A timber mill
was developed in the area shortly after World War I and a small village grew
up around it. It wasn't until after the Second World War that the town
really came into existence.
Wundowie developed from 1943 and a plant for the production of pig iron
opened in 1948. The name Wundowing was first suggested and then Wundowi. In
1947 the town site was gazetted as Wundowie. The name comes from Woondowing
Spring and the original meaning is not known. (One source says the name
originally came from the Aboriginal word ngwundow, meaning place to lie
The nearby town of Wooroloo was home to author Elizabeth Jolley. The area
surrounding the town was used as a setting for much of her writing.
"So you've bought this place well let me tell you straight away your soil's
no good all salt even a hundred and sixty feet down and up on the slopes is
outcrops of granite and dead stumps of dead wood nothing'll grow there we
know we've tried what the crows don't take the rabbits and bandicoots will
'The Orchard' Elizabeth Jolley
Wooroloo Brook was discovered by Ensign Dale and Captain Irwin in 1830. A
few years later it was found that this brook joined the Avon River to form
the Swan River.
A nearby well site was called Wooriloo or Keaginine Well. The current name
dates from the 1890s and it was officially adopted in 1903 (although another
source says 1913). The same source
states that a town site was surveyed in 1841 but was never developed and that
the current site was surveyed in the early 1900s. The name Goodwich was
suggested for the town but the local Aboriginal name (meaning deep gully)
was taken up instead.
James Byfield was the first to take up land in the area and Byfield’s Mill
became a stopping point on the rail line. In 1897 the station became known
A consumptive sanatorium opened in 1912 (another source says 1915). Many of
the original patients were miners with ‘dusted lung’ (silicosis). Reports
say the sanatorium was a cheerful enough place but sadly few patients ever
recovered. There was no hope of a cure for T.B. until the late 1940s.
In 1960 the sanatorium was converted to a general hospital and in 1970 was
converted again to a minimum security prison.