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Settling Perth

"Those who laid out the city had a golden opportunity and they lost it. The site is such that, with a little taste, a city might have been planned of which, as its capital, the colony would have had good reason to be proud. As it is, Perth may be compared to one of those faces, so often seen, which has just missed being handsome … A site of unsurpassed beauty for public gardens and Government House was deemed better suited for a graveyard. Government House itself, was placed where it would add as little as possible to the ornament of the town … " [13]

Land Allocations on the Swan. From Arrowsmith, The colony of Western Australia (cartographic material), 1839. Battye Library [009460D]

The pure air, the fertility of the soils along the Swan River, the beauty of the landscape and the availability of fresh water springs were among the reasons for the creation of the Swan River colony. These arguments were used, along with the availability of building materials and the communication advantages, in defending the choice of Perth as the site for the capital. [14]

Stirling’s persistence as well as his exaggerated descriptions of the fertility of the soil in the upper reaches of the River led private individuals to sell all in England to invest in and emigrate to the Swan River colony. The early land grants were long narrow blocks with river frontages to allow farming and to assist with transport and communication between the three towns of Guildford at the navigable head of the Swan, Fremantle as the port and the capital of Perth, midway between the two.

Perth, 1833. From Arrowsmith, Discoveries in Western Australian. Battye Library [009459D]

The Swan River itself formed a backdrop to the town of Perth as it was settled, rather than an integral part of planning. Stirling’s chosen site on Perth Water was universally admired for its beauty but the short time to the arrival of the first settlers in 1829 meant that the town was laid out simply and quickly, on the grid pattern, running east-west and taking little advantage of the realities of the natural resources – the River and the lakes and wetlands to the north and west of the town. Short streets ran from the town down to the muddy river banks where jetties were built.

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Page last updated: Tuesday 23 November 2010 by Nick Cowie Asset ID 13026
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