St. Mary's Cathedral 1863, London Court 1936, Supreme
Court buildings 1902, Weld Club 1892, National chambers 1897, Former
police courts 1905, Art gallery & museum 1896-1908, General post office
1914, Perth town hall 1868, Perth mint 1896, Grosvenor hotel 1887, Savoy
hotel 1913, His Majesty's Theatre 1904, melbourne hotel 1895, Hackett hall
1903, Perth technical college annexe 1896, Fire brigade No1 station 1900,
Old Government printing office 1894, RPH Admin building 1894, Kirkman
house 1909, Barrack Street arch 1863, St. Georges Cathedral 1880, Trinity
church 1864, Government house 1859, St. Andrews 1906, The Deanery 1859,
Old Perth boys school 1859, Cloisters 1858, Old courthouse 1836, Former
Archbishop's palace 1855, Railway station 1894, Wesley church 1870, Great
Western hotel 1906, St. George's college 1927, Old observatory 1897,
Shenton's mill 1835, Albany Bell castle 1914, Tranby House 1836,
Freemason's Hall Subiaco 1929, Former teachers college Claremont 1902,
Christ Church Claremont 1892, Former Congregational church Claremont 1895,
MLC Claremont 1907, Guildford hotel 1886, Guildford post office 1897, Rose
& Crown Guildford 1840, Midland town hall 1906, Woodbridge 1880s, Edward
Millen House 1912, Broke Hill hotel 1898.
of the city is ideal, and the views of Perth from the top of Mt. Eliza, with
the river winding through it and the tree capped ranges in the background
challenges comparison with the most beautiful cities in the old or the new
The Story of a Hundred Years. 1929.
The first European known to have explored the area was
Willem De Vlamingh
(there are alternate spellings of
this name) in 1697. He named the Swan River after the large flocks of black
swans which inhabited the area.
The original name was actually Swartte Swaane Drift – Black Swan River.
As black swans were unknown in Europe he ordered his men to catch some and
three were taken aboard ship. Sadly they died soon after reaching Java.
De Vlamingh was not impressed with the land he found and wrote: “I found
neither good country, nor did I see anything of note.”
When the Napoleonic wars ended
Stirling had no ship to command and was put on half pay. In 1825 he was
recalled to active service and sailed the
HMS Success to New South Wales.
His mission was to help move settlers from Bathurst Island to Raffles Bay.
The northern monsoon meant that this trip was delayed and
sent Stirling west to examine the prospects for a settlement on the Swan
Stirling was impressed with what he saw and made a favourable report to
Darling who in turn sent a report to the Colonial Office. The British
Government was less than enthusiastic about establishing a new colony and
wanted nothing to do with funding such a proposal.
Capt. James Stirling saw the foundation of a colony in the west as his big
chance to make a name for himself and from 1827 he campaigned vigorously to
get his ideas accepted.
Charles Fraser (a botanist with the early exploration party) wrote of the
Swan River: “The land on the banks of the Swan is superior to any I have
seen in New South Wales east of the Blue Mountains.” A review of the
proposed settlement published in England stated: “This colony will be
capable eventually of giving support to a million souls.”
Stirling ran advertisements to get people interested in his venture which
‘Settlers will have no purchase money to pay for their lands, nor will they
be chargeable for any rent whatever. Their grants will be conveyed to them
in fee simple and will descend to their assignees or heirs forever.’
The British Government eventually agreed to a new colony but on the strict
proviso that it was to be a purely capitalist affair and that no Government
funds would be available to help settlers with the cost of passage. Instead
land grants were offered based on the value of goods and servants taken to
the new colony. The deal was 40 acres of land for every 3 pounds worth of
goods taken out. (Servants were valued at 15 pounds a head.)
By February 1829 Stirling was on his way with a group of free settlers
aboard the Parmelia. The HMS Sulphur (Commander Dance) followed with a
military detachment from the 63rd regiment.
After a stop off in Cape Town (where Dr. Tully Daly and his daughter Jessie
unfortunately drowned) the settlers arrived on the 31st of May and the ship
dropped anchor off Garden Island.
attempt was made to find a passage into the sheltered waters of Cockburn
Sound the Parmelia struck a hidden shoal where she was stranded for 18 hours
before being re-floated. HMS Challenger (Capt.
Fremantle) was already anchored in the sound so most passengers and
supplies were transferred to her. Two days of fierce winds followed and
Stirling made the decision to make landfall on Garden Island, instead of the
Later Stirling chose a site about 16km up river from the sea at a place east
of Mt. Eliza (Kings Park). The original instructions from
(Secretary for the Colonies and War) were that the settlement should be made
either on Cockburn Sound, or at the junction of the Swan and Canning Rivers.
Stirling ignored these instructions an placed the settlement where the city
of Perth now stands. George Murray was less than pleased with this decision
but Stirling made the right choice.
Kings Park is
the largest inner city park in the world – larger even than Central Park in
New York. It was the first park in Australia to be designated for public use
The origin of
the name Mt. Eliza seems to be disputed in various historical works with
some claiming that it was named in honour of
Eliza Burdett, sister of the
Rev. John Burdett Wittenoom
the first colonial
Chaplain who arrived in 1829 aboard the ship Swansted. Other sources claim
that James Stirling named Mt. Eliza after the wife of Governor Darling and
as he named the Darling Scarp in honour of Governor Darling it seems most
likely that Stirling did name Mt. Eliza after Darling's wife.
Perth was declared on August 12 1829 and became a city by 1856. It was
originally called the Swan River Colony. It is Australia’s third oldest
Stirling was only officially proclaimed Governor and Commander in Chief in
March 1831. Perhaps the British authorities were waiting to see if the
venture would fail before giving him an official title. (For the first two
years he served as Governor, Stirling had to rely on his own resources as he
received no salary.)
“From Fremantle to Perth and again as high as Guildford, 8 miles higher up
the Swan, the country is all a most wretched sand covered with stunted
prickly scrub and small timber…..Perth itself is a most dismal place, duller
than anything you imagine.”
If only he could see it now!
D.B. Robinson describes the site a little more objectively in her book 'The
Swan Valley: A Perspective.'
‘The site was edged on the south and east by the river with its border of
mud flats, and on the north by lakes and swamplands. On the west was a high
limestone ridge, named Mount Eliza, with a rugged scarp to the river’s edge.
Mt Eliza provided a lookout point from which to watch for a potential enemy.
It was a good defensive site.'
'The main street, Hay Street, was surveyed to run along the crest of a sand
dune extending eastwards from Mt Eliza, with parallel streets on either
side, and with streets at right angles leading southwards to the river and
to northwards ending in lakes and swamps. A number of springs provided fresh
water, as did the lakes to the north. The river being an estuary, its water
was too salty to drink. However, the river was a source of supply of fish
Some of the colony’s early problems stemmed from the way land grants were
allocated. Those in positions of power were allocated huge land grants and
much of the river frontage was taken up very quickly. Too much land was
given to too few people and was kept too close to Perth. Stirling, never
backward in giving things to himself, tried to take up much of the land that
is now Fremantle but was made to give the claim up by the Colonial Office in
In addition to this many grants were given to Officers on temporary
assignment who had no intention of developing it. Complaints were also made
that grants were not given in order of the date received. This led to the
development stagnating and food shortages that continued for some years.
Lionel Lukin wrote:
‘To my surprise, however, I found all the banks of the Swan and Canning
Rivers granted, mostly to officers in the army and navy on full pay, who
never brought a sixpence worth of property into the colony, and who had not
the means of improving the land granted to them.’
Eliza Shaw was even more direct:
‘The fact is simply this … all the land that is good for anything, and that
is but a small patch here and there, is given to Jews, stockbrokers,
men-of-wars and the like.’
Stirling returned (temporarily) to England in 1832 to shore up support for
the struggling colony and having done what he could, returned to the Swan
River in 1834. While he was absent his role was taken over first by
and when he returned to England Captain Richard Daniell filled in.
J. Allen published the following in ‘The Emigrant’s Friend’ in London:
‘Were 100,000 Emigrants to land at Swan River, with money, food, goods and
labour, and had all the assistance that Government could render them, they
could never raise Swan River Colony to eminence or permanent prosperity… …we
will not dwell longer on The Swan River Colony, no Emigrants have gone there
for years past, nor would we advise any one to choose his resting place
there. Swan River has little or nothing to recommend it…’
Development may have lagged a little in the early years but the first
settlers were quick to begin exploring their immediate surrounds. On June
25th 1829, Captain Currie was leading an party to explore the Canning River
when he was accidentally shot in the head. The explorers returned and the
wounded man was tended to and a new leader (Lt. John Henry) was selected to
lead the party that set out again the following day.
They followed the course of the Canning to the foot of the Darling Scarp and
climbed up to the top to get a better view. Although looking west they could
see as far as the coast, to the east their view was obstructed by what
looked like endless hills and thick forests.
Another exploratory party (led by
Lt. William Preston)
started out on the
9th of September. He was joined by
Ensign Robert Dale – who would go on to
explore much of the hilly area to the east of Perth.
Preston was unimpressed by the country over the scarp but within a month
Dale returned trying to trace the source of the Helena River.
Dale’s men walked in to an Aboriginal camp and while the Aborigines were
very surprised and initially appeared aggressive, they quickly settled down
and led the explorers to a number of water sources before vanishing back
into the bush.
Much later on Dale was to be involved in a confrontation with some very
hostile natives and was to bare to spear wounds for the rest of his days.
Dale’s efforts to open up territory to the east did not go un-noticed by the
Governor and Stirling praised him highly then rewarded Dale with a large
grant of land on the banks of the Avon River.
Dale was then re-assigned to the Garrison at
Albany where he put his
interest in exploration to good use again before being promoted to
Lieutenant and serving in India. He died aged only 46 in Bath, England.
The Swan River Colony was the first Australian settlement to be developed by free settlers, but by
1850 the need for cheap labour was so great that convicts were eventually
Settlers were encouraged to move to the new colony with the offer of land
grants. The going rate was 3 pounds worth of goods for 40 acres of land. On
the face of it this may have seemed like a good idea but in effect it meant
large areas of land were taken up by rich men who did not have the means to
cultivate it. This restricted the land available to poorer people and meant
little was done to make much of the land grants productive. By 1830 around 1
million acres had been granted with less than 200 under cultivation.
This led to dissatisfaction among many settlers and between 1830 and 1832
the population fell from 4,000 to around 1,500.
The main supporter and first Governor of the Swan River Colony (James
Stirling) was granted large tracts of land in appreciation of his efforts.
By October 1837, Stirling had had enough and resigned to return home to
England. His wife (Ellen) had borne him no less than seven children (no TV
back then) in the time they had been in W.A. and despite his large land
holdings Stirling was never to return to the place he helped get started.
On his return to England he remained in the Royal Navy and commanded ships
of the line such as the HMS Indus and HMS Howe. In 1851 he was made a Rear
Admiral and served as Commander in Chief in China and the East Indies. He
became a full Admiral in 1862.
Stirling had named the city on the Swan, Perth, after the Scottish city. He
chose the name because Perth, Scotland was the birth place of the Secretary
of State for the Colonies, Sir George Murray. (There are reports that he
originally favoured the name Hesperia – land looking west).
Perth was not initially a popular name, as Stirling (a Scot) was seen to be
giving Scottish names (such as Cockburn, Dalrymple and Melville) to
everything he saw. English settlers saw this as some sort of Scottish plot.
He is remembered in the names given to features around the state and a
simple search through this book will see his name mentioned many times.
Optimistic, headstrong and even rash, Stirling was none the less a major
driving force in the establishment of Western Australia and we owe him a
vote of thanks for his efforts.
It isn't well known today, but
Perth and the surrounding suburbs stand on what was once an extensive system
of wetlands. They were seen as useless swamps by the early settlers and most
were drained or filled in. The railway station stands on what was once Lake
Kingsford. The land under the GPO had timbers inserted to keep it stable and
the post office stands on what was once the muddy shore of a lake. Basements
of older shops (like Boans) that have since been demolished, used to have
pumps to keep the water at bay. Even the Entertainment Centre stands on what
was once Lake Irwin. It is estimated that 99% of the
wetlands that used to exist near Perth have been lost forever and that at
least 75% of those along the coastal strip are likewise gone.
The Trans Australian railway (which has the longest stretch of straight
track anywhere in the world.) was completed in 1917 and that combined with
the opening of the goldfields to the east of Perth saw the population soar
from about 40,000 to over 270,000. By 1947 over 800,000 people were living
in the city and since that time there has been a slow but steady increase.
Although the railway crossed the country from west to east it was not a
simple task to travel from one side to the other or to ship goods. Due to
the extremely parochial nature of the states each decided on a different
gauge of rail line and so passengers and freight had to be unloaded from one
train to another every time the lines changed. This was not rectified until
The old Perth
(pre 1970s) was a very conservative town and in some ways remained very
backward looking. The visit of Queen Elizabeth II in 1954 generated a wave
of patriotic pro-British sentiment that would be almost unthinkable today.
The 1970s brought many changes and possibly the worst was the wholesale
destruction of wonderful heritage buildings like the CML, the AMP and many
wonderful old hotels. The rush for modernisation at any cost saw the city
turned into a row of faceless, soulless sky-scrapers. Today very little
remains of what was once fascinating architecture in the city centre.
As cities go Perth is still one of the safest and undoubtedly most scenic in
the world, but it is after all, a city, with all the inherent problems of
city life. As a gateway to the rest of the state, Perth is wonderful, but if
you want to experience the real W.A, get out into the countryside and avoid
the traffic and pollution. If you want to stay in a city, then you can go
anywhere in the world. The really unique Australian experience awaits you in
More often than not, Perth now cowers under a blanket of smog - especially
in the colder months when wood fires add to the already fume laden air.
The city centre is quite small compared with other Australian capitals.
There are easy access points leading to the city from the ocean, the hills,
and both northern and southern suburbs.
The suburbs now stretch in an almost unbroken line from Yanchep in the north
to Safety Bay in the south. It won't be long before the urban sprawl goes
all the way to Mandurah.
Generally speaking Perth is easy to navigate. If you avoid rush hour, the
freeway will take you from Kwinana to Wanneroo without having to go through
any suburban areas at all.
The city sits on the north bank of the Swan River and the foreshore is lined
with gardens and open spaces. It is possible, though a little tiring to walk
a circuit right round the Narrows Bridge to the Causeway and back again
along these very attractive foreshore reserves.
GET THESE GREAT BOOKS ONLINE
(interesting) touristy things to do in Perth.
A visit to
Perth might include some (or all) of our suggestions on what to see and what
Small and compact but very interesting and informative. A good day out.
Perth Museum. Ok,
so the museum does get a bit dated if you have been there a few times but
for the new visitor to Perth it is worth spending a few hours there.
Reptile Centre. Interesting and informative. Worth the drive out to Armadale
to get up close to some of our many reptile species.
(Note. We do not accept payment to recommend places to see, the places we
list are the ones WE think are worth while and have been to ourselves.)
Government House built for James Stirling was built in 1838 but proved
to be inadequate. Construction started in 1859 on a new building and the
work was completed in 1863.
Governor to take up residence was Gov. Hampton. In 1867 a banqueting hall
had been added and a ballroom added in 1899.
House is only occasionally open to the public.
The role of
the Governor was once critical to the functioning of government in Western
Australia but in recent times the role is largely ceremonial.
One of the
little known facts about Government House is that there is a drop down door
that was used to partition off the Governor's study. This door could be
lowered if more room was needed for various functions and raised when the
Governor wanted privacy in his study. The door still exists although it
can only be seen in the cellar. Today a large double sided bookcase blocks the
area the door once occupied.
A few interesting facts:
W.A. has the highest standard of housing in the world. It also has (per
capita) the greatest number of cars and the largest amount of road space on
which to drive them. Unfortunately Perth now has one of the highest housing
costs of any capital city in Australia.
The Perth Mint is the oldest mint in the world still operating out of its
Apparently someone has done research that suggests that Perth is the third
windiest city in the world. Who did the research and what the other two more
windy cities are we don’t yet know.
Perth is also
(on average) the hottest capital city in Australia.
quoted as being the third most livable city in the world, but as Melbourne
is quoted as being the most livable, we have to cast doubt on this
Perth has more
sunny days than any other Australian capital city.
Perth has the
highest population (per capita) of millionaires in the world.
Electric lights took over from gas lights in Perth in 1923.
Perth’s first radio station, 6WF, opened in 1924.
By 1927 Perth’s population was 27,000.
The first automobile was brought to W.A. in 1903 and by 1905 the Perth City
Council had imposed a speed limit of 10 mph.
formed the Automobile Club of W.A. in 1905 and the club affiliated with the
Royal Automobile Club of London in 1913. In 1922 it became the Royal
Automobile Club of W.A. (Inc.) and there were 660 members. In 1924 the club
purchased premises on Adelaide Terrace and occupied the site
until it was moved to Wellington Street sometime after
By 1929 there were 38,119 motor vehicles in W.A. with 49,000 miles of road
to drive on.
traffic lights appeared at West Perth subway in December 1953. (Booo!)
parking meters appeared in 1957. (Hiss Booo!)
multi level car park in Perth was Canterbury Court which was constructed in
1959. It was never popular and was finally demolished in 1992.
the street was banned in 1949.
On the 20th of
February 1962 Perth kept its lights on all night as a greeting to the
American astronaut, John Glenn, who was orbiting above. As a result Perth
became known as the city of light.
There are at
least 8 other Perth's around the world located in Scotland, 2 in the USA, 2
in Canada, South Africa, Guyana and even one in Tasmania.
Normally the Australian coat of
arms has an emu and a kangaroo facing each other. If you visit the old GPO
building in Forrest Place you will see an unusual coat of arms with the
kangaroo looking back over its shoulder. We have seen two possible
explanations for this. The first is that this is a Masonic pose and the
second more interesting theory is that the kangaroo is looking back at
parliament house staring at the people who never paid the sculptor for his
Perth is also the most beautiful city in the world. If you don’t believe me
then pay us a visit and see for yourself.
Supreme Court Gardens to east side of the city the Old Perth Boys School to
west side of the city. Approx 4.5Km.
Starts at Queens Gardens. Approx 4.5Km.
Starts at Perth Cultural Centre. Approx 3Km.
Starts at the old observatory. Approx 2.5Km.
and true: First across
In a scene
reminiscent of the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge (many years later)
at the opening ceremony of the first Causeway bridge John Stephen Maley
galloped his horse across the bridge and stole the Governor's thunder by
being the first to cross the new structure after it was officially opened.