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CALENDAR OF EVENTS
'The situation 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 world.' - The Story of a Hundred Years. 1929.
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 the bush.
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 Port Kennedy 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 now take you from Bunbury 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.
Some (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 to do:
Perth Zoo. Small and compact but very interesting and informative. A good day out.
Museum of Western Australia. 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.
Perth Art Gallery.
Leighton Battery. A restored WWII gun battery with tunnels located near Fremantle.
Fire Station Museum. One of the few free attractions in the city.
Army Museum. Located a short drive away in Fremantle.
Maritime Museum. Possibly more interesting than the main museum in Perth. A tour through the HMAS Ovens (submarine) should be on everyone's list.
Fremantle Prison. This is fascinating. The prison has great historical significance and tours here are very worth while.
Aviation Heritage Museum. Maintained by the RAAF and volunteers this museum preserves some of our important aviation history.
AQWA (Hillary's). The Aquarium of W.A.
Railway Museum. Located in Bassendean this is a 'must see' for all train buffs.
Cohunu Wildlife Park (Byford). A good place to get up close and personal with many species of Australian wildlife.
Kings Park. You haven't been to Perth until you have gone up to Mt. Eliza and taken a photo of the city from near the war memorial.
Caversham Wildlife Park. Possibly the best private animal park in W.A.
Armadale 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.)
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 original buildings.
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. (Our own research shows Perth is only the 12th windiest city which is a bit sad.)
Perth is also (on average) the hottest capital city in Australia.
Perth is quoted as being the third most liveable city in the world, but as Melbourne is quoted as being the most liveable, we have to cast doubt on this assertion.
Perth has more sunny days than any other Australian capital city.
Perth has the highest population (per capita) of millionaires in the world. (Used to be true but most have gone broke or to prison LOL)
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.
R. Strelitz 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 2001.
By 1929 there were 38,119 motor vehicles in W.A. with 49,000 miles of road to drive on.
The first traffic lights appeared at West Perth subway in December 1953. (Booo!)
The first parking meters appeared in 1957. (Hiss Booo!)
The first multi level car park in Perth was Canterbury Court which was constructed in 1959. It was never popular and was finally demolished in 1992.
Spitting in 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.
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.
Central: Supreme Court Gardens to east side of the city the Old Perth Boys School to west side of the city. Approx 4.5Km.
East Perth: Starts at Queens Gardens. Approx 4.5Km.
Northbridge: Starts at Perth Cultural Centre. Approx 3Km.
West Perth: Starts at the old observatory. Approx 2.5Km.
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 James 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 Governor Darling sent Stirling west to examine the prospects for a settlement on the
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 stated:
'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.
When an 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. Charles 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 mainland.
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 George Murray
(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 (1872).
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 capital city.
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.)
Early progress must have been slow as Lt. H.W. Bunbury wrote in 1836:
'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 for food.'
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 London.
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 Captain Irwin 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 bear 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 shipped out.
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 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
He is remembered in the names given to features around the state and a simple search through this site 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 old Entertainment Centre stood 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 1970!
The original Government House built for James Stirling was completed in 1838 but proved to be inadequate. Construction started in 1859 on a new building and the work was completed in 1863.
The first Governor to take up residence was Gov. John Hampton. In 1867 a banqueting hall had been added and a ballroom
added in 1899.
Government 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.
TALL TALES AND TRUE
"The duty sergeant told me to go to the intersections of Barrack Street and Riverside Drive, where I would see a pointsman controlling traffic. I was supposed to watch for a while and then go over and ask him to show me the ropes.
Just as I arrived, he spotted me and beckoned me to go over. He said, 'Come ter take over have yer?' I said, 'Well sort of..'.
But before I had a chance to say any more, he said, 'Good oh, see yer' and he was gone.
So there I was on one of the busiest intersections in the city, in the middle of peak hour traffic, without a bloody clue in my head as to what I was doing .I remembered what they told us at the academy, 'It doesn't matter if you're right or wrong, you're in charge and the traffic must obey you.'
Well, I put my whistle in my mouth and held up my arms to indicate that I was about to give a signal. Then I blew on the whistle but nothing happened. I stuck the bloody thing too far in to my mouth and my lip was blocking the hole. A bloke put his head out of a car window and said, 'Just got it fer yer birthday did yer sonny?'
Well at least he had given me an idea where to start. I got the whistle working and signalled the other line of traffic to move off first. Bad luck for the others behind him but that clever bugger could wait until I was good and ready."
From: Gold Fever and Other Diseases by Peter Blyth.
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.
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 work.
Sadly there is no unpaid sculptor conspiracy, the pose was once more common and was used on other coats of arms including on the original Parliament House in Canberra.
As for it being a Masonic pose, there seems to be no evidence for that either but considering the secrecy sometimes associated with the Freemasons, it can't
be entirely ruled out either.
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Kings Park, Perth Zoo, WA Museum, Armadale Reptile Centre, Swan River, Canning River, Caversham Wildlife Park Darling Scarp, AQWA, Adventure World, Beaches, Aviation museum,
Northbridge restaurants, Gosnells Railway markets.
BUILDINGS OF NOTE
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 and
Crown Guildford 1840, Midland town hall 1906, Woodbridge 1880s, Edward Millen House 1912, Broke Hill hotel 1898.
FAMOUS SONS AND DAUGHTERS
State : Perth
Federal : Perth
Postcode : 6000
Local Government : City of Perth
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