As part of his continuous promotion of regional Western Australia, the Governor visited Toodyay on Thursday, 1st October 2020 to explore one of the Wheatbelt’s fine examples of natural and cultural heritage in WA.
Since restrictions lifted in June, the Governor has been conducting a number of day trips around the Perth metropolitan area to encourage local tourism in a post-COVID-19 environment. These day trips supplement the Governor’s broader Regional Visit Program.
Toodyay is located approximately 85 kilometres east of Perth in the picturesque Avon Valley. The name Toodyay is believed to be derived from an Aboriginal word ‘Duidgee’ which means ‘place of plenty’, referring to the richness and fertility of the area and the reliability of the Avon River.
“I really appreciate the great care and effort of the community members in the regional towns of Western Australia when I visit. Parts of our immediate country have such enormous value in keeping visitors entertained during these changing times with the COVID-19 pandemic. Toodyay has become an area that has is even more significant in the environment in which we are living and we learn a lot about ourselves and our history.
All of the close towns throughout the Wheatbelt region have marvellous features and in Toodyay’s case they have a really beautiful Gaol Museum. This is a class Museum and a must visit. It’s also great to see the council meeting in the old court house building which in itself has historical meaning.
The addition of the new Sport and Aquatic precinct opening in late 2020, will only add to the charm and vibrance of this fantastic town.”
Founded in 1836 and declared a historic town by the National Trust in 1980, the town today still displays fine examples of 19th century history, with architecture reflecting the early convict era.
Part of the Governor’s visit included the Old Courthouse (Shire Administration Centre), Connor’s Mill and the Old Gaol. Connor’s Mill, a working display, and the Old Gaol Museum are open to the public for a minimal admission fee.
Setting off from the Visitors Centre, the Governor joined a walking tour that took in the local historical sites. The Governor was accompanied by Shire of Toodyay Council President, Ms Rosemary Madacsi and Wheatbelt Development Commission CEO, Mr Rob Cossart.
Toodyay Court House
The main part of the Toodyay Court House building (designed by George Temple-Poole) was constructed in 1896 and opened in January 1897. The site had also been the location of a convict hiring depot; one of four established in the colony after convicts were introduced in 1850.
The Governor was introduced to staff working at the Court House and Local Council.
Newcastle Gaol Museum Precinct
After taking a walk through ANZAC Avenue Memorial Path, the Governor arrived at the Newcastle Gaol Museum.
Constructed in 1862 by convict labour, the Gaol was designed by Chief Architect of the day, Richard Jewell. The architectural style is rural vernacular.
Once inside, the Governor met with an actor playing the part of a resident convict of the Gaol from the 1800’s.
The Newcastle Gaol was a temporary home to WA’s legendary bushranger Joseph Bolitho Jones, aka “Moondyne Joe”. Accused and charged for stealing a horse near Toodyay, Joe broke out of prison using the same horse and the local judge’s new saddle and bridle.
Moondyne Joe evaded the authorities for two days until he was caught, charged with horse stealing and then transferred to the Convict Establishment at Fremantle. Records show that Joe even took up an off-the-cuff challenge from Governor Hampton in 1871 who promised him that if he could escape from the special cell built for prisoners like him, he would be granted freedom.
The Gaol sees approximately 4,000+ visitors annually with an increasing number of school visits. In 1962, the Gaol was extensively restored and subsequently became the first regional museum in Western Australia.
The most recent restoration of the Newcastle Gaol commenced in September 2019 with restorative works to the sub-soil drainage, walls and floors and a new re-shingled roof.
Connor’s Mill Museum
Next, the Governor walked through Connor’s Mill and was given an insight into how the mill was used back in the day.
Connor’s Mill is an icon of Toodyay and the legacy of one of the town’s most prominent businessmen, Daniel Connor. It is a testimony to Toodyay’s busy agricultural industry.
Connor’s Mill, with its historic machinery, demonstrates the process of turning wheat into flour. It retells stories of the many families whose lives revolved around this grand convict era building. There are a number of hands-on activities throughout the displays.
2020 is the 150th anniversary of Connor’s Mill.
After learning about some of Toodyay’s history, it was time for some retail therapy. Taking a stroll along the main street, the Governor popped in to meet some of the local shop owners and staff.
No visit to Toodyay is complete without a visit to the bakery. A hive of activity, it was great to see business was booming for this award winning bakery.
Uniquely Toodyay is home to a collective of passionate local producers, artists and craftspeople, located in the former post office in the main street. The Governor was able to chat with the staff and find out how business was managed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Christmas 360 is the largest Western Australian Christmas shop with over 7,000 items to choose from. The Governor was highly impressed with the selection of Christmas decorations on offer.
Christmas 360 provides residential and commercial Christmas decorations to the people of Australia with over 15 years of experience in large scale projects and corporate rentals.
Toodyay Aquatic Centre
The last stop was to check out the progress of Toodyay’s new Sport and Recreation Precinct including the Aquatic Centre. This area will feature a 25-meter, 6-lane swimming pool, splash pad, learn to swim area, seating facilities and a BBQ area, rectangular field for soccer, rugby and hockey, multi-use outdoor courts for tennis, basketball and netball, associated change rooms and viewing area.
The project is on a 14 HA site next to the Toodyay District High School.
Toodyay Sport and Recreation Precinct – Aquatic Centre swimming pool will open for use before Christmas 2020.