss Breeze, who, it was expected, would make herself very useful in the religious instruction of the children in the neighbourhood of the Mission House.


One of Mr. Mitchell’s first works was the completion of the Guildford church and the erection of new churches at Middle Swan and Upper Swan.

Giustiniani had, when occasion permitted, conducted services in private houses up the river and this Mr. Mitchell continued to do until the new churches were erected. Major Irwin’s house at Henley Park was frequently used for this purpose.

The first of the new churches to be completed was the one at Middle Swan. It was opened on November 29, 1840, in the presence of His Excellency the Governor (John Hutt, Esq.). This building which has since disappeared, was erected on the Church grant at Middle Swan. It was designed by Mr. T. N. Yule, Resident Magistrate, and his father-in-law. Dr. Harris. It was similar in pattern to the old church still standing at Upper Swan and had accommodation for 100 persons. One of the first duties the clergyman had to perform in this new building was to marry his assistant, Miss Breeze, to Mr. H. Camfield, of Burswood, the Acting Collector of Colonial Revenue. Shortly afterwards the Upper Swan church was opened and services were thenceforward conducted regularly in the three buildings. Attendances were reported to be improving.

It was the Church which also took part in the founding of the first local newspaper. In March, 1841, appeared the first number of The Record, or Pastorals for Guildford. It was planned for monthly publication. The Editor was the Rev. W. Mitchell and the printer Mr. Francis Lochee, of Perth. Its avowed objects were : (1) The general edification of the families and others, settlers or sojourners, in the Guildford district; (2) the supply to the Colony general of a proper vehicle for religious discussions, observations and inquiries: (3) the diffusion of such general and useful information as our limits and resources will allow. The price of the paper was 3/- a quarter paid in advance.

Besides the church at Guildford there wras, in 1838, an Independent Chapel, at Guildford, at which Mr. Abraham Jones sometimes officiated.

Agricultural Society

The other institution I have mentioned—the Agricultural Society—was formed at Perth in the early days of the Colony and its first cattle show was held at the


capital in 1834, but from that time onwards for many years Guildford was the centre of its activities. The majority of its members and nearly all its directors and secretaries in the years between 1835 and 1845 were men from the Guildford and Swan districts.

In those days, besides giving attention to matters relating to agriculture, the Society was the only public body influential enough to take the lead in matters political and among the gentlemen of the day it was also the principal medium for social intercourse. Among the matters it discussed and acted in, for instance, were the introduction of labourers into the Colony and the amendment of the land regulations. Its quarterly meetings, which always took the form of a business session followed by a dinner, were well attended and were a feature of the social life of the Colony. The coming of the society to Guildford was a mark of the importance of the town.

The first meetings of the society were held at the Cleikum Inn. In 1836 they moved to Jones’s and in 1840 to Devenish’s. At one time a proposal was made that the society should erect a building of its own in the town. At the majority of meetings members read papers on subjects of interest and much information and instruction was given. After instruction came dinner. “A truly excellent dinner” it was reported on one occasion.

Annually the society held its fair and cattle show, with which, on some occasions, was associated a race meeting. The fair took place in the grounds adjoining the inn at which the society was in the habit of meeting at the time. Ploughing matches were held, produce was exhibited, prizes were awarded for the best servants and sometimes cattle were on show, although the dangers of losing some of the herds in driving through the bush militated against heavy entries. At one fair visitors were entertained by the efforts of a band composed of “Mr. Reilly and a few of his musical friends.”

Shows differed in size but not in their attendant worries in those days. In 1837, it is reported, one of the judges of the ploughing match represented to the society that he had been subjected to much abuse from an unsuccessful candidate. As a consequence it was decided to exclude from any future competition any person who should be found so to have misconducted himself.


As a social body the Agricultural Society stood alone for several years in Guildford and, with the Church, divided the attention and the enthusiasms of the gentry.

Cricket Club

In April, 1839, however, the youths of the town and district endeavoured to band together to form a cricket club. Guildford can claim the distinction of having been the home of the second cricket club formed in the Colony. Perth led the way and, as competition was required, Guildford was induced to form a club and meet the representatives of the capital in a friendly game. On Easter Eve the match took place at Perth and Guildford was beaten by “forty odd runs.” Unfortunately for the publicity of this venture, the editor of the Perth Gazette seemed to consider that the playing of games on Easter Eve was improper, if not sacrilegious, and he declined to notice the cricketers except in a vague and reproving manner. A return match took place at Guildford on April 27 and later in the year the gentlemen of the Stirling Cricket Club, Perth, advertised that they had challenged the gentlemen of the Swan, Guildford and York to play a match on June 4. Darkness covers the rest of the game.

The shows, dinners, cricket matches, inns, stores and general importance of Guildford were but a reflex of the development of the Middle Swan and Upper Swan. The acreage of crops was increasing slowly, experiments were being made and new plants introduced. The progress of agriculture was slow and fraught with many difficulties arising from new pests, such as the wheat moth, which wasted their harvests, and the lobelia, which poisoned their sheep. There were the trials attendant on all new settlement to be surmounted and new conditions to which the farmers, skilled as they were under English conditions, had to adapt themselves.

Relations with Natives

Apart from the difficulties of farming in a new land under strange conditions, the settlers on the Swan also suffered from the depredations of the natives in the ’thirties. It was not so much the occasional violence of the natives as their thieving and the spearing and driving away of the cattle that caused the settlers trouble and anxiety. There was enough violence to alarm the


households it is true. A wounded cow staggering into Guildford with a spear shaft in its flanks brought sad confirmation of the news of the murders of Jones and Chidlow on the other side of the hills. At one time, following the murders committed on the Canning and at York, there was a rumour that the Northam natives had assembled at the head of the Swan and were marching down on the settlers. On another occasion Messrs. Bland and Souper were ambushed at Greenmount and one of the party was wounded. Against the probable attacks of the natives the settlement was protected by a military station at Ellen’s Brook, where an n.c.o. and four men were stationed and by another post at Mahogany Creek on the York road. On occasions when the natives had been particularly troublesome the settlers formed themselves into police parties to scour the bush for offenders.

In contrast with the depredations and outrages of the less tractable natives was the behaviour of many who had entered the service of settlers and whose conduct was reported to be exemplary on all occasions when the temptation to pilfer was not too strong. Yearly, with the object of encouraging them to docility, the Agricultural Society awarded a prize to the best native servant in the district.

Confidence in the natives reached its height in 1841, when, following the practice in other districts, two native constables—Dobbin and Tonquin—were appointed at Upper Swan on a daily ration of flour, the principle of distribution being that if there was peace in the land their measure of flour was full. If there was any outrage they got nothing.

The first step for the education of the natives in the district was the founding of a mission school on the church grant at Middle Swan in 1836 by the Rev. Dr. Giustiniani, the professed object of the mission being to civilise the natives. The neighbours complained that the natives who were in the course of being civilised stole their fruit. The uncivilised natives showed their impartiality by raiding the mission on one occasion. In the December following the arrival of the Rev. W. Mitchell, the work of the mission was suspended for a time, but in later years it was revived and did useful work.


The next attempt at the education of the natives was made by the Government. In 1841 a native school was established at Guildford and 21 children, most of whom were the servants of settlers, commenced attendance. Mr. Abraham Jones, who had been catechist at the mission station four years before and who had previously shown himself to be possessed of a wide knowledge of native ways, was appointed schoolmaster with an allowance of £20 per annum, in addition to the rent of a cottage.

Estates on the Upper Swan

Returning from this digression on the subject of natives to the consideration of the settlement on the Swan, we may hasten to a conclusion by making a hurried review of the principal farms scattered along the river above Guildford about the year 1840. Adjoining Guildford, on the left bank, was Woodbridge and on the opposite bank was the original estate of Pyrton and behind that the estate of Caversham. Adjoining Woodbridge was Spring Park, which was held first by Sir James Hume, then by Richard Lewis and was purchased in 1840 by Edward Hamersley. It comprised 2,664 acres, on which little improvement had been made and stretching back as far as Greenmount, covered the area now known as Midland Junction. Further up the river was! Wexcombe, one of the many properties of William Tanner, and also the farm of Ashby, where Mr. Marshall MacDermott resided for several years until his duties in Perth in connection with the Western Australian Bank required his attendance at the capital. Next door was the almost unimproved estate of Jane Brook, situated on the stream of that name. This was also owned by Mr. MacDermott. In later years Ashby and Wexcombe were occupied by Dr. Viveash. Above Ashby was the church grant and after this the adjoining estates of Strelley and Houghton, occupied by Dr. Joseph Harris and the Resident Magistrate (Mr. T. N. Yule). Houghton was one of the more successful holdings. In 1835 it was described as a most complete establishment. It may be interesting, in order to learn what was considered a complete establishment, to look at it, as it was described in 1840. It then contained “a dwelling house adapted for the residence of a small genteel family, consisting of entrance hall, parlour, kitchen, store, servant’s room and pantry with two bedrooms and a closet


above.” About forty acres of land had been cropped and for the most part fenced and there were extensive out-buildings. As may be guessed, the owner was then trying to let the place, he having moved earlier to the residence of his father-in-law at Strelley.

Beyond Houghton, also on the left bank, were Oakover, the farm of Samuel Moore, and above it Herne Hill, the farm of W. L. Brockman. These were two of the most successful farmers in the district. Higher up, on the opposite bank, was St. Leonard's, the property of Mr. E. P. B. Lennard. Millendon was the estate of George Fletcher Moore, one of the most remarkable men in the Colony. At the eastward bend in the river was the estate of Ellen’s Brook, the property of Mr. George Leake, which was sublet to Saul Spice and on which one of the earliest flour mills in the Colony was erected by William Cruse. Henley Park was the joint holding of Major Irwin and Mr. W. H. Mackie. In the vicinity was the farm of Captain Shaw, Belvoir, identical with the present estate of that name.

The Changing Years

To understand the Swan in its early days in the least extent the wide changes that have taken place in the countryside and the manners of the people must be recognised. In the ’thirties and ’forties it was a region of large estates. There were few clearings. The fields were fenced mostly with posts and rails and in some cases planted with hedgerows. The farming was done in the English fashion, the language of the farm was English. Fields were spoken about and not paddocks. The farmer and his labourers went hay-making in the fields on sunny days, with long forks. The track which led to a settler’s front door was a drive; the land through which it ran was an estate. The big landholders imitated to some extent the English squires and even as late as the ’sixties many of the old notabilities were addressed by the term “Squire”—as Squire Harris, Squire Taylor. There was a careful use and distinction of the term “Esquire” and even of the prefix “Mister.” Labourers were referred to as “one of Mr. Moore’s men” or “Mr. Lennard’s man.”

The activities of the farm were the growing of wheat and oats and the depasturing of sheep on the flats. Perhaps the contrast can be accentuated by looking at


two of the estates to-day. Woodbridge is bisected by a railway and has on it three secondary schools and their playing fields. The sunken dust of Giustiniani’s church is shaded by the mass of the Grammar School chapel. Abutting on the rear of the estate, at a place where the natives once buried their dead beneath a barrier of peeled wands, are the loco, workshops employing more men than were once settled in the whole of the country between Perth and the Upper Swan, On the eastern boundary are neat suburban residences. Part of Spring Park is Midland Junction, where there are three picture shows and half a dozen petrol pumps, which are all evidence of progress but obstacles to the understanding of the ’thirties.

With this picture compare the scene that E. W. Landor saw in the early ’forties: “My first ride up the Swan was a most delightful one. No park in England could be more beautiful than the grounds around some of the dwellings. The ride through the scattered village of Guildford with a view of the rich and extensive flats of Woodbridge, the property of Sir James Stirling, and the frequent bends in the river, is a very agreeable one. The whole country of the Middle and Upper Swan resembles a vast English park. We passed the pretty country church of the Middle Swan and its modest parsonage beside it and then proceeded through wooded ravines over a pleasant drive to one of the most hospitable mansions in the Colony. Extensive stables, barns and out-buildings occupied the back of the premises. As it was now too late to see much of the scenery we entered the house of Samuel Moore and sat down to an excellent dinner. In the evening we had music .... The next day we went over the farm of our host. His best land was on the flats at the river side but his upland, by judicious cultivation, is made productive and valuable. A carriage drive extends through the grounds and ...”

The descriptive efforts of the entertaining author of the “Bushman” could carry us on much longer but it might be wiser for the present to leave him rambling over the estate at Oakover.

Garry Gillard | New: 20 August, 2020 | Now: 10 August, 2023