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

Early Days, Volume 4, 1949-1954

A sweet spot in an old Colonial Garden: the historical background of the site of the University of Western Australia

Robert Stephens

Stephens, Robert 1950, 'A sweet spot in an old Colonial Garden: the historical background of the site of the University of Western Australia', Early Days, Vol. 4, Part 2: 27-47.

A Paper prepared by Mr. ROBERT STEPHENS, and read to the W.A. Historical Society on March 31, 1950.

(All Rights Reserved).

" There shall be from henceforth and forever in the State of Western Australia a University” - W.A. University Act, 1911.

When the University of Western Australia opened during 1913 its Muse had provided not only a Charter for the Future but also a background of tradition associating the University with the State Crown Colony in 1829 and before; an association most appropriately typified by the Black Swan Rampant embodied in its heraldic Seal. That association linked it with the lands annexed by Lt. Governor James Stirling on his arrival in 1829; lands, some of them, until then: the undisputed domain of the aboriginals Midgeroo, Yagan and their tribe, upon the esturial mouth of the Black Swan River. The two which formed that link with the University were its temporary home on the land in Irwin Street, Perth, upon which it was born, and Crawley Park, on Matilda Bay, Melville Water, which became its permanent home. Preserved in the Archives of the Land Titles Office, Cathedral Avenue, Perth, are the names of the now long deceased freeholders, whose title in fee simple of those lands is recorded down the long years from the colony’s! foundation; names of citizens of both high and low degree, who played a worthy part in the creation of what is now the State of Western Australia.

An endeavour will be made in the course of this brief survey to decipher from those old parchments the


fascinating story of their owners’ valiant endeavours in the days of their flesh and, so far as is possible, to recapture and focus upon the film of memory a worthy and an adequate picture of their individual and collective contributions to the colony’s history and tradition which has become the heritage of the University of Western Australia.


The University began its work in temporary buildings provided by the Government erected upon a block of land bounded by Hay Street, Irwin Street and St. George’s Terrace, and having an area of 1 acre, 21 perches, the title of which was vested in Queen Victoria. The cradle of the University in Irwin Street comprised weatherboard walls, asbestos linings and corrugated iron roofs. As the lusty infant quickly outgrew its cradle, old structures were brought by the Government from other sites and re-erected beside them; the whole ramshackle set-up was made more unsightly by each addition.

Into this temporary home early in 1913 entered the pioneer professors and lecturers, from Oxford, London, Glasgow, Montpellier, Liverpool, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane; a home the reverse of impressive, although unknown to most, upon a site vested in Queen Victoria, and possessing an historical association and tradition extending back over the period of her long reign and before. Students whether they shivered there in winter or perspired there in summer, called the place “Tincan Alley.”

The Muse who inspired the choice of Perth Town Lots A7 and the eastern moiety of A8 as the site for the birth and infancy of the University chose better than either Professors or students knew. Upon it, at the foundation of Western Australia had been born, under even more primitive conditions, the first church; a church within whose thatched walls had been bom the first school. This site in common with that of the first Government House opposite looked out over Perth Water and its northern Bay—a bay known by its original aboriginal owners as GOBOODJOOLUP.



Bearing that name the first church has passed into history. Erected early in 1830 it comprised a timber frame, walled and thatched with rushes. It was built under the guidance of the Rev. Thomas Scott, first Archdeacon of the whole of Australia, then present in the colony by reason of shipwreck, by Captain Frederick Chidley Irwin, the Commandant of the 63rd (The Manchester) Regiment and its soldiers. During the period of its use as a church the full dress scarlet white-faced uniforms of these soldiers lent colour to many a church parade held within its rush walls.


The first school was opened in the “Rush Church” on the 5 July, 1830, by Mr. John Cleland and continued on week days until the frail nature of its walls rendered it unfit for either church or school. Its timber frame was purchased by the Fremantle Whaling Company. Removed, it was erected upon Carnac Island as the frame of the company’s store and quarters.


On the 19 May, 1837, Perth Town Lots A7 and A8 were granted in consideration of location duties to John Lewis, and William Henry Drake, both officers holding a position of Deputy-Assistant-Commissary-General in the colony. A little over a month later the eastern moiety of Lot A8 passed to the ownership of John Lewis for a consideration of £16/2/6, to be joined with Lot A7. The association has remained until to-day.


With the acquisition by John Lewis of the eastern moiety of Lot A8, Drake’s association with this history ceased, as did also his association with Western Australia when, some eleven years later, after occupying the position of Colonial Treasurer in the colony, and for a period also membership of the first Perth Town Trust, elected in 1842, he returned to England. There,


as Sir William Henry Drake, K.C.B., he later held the important post of Commissary-General and Director of Supplies and Transport.


In the absence of any evidence to the contrary it may be presumed that John Lewis, complied with the location duties on Lots A7 and part of A8 and erected his residence thereon (as did his brother officer Drake upon his retained Western moiety of A8). He continued to hold the office of Deputy-Assistant-Commissary-General until he accepted a post as the first Manager of a Perth Branch of the Bank of Australasia opened during 1841, a position he held until his untimely death during 1842. His lands then passed in the terms of his Will to two male relatives, both named Lewis and resident in England. It was held by them until the 30 June, 1853, when for a consideration in money it passed into the ownership of Lt. Colonel John Bruce.


This new owner held the position in the colony of Military Commandant and Officer of Pensioners. He was associated with the colony for a long time. In addition to Lots A7 and portion of A8, he owned lands on Matilda Bay which ultimately became merged in the Crawley Park Estate. Colonel Bruce died at the end of 1870 and for 24 years it would appear that this site in Irwin Street was held by his Trustees. But be that as it may the next entry in the Land Titles Office Schedule in the Appendix records the issue of a Certificate of Title issued to Anthony O’Grady Lefroy of Perth, and Rowley Crozier Loftie of Albany and dated 10th September, 1894. Both of the new freeholders had a long and meritorious association with the Crown Colony regime, the former dating back to 1843 and the latter from 1865, forming portion of the warp and woof in the tapestry of Western Australia’s chequered history.


A son of the Rectory, born at Limerick, he arrived in the colony during 1843 and pioneered the pastoral


property of “Walebing” in the Victoria Plains which was developed under his personal supervision until 1849. In that year he took up his residence in Perth and entered the service of the Crown, an association which continued until the granting of Responsible Government in 1890. In 1852 he married Mary, the third daughter of Lt. Colonel John Bruce who, the year previously had purchased the land of John Lewis Estate, which as already mentioned passed into his own during 1894. It is not impossible that upon the storied Lots A7 and A8 in Irwin Street he commenced his married life, before he had erected and removed to “ Cambray,” that old colonial home, set in its parklike grounds, which for so many years graced the Western comer of Mill Street and St. George's Terrace.

During his long official career, Anthony O’Grady Lefroy held the posts of Private Secretary to Governor, Captain Fitzgerald, Clerk of the Legislative and Executive Councils, and Chairman of the Board of Education. In 1856 he became the Colonial Treasurer of the colony, an office he continued to hold for the following 34 years, until, in 1890, he retired on a pension and was created C.M.G. with the title of Honourable.


Like his co-partner and friend of the Certificate of Title to Lots A7 and part of A8, Rowley Crozier Loftie held office for a lengthy period which commenced during the later adolesecent years of the colony and continued until after the full status of self-government had been achieved. It commenced with his admission to the Bar of Western Australia in 1865. Subsequently he was Master and Registrar of the Supreme Court and Keeper of Records, 1870. He later held the additional offices of Master in Lunacy and Registrar of the Vice-Admiralty Court in the colony; Acting Commissioner of Titles 1875; Police Magistrate Perth 1878. His next and final post prior to his retirement, from 1879 until 1890, was that of Government Resident, Albany, the last of a long line to hold that office since its first holder, Surgeon Alexander Collie in 1831-32. Subsequent to the granting of Responsible Government in 1890 he continued in the office with its


new title of Resident Magistrate until his retirement in 1899. During a period of 20 years his home was the Official Residency on the point so named (Point Frederick) where to-day stands a monument of granite from the slopes of the nearby Mount Melville, an imprimus, marking the site of the annexation and first settlement, in January, 1827, of what is now Western Australia.


During January, 1895, the name of the son, Henry Bruce Lefroy, replaced that of his father, Anthony O’Grady Lefroy, associated with his friend Rowley Crozier Loftie upon the Title Deed in the long succession of the owners of Lots A7 and part of A8. Through his mother’s maiden name, his second Christian name, Bruce, continued to preserve the association of his grandfather Colonel John Bruce with the site he had purchased in 1853. It was in this year that the new freeholder was bom in Perth. In due course he went to England, was educated at Rugby, and after his return to his birthplace assumed the management of his father’s “Walebing” Station. He held the position of Chairman of the Victoria Plains Road Board for 20 years until 1893. In that year he was elected member for Moore in the Legislative Assembly and therefrom was chosen as a member of the Federal Council held in Hobart in 1895 and 1897. A member of the Forrest Ministry he held the portfolios of Education and Post and Telegraphs and later that of Mines. He was the State’s Agent-General in London 1901-1905 and during 1911 was elected to his old Assembly Seat of Moore.


The final name of a citizen to appear upon the old parchment recording the title in fee simple of Lots A7 and part of A8 was inscribed thereon during March, 1896. This was Henry John Saunders, a civil engineer, who, soon after his arrival in the State of his adoption advantageously associated himself with the formation of many successful gold mines which were floated during the dawn of the State’s Golden Era in the nineties. As a member of the Legislative


Council representing the then Melbourne Province and as Mayor of Perth 1895-1896, his name was linked with the long chain of those earlier owners associated with the history of Western Australia from that distant day in 1837 at the commencement of Queen Victoria’s reign and continued until it was returned to her former estate by Henry John Saunders during March, 1898, to be available as the site of the nativity of a University in 1913 the story of which has already been told.


In this survey of the historical background of the University of Western Australia one feature which has consistently obtruded itself has been the association with the Irwin Street land of so many of its long line of successive owners who were members of the colony’s first nominee Legislative Council, either as official members or as liberal-minded elected non-official members when in due course provision had been made for the election of such members. This association continued to apply to the historical background surrounding the original locations which now comprise the University’s permanent home on Matilda Bay.

Similarly, as the time of the nativity of the University drew near, and with the coming of Responsible Government and an elected Legislative Council the association of members of the elected Chamber was no less conspicuous. Indeed, the names of two of the original members of that first elected Legislative Council (both Knighted) the Hon. John Winthrop Hackett, M.A., and the Hon. George Shenton, are indelibly linked hereafter in the unfolding historical background. The first practical step to establish a University on Western Australian soil took place in the Legislative Council during 1901 when the Hon. Richard Septimus Haynes moved a motion advocating the foundation of a University.


The land in Irwin Street, in spite of its wealth of history and tradition associated with the birth and growth of the State could never, by reason of its very small area, become the permanent home of the Uni-


versity. That was not to be. It was but the forerunner of a much greater heritage planned by its Muse, a heritage which would bind it still closer with the history and the tradition of the State it was born to serve.

By 1925 the new University had reached the cygnet stage and was awing to its permanent home on the Crawley-Nedlands demesne on the shores of Matilda Bay. With the move to Crawley Park completed by the removal to the Fairway of most of the temporary buildings from Irwin Street to be associated with the Hackett Memorial buildings, a dual link with Western Australia’s foundation became complete.

Before passing on to complete this historical survey by a review of the parade of the separate locations ultimately combined to form Crawley Park it is worthy of record how by a strange whim of Fate, a kindly and very appropriate whim to be sure, the lands vacated by the removal of the University to Crawley from Irwin Street passed to two important institutions in the life of the State. The moiety on the St. George’s Terrace frontage became the permanent home of the Returned Soldiers’ League of Western Australia and to-day on Reserve 21023 (part of Lot A8) stands Anzac House with the Reserve 22291 (part of Lot A7) on its eastern side with the Irwin Street frontage in reserve for future extensions. This surely a most appropriate link with the foundation of the State and that Captain Chidley Irwin (of Irwin Street) its first Military Commandant and his Company of the 63rd (Manchester) Regiment, the guardians of its birth. The moiety of Lots A7 and portion of A8 with a frontage to Hay Street as Reserve B5576 has been appropriated by the Government as the site of the future headquarters of the Rural and Industries Bank.


If the history associated with the University’s temporary site in Irwin Street appears remarkable, its continuance and enlargement upon the site of its permanent home at Crawley Park must be as unique in University sites the world over as is the beauty of its buildings. It stands on the shores of Matilda Bay,


and its hinterland overlooking portion of the magnificent Melville Water extends northward from Point Currie (formerly Point Pelican, the BOORIANUP of the aborigines) to the south-western portion of Mount Eliza (the GARGATUP of the aborigines). In its long history Matilda Bay (the GODROO of the aborigines) has borne several names from the coming of the white man, successively Eliza, Currie’s and Matilda. Strangely, during the last half century and more it has been popularly known as Crawley Bay. From the beginning " Here waving groves a chequered scene display”

The lands which are now adorned by the University buildings were selected by six individual colonists and had each a separate history until with the passing of the years they became consolidated in the ownership of an early Western Australian-born citizen, to be held by him against the then distant day when they were to fulfil their pre-ordained Destiny. The six locations, whose records are preserved on the parchment deeds in the Land Titles Office, are Swan River Locations 86, 87, 90 and 268, together with Perth Suburban Lots 126 and 139. They preserve the names of the original grantees and their successors and thus made possible the telling of their fascinating stories under the heading of their Swan River Location Numbers.


This land with a frontage comprising the strand on Matilda Bay abuts on the Stirling Highway (Old Fremantle Road). It was originally granted to John Gresswell, who had arrived in the colony aboard the “Jolly Rambler” during November, 1831, accompanied by his wife and two children. A goldsmith, he later followed his trade in Perth, at least until the 1860’s, as in that year he secured the Title Deed of Perth Suburban Lot 126 connecting portion of Swan River Location 90 with what is now Stirling Highway.


This location contained an area of 320 acres. It comprised the whole of the cape which obtrudes into Melville Water and forms the southern strand of


Matilda Bay. To-day it is known as Point Currie, after the original grantee of the adjoining Swan River Location 87 (formerly Point Pelican), rendezvous from time immemorial of summer bird migrants from Asia.

Its first grantee was an agriculturalist, one Thomas Bailey who, accompanied by. his wife and three children, arrived under the auspice of Peel’s ill-fated colonisation venture aboard the ship “Gilmore” during 1829. Although the Crown Grant of the location was not issued to Thomas Bailey until November, 1839, documents in the State Archives suggest that Bailey was in residence on the site as early as 1831, timber-cutting and developing a farm, the while receiving rations and other aid from the Government in common with many more of the unfortunate Peel’s sponsored colonists. Be that as it may, less than a month after the issue of the Title Deed, during December, 1839, the grantee had disposed of the land to Edward Hamersley for £250 and passed from this record to Mahogany Creek, possibly at the call of the tall jarrah timber in its then virgin forests.


Edward Hamersley, Bailey’s successor to the Title of Swan River Location 86 left a more indelible imprint upon the colony’s history following his arrival during 1837 than did his predecessor. Possessed of considerable capital he acquired large areas of land in the vicinity of York, Northam and on the Williams River known to-day as “ Wilberforce,” “Woodside” and “ Pyrton.” He was one of the original Directors of the Western Australian Bank in 1841. He returned to Europe in 1842 and after several years’ absence returned to the colony and took a most active interest in its affairs until the time of his death.

As a member of the Legislative Council he opposed the proposal for the introduction of female convicts. During 1865 he resigned his seat as a member of that body as a protest against its rejection of a Petition seeking the granting of Responsible Government. In 1868 he again took his seat in the Legislative Council as the elected member for the Eastern Districts (York, Northam and Toodyay). The Hamersley Range, with


its dominating Mount Pyrton, south of the Fortescue River in the North-West were so named by Assistant Surveyor Francis Thomas Gregory during his 1861 exploration in that locality as a testimony not only of his financial help, but as a permanent tribute of the worthy part played by him in the development of Western Australia, a part he continued until the time of his death in 1874. Swan River Location 86 thrust like a giant scimitar into Melville Water remained the property of Edward Hamersley until March, 1854, when it passed by purchase to John Bruce.


This officer held the post of Military Commandant and Officer of Pensioners, and as already mentioned earlier in this history, had acquired during 1853, the University's birth site in Irwin Street. During July, 1860, he also became the owner of Swan River Location 268 adjoining the location 86 now under review.

His association with the colony began with his arrival in command of the 16th Regiment of Foot and continued until the time of his death in 1870. Twice during the period of his command he acted as Governor of the colony, on the first occasion during 1862, and on the second during 1868-1869 between the time of the departure of Governor Stephen Hampton and the arrival of his successor Governor Frederick Aloysius Weld. Mount Bruce, a continuation eastward of the previously mentioned Hamersley Range, was like it named in 1861 by the same explorer and for a similar reason. Following the death of Colonel John Bruce, Swan River Location 86 passed into the ownership of his son, Edward (“Ned”) Bruce, an association still preserved to-day by the name of Nedlands, an important suburb adjoining the University grounds—an association doubly preserved by the two street names Edward and Bruce in that suburb.


The romantic story of this “ sweet spot,” a location comprising 32 acres, dates back to the early months of the foundation of the Swan River Settlement by Lt. Governor Captain James Stirling. It is the central


location of those covered by this history and became the nucleus as the site of the old Crawley Park Homestead, around which down the succeeding years, the other five locations comprising the University site dominating Matilda Bay have grown.

Its first European habitation was a tent erected by Captain Mark John Currie, R.N., soon after his arrival aboard the “ Parmelia,” as a member of the staff of Lt. Governor Captain James Stirling. En route, aboard “ Parmelia,” at sea, on 16 May, he had been appointed as a member of a “Board of Counsel and Audit” in the management of the property of the Crown within the settlement to be. His fellow members were Lt. John Septimus Roe, R-N., and William Stirling. Soon after his arrival he became Fremantle’s first Harbour Master. On the 20 October, 1829, he made a written application to the Surveyor-General, J. S. Roe, for a “ Villa grant in the Bay below Mount Eliza (when that part of the country becomes open for location) about the spot where my tent at present stands.”

Entries in the personal diary of Captain Currie’s wife, Jane Eliza, reveal, with the most delightful naivete of the young wife that her husband had reason to believe that his application had been favourably received and justified the immediate occupancy of the site on the “Villa Grant” marked by his tent. From the pages of that personal diary the following selected entries made during the months of November and December, 1829, are quoted:


Second: "Left the island (Garden Island where they had been landed on arrival from the “Pannelia” and encamped—R.JSJ and arrived at Fremantle about 12 o’clock."

Second: "Proceeded to Eliza Bay, a sweet spot"

Fifteenth: "Thunder. Dearest (referring to her Captain husband—RS.) returned having brought cow, goat, etc."

Sixteenth: “Sow farrowed young.”

Twenty-eighth: "Sowed garden seeds.”

Thirtieth: “Guinea hen took to her nest with 18 eggs.”



First: “11 Guinea chicks hatched under a hen.”

Fifth: “ Sent Governor a sucking pig. Bell tent burnt down."

Sixth: “Canvas put over Storehouse.”

About a year later, in a letter written on the 3 November, 1830, in support of his application for a grant in Fee Simple of the “Sweet Spot” Captain Currie supplied the Surveyor-General with particulars of the improvements made of an estimated value of £50. They were detailed as: “A rush house and outhouses built, half an acre digged and sown with garden seeds Stockyards built and the whole in process of being fenced in. Estimated value (including only that part of the fence finished) £50.” As a Title in Fee Simple for 32 acres, which thereby became Swan River Location 87, was issued to Mark John Currie on the 7 August, 1832, by the Registrar of Deeds it may be presumed that the requisite location improvements had been effected.

The Captain retained his ownership of the land, upon what, because of that ownership became “Currie’s Bay,” but a few years when the lure of the sea recalled him to the Royal Navy—his first love. In that service, in the fullness of time, he retired with the rank of Admiral. His distinguished service in the Royal Navy can find no place in this story of the historical background of the University lands, and must be sought, if need be, in the pages of O’Byme’s Naval Biographical Dictionary.

The beginning of Captain Currie’s association with the birth of the Swan River Settlement has already been mentioned. It therefore only remains to add that in the course of his official duties in the Swan River Settlement, he held the further offices of Colonial Auditor as well as Secretary of the Executive and Legislative Councils during the three years prior to re-entering the Royal Navy. In the latter offices mentioned his successor was Henry C. Sutherland, as he was also his successor to the “Sweet Spot,” Swan River Location 87 and the story of its progressively growing importance in the historical background of the University’s home.



A shipmate of Captain Currie’s aboard the “Parmelia,” Henry C. Sutherland, was a member of Captain James Stirling’s party of officers, holding the office of Assistant Surveyor, a position he vacated during October, 1830, for that of Clerk to the Colonial Treasurer. On the departure of Captain Currie he succeeded to the post of Secretary to the Executive and Legislative Councils. Whether, at the same time, he took possession of Currie’s farm on Matilda Bay (then Currie’s Bay) does not appear, but the Titles Office Schedule records that ownership of Swan River Location 87 was transferred to him on 1 August, 1837.

In common with most of his fellow officials of the young colony’s pioneer Civil Service Henry C. Sutherland carried on farming as a supplementary source of income and presumably farmed the land on Matilda Bay although resident in Perth. Be this as it may, a letter preserved in the State Archives shows that it was definitely used for that purpose during 1852, although by that time its owner had become one of the Chief Officials in the colony, holding the office of Colonial Treasurer and Collector of Inland Revenue. The letter, written from Perth on the 9 September, 1852, addressed to a son then absent gold seeking in Victoria, mentioned a contemplated retirement from office anti then continued: “You will find us at the farm on your return. I have done the house up inside, whitewashed and painted. I am now making bricks and have ordered timber but shall not commence building until next year.” After referring in the letter to the sheep on the farm—the site of the present Engineering School of the University, be it noted, the letter continued: “The ground is looking very fairly. ... I am raising potatoes for sale and have three cows in milk.”

Alas, poor Sutherland! He was not long spared to enjoy the evening of his days on the “Sweet Spot” at Crawley as he had planned, because death claimed him on the 12 February, 1855, after, as his obituary recorded, “For 25 years holding office under Government both as a member of the Legislative Council and in every other official capacity.”



As the story of the historical background of the site of the University of Western Australia has gradually unfolded down the years, evidences of design, as if guided by a directing Muse, have developed, and as will appear hereafter, continued to do so in a most remarkable manner. It has revealed how the lands which were eventually to furnish both its temporary and its permanent home, were originally individually selected and owned by colonists intimately associated with the foundation of the colony and its development, a position still true in 1874 after the lapse of 45 years. In that year, with both the population and wealth of the colony increasing, in the new hope of the false dawn which but heralded the rising sun of its Golden Dawn, it would be nice to think that a creative Muse deliberately planned to consolidate all six of the Swan River Locations on Matilda Bay into the hands of one owner rich enough to preserve them through the land boom days which followed the State’s Golden Dawn, inviolate, against the ultimate Destiny. However, whether by blind chance or design, on the 18 March, 1875, four of the original locations, including that “ Sweet Spot,” Swan River Location 87 passed into the ownership of George Shenton, a Western Australian by birth, the exceptions being Swan River Locations 86 and 268, and these also a few years later came within the design by reason of mortgage advances made on them by the said George Shenton.

During 1892 an application was lodged to bring the whole of the six original Swan River Locations on Matilda Bay, comprising a total area of 152 acres under the Transfer of Land Act, passed in that year, and they thereafter became the subject of Certificate of Title Volume 54 Folio 53 in the name of Sir George Shenton of Crawley Park.

GEORGE SHENTON (Later Sir George)

George Shenton was bom in an old colonial home in St. George’s Terrace, Perth (on Perth Town Lot L13) overlooking Perth Water; to-day the site of the block of modem buildings, Newspaper House, the home


and property of the West Australian Newspapers Limited. He was the eldest son of George Shenton, a colonist of the 1830’s, who soon after his arrival became substantially established as a leading Perth merchant, as he also down the following years became a large landholder with pastoral holdings in all parts of the colony. His wide interests in all departments maintained a steady healthy growth until his untimely death by drowning during 1867.

George, his son, spent his boyhood in Perth, received his education in England and on his return to the colony during 1858 entered his father’s business and acquired therein a thorough knowledge, not only of its mercantile, but of its pastoral and farming aspects in all the then settled parts of the colony. Developing an interest in public affairs, at the age of 28 he was elected for the Greenough seat in the Legislative Council under the first Ordinance providing for elected members, and held the seat for three years until 1873. Abroad in England and on the Continent of Europe during 1874, on his return he was elected member for Toodyay and again took his seat in the Legislative Council. As already mentioned he had purchased four of the original six locations on Matilda Bay and during 1875, he took up his residence at Crawley Park and thereby linked his name with the long past of that “ Sweet Spot.”

Under the first Municipalties Act passed in 1871 he was elected a member of the Perth City Council and after his return from England in 1875 he became its Chairman for a period of three years. Later, on the Incorporation of the Municipality of Perth he was elected Mayor, an office he held for eight years from 1880.

Whilst an elected member of the old (mainly nominee) Legislative Council he was a champion in the fight for the granting of Responsible Government to the colonny. When this had been achieved, as it was in 1890, he became Colonial Secretary in Sir John Forrest’s first Ministry, in which office he rendered yeoman service in the formative years of Responsible Government in the State. During 1892 he was elected President of the Legislative Council following the death


of Sir Thomas Cockburn Campbell and was knighted in 1893. For almost a quarter of a century he was a Director of the Western Australian Bank and for many years its Chairman, in addition to holding that office in the local branches of many other important companies in Western Australia. He was an original member of the Syndicate which financed the prospecting exploration of Leslie Robert Menzie, during which the Menzies Goldfields was discovered.

In addition to the services rendered in the political, municipal and business life of his native State, Sir George Shenton gave freely, both of his wealth and himself in personal service to its religious, educational and philanthropic interests. For a number of years he was a member of the Central Board of Education until it ceased to exist in 1892; he was a Governor of the. High School; a Trustee of the Public Library and Museum. On the creation of the Board of Management of the Perth Public Hospital he became its first Chairman.

Sir George Shenton, of Crawley Park, died on the 29 June 1909, after a long life usefully employed in the best interests of the land which gave him birth. A life worthy, surely, to symbolise the history and tradition of those colonists who down the years had been associated with the sites of the University's birth and growth, if not indeed of all the colony’s citizens, who, since its foundation in 1829 have combined in the creation of the Mozaic which is the background not only of its University but of the State of Western Australia.

Following the death of Sir George Shenton, events moved swiftly and in little more than a year, on the 18 August, 1910, the demesne of Crawley Park was resumed for Public Recreation by Proclamation and on 9 December, 1914, it was formally revested in His Majesty as of His former estate and ready to fulfil its high destiny as the permanent home of the University of Western Australia.


Long extended as the arm of coincidence has proved in the unfolding history of the University’s temporary


and permanent homes the intriguing end has still to be told.

The erection on the “Sweet Spot” at Crawley of the Winthrop Hall, the Hackett Hall and other beautiful buildings only became possible under the terms of the Will of the University’s first Chancellor—the Hon. Sir Winthrop Hackett, K.C.M.G., L.L.D., by reason of his ownership of the State’s leading newspaper the West Australian (whose history also dates back to the formation of Western Australia). This asset was included in the residuary estate of which the University was the chief heir. Most capably managed by the Executors of the Hackett Estate over a number of years its eventual sale to the West Australian Newspapers Limited provided the major portion of the Fund by which the University buildings were erected. To-day, in St. George’s Terrace on Perth Town Lot L13, stands Newspaper House, the permanent home of the West Australian Newspapers Limited, erected upon the site of the old Shenton Home where, during March, 1842. was bom George Shenton, the creator of Crawley Park.


This historical background of the sites of the temporary and permanent homes of the University of Western Australia was written and is placed before members of the Western Australian Historical Society at the request of the Reading Committee.

Its theme innocently grew from the urge of its author, a country resident member of the 21st Annual Summer School conducted at the University by the Adult Education Board during January, 1949, to recapture some of the memories of a happy boyhood lived in Perth and its beautiful Swan River environs during the middle nineties of last century. These sweet memories of the time when “There hath been a stillness” where to-day “the long streets roar” have nothing in common with this history other than the fact that the sites were common to both.

The presentation of much of the historical background would have been impossible except by the help of a school mate of those far off days, Mr. A. E. Blakers, who so kindly made available the Titles Office


Schedules given in the accompanying Appendixes A and B. These contain, in chronological sequence, the names of the successive owners of the Locations and Town Lots used in its presentation.

The aura of the old personalities listed in the Titles j Office Schedules, who have stepped from the past in the course of the story, should any such subtle emanation have been experienced, was made possible only by the material obtained from the State Archives, so courteously made available by Miss Lukis, its capable and enthusiastic Archivist.


A7 and A8.

A7. Enrolment No. 80: Granted in consideration of Location duties to John Lewis by Governor Stirling, date 19/5/1837, area 2 R 33 P.

A8. Enrolment No. 81: Granted in consideration of Location duties to William Henry Drake by James Stirling, Governor, date 19/5/1837.

Memorial Book I., No. 543 of an Indenture dated 26/6/1837 of a Conveyance William Henry Drake to John Lewis the eastern, moiety of Lot 8. Consideration £16/2/6.

Memorial Book V. No. 316 of an Indenture dated 30/6/1853 of James Graham Lewis and George Coleman Hamilton Lewis both of England the Executors of John Lewis of a Conveyance , to John Bruce Staff Office of Pensioners. Lot A7 eastern moiety of Lot A8 and Fremantle Lot 463. Consideration £195.
By Application No. 130 of 1894.

Volume 61 Folio 162 was issued to Anthony O’Grady Lefroy and Rowley Crozier Loftie of Albany for Lot A7 and part of A8 total area 1 a.O r. 21 p. dated 10/9/1894.

Transfer dated 17/1/1885 to Henry Bruce Lefroy and Rowley Crozier Loftie.

Transfer dated 7/3/1896 to Henry John Saunders.

Transfer dated 1/3/1898 to the Queen.

On 5/8/1932 Revested in His Majesty as of his former Estate and thus came under the control of Minister for Lands again.

Vol. 1032 Folio 459: Grant of portion in St. George’s Terrace to R.S.L. dated 1933.

Vol. 1078 Folio 206: Grant of portion in St. George's Terrace and Irwin Street (Comer) to R.S.L. dated 18/9/1942.

B5576: Area I. O. 21 now O. 2. 23.6 Public Buildings Gazetted 1900.


Reduced by Grants to R.SL. Balance remaining is now Perth Lot 744 and is for Public Buildings. Under Act (Public Buildings Act) of 1937 this land cannot be sold, although it may be granted.


History of Original Land Grants at Crawley now portion of the University Land.

(Refer to attached sketch for locations and lots referred to hereunder).

Swan Sever Location 87: Granted 7/8/1832 to Mark John Currie (32 acres).

1/8/1837: M. J. Currie to H. C. Sutherland.

24/3/1875: Exors. Sutherland to George Shenton.

Swan River Location 90: Granted to John Gresswell 13/12/1839. 18/3/1875: J. Gresswell to George Shenton.

Perth Sub. 126: Granted 4/8/1860 to John Gresswell.

18/3/1875: J. Gresswell to George Shenton.

Perth Sub. 139: Granted 26/7/1860 to R. M. Sutherland.

25/3/1875: R. M, Sutherland to George Shenton.

Swan Location 86: Granted 26/1/1839 to Thomas Bailey (320 acres).

20/12/1838: Thomas Bailey to Edward Hamersley £250.

9/3/1854: E. Hamersley to John Bruce £200.

8/6/1883: Mtge. Edward Bruce to Geo. Shenton (with other adjoining locations) £500.

13/2/1886: Further Mtge. to Shenton £300.

7/4/1882: Discharge of Mortgages.

14/6/1882: Mtge. to Shenton £200.

16/3/1884: Mtge. to Shenton. Further £200 (including other location as above).

Stoan Location 268: Granted 26/7/1860 to John Bruce.

7/4/1892: Exors. Bruce to Geo. Shenton.

All dealings as above were registered in the Deeds Office, Perth.

In 1892 an application was lodged by Sir George Shenton to bring these lands under the Transfer of Land Act.

Various affidavits and other documents were submitted to establish title to the land and Certificate of Title Volume 54 Folio 53 was issued to Sir George Shenton, of Crawley.


The total area being 152 ac. 2 roods 5 perches.

(Overall valuation given at this time as £9000).

Sir George Shenton died on 29/6/1909.

Probate was granted to W.A. Trustee Company.

By Proclamation dated 18/8/1910 the whole of the land in Vol. 54 Folio 53 was resumed for Public Recreation.

By Volume 471 Folio 85 title to the land was vested in the King on 15/9/1910.

On 9/12/1914 Certificate of Title 471 Folio 85 was cancelled and the land revested in His Majesty as of his former estate thus returning it again to the control of the Lands Department.


University of WA. Orientation Handbook 1949.

A Story of a Hundred Years, 1829-1929. Colebatch, Sir H. P.

Perth Boys’ School, 1847-1947. Ewers, J. K.

The Cyclopedia of Western Australia.

West Australia. Kimberley, W. B.

Dictionary of Australasian Biography 1892. Mennell, P.

Garry Gillard | New: 6 September, 2020 | Now: 15 April, 2021