Old Time Road Ride

Spring is nearly upon us. And as I mooted in an earlier post,  I want to resurrect an historic Wray Avenue tradition – the Ten Mile Well Cycle race – which took place annually on the first Spring weekend prior to World War 1.

Here is the poster which you’ll hopefully see a bit around town.

2013 Flyer

Or you can find the Facebook event here.

The spring celebration and bike ride will be made up of two parts:

  1. an option of one of three road rides, setting off from and returning to Moondyne Joe’s Hotel; and
  2. a community party at Replants, with food and entertainment.

The emphasis on the rides is fun and socialising rather than racing. Three different rides have been planning for different levels of skills and bike.

NB: Please enter your name correctly but feel free to make the rest up if you don’t want to disclose that information. I really just want to know how many people are riding each route and this was the best event management website I found.

The schedule of events for the day is as follows:

  • 10:30am – First group of riders set off on the original route, from Moondyne Joe’s to Ten Mile Well  and back (roughly 30kms, or 1-1.5 hour return)
  • 11:00am – Second group of riders set off on on shorter route to Spearwood Hotel and back (roughly 15km, or 30mins-1hour return)
  • 11:30am – Third and final group of rider set off on a family-friendly 4km ride to the old Haymarket hotel and back (roughly 30 minutes return)
  • 12:00pm (until 3:00pm) – Post-ride celebration begins at Replants including live music, a slow bike race and an open mic Bike-u (or Bike Haiku).

For an example of Bike Haiku, here’s one I made up quickly inspired by our current weather:

Satellite spokes spinning

throwing dew drops at my course

cold, brisk morning ride

For more Bike Haiku inspiration and explanation, you can visit here.

There will be BBQ facilities available for lunch at Replants, so feel free to BYO bbq food. Alternatively, please bring food to share with others.

Feel free to invite friends and family – anyone who will enjoy the occasion!

We really want this to be as closer to a zero-waste event as possible, so please do not bring any disposable plastic, glass or aluminium. In the event that you do, we ask that you take it away with you at the end of the day. Bins will not be provided for anything other than compostable waste.

If you’re interested in helping out in anyway on the day, please add a comment below and I’ll get back to you.

Wanted, a “very fair field of cyclists”

Whoa! Is it August already?

That leaves me scant little time to big up this little event I’ve wanted to get happening for a while now.

A couple of years ago, I stumbled across a great event that first took place on Wray Avenue way back in 1896, when it was then called Hampton Street, of course!

The event was a bicycle race, coordinated by the Fremantle Bicycle Club. It was a 17.5 mile (28 kilometre) return run from Beaconsfield Hotel (now Moondyne Joe’s Hotel) to the ten mile well, now the site of the Ten Mile Well Hotel, on Rockingham Road in Wattleup.

F.B.C Road Race, from The Inquirer and Commercial News, 11 September 1896

F.B.C Road Race, from The Inquirer and Commercial News, 11 September 1896

I’ve read a lot about Fremantle’s love affair with the bicycle over a hundred years ago – something we are fortunate enough see happening again these days – and thought it’d be great to revive this race which ran up until the first world war.

My vision is for more of a social ride rather than an all out race that gives everyone in our community an opportunity to participate – although the speediest are welcome to try to beat A. Bolton’s original time of 55 minutes return to Ten Mile Well!

I’ve planned out three routes for different levels of cycling ability.

  • Route 1: Moondyne Joe’s to the Ten Mile Well Hotel (about 30km, 1-1.5 hours return)
  • Route 2: Moodyne Joe’s to Spearwood Hotel (about 15km, 0.5-1 hour return)
  • Route 3: Moondyne Joe’s to the old Harvest Hotel (about 4km, 20 mins return)

With a race schedule to wrap up about midday, I’d love to have a street barbecue afterwards, some fun awards and possibly even some live music to celebrate the start to Spring. I’d hoped to get it together for the first Saturday in Spring  but that clashes with the election, so I’m pitching for Saturday the weekend the following week – September 14.

Feel free to post here if you think this is a good idea, want to come on the ride or help out on the day. And stay in touch as I finalise details.

Kwobidaarn Noongar Cultural Workshops

Freeing up my Wednesday evenings has meant that I’ve been able to attend Noel Nannup’s Noongar Cultural Workshops for the past four weeks – they’re really good, that’s what Kwobidaarn means (I hope!!)

Noel interweaves his own personal story of growing up in Western Australia with the narrative of a Noongar following a traditional upbringing in the Fremantle area prior to European colonisation. Both stories begin with birth into family and Country, with strong links to land, values and culture. You can see a great video about Noel and his take on land, culture and spirituality here.

Through the four weeks, Noel shares stories about culture, how the land was used, the way seasons were perceived and how families functioned – all presented in an enlightening way by the campfire. Sat amongst the grass trees, you could almost forget that you were on Wray Avenue were it not for the occasional juxtaposition of buses and loud pedestrians passing by.

My personal highlight was Noel’s recollection of his uncle, whom I saw taking on the mythical mentor figure found in so many stories. Thomas Nannup returned from a kind of exile to teach a young Noel in depth about his Noongar culture and inspire him with stories such as the beautiful ‘Carers of Everything’. It was a such a powerful story.

Emma and I were lucky enough to spend a weekend out on Country a couple of months back, travelling between Fremantle and Wave Rock, following songlines like that of the koodjal dwert – two dogs dreaming – and the Carers of Everything story itself to several sacred sites.

The four week Noongar Cultural Workshops are another incredible thing happening on Wray Avenue courtesy of Bruce Abbott at Replants which I totally recommend. Thanks to Noel, Bruce and Joanie for making it happen.

The next 4-week storytelling series starts on . Check out the Replants website here for more details.

Fremantle’s only avenue

On the weekend, a friend remarked that Wray Avenue was the only avenue in Fremantle.

I had never thought about it before, but it’s true.

While there are a few in Whitegum Valley (Minilya, Yalgoo, Wongan etc.) and a couple in Beaconsfield (Fifth and Central), in the locality of Fremantle, Wray Avenue is the only road to be classified an avenue.

For me, an avenue conjures up images of a tree lined, main street. While this seems to be a common connotation, it’s origins apparently come from the French verb venir, meaning “to come”. This fits in with the typical role of an avenue road regularly used as a throughway.

While Wray Avenue certainly has trees along it now, tending to be (proudly) native in origin, this hasn’t always been the case.

Back in the 70s, the verge was set back much further and much of the current land used for landscaping was for parking cars.

Here are links to some photos from that time of houses on the corner of Wray Avenue and Brennan Street, further up at the now vacant shopfront that used to be the St Vincent de Paul’s store, and houses on the corner of Wray Avenue and Attfield Street.

I know a few people who have suggested widening Wray Avenue, either to allow better flow of traffic, add bike lanes or accommodate tramlines. I also worry that a conversion to underground power will mean trees have to be felled. Any return to the considerably balder verges of the past would be awful and likely be met with steely resistance.

Many of my neighbours are fiercely proud of the revegetation of Wray Avenue with native trees and the cringe at the idea. I’d actually like to see even more.

There’s so few trees on the streets of south-central Fremantle that they’re an important feature that should be recognised and retained.

Even the olive trees planted by the previous owner of the house next door (number 38) were much hated by my neighbours. One of them – the one in front of my house – was mysteriously chopped down a few years ago. I’m actually rather glad.


There’s more to my house’s heritage than I could have thought

I received a letter in the mail yesterday telling me that the heritage value for my house was to be upgraded from Category 3 (“some cultural heritage significance”) to Category 2 (“considerable cultural heritage significance”).

The attached historical description of the property was as follows:

Rates Book Information:

Wray Avenue was named after the former Mayor Fremantle, W.E. Wray 1914 to 1918. The road was formerly named Alexander Road after the Mayor of Fremantle, Laurence Alexander 1901 to 1902. Prior to that the road was named Hampton Street.

This group of three houses at 38/40/42 was built in 1902/03 for the owner John Pattinson Beresford who also built the adjacent properties at 9/11 and 13/15 Wray Avenue. Beresford worked as a police officer, brewer and publican. At different times he ran the ‘Pearler’s Hotel’, ‘Star Hotel’ and the ‘Esplanade Hotel. The properties were used as investment properties and were leased out to various tenant.

The houses were formerly numbered 40/42/44 Wray Avenue, the numbering changed in 1935/36.

The first two occupant of the three cottages were J. Lewis, painter and Samuel Lawrence a police constable. The third is not listed. The rates books do not distinguish which occupant lived in which house.

The Beresford family were owners of the three cottages until at least the 1920s. Afterwards the ownership was split.

This confirms my earlier research regarding the naming of Wray Avenue but discounts my theory about the origin of its earlier name of Alexander (read that post here).

The history of my house and Wray Avenue is a hobby of mine, and I can add the original occupiers from the 1903 Western Australian Directory of Towns [1]. J. Lewis, the painter, occupied number 40 (now changed to 38 Wray Avenue) and Samuel Lawrence, the police Constable, occupied number 44 (now 42 Wray Avenue). The directory lists a Mrs J Farell as the first occupier of number 42. Is it possible that women weren’t allowed to put their names on rates books at this point in history?

Anyway, this address is now 40 Wray Avenue – my house (the one in the middle below).

What is even more interesting for me is that in the 1904 Western Australian Directory of Towns [2], there is a Henry Beresford, no doubt a relative of John Pattinson Beresford, listed as living in this house. Henry seems to have occupied several places along Wray Avenue at different times after this.

Trying to find information about this connection led to a very tragic twist in this story – the suicide of Mr John Pattinson Beresford [3]. This is another suicide related to this street, as Mayor W.E Wray himself committed suicide.

A report in the Western Mail Saturday 10th October 1908 told the story.



At about half-past one o’clock on Thursday morning, Mr. John Pattinson Beresford, licensee of the Esplanade Hotel, Fremantle, committed suicide in very tragic circumstances. The deceased, who was formerly a sergeant of police in Western Australia, had been suffering from dropsy and insomnia, and was under the care of Dr. Paget. It is understood that his conduct of late had been such as to cause some alarm. On Wednesday night he and his wife went to bed, and at about 1.30 in the morning Mrs Beresford went to sleep. Shortly afterwards she awakened and discovered her husband lying across the foot of the bed with a revolver near him. She did not hear the report of the revolver shot, and was horrified to find that he was dead. The police were sent for, and on examination a bullet was found in the left breast, right over the heart. In the revolver were found two undischarged cartridges. One cartridge had been discharged, and two others were found at the foot of the bed.

The event was reported in papers across the nation, including The Brisbane Courier and The Mercury in Tasmania. It can be assumed that this must have occurred at what is either 25 Alexander Road where his wife, Mrs Mary Ann Beresford, is later listed as living there and other searches showed Beresford children living at 27 Wray Avenue (coincidentally the property I was looking to buy before this one).

To back up my theory that the Henry Beresford who lived in my house in 1904 was the son of the man who had these houses built, I have found a birth notice in The West Australian, 22 October 1908 showing that his son was born at 25 Alexander Road (now Wray Avenue), the house where Mary Ann Beresford dwelt.

BERESFORD, – On October 21 at 25 Alexander road, Fremantle, the wife of Henry James Beresford – a son. Both doing well.

Incredibly, this was not even a fortnight after the suicide of the child’s grandfather John Pattinson Beresford. Henry is later listed as living at this property.

All in all, quite interesting stuff and not what I was expecting to be looking into over these school holidays.

1 – http://www.slwa.wa.gov.au/pdf/battye/pods/1903/0083.pdf

2 – http://www.slwa.wa.gov.au/pdf/battye/pods/1904/0078.pdf

3 – http://www.trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/37817645

4 – http://www.trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/26211954

A multicultural Wray Avenue precinct… over a hundred years ago?!

This is a bit of a sequel to my last blog. When I was looking into the history of the Hampton Buildings, I found that there were quite a few business proprietors from an Asian background in its early years.

I find it quite interesting, especially given that, at the current time, there aren’t any businesses run by people from an Asian-background in this end of town. At the same time, I think that people around this area would probably claim to value multi-culturalism.

At the end of the 19th century and the start of the 20th, there was always a business person from Asian background occupying premises in the Hampton Buildings and there were several other businesses in the area with Asian proprietors

This is amazing given the mood in Australia at this point in history, with the Immigration Restriction Act (1901), commonly know as the White Australia Policy. Australia’s inaugural Prime Minister Edmund Barton introduced this legislation “to secure the future of our fair country against the tide of inferior and unequal Asians arriving from the north.” There was clearly significant racism towards Asian people in our country.

Staniforth Smith, a Senator from Western Australia at the time had said that “[i]f the question is not dealt with boldly and fearlessly now when the Asiatic nations are waking up, there will be an influx of coloured people which will mean an alteration in our national destiny.”

This Asian presence ended by the 1930s and, as far as I can tell, hasn’t returned. On reflection it seems sad that we’ve now lost the diversity of background that our street once had, though at a time when it wouldn’t have been valued.

Hampton Buildings, the gateway to Wray

The Hampton Buildings, built in 1896, are the iconic entry point to the Wray Avenue precinct at the unusual “fiveways” intersection, a point where five roadways radiate out in a star pattern: Wray Avenue, Little Howard Street, Howard Street and South Terrace to the north and south.

The Hampton Buildings are wedged between Little Howard Street and Wray Avenue, which I have already noted was originally called Hampton Street.

The name Hampton came from John Stephen Hampton, Governor of Western Australia from 1862-1868. His appointment was controversial following his service as Comptroller General in the colony of Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania). He was accused variously of inhumanity and corruption and summonsed to court. When he refused his summons he was charged with contempt. On grounds of ill health he was granted leave and returned to England.

A Court of Appeals in England later found in Hampton’s favour, acquitting him of the charges, clearing the way for him to be appointed as Governor of Western Australia.

His tenure in Western Australia was marked by much harsher penalties for criminals but also a balancing of the state’s finances which were then in much debt. His characteristics in this regard seem to foreshadow the ideology of our state Liberal Party.

He was also criticised for corrupt practices, including appointing his son George to the significant position of Comptroller-General despite him having no experience for the position. He also built and took up residence on Rottnest Island.

He died in 1869, a year after his position as Governor ended. The transportation of convicts to Western Australia ended soon after.

John Stephen Hampton is a stark contrast to the buildings that bear his name. Now they host a funky café in a decidedly left area of town. The nearest polling booth, Fremantle Primary School, was where the Greens (WA) recorded their highest votes at recent elections. During the recent council elections, a giant poster of Greens member and eventual winner in the Mayoral race Brad Pettit loomed over the buildings like an image of Chairman Mao in Tiananmen Square. It is a vibrant little corner of the kind that I imagine the former Governor would have detested.

The Hampton Buidlings are distinguished by their unusual wedge shape and they remain one of the oldest buildings on the street and I have been able to discover the following details.

The first occupants of the Hampton Buildings were: William H Bawden, a draper; William Knuckey, a bootmaker; and Ah Cheong, a storekeeper.

By 1904, the street had changed its name to Alexander Road, seven years after the buildings were established. The occupants at this time were: William Knuckey, having moved his bootmaking business one closer to South Terrace; William Sowden, a butcher; and Kow Kee, a greengrocer.

By 1923, the street had changed its name again, this time to Wray Avenue, and the occupants were: Jas S McA Walker, a stationer; Elias A Jones, a bootmaker; and On Chan, a grocer.

In recent years it has been occupied by Spoonz café. I’ve always had the impression that it has struggled to attract a large, loyal customer base but never really known why. Perhaps it was their coffee, which I always found weak. Recently it has changed hand and become Wild Poppy. With funky, vibrant décor, good coffee and cheery staff, it looks to be getting a lot of appeal and will hopefully be around for a while.

Regardless of what happens, they’re just another chapter in the Hampton Building story.