Heritage & Tourism
History Of Toodyay
The Ballardong Noongar people lived in this area for thousands of years before the arrival of Europeans. The people called the area Duidgee, meaning place of plenty and from which the word Toodyay is derived.
Life revolved around the practical aspects of food-gathering and survival interwoven with a rich and complex culture of spiritual beliefs and traditions handed down over generations through stories, dance, symbolic art forms and songs.
The river was central to life as provider of water and food and a sacred site on the banks a burial ground.
In 1829 a British colony was established on the Swan River, and the townsites of Perth and Fremantle were gazetted. Colonists began to take up land along the Swan River to cultivate crops and grow vegetables. Before long the best of the land was taken, and the colonists began to look further a field.
Ensign Robert Dale was the first British person to discover the Avon Valley, in 1830. He reported that the region was fertile and possessed a good supply of water. Over the next five years colonists took up Avon Valley land grants in the Toodyay area. In 1836 they set out from Guildford with a Noongar guide named Babbing, in order to inspect the land.
I learnt from Babbing that the place was called Duidgee and that it was a favourite haunt of the natives, no doubt on account of its natural productions (James Drummond, Perth Gazette, 21 & 28 May 1836).
The townsite of Toodyay was established 3 kilometres down stream from the present townsite, at a bend in the river. A small town grew there with government and commercial buildings, although it was subjected to regular flooding. By the 1850s there were three inns and two schools, as well as a gaol.
In 1850 convict transportation to Western Australia commenced. Convict hiring depots were established at Toodyay and York, and the buildings for this were established away from the Toodyay townsite on the opposite riverbank. A commissariat, depot, pensioners and sappers’ quarters were built there.
In 1859 while surveyors were marking out new allotments at Toodyay, the townsite once again flooded. Plans were then made to create a new town near the convict hiring depot. In 1860 the town of Newcastle was surveyed, at the site of the current townsite of Toodyay. The original Toodyay townsite was still occupied; although it was eventually abandoned. During the late 1800s the towns of Toodyay and Newcastle lived side by side.
By the beginning of the twentieth century the townsite of Newcastle had grown, while the Toodyay townsite had disappeared. In 1910 the federal government asked the Newcastle Road Board to consider a name change in order to avoid postal confusion arising out of the town of the same name in New South Wales. The Road Board and the community agreed and the name of Toodyay was the obvious choice for the ‘new’ name. The old townsite of Toodyay became known as ‘West Toodyay’.
To discover more of Toodyay’s heritage, visit the Toodyay Old Gaol Museum and Connor’s Mill or visit the Toodyay Visitor Centre, which has a number of local history books on sale. An extract from the Shire of Toodyay’s Municipal Inventory also provides a Historical Overview.
Toodyay is one of the oldest inland towns in Western Australia and much of its heritage is preserved. It is set in the heart of the picturesque Avon Valley and is an extremely popular tourist destination.
For people who own historic buildings in the Shire or property within the Central Toodyay Heritage Precinct, we highly recommend you refer to the Planning and Development – Shire Services – Heritage Conservation listing from the Shire of Toodyay website.
Built Heritage - Municipal Inventory
Under Section 45 of the Heritage of Western Australia Act 1990, a local government is required to compile and maintain an inventory of buildings within its district which in its opinion are, or may become, of cultural heritage significance.
The Shire of Toodyay has an inventory which was compiled in 1998. A copy of this inventory is available for public perusal at the Shire Administration Centre.
Development and Conservation of Places on Municipal Inventory
Places entered on the inventory have several categories of significance, ranging from exceptional cultural heritage value, through to some heritage value. Acceptable changes to a heritage property depend on the category it is in. If you are the owner of a heritage property that is listed on the inventory, or you think your property may have some local heritage value, you should seek advice from the Planning Officer at the Shire of Toodyay before submitting any plans for development.
You may also be eligible for a low-interest loan to assist you with any conservation work if your property is listed on the inventory. The Heritage Council of Western Australia website has information about this scheme. The Planning Officer at the Shire of Toodyay can also assist you with this.
Development Within Central Heritage Area
The Shire of Toodyay has adopted a Local Planning Policy – Central Toodyay Heritage Area. This relates to the area north and south of the railway line, bounded by the Avon River, and extending northward to Telegraph Road. You should read a copy of this policy if you are the owner of a heritage property or planning to conduct any development or building in this area. This document is also useful for general advice and guidance in relation to heritage properties.
State Register of Heritage Places
The Heritage of Western Australia Act 1990 also establishes a Register of Heritage Places, which is a list of places that have cultural heritage significance to the state of Western Australia. Places on the register received the highest level of heritage protection. Several places in the Shire of Toodyay have been recognised in this register:
- Bejoording Homestead Complex & Central Square
- Butterly House
- Connor’s Mill (former)
- Donegan’s Cottage
- Hasell’s Cottage (ruin)
- Newcastle Gaol and Police Station Complex
- Toodyay Fire Station
- Toodyay Post Office & Residence
- Toodyay Public Library
Assessment of the heritage values of these places can be viewed on the Heritage Council of Western Australia website.
If you would like more information about heritage, or about planning and development relating to heritage sites, please contact the Planning Officer at the Shire of Toodyay.
The following websites also provide helpful information:
Discovering Our History
Toodyay’s rich cultural history has been preserved and protected by the high value placed on its heritage by the community. Not only are many of the historic buildings extremely well preserved in terms of integrity and authenticity, their histories have also been well documented and explored.
Toodyay is therefore privileged to have two museums that provide a wonderful insight to the region’s past, these being the Old Newcastle Gaol Museum and Connor’s Mill.
In addition there are a number of self guided walk and drive trails in the area that provide for a wonderful days outing for the whole family. Please contact the Toodyay Visitor Centre for details.
Toodyay, one of Western Australia’s oldest towns, is nestled in the heart of the beautiful Avon Valley. Being only one hour’s drive from Perth it is the ideal destination for both day visitors and those venturing further into the Wheatbelt or the Chittering Valley.
The area displays a vast wealth of cultural and natural heritage that can be appreciated throughout the year, with the changing seasons offering a new perspective of the landscape with each visit. The beauty of the hills and the magnificent Avon river are a sight to behold, whilst the townsite maintains the charms of a past era. The architecture, much of which reflects the convict era, retains high levels of authenticity and intergrity.
With its museums and historic buildings, art and crafts, emu and alpaca farms, gardens, native flora and fauna, magnificent vistas, wonderful cuisine and so much more, Toodyay should be explored by everyone! The ideal starting point for any visit to Toodyay is the Toodyay Visitor Centre, where the friendly staff can provide you with further details on what to see and where to stay.
For further information please visit the Toodyay Visitor Centre website – www.toodyay.com or call them on (08) 9574 2435.