Northampton

Northampton, nestled in the valley of Nokarena Brook, 47 kilometres north of Geraldton, Northampton is a small farming community which had its origins in mining when, in 1842, copper was discovered in the area. The town is known for the many wildflowers which grow by the side of the road in the area, and Aboriginal cave paintings at the Bowes River turnoff.

Northampton has been classified as a historic town by the National Trust of Australia. It exudes a friendly, country charm with historic character buildings lining the main street surrounded by rich, golden agricultural lands.

Abound Town

Today the town boasts three buildings of genuine historic interest - Chiverton House (which is now the local museum), the Church of St Mary in Ara Coeli which was one of the many buildings in the Central West designed by the architect-priest Monsignor John Hawes, and the ruins of Gwalla Church, a true experiment in non–denominational religion built by the ex–convict Joseph Horrocks.

The Church of St Mary in Ara Coeli, which is located in Hampton Street, was constructed by the famous Western Australian architect-priest Monsignor John Hawes (see introduction for details of Hawes' life). Between 1915-1939 Hawes designed and helped to build a large number of churches and church buildings in the Central West.

Next door is the Convent of the Sacred Heart building, which now offers accommodation. It was the home of the Presentation Sisters from 1919 to 1983.

Chiverton House was built by Captain Samuel Mitchell, the manager of the Geraldine Mine, between 1867-1874. It is claimed that convicts built the building. If this is the case it must have been one of the last structures built by convicts in Australia as transportation ceased in 1868. Chiverton House later housed the local branch of the Western Australian Bank and today it is the town's museum.

Chiverton Museum is one of the most fascinating and successful in Australia. It has managed to collect unusual pieces of memorabilia including a fiendish attempt to produce a rolling shaver which looks like it would scar its victim for life. There are also some very interesting old kitchen utensils including a strange butter cutter. The museum's emphasis is on the unusual rather than the common place and thus it is well worth a visit. Ph (08) 9934 1215.


Gregory

(48 km north west) Originally the port for the Murchison region and called Port Gregory, the township of Gregory is today a small tourist and fishing village. Gregory is a fascinating settlement where convict history, fishing, wheat lands and 'getting away from it all' holidaying are an enthralling mix. There can be few places in Australia where wheat fields grow right next to huge white sand dunes, where an historic convict settlement stands on the shores of a pink lake, and where a reef runs parallel to the coast forming a natural breakwater for a small harbour.

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Horrocks Beach

(23 km west)

A traditional holiday, camping and fishing village for early settlers in the 1850's. Today it is popular with those who enjoy the outdoors and fishing, nature and history.

The town is named after an early resident, Joseph Lucas Horrocks, who was sentenced to 14 years transportation for forgery and arrived in Fremantle as a convict in 1852. In Fremantle he worked in the medical section of the convict settlement and, due to a chronic shortage of medical officers in the colony, was appointed medical attendant for the new settlement of Port Gregory in 1853. He was given an unconditional pardon in 1856 and spent the rest of his life (he died in 1865) working in the Northampton-Champion Bay area running a store, agitating for improved conditions for convicts, and building the Gwalla non-denominational church (it had separate Anglican and Nonconformists pulpits and a reading desk for anti-ritualists) in Northampton. Horrocks is buried in the cemetery.


Hutt Lagoon

The major natural attraction in the area is Hutt Lagoon, a remarkable pink lagoon which is coloured by the presence of algae known as beta caratine in the waters. It is mined both for its salt and for its food colouring properties. Hutt Lagoon is passed on the way to Gregory.


Kalbarri National Park

Kalbarri National Park is famous for its spectacular scenery, which features rugged coastal cliffs and towering river gorges, and its magni‘®Ňcent springtime display of wild‘®«owers. The 80-kilometre Murchison River, rising in the west, has cut a 170-metre deep canyon through the park on its way to the sea at Gantheaume Bay.

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Oakabella Homestead

Reputedly the most haunted house in Western Australia, Oakabella and its adjoining 50 000 acres was first taken up around 1851 and changed hands three times before it came to the possession of the Jackson family in 1910. Oakabella Homestead was built in 1860, and still contains some of the original furniture, complete with family portraits, which is on display. The homestead consists of a house containing thirteen rooms, complete with cat bones around that had been built into the doorframes, which apparently the first settlers had done to ward off evil spirits. This clearly was to no avail, as the homestead is said to be haunted by at least three ghosts. There is also a barn, a shearing shed, a blacksmith's workshop, stables and a cookhouse. Just a throw of the stone away from the homestead is a gorge with indiginous rock art and artifacts, all suggesting it was an aboriginal meeting place with a burial site nearby.

You can take a tour of the homestead, which includes the retelling of the ghosts stories. Visitors can wander about the property, and enjoy refreshment in a small café. Oakabella Home stead, Starling Road, off North West Coastal Highway between Geraldton and Northampton. Ph (08) 9925 1033


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Where is it?

474 km north north west of Perth; 50 km north of Geraldton.


Lynton Convict Depot ruins

Lynton Convict Depot ruins (1853-56): remnants of a failed experiment to hire convicts to local pastoralists. The first 60 ticket of leave men arrived at Port Gregory harbour in 1853, but within 4 years the depot had closed down, its occupants ravaged by scurvy. All that remains is the Superintendent of Convicts House (1853) and ruins of other the depot's buildings in the surrounding bush. The depot ruins are on the road to Gregory.

Sandford's House

Sanford's House (it can be seen across Hutt Lagoon and can be inspected by taking the signposted road to the east of the lagoon) was built by the convicts in 1853 out of limestone. A verandah was subsequently added with masts salvaged from the wreck of the Mary Queen of Scots which ran aground at Archdeacon Ledge in March 1855.

Sanford, the grandson of the Duke of Bedford, was appointed Superintendant of Convicts in late 1852 but resigned in 1854 (the house and outbuildings including a stone mill and large stone barn were all conveniently built during his period as Superintendant) to concentrate on whaling and agriculture.


Hutt Lagoon

The major natural attraction in the area is Hutt Lagoon, a remarkable pink lagoon which is coloured by the presence of algae known as beta caratine in the waters. It is mined both for its salt and for its food colouring properties.


Geraldine Mine relics

The Geraldine Lead Mine, located on the Murchison River, was one of the first mines to be built in Western Australia. The mine operated in the 1850s and 60s after explorer Augustus Gregory discovered lead while prospecting the region for agricultural and pastoral developments in 1849. Along with some of the forty-eight lead and copper mines that operated in the Ajana region during this time, the Geraldine Mine still retains solid stone work and foundations from its working days. A chimney, shafts, a powerhouse and a cemetery are among the remnants still standing at the sites.

The mine itself was in the middle of the normally dry riverbed of the Murchison River. Numerous flash flooding since this time has covered the mine with sand and silt. Production fluctuated between 1853 to 1860, producing between 55 to 134 tonnes per annum. The mine used convict labour from the Lynton Convict Depot, the ruins of which can still be seen along the Northampton to Port Gregory Road. Ore was exported through Port Gregory, which is little more than a reef sheltered lagoon along the windswept coast. Mining ceased in 1878, and did not start again till lead prices rose in 1917. For two years at this time,the mine was worked by Harry Gallagher. In the 1960's the mine was purchased by Joe Plaistow, although the shafts were not extensively worked. During this time a processing plant was constructed on the eastern banks of the river. Where Geraldine Road turns from east to south, there is an unmarked track heading north. At the T junction along this track turn left. There are small mullock piles surrounding the former processing plant. On the western banks of the river, are building ruins from the original mining period.


Warribano Lead Smelter Chimney

Several abandoned historic mines are hidden in the scrub to the east of the Geraldine Mine. Further south along Geraldine Road can be seen the Warribano Lead Smelter, on top of a hill in the middle of a wheat field, It was built in 1853 by convicts from Lynton and ceased operations in 1859. It was used to process ore from the Geraldine Mine. A line of rocks indicates the position of one of the tunnels from the smelter . The furnace tunnels took away the burn off up to the tower which used to be about 3 times higher and the wind sucked the air up and out of the tower and dispersed the burn off from the smelter. The whole area is under a heritage order and the removal of any old mining equipment or material from the buildings is illegal and results in severe penalties.


Brief history

Northampton is believed to be named after the copper and lead mining centre of that name in England. The fact that WA's Governor at the time was Dr. John Stephen Hampton and that the town is north of Perth is coincidental yet somewhat appropriate. The locality's Aboriginal name was Wannernooka.

The town came into being with the mining of copper (Wannernooka mine from 1842) and lead (Geraldine mine from 1848) at the locality. It was gazetted as a town in 1864.

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