Coordinates: 33°41′13″S 117°34′30″E
Mean maximum temperature: 22.1C (72F)
Mean minimum temperature: 9.3C (49F)
Annual rainfall: 478.9mm (18.9inches)
Katanning is a major town in the upper Great Southern and an important service centre for the Wheatbelt. It is situated 277km south-east of Perth and 170km north, north-west of Albany with a population of approximately 5,000. The meaning of the town’s name is thought to derive from the Noongar word 'Kartannin' meaning, ‘meeting place of the heads of tribes’. However, other sources claim it stems from 'kartanup', another local Aboriginal word meaning a 'clear pool of sweet water'. There is also an insistence it is a combination of both interpretations ie; that a clear pool of sweet water would be an ideal meeting place. A fourth possibility is the town was named after an Aboriginal woman called Kate Ann or Kate Anning.
The first recorded visit by Europeans to Katanning was in 1835, when Western Australia’s first Governor James Stirling and Surveyor General John Septimus Roe travelled through the area en route from Perth to Albany. They both commented on the soil’s richness and the quality of its grasses. By the early 1840s, Katanning had its first white settler - Elijah Quartermaine who grazed sheep in the area. He moved his flock across from Beverley and then herded them back in the spring for shearing, a journey of approximately 170km. In 1852 Quartermaine had a holding of 17,284 acres and by the 1870s was the largest landholder in the district. Around this time peripatetic sandalwood cutters moved into the area. Settlement expansion begain in 1889 after the arrival of the Perth to Albany, Great Southern Railway.
Katanning’s founding father was Frederick Henry Piesse, an entrepreneurial merchant who saw the railway’s potential and created a mobile store to follow its construction. The railway was constructed from Perth and Albany and the point where they met is marked by a cairn, 5.5km west of town on the road which runs from Carew Street. In May 1888, Piesse unloaded three wagonloads of goods near Elijah Quartermaine's house and a pile of sandalwood was dumped beside the railway. This was the start of F & C Piesse's store and the beginning of the town of Katanning.
In 1891 Piesse and his brother Charles, built the Roller Flour Mill which encouraged farmers to grow wheat and was very much at the heart of the town's early economic success. The building which is located on the corner of Clive Street and Austral Terrace is now the Katanning Flour Mill Museum. The machinery is still intact and the museum has a number of interesting displays recalling the early history of the town. A statue of Piesse, beside the railway line in Austral Terrace, was erected in 1916. To appreciate the importance Piesse had on the early development of Katanning it is worth noting virtually every building between the mill and his statue was either created by him or built using bricks from his brickworks.
This includes the Katanning Unit Hotel, built in 1889 and the King George Hostel, on the corner of Albion Street and Austral Terrace, originally built for Piesse's son in 1913 and used to house mill workers. Piesse donated 10,000 bricks towards the construction of Katanning Town Hall, which was completed in 1896. Its ornate plaster ceilings are well worth a closer inspection. Around the corner in Amabel Street is St Andrews Church, opened by Mrs Piesse in 1898 after her husband had donated 40,000 bricks. Surprisingly, for an area where timber is plentiful, the pews are made from New Zealand kauri. Also in Amabel Street, is the town’s museum, which was once the home of Katanning’s first government school.
No journey to Katanning is complete without a visit to Piesse’s imposing family mansion Kobeelya, which he built in 1902. Katanning was just 14-years-old when this seven-bedroomed mansion with hot and cold running water, a billiard room, a ballroom, tennis courts and a croquet field was finished. It is now owned by the Baptist Union of WA. To arrange a visit, phone (08) 9821 1922. The Piesse family also owned a winery, built 1904 to process grapes from their vineyards. After it closed, many of its casks and wine making tools were sold to the monks at the New Norcia Mission, 192km north of Perth. The castle-like ruins of the winery are still visible.
Modern-day Katanning boasts a thriving multicultural community, which can be traced back to 1974, when a number of Musilms from Christmas Island and the Cocos Islands arrived to work at the local abbatoir. In 1980 the local Islamic community built the Katanning mosque in Andrews Street. The town also has the largest sheep sale turnover in the southern hemisphere and was the birthplace of state accounting business RSM Bird Cameron. At 8am on October 10, 2007, an earthquake measuring 4.8 on the Richter scale and the largest in the region for 40 years, centred just south of Katanning.
For further information phone the Shire of Katanning on (08) 9821 9999 - www.katanning.wa.gov.au
You can also find Katanning businesses online http://www.albanygateway.com.au/katanning/