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Osborne Hotel

The Osborne Hotel was established in 1895 by James Grave.


James Grave was a Melbourne man who, having followed his fortunes on the New Zealand goldfields in the 1870s, arrived in Perth as a thirty-year-old in 1878, married and fathered a large family, and throve as merchant. He became a close associate of Harry Anstey, the fortunate English new chum whose party found payable gold in the Yilgarn. Although they enjoyed mixed fortunes on the goldfields, Grave and Anstey did well as part of a syndicate that subdivided most of Bassendean. Anstey also took up property on the west side of Freshwater Bay—Anstey Street and Bindaring Parade commemorate him and his country estate—and he transferred the northern portion, adjoining the Perth-Fremantle Road, to Grave. In 1894 the latter set about building Perth’s finest resort hotel on the commanding heights overlooking the river.


This was to be no mere pub, nor even the kind of respectable watering-hole contemplated by Edward Massey, but a palatial establishment where weary pastoralists and men who had done well on the goldfields could relax with their families or other companions. Grave planned to name his palace ‘Osborne’, after Queen Victoria’s residence on the Isle of Wight, though he may also have been paying a compliment to a wealthy Perth businesswoman, Mrs William Osborne, who presented the grounds with a substantial iron gate. The extensive hotel would be surmounted by a tower and turrets and surrounded by landscaped gardens, with a flight of steps to the water’s edge so that parties could enjoy a river cruise from Perth on their way to enjoy the delights of Osborne. To cater for those arriving by road, Osborne Parade was laid out. The Roads Board was uneasy about the scheme, but it went through. Several nearby residents, such as the Richardsons and the Burnsides, were pleased to have their properties connected to the Osborne’s waterworks. Besides, the interests backing Grave were too powerful to resist. On 21 December 1894 the Osborne was launched with a fine dinner attended by Sir John Forrest and many other notables. The following morning the West Australian carried an advertisement in which a dozen prominent businessmen headed by Alexander Forrest sought investors for a public company to acquire the establishment. In the upshot Grave continued to be the main shareholder and controller of the enterprise.
For several years the Osborne Hotel was a landmark. In 1897 W. B. Kimberly, Western Australia’s first significant historian, described it to his readers in high-flown prose:
As one stands on that precipitous eminence at Osborne which looks down on the broad Swiss-like expanse of Freshwater Bay and which reveals to the eye a perfect panorama of picturesque landscape he may well appraise the excellent taste of the designer and owner, Mr Grave, who has rendered an Eden in the Golden West. Magical works of art blend harmoniously with the pliable resources of nature’s handiwork.
With ‘refreshing air, bright waters and indolence and ease and pleasantry, pleasure of every conceivable kind, there is no place left in this fair land to compare with Osborne’ claimed the Western Mail in its Christmas issue for 1898. But Grave was not content simply with affording Claremont a monument of late-Victorian elegance. Moving with the times, he planned an up-to-date water supply and that modern marvel, electric light—in both of which Perth was lamentably deficient. His first attempts to put down a private bore and construct water mains drew fire from the Roads Board, who questioned his authority. It was thus not remarkable that Grave, although a man who claimed he had neithe time for nor interest in running for public office, became one of those who would challenge the ‘ancient colonists’ who tended to dominate the Roads Board. Bolton & Gregory: 63, 65-66.

References and Links

Bolton, Geoffrey & Jenny Gregory 1999, Claremont: A History, UWAP.

James, Ruth Marchant 1977, Heritage of Pines: A History of Cottesloe, Town of Cottesloe Council: 88-91.

Garry Gillard | New: 8 May, 2019 | Now: 6 November, 2019