Our History

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Bridgetown-Greenbushes has a rich history and heritage, with Bridgetown being declared a Heritage Town by the National Trust of Australia in 2000.

History of Bridgetown

The first explorer into the area was Thomas Turner, an Augusta settler, who traced the Blackwood River upstream to the Arthur River in 1834.  He was followed a decade later by Surveyor Augustus C Gregory who first explored the area in 1845 and returned to carry out a survey in 1852.

The Blackwood region, long occupied by the indigenous Nyungar people, first saw white settlement around 1857 with the arrival of John Blechynden and Edward Hester who leased land for grazing stock.  The 21 year old Blechynden took up 4,000 acres and built his homestead, "Bridgedale", on the river.  The house is now owned by the National Trust.Hampton Street historical c

As the population grew, the townsite was known as "Geegelup", which was believed to be named after the local freshwater crustaceans "gilgies", however more recent research suggests that it may have meant "place of spears".  Later however, John Allnutt, the first settler to establish orchards in the area, suggested the name be changed to Bridgetown to reflect the town's location on the Blackwood River and also after the ship "SS Bridgetown" which had put in at Bunbury to load the first consignment of wool from Bridgetown.  After many debates the Governor officially gazetted the town as Bridgetown on 4 June 1868.  The town was particularly significant as the only trading centre between Bunbury and Albany for the south west pioneers for about thirty years.

During the period between 1850 and 1885 the township saw the construction of many of the buildings still standing today, including the Post Office and two of the town's hotels.  During the gold boom days and federation, Bridgetown prospered and saw a considerable increase in settlement of the region.  This vibrant period saw the construction of a number of significant civic, commercial and industrial buildings, including the Police Station and Lockup Keepers Quarters, circa 1907.

The Bridgetown Agricultural Society came into being in 1885 as Bridgetown's agricultural production was well established and flourishing.  It was formed to provide support, education and a forum for farmers to share scientific and practical information.  It supported new ideas in agricultural and horticultural practices and provided the premises to buy and sell goods, stock and display produce.  The Bridgetown Agricultural Society still exists today and its annual show has been running since 1885, making it one of Australia's longest lived agricultural shows.

During these periods Bridgetown developed into a prime producer of sheep, cattle, dairy products, timber, fruit and nuts.  The apple industry came into its own around 1905 when the first production orchard trees came to maturity, and this product in its own right helped put Bridgetown on the agricultural map.  The Agricultural Society played an important role in convincing the government of the day to extend the railway down to Bridgetown in 1889, thus facilitating the expansion of rural produce, particularly fruit markets and the growing timber industry.

While the buildings and streetscape reflect different eras of its nearly 150 year history, together they form a homogenous scene as 100 year old buildings sit comfortably next to more recent structures.

For more information about Bridgetown's history, please contact the Bridgetown Historical Society via their website.

History of Greenbushes

Greenbushes Main Street historical

The first inhabitants were the indigenous Nyungar people whose community was on the Blackwood River.  As well as this community there were people travelling from Bunbury to settlements further south who stopped at a local well for water.  The location of the well was distinguished by the callistachys lanceolata bush which is a bright green colour; hence the name Greenbushes.

In the 1880s the gold rush started and prospectors started what was called scratching in and around Greenbushes.  While looking for traces of gold, Mr Hardman, a government geologist, told a Bunbury resident, Mr Stinton, of the likelihood of tin in Greenbushes.  In 1888 Mr Stinton found tin and applied for a 400 acre mining lease.  Within one year his lease was very profitable and as mining grew, so did Greenbushes.

In 1892, there were 200 mining leases, 8 business licenses, and 6,476 letters, 516 telegrams and 77 money orders sent from the post office.  In 1894, the first timber mill was established and in 1898 the first freehold settlers arrived.  As the tin mine and timber industries expanded and the number of settlers increased, the population increased substantially.  By 1904, the population was 3,000 and there were 159 miners, plus storekeepers, carriers, carpenters, tinsmiths, solicitors, mining agents, chemists, butchers, tailors, bootmakers, bakers, boarding house keepers, famers, graziers, timber lessees and four hotel owners/managers!

Although regarded primarily as a mining town, timber milling and farming also played a significant role in the history of the district.  The first timber concession of 5,000 acres was issued in the district in the early 1890s, and the first freehold lease for farming was granted around the same time.  Farms were also established in the Greenbushes area in the 1920s as part of the Group Settlement Scheme which operated in the 1920s to re-settle soldiers returned from World War 1 and assisted migrants from England.

These days, the population of Greenbushes is much smaller, but the town remains a thriving community.  Be sure to visit the fascinating Greenbushes Discovery Centre for more information about Greenbushes.