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Southern Shores

Point Belches, 1833. SROWA [Cons 3844 Item 20] South Perth, 1839. Battye Library [009460D] South Perth, 1911. Battye Library [Map 29/7/4]

The first permanent resident of south Perth at Point Belches was William Shenton who built a mill in 1833, to rebuild it in 1835 after it was ransacked by Aboriginal people. The wind powered mill provided river access for the grain both from Fremantle and from the Upper Swan. The mill was adjacent to a small bay that adjoined Point Belches, to become known as Miller’s Pool. The mill gave the settlement of areas on the southern shores of Perth Water impetus.

The area along the southern foreshore was swampy and subject to flooding, but the soil was fertile which settlers from the 1850s found was suited to fruit and vegetable growing. In the 1862 floods, Miller’s Pool had silted up, preventing boat access to the mill. However after the closure of the mill, the property was redeveloped by Thomas Browne as the Alta Pleasure and Picnic Gardens, a "romantic" resort for:

"Those pleasure seekers in quest of a sniff of that great luxury – the sea breeze." [23]

The resort offered a dancing and music hall, gardens and facilities for bathing and boating. A small steamer was ordered and built in the colony and The Lady Ord was launched in 1879 to run to the Gardens across the water from Perth.

The Mill Point area became increasingly popular too as "the only standpoint from which a complete view of the races and aquatic sports can be obtained". It commanded:

"An unbroken view of Perth and Melville Waters and the course of the River forming the scene of the Regatta." [24]

The first ferry service to Southern shores was a rowing boat, operated as required from Mt Eliza to Point Belches. The boatmen was engaged in carting wheat across to be ground at the Mill and taking flour across for Perth citizens.

By 1898 the South Perth Ferry Company ran four steamers to the southern shores, the Swan River Shipping Company ran two and there were two other steamers meeting the demands of patrons. The channels across to Coode and Mends Street jetties from Barrack Street were narrow and conditions were dangerous as the boats ferried increasing numbers of people to South Perth and the recently established Perth Zoo. There was a constant call for dredging of the low water at Mends and Coode Street jetties to enable a more efficient ferry service between South Perth and Barrack and William Streets.

Ian McNabb who settled in South Perth with his parents in 1921 recalled the Chinese gardens on the South Perth foreshore and could see:

"The Chinese working in their gardens, hoeing, attending their vegetables, their lettuce, their cabbage and other varieties. I can still see the yokes on their shoulders with the watering cans on each side. I can see, as clearly as anything, the waterways dividing their fields through that land that we now know as Sir James Mitchell Perk, west of Coode Street. At the junction of these fields they had little water holes filled with fresh water." [25]

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Page last updated: Tuesday 23 November 2010 by Nick Cowie Asset ID 13030
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