Perth before the gold

View of Perth, Western Australia, 1842, held by Mitchell Library, NSW
View of the City of Perth from about the same place the Wadjuk observers in the 1842 picture would be standing in 2015.

The city of Perth in Western Australia is always changing.

It started as a collection of tents occupied by settlers from Britain who arrived in 1829. They lived at Boorloo on Wadjuk country alongside the original Noongar inhabitants, slowly transforming the place into the image of an English rural village many of them had been so desperate to leave behind.

Wadjuk Noongar place names of Boorloo (click for interactive map)

This stage in the town of Perth’s progress (for it was not yet designated a city) lasted until about 1850 when the colony of which it was the capital was transformed into a penal settlement. It was Imperial Government money from London even more than the convict builders they sent, that transformed the village into a city, albeit a small one.

That small city was transformed during the 1890’s with the discovery of gold in the Western Australian colony’s hinterland. With a few notable exceptions, most of what had evolved gradually over previous four decades was abruptly replaced within a few short years. Modern Perth was born.


Perth before the gold

Post-goldrush era Perth has been transformed again and again in the years up to the present, but it is nostalgia for the city in its early to mid twentieth century phase that dominates most of today’s cultural remembrance of the past. Whether what exists today is better or worse than what was knocked down to make way for it, is a question for another site. Visualising the city of Perth from about 1850 – 1880 is the focus of the Perth before the Gold project.