Cranbrook is a sleepy backwater, off the main tourist routes and is possibly all the better for being so. A service centre for
the surrounding farming community it is also billed as 'The Gateway to the Stirling Range.'
Other towns located in the shire are Tenterden and Frankland River.
Originally a watering point for the Great Southern Railway Cranbrook was named by engineer J. A. Wright after a town in in his home county of Kent in England.
The Aboriginal name used for the general area was bingalup. It was gazetted in 1899 and today is the centre of a wool, wildflower and grape growing region.
The first settlers arrived in the 1860s and sheep quickly became one of the major contributors to the areas commercial growth.
Afghan brothers Nehall, Sunder and Boar Singh worked in the area as hawkers, taking goods round to outlying farms. Despite reported complaints in parliament their
work seems to have been widely appreciated by local people. Boar Singh was killed in an accident with his wagon not far from Lake Muir. Nehall returned to his home
and Sunder went on to establish a shop in town in 1908.
It has little importance for tourists but is yet another access point for the Stirling Ranges. The ranges were first sighted by
Ensign Robert Dale in 1832 and named three years later by
J.S. Roe after
Captain Stirling who was the Governor of the Swan River
Colony. (The Aboriginal name for the range was 'Koikyeun-u-ruff'.)
In Roe's journal the ranges are described as follows:
'The Stirling Range burst on our view in great magnificence as we rounded the crest...The whole extent of the conical summits were spread before us.'
Early Cranbrook may have been a bit of a harsh place to live as during the great depression of the 1930s the local publican
John Williamson is reported to have said:
'There are only two places in W.A. that are not affected by the depression, Kalgoorlie because it has gold and Cranbrook because it has
never known any different.'
The great depression had a severe effect on W.A. but in some way people in country towns were luckier than their city cousins. Many farms were self-sufficient to a large
extent and lack of food was not as big a problem as it was in the big towns.
Country people were used to doing without many things (in fact they still are) and they were experienced at doing almost everything for themselves. There was also a spirit
of camaraderie and people were willing to help each other out through the hard times.
One of the events enjoyed by locals in days gone by, were the Frankland Races. It was a major event on most people's social calendar and was one of the few times through the
year that people had access to alcohol. This led to a large number of fights and as there was no local jail, the police (who arrived from Mount Barker
for the event) used to chain offenders to a tree.
The races themselves were often a subject of controversy with no outside rail the horses could 'go bush' and on one occasion the result of a race was complained about to such an
extent that the race was completely re-run. The same horse won so the complaints dried up.
The Aboriginal population in this area usually lived in close vicinity to the town and was the subject of numerous complaints involving sanitation and behavioural problems.
Attempts were made to move the community to a reserve outside the town boundary. In 1963 when it was found that the Aborigines were washing themselves and their clothes in the town's
water supply these calls were re-newed.
Fortunately common sense prevailed and it was decided that the Aboriginal families, who had until this time still been living in tents and humpies, should be provided with proper
housing in the town itself. Even so, it still took until 1967 for this to happen.
TALL TALES AND TRUE
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Stirling Range national park, Sukey's Hill Lookout, Lake Poorrarecup, Lake Nunijup, Pink Lake, Tom South Lake.
BUILDINGS OF NOTE
State : Blackwood-Stirling
Federal : O'Connor
Postcode : 6321
Local Government : Shire of Cranbrook
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