Fremantle Stuff > Early Days: Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society

Early Days: Volume 1, 1927-1931

Woodbridge; The Building of Woodbridge

'Woodbridge'

Miss D. C. Cowan, 'The Building of Woodbridge', Early Days, vol. 1, part 8: 60-61.

[Read January 26, 1929]

WOODBRIDGE.

On January 26, 1931, at 3 p.m., a concrete column with a brass tablet affixed was unveiled on the site of Governor Stirling’s cottage at Woodbridge, Guildford, by the Hon. the Premier, Sir James Mitchell, president of the society. Dr. J. S. Battye (vice-president) presided. The tablet bears the following inscription:—

Captain James Stirling, R.N., first Governor, Commander-in-Chief and Vice-Admiral of Western Australia from 1829 to 1839, erected a “cottage ornee” here prior to 21st July, 1831.

This column was placed here by the Western Australian Historical Society, 1930.

Only a few bricks of the old building remain, but among those present at the ceremony were two old residents of Guildford, Mr. Isaac Bloomer Jecks and Mr. William Jones, who remembered the place clearly and pointed out its general plan. The ceremony was followed by a picnic afternoon tea under the old olive and almond trees which stood about the house.

The following short paper prepared by the Honorary Research Secretary (Miss D. C. Cowan) was read at the ceremony.

THE BUILDING OF WOODBRIDGE

[By Miss D. C. Cowan.]

The exact date of the erection of the cottage at Woodbridge is not known at present, but on July 21, 1831, George Fletcher Moore refers to it in his diary, writing: “I breakfasted this day with Mr. MacDermott,

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who lives as a matter of temporary accommodation in the Governor’s House at Guildford.” How Mr. MacDermott came to be in occupation is described in “A Brief Sketch of the Long and Varied Career of Marshall MacDermott,” published in 1874, in which Mr. MacDermott records that after his arrival at the Swan River in June, 1830, he was allotted after some difficulty 5,000 acres on the Swan River, adjoining the Governor’s land. He states that the Governor offered him the use of his summer residence until some temporary accommodation could be erected on his own land.

The earliest description we have of Woodbridge is that recorded in September, 1831, by Colonel Hanson, Quarter Master General, of Madras, who was on a visit to the Colony. His description was reprinted in the “Perth Gazette” of January 12, 1833, as follows:

The township of Guildford on the south bank is fast assuming: a very respectable appearance. ... The Governor has built a little cottage ornee in its immediate vicinity and it is difficult to imagine a more beautiful situation. The house is considerably elevated above the general level of the country. The site is chosen at a turn of the river commanding a view along two extensive reaches and the land in front of it being all meadow land, very beautifully studded with forest trees, you may without much imagination conceive yourself placed in the midst of a gentleman's park at home.

Colonel Hanson goes on to mention the success of the breed of horned cattle introduced into the Colony, in particular the Covernor’s herd of sixty head, depastured at Woodbridge.

A similar description of Woodbridge a year later is given by Admiral Fremantle, who revisited the Swan River in that year. Writing on September 6, 1832, he said:

The town of Guildford, or rather where Guildford is to be, is on a flat of very good land very prettily situated and will be a town of some consequence, being so situated as to be necessarily visited by people travelling from the head of the river to Fremantle and those who cross the Darling Range. About 15 miles from Guildford Captain Stirling has a little cottage and a grant of 5,000 acres of land supposed to be the best grant on the river; he resided there some time previous to his departure, brought a good many acres into cultivation and stocked it. It is now let to Mr. Brockman, a respectable settler and good farmer. ...

Captain Irwin’s book, 1835, describes Woodbridge as follows:

Woodbridge, his (the Governor’s) country residence is a cottage ornee beautifully placed on a high bank which overhangs the Swan, and commanding a view of two fine reaches of the river.

These few extracts may have helped to give a picture of Woodbridge as it was a hundred years ago. Fancy may build the cottage again on this spot. There remains to present a picture of the owner as he appeared to those who walked here with him. Colonel Hanson wrote:

There could not possibly have been selected a man more fit for the arduous, irksome and responsible situation he fills than Captain Stirling ... his consideration for every class of settler ... he possesses at the same time so sanguine a spirit of enterprise and so great a love of bushranging that it is impossible to come within his ken and not feel its influence.


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