The jewel in the crown of the South-West
In 2000 Bridgetown was granted Historic Town Status, listed by the National Trust, only the eighth in the state to be so. Greenbushes and Bridgetown work very hard to retain the integrity of their architectural heritage and this is recognised on a state as well as national level. "Bridgetown has retained places of significance from each phase of 138 years of European Development" (Reference from Trust News 2001).
"Geegelup" was the name by which the area was well known before the name "Bridgetown" was adopted. (The name was probably taken from the local Aboriginal term for the fresh water crustaceans found in the local brook. The local tribe called these "guglies" and incorporated them into their diet. Other people changed this term to "gilgies"). The town was proclaimed on 4th June 1868 as "Geegelup". Because the barque "Bridgetown" loaded some of the town’s wool at Bunbury and due to the bridge across the Blackwood River, pioneer John Allnutt wrote to the colony’s authorities requesting that the town, henceforth be called "Bridgetown". This was carried out and the name stuck by the early 1870’s.
Bridgetown is the oldest town in the South-West. The first settlers to the Bridgetown area were E. Hester and John Blechynden in 1857. The township of Bridgetown was built on land then owned by John Blechynden and gazetted in 1868. In 1861 convicts formed and maintained the section of road from Donnybrook to Bridgetown, opening up the region and encouraging settlers and the development of the tourist trade to Bridgetown in 1898.
In the period between 1850 and 1885 the township saw the building of many of the buildings still standing today including our current Post Office and two of the town’s hotels. During the gold boom days and federation, Bridgetown prospered "and saw a considerable increase in settlement of the region. This vibrant period saw the construction of a number of significant civic, commercial and industrial buildings, including the Police station and Lockup Keepers Quarters" (reference from Trust News 2001) circa 1907, which was granted conservation funds in 1999-2000 as part of the historical precinct.
The Bridgetown Historic Society has produced a 'Self Guided Walk Guide' to heritage buildings and landmarks within the town. It is available for purchase from the Bridgetown Visitor Information Centre.
The Bridgetown Agricultural Society came into being in the year of 1885 as Bridgetown’s agricultural production was well established and flourishing. It was formed to provide support, education and a forum for farmers to share information, both practical and scientific. It supported new ideas in agricultural and horticultural practices and provided the premises to buy and sell goods, stock and display their produce.
During these periods Bridgetown developed into a prime producer of sheep, cattle, dairy products, timber, fruit and nuts. The apple industry came into its own around 1905 when the first production orchard trees came to maturity, this product in its own right helped put Bridgetown on the agricultural map. The Agricultural Society played an important role in the convincing the Government of the day to extend the railway down to Bridgetown in 1889 thus facilitating the expansion of rural produce particularly fruit markets and the growing timber industry.
Other areas of community support came from the society and the showgrounds as a venue for field days (the society sponsoring the first soil erosion field day in 1949), sporting events, public meetings and the annual Agricultural show. The show holds a tremendous amount of historical reference as it was the only public meeting place in the Bridgetown area till the building of the Bridgetown Civic Centre and Town Hall in the 1930s. The showground was also provided as a military base in WW2 and the society raised funds for the war effort.
The show-grounds have also been the venue for trotting (established in 1927), soccer, football, cricket and hockey. Public entertainment events such as The Apple Festival, rodeos, circus, Lions events, shearing fundraisers, bike racing, cadets and now the Blues at Bridgetown and the Australian Day Breakfast are held at the grounds.
Rather different from its boom times when it had a population of over 3000, Greenbushes now has a rustic charm. The town gets its name from the Green Bushes Well, located south of where the town now stands. The well was a watering place on the Bunbury – Bridgetown road and was so named because of the bright green bushes that grew in the area.
In 1886, a surveyor reported that the area near the well, contained tin in alluvial deposits. In 1888 David William Stinton found half a pound of tin in a gully resulting in an influx of miners and prospectors.
The town’s prosperity has always depended upon the timber industry and tin mining but more recently lithium and tantalum mining. Along with farming, both industries play a significant economic role in the town.
There is an enormous amount of history and natural beauty in Greenbushes and evidence still remains of the town’s past glories