Pavilion honours Nedlands pioneer

Louisa White and her mother Marion Radoccia. Louisa travelled from Narrogin to attend the function. Louisa and Marion are descended from Adam Armstrong's son Francis Fraser Armstrong.
Camera IconLouisa White and her mother Marion Radoccia. Louisa travelled from Narrogin to attend the function. Louisa and Marion are descended from Adam Armstrong's son Francis Fraser Armstrong. Credit: Countryman

The City of Nedlands’ first European resident, Adam Armstrong, had his legacy celebrated at an official naming ceremony for the City’s newest pavilion at David Cruickshank Reserve recently.

The City of Nedlands and descendants of four of his children, Francis Fraser Armstrong, George Drummond Armstrong, Adam Armstrong Junior, and Christopher Armstrong, came together at a ceremony to officially name the Adam Armstrong Pavilion.

Descendants came from as far away as Yallingup, Busselton, Cowaramup and Northam.

“Adam Armstrong played a pivotal role in the early settlement of Nedlands, in naming Dalkeith,” Mayor Max Hipkins said.

Armstrong was born on February, 1788.

A widowed Scottish father of six, he set sail on board the Gilmore, along with 169 other settlers on July 18, 1829.

He arrived in Swan River settlement on December 15, 1829.

“Armstrong showed strong pioneering spirit and foresight. The Swan River was a tiny settlement, a very long way from Scotland,” Mr Hipkins said.

“The differences must have seemed immense to the early settlers — the landscape daunting and unfamiliar, the flora and fauna outlandish, the climate harsh, especially when they had to construct their own dwellings.”

Armstrong had worked in London for Thomas Peel as a managing clerk and travel agent.

Before departing on the Gilmore, Armstrong signed a contract to work for Peel in the colony as an accountant and surveyor.

Peel had chartered the Gilmore from the UK and had guaranteed to Governor Stirling he would arrive in the new colony by November 1, 1829, in return for land grants. When he arrived six weeks late, Governor Stirling told him the land grant was void, so the Governor granted Peel land further south, in what would become the Peel region.

Armstrong helped Thomas Peel survey his vast land grant, which stretched from Rockingham to Mandurah, up the Murray River to Pinjarra and towards the Serpentine.

As an employee of Thomas Peel, he was entitled to an allotment of land, so he chose a block adjoining the Murray River. He named this property Ravenswood.

It was desperately hard going, as the Armstrong family followed Thomas Peel’s declining fortunes. Stock and stores did not arrive from England as expected, Peel got into a duel with a ship’s captain and there was no food — malnutrition and disease were rife among the settlers Peel had brought over.

Having lived in poor conditions for 18 months, the family decided to move.

Armstrong discovered no other settler had taken up Swan Location 85. He made a submission to obtain the grant.

In July 1831, Armstrong and his family sailed to Fremantle and then onto Perth, a journey of almost four days.

On September 8, 1831, the grant was approved for Swan Location 85.

Armstrong had officially became Nedlands’ first permanent resident.

The family set out to develop their new property on the Swan River, which Armstrong named Dalkeith Farm,

Today, the area is around the junction of Birdwood Parade and Waratah Avenue.

The family probably cleared the land by hand or by burning. They felled trees and built brushwood fences to protect their patches of garden and crop from emus and wallabies, and soon established an orchard and vegetable garden.

On Dalkeith Farm, he dug a well for fresh water and was the first person to grow grapes and figs for commercial purposes and farmed the best goat run in the colony.

His original farm was eventually bought by James Gallop, who built a two-storey house in the 1870s, now known as Gallop House.

Armstrong died in Ravenswood in 1853, aged 67.

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