Brief History of Bridgetown
Lying on the banks of the mighty Blackwood River, Bridgetown is located 267kms from Perth in the south-west of Western Australia in the heart of the timber country. The area was first explored by Thomas Turner in 1834 who was exploring the Blackwood River upstream from Augusta to Arthur River.
Ten years later surveyor A.C. Gregory explored the area but it would take a further ten years before the area was actually settled around 1857 by E.G. Hester and John Blechynden. Originally a successful apple-producing district the area has now expanded into the timber, tantalum & lithium mining, dairy, cattle, fruit industries.
The name of the town was suggested by the settlers of the area, in honour of the ship, “Bridgetown”, which was the first ship to carry wool from the district. It also seemed appropriate as the town was located near a bridge.
In 1868, surveyor T.C. Carey put forward the proposed name and it was approved and gazetted by Governor Hampton in the same year. Carey was also keen to name the area Geegelup, which was the name the local Aboriginals called the area, as Geegelup was the name of the freshwater crustaceans (known as gilgies) which were abundant in the local brook.
Interestingly the main street, Hampton, was named in honour of the man who approved the name of the town.
Today the town and shire is a thriving community of industry and activity. Bridgetown is host to the Blackwood Classic Power Boat Race, Blackwood Marathon Relay, Blues at Bridgetown and Country Open Garden.
Things You May Not Know About Bridgetown
The postcode for Bridgetown is 6255.
The Bridgetown bridge is the longest jarrah bridge in Western Australia and the Blackwood River, which flows under it, is the longest river in Western Australia.
Until recently, a local Western Australian company, Sons of Gwalia (a gold and advanced mineral company), supplied about 35 % of the world’s tantalum which is around 1.3 million pounds of tantalum each year. The tantalum was exported mainly to Germany and the USA. It also may be possible that your mobile phone once used tantalum from Bridgetown!
The Blackwood River Classic 250 claims to be the longest power dinghy race in the world covering some 250 kms. The race commences at Bridgetown, passing through Nannup and Sues Bridge before finishing at the river mouth at Augusta.
Things Are Looking Up in Bridgetown
Following the first official survey of the district by Augustus Gregory in 1852, many settlers from Bunbury and other established areas began taking up land in the 1850s and 1860s. Mainly an agricultural community, the town began to flourish when, during the late 1890s, tin was discovered near Greenbushes. Around the same time, the timber industry was booming throughout the states southwest region . Many of the historical buildings you see throughout the town were built during this period and reflect the towns growing importance in the area. Walking down the main street many of the old buildings still remain including the old gaol and police quarters, the Bridgetown, Freemasons & Scotts Hotel, the old cider factory and Maslin House. For a more detailed tour click here for the Architecture of Bridgetown.