"Albany will never change much - it is a pretty town, but vague. It seems to exist only
in a far-away-on-the-horizon sort of way; I like it all the better for that."
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 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.
For those who are looking to catch a fish or two,
Sand Patch, Frenchman Bay
and Emu Point
are worth a try.
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 is 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,
and the 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.
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.
Vancouver aboard 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.
Next came Mathew Flinders,
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 and Naturaliste.
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
(3) 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 Fredericks Town.
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
honour of Frederick Augustus,
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.'
The isolation and boredom took their toll
on both convicts and the officials. I.S. Nind, the appointed surgeon for the
settlement, attempted to resign in 1828 but his request was refused. The
following year he had a nervous breakdown and was finally dismissed and sent
back to N.S.W.
In early 1830, five convicts attempted to
escape and headed for the west coast. Surprisingly they made it through and
all but one, a man named Thomas Woodward, were re-captured.
As the time neared for the convicts to be
returned to N.S.W. in 1831, they began to fear what conditions would await
them. Several, including those who has previously escaped, took to the bush
and evaded capture.
On the 4th of February 1831,
and his companions arrived at the sound after trekking overland from the Swan
River. They had become lost and disagreements between Bannister and his
navigator, Smythe continued after they reached Albany.
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. From further reading it seems apparent that Carew and 20
soldiers arrived on March 19th 1831 to take over command of the settlement
before Barker and his men withdrew.
Further 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''
The first Government Resident was
who took up the position in 1831.
In September 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.
But for the winds of fate, Albany could
have had a strong connection with India as in 1834 a ship named Mercury
set out from Calcutta with some 70 persons aboard. A company had intended to
start trading between India and Albany and the ship carried an advance party
who were to get everything set up. Sadly somewhere along the way the ship
met with disaster and was never heard from again.
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.
The mid 1850s were initially a time of growth for Albany as the port's significance increased.
The area's population tripled between 1848 and 1854 but the early 1850s were
marked by food shortages and high prices for any food that was available.
Some convicts were also brought in to help with public works and despite some bouts of
drunkenness they were generally regarded as being better behaved than some
of the sailors in town.
The early mail service to Albany was provided by The Australian Company. This was basically a
floating disaster that during it's period of operation never once managed to
get a ship to arrive on time. The company eventually got into too much debt
and their contract was cancelled in 1853. P&O then took over and the service
improved dramatically but the company could not make a profit and ceased
services in 1855.
The lack of shipping
meant that Albany was thrown into a recession. This led to the convict depot
being closed and the convicts returned to Perth. The mail was infrequent and
relied on passing ships to deliver it until a new regular service was begun
By the 1880s the P&O depot had closed when more modern
ship's engines meant that stopping to refuel at Albany was no longer
required. Albany once again began to stagnate until it was decided to build
a railway from Perth.
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 named Anthony Hordern.
Initially hailed as a hero, Hordern was
on his way to Albany by ship when he fell ill and died. A monument to
Anthony Hoirdern was erected at the top of York Street in 1890.
Although the railway was initially hailed as a saviour of the town that had
gained the nickname of 'Sleepy Hollow' due to the lack of progress,
eventually it was blamed for holding up settlement and development in the area.
York Street and other streets leading to
the waterfront were all closed off by the railway company and despite
increasing local protest, the authorities in Perth did nothing to resolve
the situation. It took until February 1890 for crossings to finally be
opened on York and Spencer streets.
Trouble with the railway company was far
from over as the company had acquired land grants as part of the deal to
construct the railway. Prospective purchasers found the land for sale by the
company was too expensive and this led to claims of stifled agricultural
development. When the railway company attempted a 'land grab' within the
boundaries of the town itself there was even more of an outcry and the
(then) Forrest government moved to block any such move.
When in January 1897, the Government
officially took over the railway and its land, there was a great deal of
celebration throughout the south west.
The opening of the goldfields brought more optimism to Albany but when the
main railway to the goldfields was constructed from
instead of Beverley,
Albany found it had been effectively bypassed as most railway traffic
originated from Perth.
Sadly for Albany the opening of the inner harbour at Fremantle
saw a sharp and steady decline in business and
subsequently in the population of 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.
Albany took many years to shake off the 'Sleepy Hollow' image but slowly agriculture
took hold and the town grew steadily. Tourism dates back to the late 1800s
and has remained an important factor in the local economy.
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.
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.
Jennifer 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.
Other ghosts 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.
The 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.
The trio 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.
Fishing boat harbour,
Duck Lake, Lawley Park,
Mount Melville Lookout,
Stony Hill, Salmon Holes,
Two Peoples Bay,
BUILDINGS OF NOTE
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. Albany House, 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.
FAMOUS SONS AND DAUGHTERS
Premier Alan Carpenter
State : Albany
Federal : O'Connor
Postcode : 6330
Local Government : City of Albany