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European Exploration

In 1829 a British colony was established on the Swan River, and the town sites 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 afield.

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 James Drummond, Captain Francis Whitfield and members of Alexander Anderson’s family set out from Guildford with a Noongar guide named Babbing. Their aim was to inspect their land after exploring a more direct route. In due course they arrived in a beautiful valley near Whitfield’s grant along the Avon River.

“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 town site of Toodyay was established 5 kilometres downstream from the present town site, 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.

Photo details: Scene of three buildings at West Toodyay. Man with white beard (James Everett) in foreground, and two men in the vines. Three other buildings (John Herbert's cottage) in left middle distance, with other buildings behind.