Rockigham is one of the fastest growing areas in W.A. and sadly this will lead to over-crowing, traffic congestion and has already led to a loss of the 'country town' feel that it once had.
The area has some remarkable attractions and the proximity to Perth means that it attracts many visitors during the warmer months.
A short 45 minute drive from Perth, Rockingham (or swinging pig as it is sometimes called by the locals) offers safe swimming beaches, boating, fishing and sight seeing. The large shopping
complex at Rockingham City offers a variety of goods.
The area is somewhat spoiled by the industrial strip along the coast to the north. What would have been one of the world's most picturesque bays, the Cockburn (not surprisingly pronounced Coh-burn)
Sound area is now cluttered with heavy industry.
The sound was named after Vice Admiral Sir George Cockburn.
This is one of the many small islands located just off the coast near Rockingham. It is a popular day trip with ferries running on the hour from 9am to 3pm in good weather.
The Little Penguins here are usually hidden away under rock ledges or in burrows but the discovery centre on the island will show you more than you will probably see by looking along the beaches.
From December to January the penguins molt and cannot enter the water to feed until they grow new plumage.
In 1829 Thomas Peel (who was first cousin of Sir Robert Peel - the founder of the London Police Force
and later a Prime Minister of England.) arrived aboard the ship Gilmore with a group of settlers to start a settlement just south of Woodman Point.
This was just part of what could only be described as a venture of disastrous proportions.
Peel arranged a grant of land of 100,000 hectares providing that he arrived by November 1st 1829. And so he and 400 settlers set off in three ships (Gilmore, Hooghly and Rockingham.) toward Australia.
The voyage was beset by problems and in the end Peel arrived 6 weeks late. Governor James Stirling informed
Peel that the grant was now void and Peel threatened to return to England with his 400 settlers.
Stirling, realising that the new colony was in desperate need of new colonists, sought a compromise and in the meantime the new arrivals were dumped on the coast near the current site of Woodman Point.
The second ship, Hooghly arrived in February 1830 and many people lost their possessions in a fire set by Aborigines in the scrub soon after they disembarked.
Finally in May, the Rockingham arrived (without the funds that Levey was supposed to have sent) in the middle of the first storm of the season. She was driven aground in Mangles Bay.
R.H. Shardlow wrote about the incident in his book 'The Ship Rockingham'.
'Peel, impatient and dissatisfied with the proceedings, ignored the bad weather and made his way out to the ship to 'assist'. He was later accused of having interfered with the handling of the ship...For
reasons unknown he ordered all the single men to be sent to Garden Island in four of the ship's boats. However, they were unable to row against the gale and were blown ashore on the mainland and
swamped in the surf. Fortunately there were no casualties. '
'The ship fared no better. While easing out the cable in order to bring her closer inshore to facilitate unloading, the pitching seas put such a strain on the capstan that it broke. '
'The ship drifted out of control and ran aground, broadside on...Miraculously all managed to make the shore without loss of life. Fearing the ship would break up the stores were hurriedly brought off and
the cattle were swum ashore only to wander off into the scrub. '
'There was little shelter in Clarence. Most of the people tried to huddle in a small, wooden house washed up from the ship. Others had to sleep in barrels, boxes and under sacks or pieces of canvas.'
Having survived the shipwreck the settlers now had to face a wet cold winter with poor shelter and little provisions. 28 (other sources say 37) died from various causes before most moved away to either
the Swan River settlement or further south.
The settlers had 'signed on' with Peel and he held sway over them. It was not until Governor Stirling stepped in that the settlers were freed to do as they chose. Stirling wrote to Peel:
'Had the Magistrates given a contrary order and compelled your people to remain in your service they would have acted illegally, for such an order would have been equivalent to Sentence of Death by Starvation.'
Rockingham gets its name from the 423 ton tea clipper that was wrecked in Mangles Bay in 1830. (The Aboriginal name for the area is Mooriburdup.) Attempts to repair the ship after the initial grounding were
A town site was declared on June 3rd 1847 and names such as Sloan, Thomas, Smirk, Day, Bell and Mortimer became synonymous with the area.
These settler families are remembered today in many of the road names in the Rockingham-Kwinana area.
A Victorian syndicate took up a timber conscession in the Jarrahdale area in 1870 and one of the
conditions of the conscession was the establishment of a port at Rockingham.
A railway line was built for the haulage of timber and it stretched 37 kilometres from the mill to the port at Rockingham.
The line opened in 1872 and had all but closed by 1902.
The small town of Rockingham began to grow and for a short time enjoyed the status of the most important port on the coast.
By 1908 the port had closed and the town relapsed into a sleepy backwater.
Garden Island, just off the coast was the site selected for the Swan River Colony settlers to stay while a site inland was surveyed. Originally called Bauche Island by French explorers, Stirling renamed it Garden
Island as the colonists established vegetable plots to feed themselves, as they waited two months before moving to the mainland.
Used as a submarine training base in World War II. Garden Island is now home to H.M.A.S. Stirling, Australia's prime submarine facility. Unfortunately this means that a beautiful recreation area with great historical
significance is no longer open to the public.
TALL TALES AND TRUE
Memorable Sunday Service
Mr. Chamberlain was the first teacher at the new Rockingham school (1871) and is remembered as a colourful character.
He apparently spent some time in India and would often speak of the 'Black Hole of Calcutta'. As a form of discipline for his students he had a 'black hole' in the classroom. A cupboard that naughty pupils found themselves in when they misbehaved.
Mr. Chamberlain used to help Tom Smirk with Sunday services in church and on one occasion he was reading the lesson of Moses and the burning bush. When he reached that part where God says to Moses. 'Take off thy shoes, for this is holy ground.' he began taking off his shoes much to the discomfort of the parishioners in church who promptly bolted out of the door.
(From Rockingham Looks Back by Nora Taggart.)
Sam Chalwell died on November 1st 1965 but he left behind an enduring mystery that tells of shipwrecks and buried gold.
Sometime after moving from Victoria to East Rockingham, Sam met a man named Harry McCoy who told Sam that there was enough gold buried in East Rockingham to drive a man mad and that it would
be found under a circle of stones.
The treasure was said to have originated from the plunder of Lima but the source of the tales is unclear as are the origins of Harry McCoy.
While hunting for rabbits in the Naval Base area, Sam discovered a cave. The entrance was barely large enough for a man to crawl through but he managed to squeeze inside. A short tunnel led to a
open space large enough to stand in with a flat sandy floor. It was here that Sam discovered metal platters and various objects stacked against the cave walls. he had no light so could only use a sense of touch to identify what he found.
Because of the difficulty of the crawl he could not bring any items out and for whatever reason he seems to have forgotten the location of the cave and never managed to find it again.
While digging a well on his property Sam dug up what he thought was gold. It turned out to be mica but Sam was convinced that somewhere close by was a hoard of buried gold.
Sam met a 'gold diviner' who found a spot where he claimed gold would be found and Sam started digging. He continued digging at that site for 2 months and despite making a large hole, no gold was discovered.
While doing some stone quarrying on his property, Sam discovered what appeared to be a pattern of stones laid out on the ground. As Sam uncovered more of the stones it became clear that they were
laid out in the shape of a man. He became convinced that they were a sign of some sort that would lead him to hidden treasure.
Sam removed the stones and began excavating beneath them. Another layer of stones was found and he kept digging until he reached the water table at which point he had to abandon the hole.
One of the stones uncovered had a six pointed star engraved on it but the meaning of this has never been determined.
The story of the stone figure appears to be more than just folk-lore as it appeared in the Western Mail on August 25th 1949.
Sam died without uncovering his buried treasure and his property at lot 777 Day Road, East Rockingham has managed to retain its secrets.
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Point Peron, Palm Beach, Safety Bay, Penguin Island, Seal Island, Naragebup, Rockingham Lakes.
BUILDINGS OF NOTE
Cherstefield Inn 1837, Museum.
State : Rockingham
Federal : Brand
Postcode : 6168
Local Government : City of Rockingham
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