Former hospital, Vancouver St. 1887. St. Joseph’s
Convent, Aberdeen St. 1881. Strawberry Hill Farm, Middleton and Beauchamp,
1827. Hillside, Cliff Way, 1886. Old Gaol, Parade St. and Stirling Tce. 1873.
Residency, Port Rd. 1852, Court House, Stirling Tce. and Collie St. 1896. Old
Post Office, Stirling St. 1869. AlbanyHouse, York St. 1885. Town Hall, York St. 1888.
St. John’s Church 1841, Patrick Taylor cottage reputed to
be the oldest building in the state.
With this kind of literary homage it may not be so surprising that many
years before Albany was settled, Jonathon Swift used maps created by Dutch
explorers when creating the Houyhnhnms homeland in Gulliver's Travels. He
located it almost exactly on the spot that Albany was founded.
The first European sighting of the area was in 1627 by Francois Thyssen and
Peter Nuyts and it appears on Dutch shipping charts as ‘Monkbeelven’ from
King George Sound
was charted and named in 1791 (1792 is sometimes quoted but
appears to be incorrect) by
Capt. George Vancouver.
Discovery, spent some 14
days exploring the area and naming features such as
, Seal, Breaksea and Michaelmas Islands. Vancouver had originally served as
midshipman with Captain Cook.
in 1801 who spent some time refitting his ship
while resting at anchor in Princess Royal Harbour. With him on the voyage
was Mr. Brown, a Botanist. Strangely his name is almost forgotten but he was
responsible for collecting some 4,000 specimens of flora (representing about
a third of the flora found in Australia). He was also the first to make
contact with the local Aborigines giving them various gifts.
In 1803 Nicolas Baudin arrived with the ships Geographe
Princess Royal Harbour was renamed Princess Charlotte Harbour by the French
but the name (unlike so many other areas they were to leave French names on)
did not stick.
Two Peoples Bay
was originally Baie des Deux Nations when
the French met an American brig 'Union' and the two got together to complain
about the English.
Phillip Parker King, aboard the Mermaid, stopped off to fettle his ship in
1818. Also aboard the Mermaid was none other than
John Septimus Roe who was
to become intimately connected with the exploration on Western Australia.
Another French explorer,
Dumont D Urville
stopped off at
King George Sound in 1826.
The British feared French intentions in the region and would have been even
more concerned had they read D'Urville's journal which said:
'I think it
would be difficult to find a place more suitable for the establishment of a
colony; in fact I never cease to wonder that the English have not already
made one, especially when I reflect that this spot is admirably suited for
ships passing directly from Europe to New South Wales...'
To forestall any French attempt to claim Western Australia it was decided to
send a military detachment from New South Wales.
On the 25th of December 1826 the Amity
dropped anchor in Princess Royal
Harbour. On January 21st 1827, Major Edmund Lockyer formally took possession
of the western third of the continent for the British Crown. This should be
the Foundation Day we celebrate in Western Australia not the one celebrated for the
Swan River Colony (Perth). The settlement was given the name
Lockyer spent 100 days overseeing the initial work and during that time the
expeditions' blacksmith (Dennis Deneen) was speared and killed by Aborigines
after rescuing a group of 4 who had been stranded (probably by whalers) on
As the convicts outnumbered the troopers there was always the possibility of
a revolt and this came very close to happening when the prisoners (led by a
man named Ryan) claimed their meat ration was short and refused to take it.
Lockyer ordered punishment for Ryan but no one would agree to inflict it and
so as not to lose control of the situation, Lockyer had no choice but to
administer the lash himself.
After 100 days Lockyer returned to Sydney aboard the ship
by James Stirling) leaving
Captain Joseph Wakefield in command. Wakefield
remained in command until 1828 when he too returned to Sydney and Lt. George Sleeman took over.
By mid 1829 the settlement at the Swan River had been established and
Captain Collett Barker (2)
was dispatched to oversee transfer of the control of
Fredericks Town from New South Wales to the Swan
River Colony. To mark the transfer Stirling selected the name Albany in
Duke of York and Albany. Frederick Augustus was
the 11th and last Duke to hold the dual title. In fact the title Duke of
Albany was considered to be somewhat unlucky as a number of the holders had
come to 'sticky ends.'
At this point we have come across two conflicting views of history. The
first, and most accepted is that on the withdrawal of troops and prisoners
from New South Wales, the settlement at Albany was abandoned. The second
states that a detachment of seventeen soldiers under Lt. Carew, arrived from
Fremantle aboard the Isabella. Whether these soldiers remained until the
first settlers arrived we are unsure but either way Albany is Western
Australia’s oldest town.
evidence for this was obtained from the 1929 publication ‘The story of a
Hundred Years’ which states the following:
‘The Albany settlement did not entirely disappear with the removal of the
military and prisoners, but only three thatched buildings remained… …with
the removal of the convicts Albany languished for four years. What
Government there was, was administered by Lt. Mcleod… …the little handful of
people lived chiefly on fish…’
Government Resident was Alexander
Collie who took up the position in 1831.
1833 Sir Richard Spencer arrived to take up the
post of Government Resident. Spencer was to have a great influence on the
development of the town and played a major role in getting the settlement
'back on track'. Sadly he died in 1839 but by that time the survival of the
town was assured.
aboard the Beagle stopped off in Albany in 1836 but he was
less than impressed with the town that he found 'dull and uninteresting.'
In the early years American
whaling ships were some of the most frequent visitors to King George Sound.
Although they provided some opportunity for trade they also brought with
them disease, anti social behaviour and deserters. In 1840 no less than 28
of the 47 ships dropping anchor at Albany were whalers. There was some local
agitation for authorities to curtail the American whaling
activities as people could
see the opportunity for making good profits sailing off to America.
Because a rock
bar blocked entry of large ships to the Swan River, it was Albany that was
chosen as the state's major port. Both mail and passengers were dropped off
at Albany and then made a journey of about a week overland to Perth. This
was to continue for many years until the rock bar across the Swan was
Edward John Eyre rested in Albany for a week after his epic journey from
South Australia in 1841.
1853 saw the
arrival of the ship 'Sir William Molesworth'. The ship was flying the yellow
flag of quarantine as 20 of the 220 passengers on board had died of some
disease on the voyage. Supplies were put aboard and the ship sailed away but
the Government Resident (Henry Camfield) saw the need for better control and
lobbied for a resident health officer. His request was granted but ship
captains were sometimes less than honest about the health of their
passengers. A quarantine station was eventually
established and operated for many years.
After much neglect by those running the Swan River Colony, there was an
attempted secession in 1888.
The first road board for the Albany region was elected with 177 votes being
counted from only 60 voters. This came about from a corrupt system of voting
(that still exists today in another form – the gerrymander). The Roads Act
of 1888 stated that landowners would receive votes based on the following:
5 to 10 pounds
11 to 25 pounds
26 to 50 pounds
51 pounds or more
The corruption apparently got worse as time went on. There were 423 electors
enrolled for the Road Board elections of 1896 and of those only 231 voted.
Because of the voting system this meant there was a maximum total of 420
votes that could be cast. After counting finished 836 votes had been cast!
With a start like that no wonder governments today are regularly elected
with less than 50% of the total vote!
The railways were a major factor in opening up the state and in most places
they arrived they were made most welcome. The Great Southern Railway - 1889
- was a
private company spearheaded by a Sydney business man (Anthony Hordern).
The railway was greatly disliked by the populace and was blamed for holding
up settlement and development in the area. When the line from Beverley to
Albany was opened there were no celebrations held in Albany. The closure of
the end of York Street and the fact that the railway had blocked access to
Princess Royal Harbour made the people most upset. When in 1897 (one source
says December 1st 1896), the
Government bought the railway and its land for 1.1 million pounds, there was a
great deal of celebration through the south west.
Albany the opening of the inner harbour at
Fremantle saw a sharp and steady decline in the business and
subsequently in the population in Albany. In the five years following the
opening of the new Fremantle harbour the population in Albany dropped by
In 1906 the
Italian Government (in what turned out to be a rather mis-guided attempt to
improve ties with W.A.) established a vice-consulate in Albany with
responsibility for the entire state. The trouble was there were no Italians
living in the area and the consulate official could not stand Albany's cold,
wet, windy climate so the consulate was hurriedly shifted to Perth.
In 1908 an
American fleet, known as the Great White Fleet, visited Albany waters. The
fleet included no less than 16 battleships. Little did the onlookers know
that a few years later in 1914, thousands of Australian soldiers would be
sailing from the same waters on their way to the killing fields of
World War One.
Viniculture has been under development north of Albany for some years and
several excellent vineyards can be found north of the town near
In 1977 the
residents of Albany, knowing that the town was the first to be settled in
W.A., held their 150th year celebrations 2 years earlier than the rest of
the state. It really would be fitting for the rest of W.A. to recognise
Albany's place as the first settlement and to bring the 200th year
celebrations forward to 2027.
In July 1998 the town and shire of Albany were amalgamated and became the
City of Albany. This presumably has some benefits to the local council but
means nothing much to the rest of us.
Many people like Albany, but until recently, I was not one of them. I found
it a bleak, cold, rainy town. Now having visited the area in summer, I have
a completely new appreciation for the town and its immediate surroundings.
In fact, I am now a great fan of the area along with over half a million
other tourists who visit the region annually.
The countryside and coastline near Albany is quite beautiful. Rugged cliffs
give way in places to sheltered sandy bays. Long sandy beaches near the town
are ideal for swimming, and the town in general has been greatly improved in
the past few years. The best swimming location near the town is Ledge Beach.
Make the effort and take Lower King Road, turn right into Gull Rock Road.
Follow it almost all the way to the end and you can take a right hand turn off
the main (gravel) road which will take you to the opposite end of the beach
but the best area is found by keeping straight on. A short walk from the car
park takes you down to a beautiful sandy beach, crystal clear water and one
of the best swimming spots you will find anywhere. A 4wd track from Gull
Rock car park takes you to the end of the point and an excellent fishing
spot out on some smooth rocks.
There are seven national parks in the area totalling 130,000 hectares and a
short drive (west) along the coast will take you to the wonderful town of
It’s hard to recommend areas to visit in the Albany area because there are
so many extraordinary places scattered around the town. Places not to miss
would include Two Peoples Bay, Torbay,
drive out to Frenchman Bay. Albany is an excellent holiday destination
during the summer months and would rate a visit of at least two weeks.
Apart from the scenic attractions, Albany offers a variety of good
restaurants, modern shopping facilities and accommodation to suit all tastes.
Special mention needs to be made of the excellent bush campsites that are
available within easy reach of the town. The Albany City Council is one of
the few with progressive attitudes to bush camping and we congratulate them
on making a number of sites available for travellers.
Tall tales and true: The missing corpse
A young couple and their aged auntie were crossing the Nullarbor on their
way to Perth but sadly the old lady died. The young wife became hysterical
about riding in the car with her dead aunt so the husband wrapped the aunt
up in a tarpaulin and tied her to the roof rack. They drove on in the dark
not daring to stop until they reached Albany in the small hours of the
morning. They checked in to a hotel intending to inform the police at first
light. When they finally woke they found the car with their aunt on top had
been stolen. The car and the body were never seen again.
Smith, her husband and family were sailing from Hamlin (sic) Bay over the
Easter weekend in 1989. As the yacht approached Albany waters it was in the
dark of night with a rising sea and wind. They were confused about the
navigation lights and visibility was poor. They did not know which way to go
when a figure appeared near the bow of the boat. Jennifer continues
the story in her own words:
'He had a
large dark coat with brass buttons in two rows down the front of his coat,
his collar was pulled up, a flat black hat pulled down on his head. He had a
short cut beard and in his hand a pipe. He nodded his head and his pipe at
me an in that moment the harbour opened up before our eyes.'
It is thought
that this apparition was the ghost of John Gregory Reddin the lighthouse
keeper from 1907-1911.
are said to haunt the old gaol. Amy or Emily haunts the women's section,
Joseph seems to haunt the black hole and there is even thought to be a
ghostly dog in the building.
exploding toilet of Ah Sim.
Ah Sim, an
elderly Chinese man, used to grow and sell vegetables. He took his produce
round on a horse and cart to sell to local people and he was often followed
by a group of local urchins who made fun of the old man. Ah Sim took little
notice until he found them stealing carrots from his garden and then he
chased them away.
involved decided to get even by blowing up Ah Sim's outhouse. They planted a
plug of gelignite and retired a distance to watch the explosion. It was at
this time that Ah Sim received the call of nature and was seen heading for
the toilet. As they intended no real harm to Ah Sim, the trio had to reveal
themselves and shout a warning before the toilet was blown sky high.
This ended the
three of them in court and they were lucky not to spend some time in the
lock up but instead were fined five pounds each.