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Alta Tea Gardens

Aka 'Old Mill', Shenton Mill, Mill Point Road, South Perth (Point Belches) - a project of architect Thomas 'Satan' Browne. The original flour mill was the property of William Kernot Shenton. It was built by millwrights Paul and James Lockyer.

The 'Old Mill' in 2014, photo by Gina Fraser, City of South Perth

Alta Gardens

In 1870, a colourful South Perth resident, Thomas (Satan) Brown leased the buildings and converted them into a hotel and picnic ground called the ‘Alta Gardens’. Brown had also been granted a wine licence. He added a verandah which survived for nearly 80 years. The project did not succeed and the site was later used as a residence, wine saloon and poultry farm until resumed by the Government in 1929 to mark the centenary of Foundation.

The Alta Gardens in 1880

The project of the Alta pleasure and picnic gardens, at South Perth, seems destined to work a thorough change in the nature and mode of the amusements of the people. Almost nightly the large hall of the establishment is bespoke by private and select parties for dances and suppers. Those who remember the old and apparently ruined mill tower at the Point opposite Perth, visible to all travellers by road and river, will scarcely credit the change that has been wrought. The ground floor of the mill, a circular massive structure of stone, frustrum of a cone, with a base of twenty feet diameter, has been converted into a commodious hotel bar, and the first floor into a dining and supper room. At this floor level the tower is encircled by an elegant gallery six feet wide and nearly one-hundred feet in circumference. The floor above is used as a lighthouse, and above that, at about sixty feet from ground level, a square gallery is built at the top of the tower. This gallery is daily be coming a more favorite resort. It commands a view of unrivalled beauty to the north on the opposite shore of Perth Water. Perth lies stretched like a scene in a panorama, to the east is the intervening country to the Darling Range ; to the south is the Canning District, and the broad expanse of the Swan in Melville Water, to the entrance of Rocky Bay, Mr. Shenton's villa at Crawley and other residences on the right bank of the river, picturesquely standing forth against the forest background. On the west the view is bounded by the heights of Mount Eliza. The old mill warehouses have been converted into a large hall for concerts, balls, etc The house has been put into substantial repair. The addition of five rooms is contemplated by the Management, and when these are completed the hotel accommodation, now ample, will be second to nothing of the kind in the colony. The grounds, in all about four acres, are in part laid out as flower gardens, with rural seats and arbours. The remainder is devoted for cricket and other purposes, including a foot race course of hard solid ground, in all, two-hundred and-fifty yards long. The meaning of the name "Alta" appears to have created no small amount of enquiry and excitement throughout the colony. The proprietary it is said have received upwards of three-hundred letters asking for, the " dictionary" of the word. (Victorian Express, Wednesday 31 March 1880: 3.)

References and Links

Thomas 'Satan' Browne, entry on the Fremantle Prison page.
Thomas Henry Johnson Browne, entry on the Design & Art Australia Online page.
'A Brief History of the Old Mill', page on the City of South Perth page.
The Alta Tea Gardens', Victorian Express, Wednesday 31 March 1880: 3.
City of South Perth Local Heritage Inventory page for 'Old Mill and Cottage (former)'.

Thanks to Eleanor Chaos for gathering all the data.

Garry Gillard | New: 11 April, 2020 | Now: 11 April, 2020