Dongara Heritage Trail

WELCOME TRAIL WALKERS!

Front Cover: Irwin District Museum flying the Western Australian Red Ensign. The black swan on a gold sun was added to the red ensign in 1934 by Western Australian (or Westralian) secessionist James MacCallum Smith. More information here

ISBN 978-0-9804993-3-9

Design and printing by Delta Print, 23 Boulder Road, Malaga WA 6090.
Published with the kind financial support of a local philanthropist who chooses to remain anonymous.

© Copyright IDHS 2020

Introduction

Over tens of thousands of summers the Wattandee group would follow the Irwin river to the coast to get relief from the heat, to gather seafood, and to follow Wattandee’s beliefs and culture of the Wattarn Borungar (Sea Totem People).

“The Wattandee tribe called Dongara a place where Australian fur sea lions meet. Dhunga or Thunga meaning Australian Sea Lions and ‘Arra’ for a place. Wattandee is the Tribe and Totem which is Kanyongoo (spirit) of Wathoo/Thunga (Snake).” (Source: Thomas Cameron, Wattandee tribal elder and Winjarroo speaker, 2020).

Lieutenant George Grey was the first Colonial explorer to visit the area after he was shipwrecked at Gantheaume Bay (near present day Kalbarri) in 1839 while exploring the coast at the mouth of the Murchison River. With his party, he walked down the coast to the Swan River settlement at Perth. He named the area the Province of Victoria and the Irwin River after his friend Major Irwin.

In the 1840s, due to droughts and overstocking in the Avon Valley, pastoralists there were looking for new grazing land. The Gregory brothers applied for permission to explore the Province of Victoria and set out on 7 August 1846. They returned to the Swan River settlement with good reports and some samples of coal, which they had discovered, in the upper reaches of the Irwin River.

The first grazing leases on the Irwin River were granted to the Cattle Company. The shareholders were Edward Hamersley, Samuel P Phillips, Lockier Burges and B Urban Vigors. Burges set up camp on the banks of the Irwin River and was soon bringing married yeomen to the district to work. A townsite was surveyed in 1852.

John Smith was granted the first tillage lease in 1859. His 100 acres was located on the south side of the Irwin River, close to the river mouth. With the aid of John S Maley, Smith built the first flourmill on this site in 1865. From the mid-1850s ships began calling at the mouth of the Irwin River, where Lockier Burges had established Edward Downes and his family. Downes was employed to signal passing ships to their collect cargoes, which were manhandled onto two rowboats, then rowed to the ships anchored beyond the reefs.

Travellers and teamsters came into Dongara from the east and south along a Road from Yardarino. Their route took them through the small farms along the Irwin Valley, past the settlement at East End, then across the river. Continuing along the south side of the river they came to William Criddle’s Hotel, now Priory Lodge, past Russ Cottage and then to Smith’s Flour Mill. Between Russ Cottage and the mill, travellers crossed back over the river at Walton’s Crossing into Waldeck Street, the main street of Dongara which continued as the road north to Bookara, the Greenough Flats and Champion Bay.

A jetty was built at Port Irwin (now Port Denison) in 1867 with three warehouses being constructed shortly after. Several ships visited the port on a weekly basis, bringing in supplies to the settlers and taking away products of the district – wheat, flour, wool, sandalwood. The district began to prosper but did have its setbacks. The disease ‘red rust’ which affected wheat crops and caused major losses appeared in the late 1860s. This, along with bush fires, floods and a locust plague in 1873 severely affected the district’s economy.

The Irwin Roads Board was established in 1871, to manage roads and public works in an area which extended to the South Australian border. The introduction of better agricultural management and rust resistant strains of wheat meant that by the 1880s the district once again began to flourish. In 1894 the Royal Steam Roller Flour Mill opened in Dongara, an economic milestone in the town’s history both for farmers and the employment of labour. Later in the same year, the completion of the Midland Railway which connected Perth to Geraldton through Dongara meant the decline of sea transport and Port Irwin.

The economy of the area has fluctuated over the years, but many of the early settlers persisted in their labours and today the town can boast many fifth generation West Australians among its community.

1. Dongara Post Office

Dongara Library and Visitor Centre

Waldeck Street

This building was the third post office in the Dongara townsite. Prior to its construction, mail was delivered to Maley’s Mill in 1866 and later to the Police Station. The building was designed in 1891 by Chief Architect of the Public Works Department George Temple Poole and built by WH Linthorne in 1894. The building incorporated the telegraph office and manual telephone exchange run by a government appointed postmaster. Postal services were transferred to a new building in Batavia Boulevard Shopping Centre in 1989. The building is currently owned by the Shire of Irwin and is used as a library and visitor centre.

Telephonist Roma Tonissen inside Dongara Telephone Exchange, Dongara Post Office, 1947. I IRME1956

2. Old Police Station and Courthouse

Irwin District Museum

Open Monday to Saturday 10 am – 12 noon (entry by donation)

Waldeck St

The police station was built in 1870 by expiree Joseph Walton, the owner of the Irwin Arms Hotel (now Dongara Hotel). It was made of jarrah shipped into Port Irwin and local limestone rubble bound with lime. The building was used as a police station, courthouse, gaol, ticket of leave hiring depot and police quarters. In 1874 the building had a lean-to addition built on the north side which served as a post and telegraph office. The native cell to the west, stable area and courtyard walls were demolished (c1955). The building served the district as a police station, quarters and courthouse until 1983 when the present police station was built.

Prior to the opening of the police station, the magistrate’s court sat in several places in the town, including the first school and the parlour of the Irwin Arms Hotel. After the formation of the Irwin Roads Board, board meetings were held in the courtroom. When the building ceased functioning as a police station, it was restored in 1985/86 by a volunteer community committee. It currently houses the Irwin Districts Historical Society and Museum, with exhibits detailing the police and justice system of the nineteenth century and life in a rural community.

Dongara Police Station with post and telegraph office, c1940. | IRME0523

3. Bank of Western Australia

Corner of Hunts Road and Waldeck Street

Private property. Please view from the street.

Local merchant and mill owner Francis Pearse built this bank chambers and residence in 1894 for the Bank of Western Australia. The bank leased it from him until 1921, and following his death purchased the building from his estate. Dongara property owners Samuel Moore, George Shenton and Edward Hamersley were on the Governing Board of the Bank. The West Australian Bank amalgamated with the Bank of New South Wales in 1927 and the bank became an agency of the Geraldton branch, operating on Wednesdays. In 1950 the building was sold to private interests. It is a rare surviving example of a bank and attached residence built in a totally residential style. It still has the iron-barred windows and solid vault installed for the bank.

Bank of Western Australia, c1930 | IRME1337

4. Pearse House

Corner of Waldeck Street and Hunts Road

Private property. Please view from the street.

This large house built in 1870 was once the home of prominent merchant Francis Pearse. It was originally a seven roomed house (later extended by three room) that had terraced gardens down to the river’s edge. Pearse arrived in Dongara in 1867 to open and manage a store at Port Denison in partnership with Edward Newman but on Newman’s death Pearse bought out the other partner. He was the local agent for the Adelaide Steamship Co and went on to be a businessman, farmer and grazier in the area for over 30 years. On the block to the east, Pearse had a general store which burnt down in 1903. Pearse House was designed in the Victorian Georgian style and has considerable historic value as an early residence built for an early settler and prominent identity in the district.

Pearse House 1964 | IRME1741

5. Delmage House and Herbert’s House

Hunts Road

Private property. Please view from the street.

James Delmage built this two-storey house to the plans of the headmaster’s house. Delmage was a blacksmith turned builder and undertaker and built many of the fine homes in the Irwin District. He was Chairman of the Irwin Road Board from 1903 to 1918.

The small stone cottage to the west, partly obscured by a wall, is known as Herbert’s Cottage. It was built in the 1870’s and was used by neighbour Francis Pearse to house employees. In c1940 it was bought by retired farmer and Irwin Road Board secretary Frank Herbert. During World War II Annie Herbert ran the Red Cross War Comforts Depot across the road from this home.

Delmage House with Herbert’s House at rear | IRME1151

Annie Herbert in front of her house, 1944 I IRME1970

6. Irwin River

Point Leander Drive

“The Wattandee tribe/people had permanent habitations along the Irwin River at Dhungarra/Thugarra (Dongara),Irwin, Trawberrie (Strawberry), Depot Hill, Minya-Noo (Mingenew), Coalseam, Gnoolawa, Pedowangi (Peterwangy). In the summer, Wattandee tribe/people would follow the river to the coast to get relief from the heat to gather seafood and to follow Wattandee’s beliefs and culture of the Wattarn Borungar (Sea Totem People).” (Source: Thomas Cameron, Wattandee tribal elder and Winjaroo speaker, 2020).

The river was given its present name by George Grey after his friend Frederick Irwin, Lt Governor of the Swan River Colony. The southern riverbank toward the estuary was the site of the first tillage lease and flour mill, and in the 1870s a footbridge and Walton’s Ford were constructed close to the present bridge.

The river floods occasionally due to cyclones dumping rain inland. The 1872 flood was of a dimension no one could have imagined. Mrs Eliza Moore, wife of a storekeeper, recalled the scene… “anxiously watching the moonlight shining on a vast expanse of river, rushing furiously along, bearing haystacks, alive with wretched fowls, furniture, pigs, and a regular jumble sale all being carried out to sea.”

Irwin River in flood, view from the bridge, 1971 | IRME0624

Extension of the Heritage Walk to Denison House:

Turn right after the bridge through the fairy park and follow the path along the river to Denison House, 1.4km return.

Denison House

Smith’s Mill was built on the first tillage lease in the Irwin District by John Smith and John Maley in 1865. The mill went into decline after shipping stopped calling at the port due to bad anchorage and unwilling insurance companies and was closed in 1894. The property was sold to Dr George Bartlett who used the stone from the mill to build Denison House. Dr Bartlett ran his medical practice from this building and his wife Florence designed and constructed the terraced gardens, work which is said to have been carried out under lamplight.

The property was purchased by the Benedictine Community of New Norcia in 1944 and served as a summer retreat for monks, nuns and students. Shire of Irwin purchased the building in 2004 and it is currently used by community groups.

Tea party at Denison House c1900 | IRME0981

7. Russ Cottage

Russ Historic Cottage

Open Mon-Wed Fri-Sat 10-noon (Entry by donation)

Corner of Point Leander Drive and St Dominic’s Road.

Titus Russ, who built this cottage in 1868, had arrived in Fremantle on the Sabina in 1853 with his parents, and came to Dongara to work for The Cattle Company. Titus married Caroline Wintle Smith and built this cottage on land owned by his employer out of stone quarried up the river and pushed to site in a wheelbarrow. It is a fine example of a rural worker’s home. The kitchen floor was made from crushed anthill, packed down to make a hard surface, the walls were built by the random rubble method, with jarrah shingles on the roof and timber flooring.

The Russ family occupied the cottage for many years. Robert Russ used the ground to the rear of the cottage as a market garden and operated a newsagency and store on a nearby site.

Russ Cottage was restored by the Irwin District Historical Society in 1970 and furnished as an 1870s yeoman’s cottage.

Johnson siblings and Elizabeth Russ outside Russ Cottage, c1893 |IRME 1174

8. Priory Lodge

St Dominic’s Road

Closed at the time of publication.

The Dongara Hotel was situated on the original main road to Dongara and the Port and was s built as a single storey limestone rubble structure by William Criddle in 1881. The Dominican Sisters purchased the building in 1902 for the purpose of opening a school, added a second storey, and renamed the building St Dominic’s Priory. The large building to the west was opened in 1926 and named the Dominican Ladies College. The new building incorporated both classrooms and boarding facilities.

Boys and girls attending the school could receive primary education; girls could also receive secondary education as day pupils or boarders. The school operated until 1971, when a flood from the Irwin River destroyed the tennis courts, school playground and inundated the building with mud. The sisters closed the college, ending 70 years of devoted teaching in the area. After being restored the building had its historic inn licence reinstated. It ceased business operations in 2019.

Students on front step of the Dominican Ladies College, c1920. | IRME2562

9. Roads Board Office

Poppies by the Park Cafe

Corner of Hunts Road and Point Leander Drive

This single room building was constructed of local stone by Ned Carter in 1910 to house the Irwin District Roads Board office. Previously the Roads Board, which was formed in 1871, had conducted its meetings in the Dongara Courthouse and later in the Mechanic’s Institute Hall. This building served the Roads Board until 1958 when new offices were built alongside the town hall. It was then used as the headquarters of the Dongara Returned Services League, and later had various purposes such as Red Cross Shop, real estate office and music studio. A well to the north of the building was the first public water supply to the town and operated from 1906 to 1965.

Irwin Roads Board members outside office, 1910 | IRME0027

10. War Memorial and Memorial Park

Corner of Point Leader Drive and Moreton Terrace

The granite War Memorial obelisk was donated by the Pearse family in 1919 as a tribute to Francis Pearse and was originally erected in the Dongara Cemetery. In 1938 Thomas Clarkson donated the land for Memorial Park to the Irwin Roads Board and the War Memorial was moved from the cemetery to the park.  The obelisk is decorated with traditional wreath designs carved into opposite faces beneath which are inscribed the names of local men killed in the World War I and World War II. Plaques to commemorate those who served in Korea, Vietnam and other conflicts were erected on the pillars of the entry gate in 2000.

Erecting World War I Memorial in Dongara Cemetery, 1922 | IRME0703

11. Moreton Terrace

From Brand Highway to Waldeck Street roundabout

This street, previously named Irwin Road, was the main road to Geraldton. It was renamed Moreton Terrace because of the Moreton Bay Figs (Ficus macrofylla) which lined the street. Moreton Terrace connects the historic precinct around the intersection of Waldeck Street to the Brand Highway.

Pat and Elva Ellery on Moreton Terrace, formerly Irwin Road, c1935. | IRME 1725

12. Tokos Restaurant

Pannarai Cafe

Corner of Moreton Terrace and Point Leander Drive

This building was constructed in 1912 as a shop and storehouse for local businessman Samuel Moore. He was a significant Westralian politician and the moulded black swan on the pediment reflected his patriotism. Pearce & Herbert’s store operated in the shop from 1916, and in 1920 the Carlton Tearooms opened with an open-air dance hall and a billiards room in the main west wing rooms. In 1927 a branch of the Elite Supply Company (drapery) of Geraldton began operating in the corner shop. In the early ‘30s it was renamed The Cabaret and it may be from this time, combined with the cellar beneath the ‘tea room’, that it acquired a reputation as a sly-grog venue. In 1934 it was purchased by Jack and Betsy Brennand who ran Brennands Tearooms from the corner shop for nearly 20 years, while their son Jack junior ran the garage next door. In the early 1950s the building became a temporary branch and staff quarters of the National Bank, followed by a succession of food and café ventures, and in c1983 Tokos Restaurant was opened.  After many years of vacancy the building was reopened as Pannarai Café in mid 2020.

Mrs Williams and Iris Brand in front of Elite Drapers and Tearooms, 1926 | IRME1881

13. The Barn

Moreton Terrace

The Barn was a stone building of considerable proportions with an iron roof built for Fremantle merchant William Dalgety Moore c1867.  It was the first substantial stone structure in Dongara, and was a stables, warehouse and general store. Moore’s trading schooner Swan was wrecked on the reef near Denison jetty in 1869.  Governor Frederick Broome Esq and his wife Lady Barker (a noted journalist and pioneer cookery book writer) made their first official visit to Dongara in 1883.  They were welcomed at a community luncheon in The Barn and were presented with two local elders, Granny Criddle and Granny Rowland, who between them had 118 living descendants in the district.

By the 1910s The Barn was Hinchcliffe’s black smith and wheelwright shop. Jack and Betsy Brennand purchased the building in 1934 and established Brennand’s motor garage next to it. They converted The Barn into an electric power station, and from 1935 supplied the first electricity to the town.  In 1938 the first 12 electric street lights were installed along Irwin Road (now Moreton Terrace). The Barn was demolished in the 1960s and replaced with a new garage and service station building of a similar scale which is currently used as a pop-up shop.

The Barn being reroofed c1935. | IRME1015

14. Dongara Hotel

Moreton Terrace

This was built in 1867 as a hotel by expiree Joseph Walton, and was known as the Irwin Arms. The hotel licence was gazetted on 28 April 1868 and was licensed to sell only liquor and meals with no accommodation being available. Court proceedings were held in the Irwin Arms prior to the construction of the Courthouse. The original structure forms the core of the present building.

The Irwin Arms was purchased by William Criddle the Younger in 1902 after selling the first Dongara Hotel.  At the time the hotel had 12 bedrooms and 3 sitting rooms.  He re-named the Irwin Arms as the Dongarra Hotel, and immediately had a billiards room built on the east end.  In 1908 he completely renovated and extended the old building, engaging architects Oldham & Cox of Fremantle to design the new range of bars and public rooms facing Irwin Road (now Moreton Terrace) in an Edwardian Italianate style. The new hotel was the first building in Dongara to be lit by acetylene gas lights.  When it was completed, a visitor described it as “not only an up-to-date hotel, but one of the most substantial and presentable buildings in that cosy little township.” (Geraldton Express, 2 October 1908).  Dentists and doctors used the ‘Commercial Room’ as late as 1963 as a consulting room and the barber and illegal betting shop were located at the east end of the building.

Dongara Hotel formerly Irwin Arms, 1910 | IRME1674

14A. Brand Store

Formerly Dongara Fish and Chips, now vacant

Moreton Terrace

It was constructed in 1903 and operated for many years as a grocery store. In 1944 it was taken over by David Brand, later Sir David Brand, KCMG, MLA for Greenough (1945-1975) and longest-serving Premier of Western Australia (1959-1971). Brand was recruited to the new Liberal Party at a meeting held in the shop, below the skylight, in 1945 by Sir Ross McLarty, Premier 1947-1953. Brand’s Store has a high historic significance for its associations with the Sir David Brand, who operated the business. 

The original building is largely encased within the present structure, but the high raked timber ceilings and central skylight can still be seen inside, as well as other features.

Sir David Brand, c1970 | IRME1690

15. Moreton Bay and Port Jackson Fig Trees

Moreton Terrace

The Moreton Bay Fig (Ficus macrofylla) and Port Jackson Fig (Ficus robinosa) trees were planted in 1906 by Robert Russ for the Irwin Roads Board at a cost of 16 shillings and 4 pence. The trees were planted some 20 metres apart, although over the years, some trees have been removed to accommodate vehicles and an underground petrol storage tanks. In 1999 replacement trees were grown from cuttings of the original trees and planted by the Dongara Denison Townscape Committee. The trees have high historic value forming a rare example of the City Beautiful philosophy that was current in Western Australia at the time. They are listed on the State Heritage Register of Western Australia.

Wedding of Elizabeth Clarkson and George D Brand at the Methodist Church, 1903. View looking east along Moreton Terrace before planting of trees. | IRME0477

16. Plester House

Moreton Terrace

Vacant at time of publication.

This house was built for the Plester family about 1915. The building housed a hairdressing salon for many years and in recent years was used as a popular outdoor café called the “Coffee Tree” and later the “Season Tree”, which closed in 2020. It has historic significance for its connection to the development of Dongara and the commercial evolution of the centre of town.

Bride Muriel Hughes nee Plester with brother Geoffery outside the Plester house 1930. | IRME1581

17. Town Park

Hosken Street

This recreation area was originally the playground for the second Dongara State School. Students grew produce in the garden (on the site of the rotunda) and sent produce to the Royal Show for exhibition and competition. They grew wheat, oats, barley and vegetables in rows and used the yields to determine bags to the acre and other mathematical equations. Prior to World War II, students planted trees on the perimeter of the block and many are now mature trees. The rotunda was designed by the Townscape Committee to reflect the architectural features of early Dongara buildings and was completed in 2001 as part of the Centenary of Federation celebrations.

New rotunda built for the bicentenary, 1988 | IRME2504

18. Dongara Bakery

Corner of Smith and Waldeck Streets

The original stone section of this building was constructed in about 1904 by James Criddle, who rented the premises out. The first reference to it as a bakery was in 1906 when the baker catered for a wedding at the Dongara town hall. In 1910 the property was purchased by Francis Newman Pearse and the business became known as the Star Bakery and Butchery Company. The premises have accommodated many different bakers over the years, including WT Rowland and William McGuie who accidentally burnt the building down while refilling a lamp in 1927. However, the baking ovens remained intact and the bakehouse was rebuilt to continue trading operations. There have been numerous modifications to the front façade however the original form of the building is still evident in the twin gable roof structure and the side stone wall.

Burnt out remains of bakery and butcher shop, 1927 | IRME0393

19. The Bungalow

Waldeck Street

Private property. Please view from the street.

The original rear section of the building was probably built by a member of the Criddle family in the 1850s. Around 1880 Francis Pearse purchased the property and the front rooms were added, and it then became the home of Alexander Forrest, the first miller at the nearby flour mill. Subsequent owners of this lovely house have extended it since. At one stage it belonged to William Bedford Mitchell, the manager of the Royal Steam Roller Flour Mill, who was married to the mill owner’s daughter, Frances Priscilla Pearse. Sir James Mitchell, a premier of WA, was WB Mitchell’s brother. In about 1899 the Nairn sisters used the two front rooms as a private girls’ school. In 1901 the Dominican Sisters occupied the house for six months before moving to ‘Six Chimneys’. The Bungalow became the home of Isabella Waldeck and her daughters in 1902 after she retired from Bonniefield.

Next to The Bungalow were the old Showgrounds which were used each year for the district’s annual agricultural show. The tennis courts were located here and the grounds were also used for cricket and hockey. Dongara had both ladies’ and men’s teams in the early 1900s.

Show Day at the showgrounds, 1912. The Bungalow roof is visible over the crowd on the left. | IRME1134

20. Dongara Flour Mill

Waldeck Street

Not open to the public.

Merchant Francis Pearse built the Royal Steam Roller Flour Mill in 1894 from plans by Henry Simon of Manchester, England. Powered by huge steam engines, the mill ground wheat produced in the district until its closure in 1935. The mill had a large floor space and receiving sheds capable of holding 8,000 bags of wheat. Flour milled here was shipped to the north west by the Adelaide Steamship Company or freighted south by the Midland Railway, to which the mill was connected by its own private line. The mill was capable of producing six tons of flour per working day, at a rate of about seven to eight sacks per hour.

During World War II the mill was used as an army camp; much of the timber was removed to be used for gun emplacements and a rifle range in the coastal dunes. With the shortage of materials, much of the internal timbers were also removed following the war.

The mill changed hands several times, with the olive trees planted in 1970 by the then owner Mr Herriman. Sir David Brand requested the building be made available to the National Trust of WA for preservation in 1975, and it was classified by the Trust in 1983. Local funds were raised to have the building reroofed and the external walls were repointed in 1988 as a Bicentennial project. The building was sold by the National Trust in 2007 to private owners.

Frank Herbert’s car in front of the Mill, 1930 | IRME2676

21. The Methodist Manse

Corner of Lecaille and Waldeck Streets

Private residence. Please view from the street.

Four young ladies of the Methodist Congregation – Fletcherina Waldeck, Amy Clarkson, Maud Brand and Frances Priscilla Pearse – laid the foundation stone for this house in 1900. The limestone was carted by horse and dray from local quarries, and the finished building opened by Mrs Isabella Waldeck in 1901. She was presented with a silver key by the ministry as a mark of appreciation for her gift of the land and her substantial financial contribution which cleared the debt incurred in the construction of the building. The manse is a good example of the style of its era, with its decorative quoining and gable treatments.

Methodist Manse c1973 | IRME0442

22. Catholic Presbytery

Corner of Waldeck Street and Criddle Road.

Private residence. Please view from the street.

The limestone rubble presbytery building is on private property and is somewhat obscured from Waldeck St by a fence. It was built by Father Lecaille, a Belgian missionary who arrived in Greenough in February 1865. Father Lecaille first built a tiny church and presbytery on Gum Tree Hill at the east end of Dongara in 1872 and with the growth of the Dongara townsite he moved into town and built the Presbytery between 1884 and 1885. It served the town as a church where many weddings, baptisms and other functions were held until the Church of the Holy Family was built beside the Dominican Priory in 1906. The Presbytery was used as a residence for Roman Catholic priests for several years after this. Father Lecaille was a well-known priest who was responsible for the construction of numerous Catholic churches throughout the district.

Catholic Presbytery 1977 | IME3134

23. Anglican Rectory

Waldeck Street

Private residence. Please view from the street.

The Rectory was the first major financial undertaking of the Anglican community in Dongara and was essential to attracting and keeping a resident clergyman. It was built by WH Linthorne in 1882 from solid 46cm blocks of limestone quarried from the local quarries. The first occupant was Rev Thomas Friel and for many years the Anglican Ladies’ Guild held their meetings in the building. A new rectory was constructed in Church St in 1977 and the following year this building become a private residence. It is one of the grander residences in Dongara and its large size, high-pitched roof, raised siting and prominent location in the town make it an important element in the built fabric of Dongara.

Reverend Ernest Gill with wife Sylvia and children, 1916 I IRME2505

24. Dongara School Master’s House

Corner of Waldeck and Smith Streets

Private residence. Please view from the street.

This house was built in 1893 by Mr Cummings for Francis Kelly, an accountant and later partner with merchant Francis Pearse. The Education Department purchased it in 1897 and after renovations Headteacher Mr Ward and his family moved into their new residence. The Education Department vacated the building in 1977 and it was sold in c2011 to private owners. The building is a good example of a well-designed and executed building in the late Victorian Georgian style whose aesthetic characteristics demonstrate the town’s growing prosperity at the time.

View looking south down Waldeck St with Headmaster’s House on right, 1910 | IRME2926

25. St John the Baptist Anglican Church

Corner of Waldeck and Church Streets

A public meeting held in 1866 resolved that an Anglican Church and cemetery be built. When Mrs Eliza Moore arrived in Dongara six years later, she wrote to her father, a congregational minister in Perth, that “there is no church, no school, nothing”. On her father’s advice, she established a Sunday School. Bishop Hale visited Dongara in 1873, conducting a confirmation ceremony in Dongara School and consecrating the cemetery. The foundation stone was laid in 1884, jointly by Miss Clementine Nairn, Mrs Jane Plester and Mrs Eliza Moore, and the building was consecrated by the Rev Harry Dutton. The building was designed by Francis Bird, an important colonial architect based in Perth, and was built by WH Linthorne. The stone font was installed in 1913 in memory of S and F Burges. Some pews have been made from ships’ timbers collected from the beach, and the bell which hangs from a timber cross member in the garden was used at Fremantle Gaol to remind convict ticket of leavers that they had to be indoors by 10pm. It came from Mrs Eliza Moore’s father, Rev Johnson, who was Chaplain at Fremantle Gaol between 1860 and 1870. The stained-glass altar window was broken by a falling tree and was replaced in 1980 with a window depicting John the Baptist designed and made by the renowned Gowers & Brown of Greenmount.

Reverend Barry May in front of new stained glass window, 1980 | IRME1250

26. Dongara State School

Offices of Local Rag and Dongara Pottery Club

Corner of Waldeck Street and Moreton Terrace

The first Dongara School was built in 1870 on the site of the present police station, but by 1906 increased student numbers led to the construction of a two-room school with a verandah and shelter shed in the grounds. Many rural school buildings were built to this design from the turn of the twentieth century. A separate brick classroom was built in the early 1960s as school enrolments rose with the growth of the fishing industry. The school served the town until 1972, when new district high school was built in Cave Way, an aptly named street as Henry Cave was Dongara’s first school master. The building remains relatively intact and is representative of small, simple rural school buildings from the turn of the century.

Dongara Second School, 1912. Pupils were going to swimming classes near the jetty I IRME0698

27. Dongara Uniting Church formerly the Wesleyan (Methodist) Church

Corner of Waldeck Street and Moreton Terrace

Not open to the public.

Early church services were held in the original schoolhouse (the site now occupied by the police station) but in the early 1880s the congregation decided to build their own church. Local builder WH Linthorne donated the block of land and won the contract to build the church, which was designed by Isaac Walker. The church was opened on Sunday 14 December 1884, with more than 200 people attending the morning and evening services. The church bell was originally the convict bell from Northampton. The Church Hall was constructed in 1988 adjacent to the church. It is a well composed church in the rural Victorian Rustic Gothic Style, and illustrates the rise and strong influence of Methodism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, particularly in the Victoria District.

Dongara Wesleyan Methodist Church and parson, 1912 | IRME0422

28. Dongara Town Hall (site of Mechanics Institute)

Corner of Waldeck St and Moreton Terrace.

The Mechanics Institute was built in 1881 to help working men to self-educate and as a place where they could attend lectures, read the newspapers and periodicals of the day, or enjoy a game of chess or cards. These limestone rubble and corrugated iron buildings, known as the ‘greater’ and ‘lesser’ public halls, were destroyed by fire in 1950.

The present hall was designed by the significant Western Australian architect William G Bennett and constructed using bricks made at the Irwin Brick Works.  The hall was opened in 1953 by local member David Brand MLA, it became the hub of Dongara’s social life, hosting meetings and dances. The original roof was built with an innovative Arcon tubular steel roof truss system. The Dongara Hall is of high aesthetic significance for the extensive use of Irwin warm red bricks in its construction, of which there are only a few examples in the Shire, and also the only post-war Art Deco public building in the shire.  In 1958 a new Road Board/Shire office was built on the south side of the hall in a similar style.  This replaced the 1910 office (place No 9).  It was largely demolished in 1974, although parts remain incorporated in the present offices.  The Pensioner Hall was added to the south-west of the main hall in 2000.

Dongara Mechanic’s Institute Halls, c1900 | IRME0155

Roads Board Office and Dongara Hall, 1953. ||IRME2164

The Dongara Heritage Walk was developed by the Irwin Districts Historical Society.

Copyright 2020 IDHS.

Sources/Further Reading:

IDHS Database

Sr Mary Albertus Bain Ancient Landmarks. (UWA Press, 1975)

Irwin District Historical Society

Old Police Station Building

5 Waldeck St

Dongara 6525

99 271 323

idhs@midwest.com.au

Website: www.irwinhistory.org.au

The Society was formed in 1964 by a group of people who were keen to preserve and maintain the history of the district. Some of the activities of the Society include:

  • studying and writing of the history of the district
  • collecting, classifying and preserving records relating to that history
  • publishing articles and selected records in special bulletins
  • exchanging information with members of the Society and other organisations with similar interests
  •  promoting public interest in and support of historical relics, including buildings and sites
  • maintaining a library and resource centre which can be accessed by members of the public
  • managing Old Police Station and Russ Cottage Museums.

© Copyright IDHS 2020

PHP Code Snippets Powered By : XYZScripts.com