Wednesday, 19 August 2009


It's been nearly seven weeks since my last post, and for a lot of that time I've felt like I've been in hibernation. It's winter here, so the temptation is there to just cocoon indoors until spring arrives.

Despite that, a lot has happened. Just after my last post, I hopped on a plane and headed west to Perth to spend a few days with The Crone. It made me realise just how 'rich' I am, that I could just drop everything and go when I was needed. It wasn't under the best of circumstances, but because of that we didn't plan anything in particular, and had the opportunity to just 'be'.

I stayed in the Perth suburb of Guildford, which was established early in the history of the colony. The Rose & Crown Hotel (where I stayed) was built in 1841, and is the oldest operating hotel in Western Australia, and the second oldest in Australia. It's been extended and renovated, but the main structure is essentially the same as over 150 years ago.

From the 'Historic Guildford' brochure:

The traditional owners of the Swan Valley are the Nyoongar people who have lived in the area for over 40,000 years. Their creation stories tell of the giant serpent or crocodile like creature, the Wagyl, travelling from the hills in the east to the ocean in the west, creating the Swan River on its way. The Swan River is the Wagyl’s home and it continues to reside there today.

It was the fertile soil of the Swan Valley that led to the first European settlement at Guildford soon after the Swan River Colony was established by Captain James Stirling in 1829. The river quickly became the first highway through the region, and Guildford developed into a busy river port and trading centre.

Much of Guildford’s original town plan, including the central church square, subdivisions and general land use, remains as it was leaving a largely intact early 19th century English market town. A visit provides a rare glimpse into early colonial settlement with many fine, well-preserved civic, commercial and private buildings dating from the 1840s to the 1920s and 1930s.

Early settlers were granted large allotments of land and many of the impressive estates and beautiful homes established at this time are still intact.

One of the bridges over the Swan River - Guildford is actually an island:

I always find the history of a place fascinating, and especially how what came before has influenced and shaped what is visible today. So naturally I drifted towards the visitors' centre, which is part of a small complex including the old courthouse and gaol.

When surveyor H.C. Sutherland prepared the original town plan for Guildford in 1829 he set aside substantial areas facing Stirling Square for civic and government buildings. The 'precinct' on Meadow Street, between Swan and Helena Streets, was the site of most construction activity.

The first government buildings built in the precinct were two prison cells, a constable's room and a set of stocks. Remnants of this structure form the earliest part of the old gaol, still on
site today.

Convict work crews built the Courthouse in 1866. At the same time the gaol was extended and an exercise yard was built for prisoners held there.

I was fortunate enough to find Mercia on duty at the museum, made my gold coin donation, and had her undivided attention and guidance through the property for far longer than I had available. Her family has been in the area for a long time, and in fact she was born and grew up here, and has seen the township develop. She has donated many of the personal items to the museum collection (and mentioned that she borrows back some of the big cast iron pots when she has a crowd to feed), and knows how to operate most of the old equipment, include the heavy axes and huge saws from the timber-cutters, the horse equipment (she and her siblings used to ride to school), and the kitchenware. If you're ever in Guildford, drop in and have a chat - she can tell you all about living conditions for a family in a cottage like Taylor's Cottage (above right), show you how the child's bed that converts to a chair works, and convert you to using a Coolgardie safe rather than a fridge!

But as interesting as it was, history wasn't the reason for my visit, and I was privileged to help shop for a 'Little Gem' magnolia in honour of Xavier.

Sleep peacefully, little elf.

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