Albany's Early Years: 1847 - 1856

1847: On January 17, Albany celebrated its 20th anniversary, but the improvement of its fortunes anticipated by Sir Richard Spencer had yet to eventuate. R H Eland, the Protector of Aborigines, reported that Albany's Aboriginals were generally well behaved, although one or two cases of cattle stealing had occurred.
  • The members of the Albany Roads Trust appointed for 1847 were JR Phillips, Patrick Taylor and E Spencer.
  • Flour was fetching £28 per ton.
  • During February, a fine specimen of bitumen obtained by T Sherratt on one of the local beaches was forwarded to Perth for examination.
  • Tenders called for the conveyance of mails to Perth indicate that, at this time, there was no through road from Albany to Perth. The route in use was from Albany to Kojonup, Kojonup to Bunbury and Bunbury to Fremantle via Rockingham.
  • During the early part of the year, the Torbay constructed ship, Emma Sherratt, made a trip to London, her master was a Captain Chinnery.
  • Governor Andrew Clarke died on February 11 in Perth.
  • On May 17, a public meeting was convened by Patrick Taylor to decide what how the town could obtain the services of a resident clergyman.
  • The weather during August was particularly bad, the rivers being swollen and the country flooded.
  • The mail contractor, T. Watson, left Albany on July 28, following the route previously referred to. He finally arrived in Perth at the end of August.
  • Albany merchants and others developed the sandalwood trade, their cutters operating as far north as Kojonup. The wood was carted to Albany for shipment.
  • Henry Camfield succeeded RH Bland as government resident, continuing in the position until 1860.
  • Several small vessels were built on the King and Kalgan Rivers.

1848: During March a visiting geologist, Dr Von Sommer, accompanied by RH Bland led an expedition overland to Doubtful Island Bay to search for coal deposits. The expedition returned to Perth via York, towards the end of May and a favourable report was presented.

  • Mail contractor T. Watson ran the monthly service from Albany to Perth via the route detailed in 1847, by means of a large sprung cart. The passenger fare for the single journey was £5.
  • Overseas letters delivered to Albany for the 12 months to June 30, 1846, totalled 179 while the postal revenue for the same period amounted to £17/15/1.
  • During July an address to the new Governor, Captain Fitzgerald, for presentation on his arrival was signed by all Albany residents.
  • Also in July, a new double barrelled gun arrived on board the Arpenteur. It had been sent from Adelaide by EJ Eyre to the Aboriginal scout Wylie to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the epic overland trip of 1841-42. Wylie was described by the Rev. JR Wollaston as "a fine specimen of a savage, with mild and pleasant countenance and great intelligence."
  • Albany's first resident clergyman,  JR Wollaston, arrived from Bunbury on Saturday, July 8 and discovered St John's Anglican Church, begun seven years previously, was still unroofed and far from completion. On his arrival he wrote; "the white stone houses of Albany are pictures, like an English village - no mud houses as at Bunbury." As the church was unfit for ceremonies, the first Anglican services were conducted at the Octagon Church.
  • On July 28  HMS Acheron, the first steamer to visit Albany, arrived after a voyage of seven months from England, en-route to New Zealand to conduct a marine survey.
  • The new governor, Captain Fitzgerald, arrived at Fremantle on board HMS Trusty on Thursday, August 11.
  • Interest in the sandalwood trade was maintained and licenses were taken out by the following residents: Peter Belches, T. Spencer, T. Morrison, John Hassell and John Young.
  • While on voyage from Adelaide to Albany the ship Wave was wrecked off Cape Riche.
  • On July 15, George Cheyne, selected 4,000 acres in the Kent district.
  • Lucrative whaling operations were conducted at Cheyne Beach Whaling Station by John Thomas. His crew consisted of; J Keely, second headsman; T. Sherrat and H. Cowden, boat steerers, Ramsamry, cook, J Lilis, J. Ford, P Brown, H Thomson, W Stokes, J Clarke, J Linden and R Hughes, pulling hands.
  • During the latter half of the year an expedition was conducted by Surveyor General John Septimus Roe to the Fitzgerald River to report on the extensive coal deposits in the locality. Roe's route was via York, Nalyaring, Juriline and Porlyenup. Specimens of coal from the area were brought to Albany by Maxwell and comprised of massive anthracite, slaty anthracite and columnar anthracite.
  • On Sunday, October 22, the Bishop of Adelaide Dr Short, accompanied by Archdeacon Matthew B Hale, arrived on the colonial schooner Champion to visit the large western half of his diocese.
  • Following his arrival in July, the Rev JR Wollaston had inspired residents to sufficiently complete the building of St John's and allow it to be consecrated by the bishop. This solemn ceremony was performed on Wednesday, October 28. When first built, St John's accommodated 170 worshippers. It was 50ft long, 26ft wide, 18ft high and covered with an open wooden roof of sheoak shingles.
  • At the office of the government resident on Monday, October 30, immediately prior to his departure for Fremantle, an address signed by the whole of Albany's residents was presented to the bishop.
  • At the bottom of what is now Lawley Park, a little to the east, a building constructed with bricks imported from England was erected by John Lawrence Morley during the early 1830s and was known as Stirling Castle. By 1848 it had fallen into disrepair and soon after the arrival of the Rev JR Wollaston it was purchased by his son, Dr Henry Newton Wollaston.  The bricks were removed and used to build a house on the northern corner of Duke and Parade streets, opposite the recreation ground on Albany Town Lot No. 61. Originallly the building was a one-and-a-half storey gabled cottage, with a cellar, two rooms with hall, passage, kitchen and study on the ground floor and two rooms on the upper floor.

1849: Prominence was given in the Perth press to the discoveries of coal in the previous year at the mouths of the Phillips and Fitzgerald rivers.

  • The discovery of plumbago (graphite) was reported by Captain Hassell on his Kendenup estate.
  • During March Lieutenant Helpman, in the colonial schooner Champion, called at Albany en-route to Doubtful Island Bay to determine the existence of a harbour in the vicinity of the recently discovered coal deposits.
  • The soldiers of the 96th Regiment were relieved by a detachment of the 99th Regiment from Launceston, comprising Major Reeves, lieutenants Elliott and Wellman, Dr Galbraith and 100 rank and file soldiers.
  • Bishop Short of Adeaide appointed the JR Wollaston Archdeacon of Western Australia.
  • On October 25, the colonial schooner Australia, built at Bombay for the South Australian Government, called at Albany en-route to Adelaide.
  • On November 7, the brig Arpenteur, was driven ashore at Cheyne Beach during a gale and wrecked.
  • At the end of the year a large herd of cattle was overlanded from Albany to Perth. Prices realised were; good cows, 84/-; small and poor cows, 29/-; large and prime steers, £5; young steers, 12/-.
  • A visitor lamented, that after 20 years so little progress had been made in agriculture, the attention of Albany's inhabitants being mainly devoted to the hunting of kangaroos for their skins, whaling and the collecting of sandalwood.
  • On December 29, the 30-gun Spanish man-o-war La Ferrolana arrived from Cadiz. On board were the Right Rev Bishop Serra, the Rev D Salvadore Marino and DM Urquhart, together with 36 Spanish and Italian lay brethren and artisans.
  • On December 31 the population of the Plantagenet County was officially estimated at 306 males and 122 females.

1850: At the beginning of the year, Governor Colonel Irwin visited Albany and expressed his pleasure at the general improvement which had taken place since his previous visit. While in Albany he appointed Dr Wollaston as medical officer.

  • On January 17, the Belgian ship Oceaue, arrived from Europe via Capetown, having on board the Roman Catholic Bishop of Auckland Jean Baptiste Francois Pompallion en-route to his diocese.
  • At the beginning of the year Albany had three hotels. Publicans licenses were issued to James Daniells, John Sherratt and John Bruce, while John Hassell held a gallon license.
  • On June 1, the first convict ship, Scindian, arrived at Fremantle. The wheel had come full circle, the suggestion contained in a petition by Albany citizens some 16 years earlier, which had been laughed at by the officers and residents of the Swan River Settlement, had now, on their recommendation, been adopted. In the succeeding years of the WA regime very few convicts were ever stationed at Albany. The seed of a policy of centralisation had already been sown and it seems their services were always needed in Perth and Fremantle.
  • On September 4, the ship Harlequin, bound from Adelaide to Singapore was wrecked during a violent gale on the rocks in the vicinity of West Cape Howe. Three of the crew were drowned. The wreck was auctioned on behalf of the underwriters for £55. Ultimately the purchase realised £2,000 worth of copper and £100 worth of ship gear.
  • During November, Government Assistant Surveyor FT Gregory was transferred to Perth and his place taken by Chanucey.
  • Archdeacon Wollaston continued in the cause of St John's church. Voluntary subscriptions paid for the erection of an 8ft wide gallery across the east end of the church. This allowed a space for the organ which had arrived from England and was described as being "ten-and-a-half feet high, handsomely gilded in front and of a full deep tone."
  • Sindol, an Aboriginal known locally as the Native Governor, following a succeessful season at Daniels' whale fishery, gave a feast to his brethren by keeping an open house as long as his money lasted.
  • Albany's first Roman Catholic priest arrived and built a chapel. It was a small, low building, with a dark shingled roof and two arched windows at the side and stood north and south - its altar window facing Norfolk Street. It stood close to the road beside the tall rock opposite the present chapel.

1851: During the early part of the year, Archdeacon Wollaston left Albany for his annual visitation which included trips to Cape Riche, Kendenup, Kojonup, Collie, Dardanup, Minninup, Bunburp and Australind.

  • Considerable dissatisfaction was manifested at the imposition of harbour dues, which until they were repealed, had the effect of preventing vessels calling at Albany for provisions.
  • Towards the end of the year Government Assistant Surveyor AC Gregory examined a direct line from Perth to Albany via Kelmscott, Northam, Williamsburg (Williams) and Kojonup as an alternative to the route via Fremantle to Bunbury. It was estimated that this proposed route would reduce the distance by a fifth.

1852: At the beginning of the year regular communication by sea with Fremantle was established.

  • A petition was presented to the government by the residents of Perth and its adjacent districts, protesting against the adoption of the direct route to Albany via Kelmscott, Williamsburg and Kojonup, upon which AC Gregory, had reported so favourably.
  • For the best part of two decades the connecting link between the seat of government and the outporis had been the colonial schooner Champion. Albany residents heard with regret that she had been sold to ship breakers.
  • Dr Henry Wollaston was appointed chairman of the Albany Town Trust.
  • In the early part of the year there was an acute shortage of provisions. Perth merchants were unwilling to forward supplies to an uncertain market, as Albany generally obtained ifs supplies from the east coast. Supplies were forwarded by the new colonial schooner Eleanora.
  • On the night of Saturday, May 16, the Commissariat Chest was removed by four ticket-of-leave men and its contents, comprising £205 was stolen. The thieves were caught and the bulk of the money recovered.
  • In May, the ship Louisa landed Adelaide Anglican Bishop Short and Sydney Roman Catholic Archbishop Polding. Both were visiting WA in connection with the affairs of their respective churches.
  • Two additional constables were appointed.
  • In July, three vessels arrived, carrying 3,000 tons of coal and Captain Doutty, who duly took up the position of superintendant for the Royal Australian Mail Steamer Company. The latter had arranged regular steam communications between England and the eastern colonies, with Albany as the first Australian port of call.
  • It was also announced that the Peninsular and Orient Company (P&O) intended to make Albany the coaling depot for its steamers. The dissatisfaction of the Perth and Fremantle merchants on receipt of this news was in inverse ratio to Albany's satifaction, with the Perth press reporting public meetings of protest. Petitions to the secretary of the state to the colonies from the inhabitants at the seat of the government, recorded protest at this affront to their status and dignity and their policy of centralisation, but to no avail. The stumbling block was Fremantle's open roadstead which made no appeal to shipping experts. And so Albany became the port and remained so for 50 years until the discovery of gold in the 1890s allowed centralised government to become wealthy enough to build an expensive artificial harbour and 50 years afterwards, Albany with all its natural shipping advantages ceased to be used.
  • On August 20 the first mail steamer Australian arrived in the harbour and the whole town celebrated with a holiday. The mail delivery was a large one and conveyed to Perth on two pack horses via the York route by the contractor Maxwell in six-and-a-half days.
  • A Mechanics Institute was formed. At a public meeting a collection for the building funds realised £27. At this meeting the first officers appointed were Lieutenant Crossman, president; G Warburton, deputy president; Archdeacon Wollaston, treasurer and A Trimmer, secretary. Pending the erection of a suitable building, Thomas Sherratt placed the Octagon Church at the service of the committee.
  • During September the P&O steamer Chusan called for coal. A ball on the shore, a party on the steamer and a trip around the harbour in the Chusan comprised part of the festivities.
  • The steamer Australian arrived on her homeward trip from the eastern colonies on October 12. On board she had 100 passengers, £800,000 in gold and a nugget for Queen Victoria weighing 28lbs 7oz. The ship's pilot Shakespear Hamilton, had died on board on October 6 and Solomon Aspenell was appointed his successor.
  • Point King lighthouse was used for the first time.
  • Stained glass windows for St John's Anglican Church arrived on board HM Sydney.
  • The steamer Formosa arrived with mail from England on November 23, while the Chusan arrived on the same day from Singapore.
  • No provision appears to have been made by the government for a proper official person to cope with Albany's increased importance as a port. As a consequence smuggling became rampant.
  • Henry Canfield instituted a home for native children at his own expense.
  • Several public buildings were commenced under the supervision of Lieutenant Crossman, so too was the construction of the Albany to Perth road. All progressed very slowly due to the lack of men.

1853: The new line of direct road from Perth via Kelmscott and Crossman to Kojonup was reported as being completed for 50 miles from Perth.

  • A grant of land was made to the Albany Mechanics Institute formed in the previous year.
  • During September, 10 overseas ships called at Albany, while at the end of October there were 11 in the harbour, including the coal depot vessel Larkins.
  • Advice was received that the Lord's Commissioners of the Admiralty had definitely vetoed Fremantle as a port of call under the mail contract. At the end of the year mail contractor Maxwell traversed the new line of route to Perth via Kojonup, Williamsburg, Crossman, Bannister and Kelmscott in the mail cart in four-and-a-half days.
  • Bridges were commenced over the King and Kalgan rivers.
  • At this time Albany comprised of around 50 houses together with St John's church, a courthouse, the Octagon Church, three public houses/hotels and a gaol together with a sundry of odd buildings which had been utilised by the government since 1827.
  • A land grant of 60 acres at Middleton Bay was made by the government for Albany's Aboriginals. Archdeacon Wollaston and the Government President H Camfield, were enthusiastic supporters of a scheme for the betterment of Aboriginal people. Pending the erection of a suitable building on the reserve, Mrs Camfield schooled and attended a number of orphans in her own home.
  • Lieutenant Crossman explored the country between the Hay River and Bunbury.
  • During the early part of the year HM steam tender Toich called at Albany en-route to the Eastern Colonies.
  • In April Captain Symers, in a letter to his brother Stewart in England, advised that the price of flour in Albany was £35 per ton, beer 2/6 per bottle and all prices in proportion, while rum, brandy and whisky were unprocurable.
  • Dr Wollaston was appointed port health officer.
  • In June, William Pretious was appointed deputy superintendant of Water Police.
  • The new church tower of St John's was completed through public subscriptions. Donations from the officers and crew of the Chusan amounted to £37.
  • Thomas Chipper resigned his appointement as a mounted trooper.

1854: Dr Harvey, a celebrated authority on British algae, arrived by the steamer Madras from Singapore. The Madras had on board two camels and an elephant for the eastern colonies.

  • As a consequence of Albany's increasing importance as a port of call for mail steamers, the construction of the original Point King lighthouse and pilots quarters began. This work and the original King and Kalgan bridges were erected under the supervision of Lieutenant Crossman.
  • Early in June the ship Hamlet arrived with commissiariat officer Connell to relieve commissiariat officer Sutherland, who was transferred to Perth. Other arrivals on the same boat were 60 convicts and 10 members of the Pensioners Guard.
  • News was received that the mail steamer Australia, the first to call at Albany, had been totally wrecked at Table Bay, South Africa.
  • Mail contractor Maxwell resigned and was succeeded by Mr Toovey.
  • On August 8, Jeremy Collier Angove, Albany agent for P&O died suddenly.
  • During August the first Western Australian postage stamp, the Black Swan, arrived in Albany.
  • During November HM sloop-of-war Fantome arrived from Melbourne. She brought £20,000 for the commisariat, £3,000 of which was left at Albany.

1855: Lady Spencer paid a visit to Perth by the overland route.

  • Early in the year a Mr McDonnell brought from Singapore by the barque Antilles, a ready-made wooden house, store and hotel in sections ready for erection. On being landed the buildings were erected on the site of the present London Hotel, to which a hotel license was granted. It ran under the name of the Chusan Hotel. A pair of stocks once stood on the open space in front of this hotel.
  • On June 13, James Newell, after whom Jimmy Newell's boat harbour was originally called, died in Albany.
  • The original King and Kalgan bridges were completed at a cost of £314 and £200 respectively.
  • Wool from the 1854-55 clip was valued at £30,224.
  • Albany residents subscribed £40 to the Patriotic Funds, which was forwarded to London by Lieutenant Crossman.
  • Lady Ann Warden Spencer, widow of Captain Sir Richard Spencer, died on July 19.
  • At this time the Oriental Hotel was operated by a Mr and Mrs Lane.

1856: Death of Archdeacon Wollaston.

  • Under the stimulus of increased shipping Albany continued to prosper.
  • Early in January Arthur Trimmer was appointed magistrate.
  • During October the imperial authorities entered a contract with the P&O Company for a direct service with the Australian colonies, with Albany as the first port of call in Australia.
  • Governor Kennedy took strong measures with regard to the liquor question. At this time there were six licensed public houses and grog shops within 700 yards of the gates of the convict hiring depot.
  • Consequent upon the completion of the authorised public works the convict depot was disbanded at the end of the year and the commissiariat returned to Perth.