Leonora has the highest number of single person households in the state. It is also a good place for single ladies to find single men as 900 of the 1300 residents are men.
Leonora, usually as 'dry as a bone' is sometimes hit by cyclonic rains. These events have happened a number of times since the area was settled with one of the worst being
Cyclone Bobby in 1995 which produced a flood that cut the town off for 6 weeks. The only supplies to reach the town were dropped at Laverton by the RAAF and then trucked to
Leonora on the only passable road in. Flooding like this seems to happen about once every 20 years.
The town is reasonably well equipped with two hotels, a motel, supermarket, butcher, newsagent/liquor/hardware and general store, post office, two roadhouses, cafe etc.
A good bush camping site is available at Malcolm Dam. This is likely to be a dry-weather only site.
The first gold find in the area is credited to a man named Morrissey (1894) but better finds were made in 1896 and the original town
(known as Gwalia) flourished until 1898. After flooding it was relocated in 1900, 3km from the mine and re-named Leonora. The town was
developed to support the Sons of Gwalia (Wales) mine which operated until 1964. The mine was later re-opened in 1981 as the price of
The town's name comes from Mount Leonora, named by John Forrest
(who explored the area in 1869) in honour of his niece Miss Phylis Leonora
Hardey of Grove Farm near Perth. (Another source says Forrest named it after the Governor's wife - Elanora, but the difference in names
makes this a less likely alternative.)
The town site was gazetted in 1898 and by 1902 it was linked to Perth by rail via Menzies. The town had the first electric trams in W.A.
"...hotels and different large business establishments have a most imposing appearance, being constructed mostly of brick. Other buildings are
composed of adobe, and although somewhat sombre in their colour, have the merit of being substantial."
- Twentieth Century Impressions of W.A. 1901
In 1908 The Bulletin described Leonora as the nation's most progressive town.
The first Mayor of Leonora (William Snell) rode a bicycle across the Nullarbor to Melbourne in 1897. He accomplished this feat in just 26 days
and was only the second person to cross this way. He had gone east to meet his bride to be and after arranging her passage by sea he seems to
have hopped back on his bike and rode all the way across again meeting his bride in Fremantle. Sadly William's death was a lonely one in the
outback north of Wiluna in 1942.
In 1996 a project was started to restore some of the old miner's cottages at Gwalia. The buildings are available now for tourists to wander through and
see what living conditions were like for miners in the early days.
TALL TALES AND TRUE
Nuclear explosion, earthquake or meteor?
180km north east of Leonora is Banjawarn Station, a 1 million acre property on the edge of the desert.
On May 28th 1993 a seismic event was recorded in this area that coincided with reports of a fireball in the sky. The disturbance was 170 times larger than any man made explosion recorded in Australia.
It transpired that the station had been purchased in 1993 by the doomsday cult, Aum Shinrikyo; infamous for the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995. Later investigation found that sheep on the property had been exposed to sarin gas and that traces still remained in the soil. There seems little doubt that the station had been used to experiment and prepare for the attack on Tokyo.
There was speculation that the fireball and seismic disturbance may have been the first atomic explosion carried out by non-government forces, in this case by an extreme terrorist group. Aum Shinrikyo were known to have recruited two Russian nuclear scientists and had been involved with mining uranium (there is a deposit on the station) so it is not too far a stretch to imagine that they may have attempted to set off a nuclear explosion.
Other explanations for this event have included a meteor bursting apart in the atmosphere (as there is no evidence of a ground strike) or an earthquake of around 3.6 magnitude.
Any investigation into the event was not carried out until years after it had happened so no definitive answer has ever been found.
Former Grand Hotel 1900, White House hotel 1900, Post office 1900, State hotel 1903, Former mines office 1898, Mine superintendent's house 1898, Winder and head frame 1898-1912,
The old police station 1903, Courthouse 1903, Masonic Lodge, Old fire station 1903, National and WA Bank, Anzac War memorial.