In November 1829, just five months after the founding of the Swan River Colony in Western Australia, an exploring party led by Governor Sir James Stirling chose a site for a new town on the banks of the Canning River.
The Governor named the new town Kelmscott, as a tribute to Archdeacon Thomas Scott who freely gave his services to establish the Anglican Church in the new settlement. The name Kelmscott honours Scott's birthplace in England.
The first building in Kelmscott was a small barracks, built by soldiers in 1830. Constructed of wattle and daub (a clay or plaster mixture), it later became the homestead of the pioneering Martin family and survived until the 1930s.
The influence of road and rail
At that time one of the first major roads of the colony passed through Kelmscott. A rough bush track, the road ran southwards to link Albany (on King George's Sound) with the Swan River settlement.
Later, in 1836, a new route was built from Kelmscott past the farmhouse of Henry Gibb and through to Albany. The road was first known as the King George's Sound Road, later the Albany Road, and finally the Albany Highway of today.
By 1856, Henry Gibb and his brother-in-law, Thomas Saw, had established a wayside Inn at their farmhouse, which is now known as the Narrogin Inn.
The Narrogin Inn is still trading today and holds one of the oldest liquor trading licences in WA. It is interesting to remember that as late as the 1860s, the journey to Albany took five to six days, with at least one overnight bush camp required.
In the 1890s, the South Western Railway was built, passing through the area.
A small group of houses and shops developed near the new station, becoming the nucleus of the present City of Armadale. The district began to prosper as the arrival of regular train services encouraged the production of fruit, vegetables, eggs and dairy produce (for the markets in Perth City) and the beginning of a local brick manufacturing industry.
In 1893, Armadale resident Martin Edward Jull (the first Public Service Commissioner in WA), planted a large commercial vineyard in partnership with Dr Ferguson Stewart and imported the first cabernet sauvignon and malbec grapes into the State.
This vineyard, built on hill terraces just outside Armadale, was later named Derry na Sura - Gaelic for 'Valley of the Vine'. It became a major producer and exporter of quality wine to Europe over the next 30 years. At its peak in 1928, the vineyard produced 800,000 gallons. Today, faint traces are all that remain of the terraces between houses which overlook Armadale.
The Jull family
Martin Jull married Roberta Fergusson-Stewart, who was the first female medical practitioner in WA. Their only daughter, Henrietta Drake-Brockman, went on to claim fame in her own right as a novelist and historian.
The Jull family home was located near Minnawarra Park, and their family planted the Sugar Gums that are now such a feature of the Park.
In 1893, a number of orchards began in the hills areas of Bedfordale, Roleystone and Karragullen. Illawarra Orchard Company was one of them, with Thomas Price as manager. By 1907, Mr Price had pioneered the first trial shipment of Western Australian apples to England, setting up a flourishing trade (from Bettenay, 1994).
Kelmscott Roads Board
The State at that time was governed at a local level by Roads Boards.
In 1894, the Southern section of the area known as the Canning Roads Board was separated and the new area of 504 square kilometres became the Kelmscott Roads Board (named after the most important town in the area).