Wellstead Museum - Credit: Sarah Hall

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Bremer Bay's Historic Sites

Bremer Bay is situated 100km’s South east of Albany on the south coast between Albany and Hopetoun within the Shire of Jerramungup. The bay, after which the town derives its name, is believed to have been named by John Septimus Roe, the Surveyor General, who visited the area in 1848. It is assumed that Roe named this feature after James John Gordon Bremer, captain of the “TAMAR”, under whom he served between 1824 and 1827. Bremer Bay was originally named Wellstead in 1951 but locals petitioned to have the town renamed in 1962. Bremer Bay has a rich history that can be learnt by participating in the Drive Trail that takes you around the town stopping at strategic points and detailing the history on a plaque. You can also visit the museum which tells not only the history of Bremer Bay but from surrounding areas and all over the world.

CUNEO DRIVE ROCK CAIRN

The original rock cairn on this was built by the Wellstead family under Government maritime supervision as a means of alerting visiting coastal ships when there were travellers or cargo to go aboard. By means of a white day flag  or a lantern at the head of the central pole the crew would know that there could be, for example, wool, tree bark or produce to be picked up for one or other of the ports around the south coast which they visited regularly. 

This service was phased out in the early 1930’s when shipping ceased and road transport took over. In the 1980’s the local Progress Association, together with the then active Tourism Committee, decided to reconstruct the cairn as something of historical interest, but it was built in a slightly different form from the original.

Those involved in it’s rebuilding were Bill Taylor, Ron Clarke, Graeme Harris and Ken Thomas, four well known members of the local community.It was completed in the late 1980,s.

 

BREMER BAY TELEGRAPH STATION

The building is a significant architectural structure in the town of Bremer Bay and Shire of Jerramungup. The building was designed by Mr. George Temple Poole. It’s style is particularly Australian and blends well with the environment.

On the 1st of January 1875 Frederick Weld, the Governor of Albany at the time, erected the first telegraph pole which would carry the telegraph to Eucla, thus “connecting” Western Australia with the rest of the continent and, via Darwin, the rest of the world. The line to Bremer Bay was completed by October 1875, but did not formally open for traffic until the 8th March 1876 due to the problem of enough people available to man the station. The agreed number was four – a station master, assistant, a linesman and a native for field work.

Miss Mary Wellstead, daughter of John Snr, was the first operator in Bremer Bay and quite possibly the first telegraphist in Australia, until the new appointments at the end of 1877. The first Bremer Bay Telegraph Station was built in 1875 from timber and had a shingle roof. The chimney & verandah were added later.

The original telegraph station was burnt down and the new telegraph station was erected in 1896. This time local stone was used and the building became a well known landmark with it’s colourful walls. The remains of the first building were cleared in 2000.

After 1930, the P.M.G put the telegraph station out to tender and Mr William Sparks, a farmer from Needilup, became the next owner, at a cost of less than 50 pounds. Since then the station has been a private dwelling. In 1947 the late North Garnett purchased the building and it was inherited by his son James Garnett in 1974.

The decision to erect the first station at Bremer Bay instead of West Mount Barren, as first planned, brought it’s first European settler John Wellstead within an hours walk of the telegraph station. This proved a boon to the Officials who served there as the nearest town of Albany was one hundred and seventy miles away.

The building was purchased by the Iffla family in 2019 and extensively restored. It now houses what is known as “The Telegraph”, run by the Iffla family, a cafe and restaurant. Serving Breakfast, Lunch and Tea, Coffee & Cake. 

The entrance to the telegraph was used as the towns first classroom.

The building is currently classified with the National Trust in a “C” classification. It is the ony building remaining in the townsite that is currently considered to have historic significance.

 

WELLSTEAD HOMESTEAD - PEPPERMINT GROVE

The Currawong and Boobook cottages are delightful heritage listed dwellings located on Peppermint Grove Farm, Bremer Bay. The origins of these  cottages hark back to the time when the property was first settled by John Wellstead an 1850. John arrived in Western Australia with the 51st Regiment, British Army in 1840. After being joined by his wife Anne, they and their subsequent twelve children grew vegetables, fruit, grazed sheep and cattle and established a dairy, milking 70 head of cows by hand twice a day. Three further generations of Wellsteads have made the farm a home and to this day continue the re-development of the original crown grant farmland into an exciting and unique eco tourist development.

The cottages were originally built from local stone, lime mortar sourced and burnt on the property and pit sawn timber also sourced and produced on the property. The Currawong was built in 1864 as separate sleeping quarters for the second generation of Wellstead boys and was known as The Boys Room. After falling into disrepair and almost a total loss it was rescued and beautifully restored by 4th generation Wellstead and current owner Mr Max Wellstead.

Boobook was built in 1854 and was originally used as sheep pens. When the second generation of Wellstead daughters matured, the largest of the pens was built up to provide a separate sleeping accommodation unit due to overcrowding in the house, and was then called The Girls Room.

This stunning property also boasts the popular Historic Wellstead Museum, (with over 6000 exhibits from yesteryear and growing all the time), and the Museum Cafe Bremer Bay. This is an original Eco Park, where only native animals are found. Wild kangaroos are found browsing the lawn area or taking a quiet nap in large mobs around the farm. The native birdlife is spectacular and birdwatchers will be right at home, especially with the cheeky Currawongs which abound. The Wellstead Museums cafe, Museum Cafe Bremer Bay as it is known, obtained a reconstructed wood fired baker’s oven from the first commercial bakery in Albany which was installed there in 1912. This oven is a replacement to the original oven which served the farm occupants in the 1800’s

The Wellstead Museum Café currently managed by Dan and Sarah is a popular eatery in the town favoured by tourists and locals alike. Their delicious menu consists of dishes using fresh produce from the local region some of which are even grown in the gardens around Peppermint Grove Farm. Their pizza night is a firm favourite with the pizzas cooked in the beautiful reconstituted wood-fired baker’s oven from the first commercial bakery in Albany. This oven is a replacement to the original oven which served the farm occupants in the 1800s.

The Wagin goods shed was purchased and relocated at the Homestead with artifacts collected from around the homestead and put on display in 1990. Since then the museum has grown with more sheds built. Over 60,000 items of memorabilia, 30 motor cars, and 30 restored motorbikes. There are also sheds full of tractors and engines dating back to 1904. A shearing shed has also been restored with wag on shearing plants and other artefacts on display. 

QUAALUP HOMESTEAD

John Wellstead built Quaalup Homestead in 1858. The Wellstead family resided in Bremer Bay, however they free ranged this area with cattle and sheep to preserve their own pasture. During this time the built the homestead, which was initially used as an outpost then the barn, which stored the various fodder that they cropped. The original homestead consisted of three rooms, the kitchen, bedroom and a sitting room.

In 1890 John Hassell took out a pastoral lease extending from Jerramungup to House Beach, located at Hood Point. The Hassell family grazed only sheep and one brother lived at the homestead. He had a teamster working for him by the name of James McGlade. James was in charge of shepherding the sheep from Quaalup to House Beach. They were shorn there and the fleece loaded onto rafts that were then floated out to clipper ships anchored just off the coast.

James’ daughter, May McGlade, died in 1927 at the age of 18 years from a chest complaint. On return from shepherding, 2 days later, James took a tall kitchen cupboard out of the homestead , knocked the shelves out and that became Mary’s coffin. Mary was buried on the side track leading to Quaalup, the lonely grave on the nature walk.

Mick Hassell married in 1930 and the homestead was extended by three rooms. The Hassell family deserted Quaalup and the House Beach area once a main road was built from Jerramungup to Albany. The shearing shed at House Beach and James McGlades cottage were pulled down and the materials utilized to extend the main shearing shed at Jerramungup.

The Lugge family was next to live at Quaalup after swapping land they with the government. However, because of health problems they soon moved back to Perth.Quaalup then became part of the War Service Settlement Scheme made up of 13 blocks. Unfortunately , due to the land not being viable for growing food crops, it was never taken up. Quaalup was eventually sold off block by block. Two of those blocks have gone to the National Park and the remaining six to different owners.

Geoff and Norma Keen bought Quaalup Homestead in 1974. He was the Park Ranger at the time and the family spent years restoring the homestead, which was badly vandalised. The old barn was a solid building up to the seventies, when somebody stole the roof and it started to fall apart.

In 1989 the O’Brien family purchased Quaalup. They furnished the homestead as a museum and offered meals in the dining room.

Since June 2004 it has been owned by Karin & Carsten from Hamburg , Germany. The 40 acres of native bush surrounded by the Fitzgerald River National Park are now the “Quaalup Homestead Wilderness Retreat” with the homestead being part of it, giving guests and visitors an impression of the early settlement days.

THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY CROSS

In the early 1980’s the Diocese of Bunbury, together with the Priest in charge of the Ongerup parish, Fr Hugh Galloway, and the Catholic congregation in and around Bremer Bay started to plan the building of a church to serve the needs of local people and the increasing number of visitors.

The wonderful rammed earth building was completed with the help of many people from around the area. It was a true community effort. 

It was dedicated in March 1978 by the Bishop of Bunbury, the Most Rev. Peter Quinn, to honour the memory of Mary Mackillop, co-founder of the sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart. 

The building comprises 4 main sections, the worship area with beautiful leadlight windows above the altar, social area with a kitchen, dining tables, wood fire and comfortable seating, the Priests flat upstairs, and sleeping accommodation for visitors alongside the main building.

Now the Church of the Holy Cross is used by the Catholic and Anglican congregations.