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York is the oldest inland town in Western Australia, situated on the Avon River, 97 kilometres east of Perth in the Wheatbelt, on Ballardong Nyoongar land, and is the seat of the Shire of York.
The name of the region was suggested by J. S. Clarkson during an expedition in October 1830 because of its similarity to his own county in England, Yorkshire.
After thousands of years of occupation by Ballardong Nyoongar people, the area was first settled by Europeans in 1831, two years after Perth was settled in 1829. A town was established in 1835 with the release of town allotments and the first buildings were erected in 1836.
The region was important throughout the 19th century for sheep and grain farming, sandalwood, cattle, goats, pigs and horse breeding.
York boomed during the gold rush as it was one of the last rail stops before the walk to the goldfields. ...
With the increasing population of the Swan River Settlement in 1830, it became evident that suitable land would have to be discovered for the growing of crops needed to provide necessary food.
Ensign Robert Dale, a 20-year-old officer of the 63rd Regiment, led a small party in the first exploratory journey over the Darling Range, during the winter months of 1830 into what was later to be known as the Avon Valley.
He returned with a report of "park-like lands with scattered trees", and after a second expedition, Lieutenant-Governor Stirling concluded that there appeared to be 1,000 square miles of "the finest imaginable sheep-land".
As a result, Stirling decided that the new district should be thrown open for selection and this was done by Government Notice on 11 November 1830. By December 1830, 250,000 acres had been allotted, and in January 1831, 80,000 acres. Before the end of 1831 a further 6,030 acres in small lots had been taken up.
In September 1831 Dale escorted the first party of settlers to the district, reaching the Avon valley on 16 September. They immediately set about the construction of huts, the preparation required for their stock and the cultivation of new land. Dale proposed an area two miles south of the summit of Mt Bakewell as the site for a future town to serve the district.
In September 1833 a garrison of eight troops of the 21st North British Fusiliers was stationed at York. Rules and regulations for the assignment of town allotments at York were gazetted in September 1834 and allotments were advertised for sale from July 1835.
A township did not begin to appear until 1836. In July 1836 York comprised two houses, a barn, an army barracks and some out-houses, with about 50 acres of cleared land. The town grew slowly at first due to difficulties with the local aboriginals, as well as problems associated with using English farming techniques in an unfamiliar climate.
In 1831, Rivett Henry Bland settled in York, and with his business partner, Arthur Trimmer, leased a 10 acre site north of the town (on which they had built the first house, by the end of September 1831) and took a grant over a 4,000 acre block to the south which they established as a farm, later called Balladong Farm, after the Ballardong Noongar, the Aboriginal occupiers of the area. Later, part of the land to the south came to be called Bland's Town or Bland Town. Bland was resident magistrate from 1834 to 1842.
In 1836, John Henry Monger Snr arrived and bought the 10 acres of land immediately north of the town site from Bland and Trimmer for £100 on which the first house in York had been constructed of wattle and daub. Monger opened a hotel by early 1837, constructing in 1842 a "long, low building" opposite the hotel for a store, and “every three months his wagons would journey to Guildford or Perth for supplies”.
In July 1836 Lieutenant Henry William St Pierre Bunbury of the 21st Regiment was sent to York to respond to rising levels of violence between colonial settlers and Ballardong Noongar people. His mission was to "to make war upon the native". After many individual skirmishes and killings of Ballardong people, rumours of an attack on the natives, in which "several ... were wounded, and one woman was killed", were reported. In response to this, Ballardong people speared a shepherd called Knott. Bunbury initially tried to cover up Knott's death to avoid further conflict.
In July 1837 Bunbury was again sent to the York district after the spearing deaths of two young settlers called Chidlow and Jones. In the ensuing violence soldiers and settlers killed at least 18 Ballardong Noongar people.
In 1840, the York Agricultural Society was established, which became very influential in the following years, holding annual shows to the present day. The York Racing Club was established in 1843. Both societies continue today.
A shortage of labour was a problem for the farming community, particularly at harvest time. A sandalwood boom in the late 1840s lifted the town.
At the request of the influential York Agricultural Society, from 1851, convicts were transported to the Colony and relieved the labour shortages. As "ticket-of-leave" men, they constructed many of the early buildings.
Solomon Cook constructed a steam engine in 1852 to power his flourmill and this started a flurry of steam-powered flour mills in the town.
York was connected by rail in 1885. Following the discovery of gold in the Yilgarn in 1887, the town was teeming with miners, all alighting from the train and preparing to make the long journey across the plains to the goldfields.

References and Links

Brown, Eliza & Peter Cowan 1977, A Faithful Picture: The Letters of Eliza and Thomas Brown at York in the Swan River Colony, 1841-1852, ed. Peter Cowan, with an introduction by Alexandra Hasluck, Fremantle Arts Centre Press.

Carter, Anne 1999, 'Thomas and Henry Carter: pioneers of York and Fremantle', Early Days, vol. 11, part 5: 595-611.

Cowan, Dircksey 1938, 'Eastward from York: Lefroy expedition of 1863' - extracts from the leader's journal compiled by Dircksey Cowan, Early Days, vol. 3, part 1: 49-58.

Dale, Robert 1833, 'Journal of an Expedition under the direction of Ensign Dale, to the Eastward of the Darling Mountains; in August, 1831', Journals of Several Expeditions Made in Western Australia During the Years 1829, 1830, 1831 and 1832: Under the Sanction of the Governor, Sir James Stirling, Joseph Cross, London: 51–61.

Deacon, John E. 1948, A Survey of the Historical Development of the Avon Valley with Particular Reference to York, Western Australia During the Years 1830-1850, UWA.

Feilman, Margaret A. & Partners 1977, An Historical Survey of the York Townsite, W.A., Shire of York.

Jennings, Rodger 2020, Over the Hill : A History of York 1834-1880, Hesperian, 356 pp., $72.

Honniball, J. H. M. 1991, 'From York to Hollywood: Enid Bennett and her family', Early Days, vol. 10, part 3: 335-348.

Landor, Edward Wilson 1847, The Bushman: Life in a New Country, Senate, Twickenham.

Millett, Janet 1872, An Australian Parsonage; or, the Settler and the Savage in Western Australia, Edward Standford, London.

Moore, George Fletcher 2006, The Millendon Memoirs: George Fletcher Moore's Western Australian Diaries and Letters, 1830-1841, ed. J.M.R. Cameron, Hesperion Press.

Oldman, Diane 2022, 'York: somewhere over the ranges', Redcoat Settlers in WA (website).

Pelloe, Mrs T. 1929, 'The York Road', Early Days, vol. 1, part 6: 1-16.

Statham-Drew, Pamela & A.M. (Tony) Clark 2018, York Western Australia: A Documentary History, Pandorus, WA, $70.

Wikipedia page.

See also: Louis Giustiniani, Arthur Trimmer, Frederick Waldeck.

Garry Gillard | New: 20 April, 2021 | Now: 30 June, 2023