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Henry Stirling Trigg was Superintendent of Public Works in the Colony of Western Australia from 1838 to 1851.
The larger public buildings were put out to competitive tender between the building contractors who quickly emerged from the ‘capitalists’ who had chosen to remain in Perth and Fremantle. They saw government work as one of the perquisites available to the successful businessman, and many who came out to try their luck found success in building. Henry Trigg, in letters to his wife Amelia, described the prosperous situation in which he found himself, being at first the only person in the colony prepared to contract for building. Social distinctions come through clearly in Trigg’s letters, but his rise to prosperity, along with others who were willing to work in the new colony, enabled him eventually to take his place alongside those who had begun life in Western Australia as his social superiors. Having been introduced to the Governor by ‘several genteel men’ whom he had met on the voyage out, he was offered the job of building ‘all the offices . . . and other houses for Government’. ‘So that I am hailed “go where I will”, with “Trigg, your fortune is made”. Not a gent but takes me by the hand with the greatest of glee, wishing me joy.’ 10 By February 1830 he was able to tell his wife, ‘I have more buildings ordered independent of Public Works than I could compleat in 3 years. In England it is “pray give me a job” but here they will follow you up and down, praying most pitifully to do the jobs for them.' 11 However, competition soon stiffened, and Trigg was not as successful in tendering for public buildings as he had hoped. He had at least eight skilled men working for him, and although he failed to win the main contracts for two major buildings which Reveley put out to tender in 1830, he successfully contracted for portions of both jobs, and was kept busy on homes and other buildings for the private settlers.
10. Henry to Amelia Trigg, 15 October 1829 (Battye Library, 1564A).
11. Henry to Amelia Trigg, 16 February 1830 (Battye Library, 1564A).
White, John 1976, 'Henry Reveley, architect and engineer', Early Days, Volume 7, Part 8: 24-42.
See also: Trigg Island.
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