The Leschenault Peninsula


Introduction



The Leschenault Peninsula has had a very chequered history - from private property to public access. Along the way it was used by Charles Robert Prinsep of India with a dream of financial success; by a succession of owners for grazing stock in the winter when their inland properties were boggy; by John Boyle O'Reilly, a Fenian as cover until he escaped on the Gazelle; by alternative lifestylers; by a factory as a dumping ground for its effluent; and now, by the public as a recreational reserve known as the Leschenault Peninsula Conservation Park.


Taken from: Leschenault Peninsula Management Plan 1998 - 2008, Department of Conservation and Land Management for The National Park and Nature Conservation Authority, Perth, Western Australia, 1998, this article is available in full at:


Leschenault Peninsula Management Plan (PDF Format 2.27MB)


Early Settlement


In February, 1838, Thomas Little arrived at Fremantle. Little had journeyed from Calcutta and arrived to establish an estate for Charles Robert Prinsep. The estate was to be managed to run horses for the British Army in India. Little bought 741.4 ha on the Leschenault Peninsula and named the homestead Belvidere in honour of the Prinsep mansion in Calcutta. (ref 1) (Staples 1977, as cited by Wood 1990).


Little developed the estate as a horse and cattle venture. There were two cattle herds, one of which was Bengali cattle or water-buffalo. The water buffalo were kept at the Bengal Station at the northern end of the property and were used for ploughing and as beasts of burden. The dwelling on Bengal Station was named Buffalo Homestead (Wood 1990). Buffalo Homestead was later rented to an English settler named Jackson. Evidence of this homestead still exists. It is located on private property about 50 metres north of the northern boundary of the Park, and is known colloquially as 'Buffalo Hut'.


The success of the horse export trade based at Belvidere is unclear…


Little left Prinsep's Estate in 1864 and the estate was then managed by William Owen Mitchell until 1860. From 1861 to 1869 William Bedford Mitchell (not related to William Owen Mitchell) managed Prinsep's estate. The estate duties over this period included continuing the horse trade and export of jarrah railway sleepers to India.


Henry Charles Prinsep (C.R. Prinsep's son) managed the estate from 1869 until about 1878 when it was sold to William Henry Venn of Dardanup.


Agricultural Use



At the time when William Henry Venn bought Belvidere he also purchased the properties of Thomas Little.


The Venns chose to reside at Little's former residence at Dardanup Park. Belvidere was used by the Venns for grazing and managed for seasonal rotation of stock between Dardanup and the coast. The Belvidere homestead was used as a base for stock work and as a summer holiday retreat (Fletcher unpublished).


Belvidere, along with Henry William Venn's Dardanup properties, were passed on to his son, Frank Evans Venn. Frank Venn managed Belvidere in much the same way his father had, with seasonal grazing and as a summer retreat (Fletcher unpublished).


The original Belverere homestead is believed to have burnt down prior to 1900. The homestead subsequently built for the Venns was also destroyed by fire. The exact year is unclear but is thought to be around 1936. The jetty built by Frank Venn was destroyed by the same fire (Fletcher unpublished). Remains of the jetty are still present


In November 1920 the Venns sold Belvidere Estate to Lewis McDaniel, a farmer from Dardanup. McDaniel used Belvidere as an extension of his Dardanup properties, and, like his neighbours on the peninsula (the Garvey and Harris families) seasonally grazed stock (Fletcher unpublished). Ownership of Belvidere was later transferred (April 1954) to a D.M. McDaniel (Fletcher unpublished). Presumably Lewis McDaniel and D.M. McDaniel were related and the property managed for grazing.


In March 1967 Belvidere was bought by Albert Thomas Bastow and, in November of the same year, by Wallace (Wally) Greenham and Shirley Rodda. They were the last private owners of Belvidere. The history of Belvidere's use throughout the period of their ownership is briefly described below (Belvidere: the alternative lifestyle period).


Throughout the period between 1886 and the mid 1960s the area south of Belvidere was owned by the Harris family.


Thomas Harris, born in Northampton, England about 1836, arrived in the Swan River Colony June 1, 1858. He was one of some nine and a half thousand convicts transported to Western Australia between 1850 and 1868. by 1860 [he] had been granted a "ticket-of-leave".



Thomas Harris's son, Thomas William (Bill) Harris, bought the southern section of the Leschenault Peninsula in 1886. Throughout the period of his ownership, and later (in 1929) when the property was passed onto his sons, the southern end of the peninsula was used for stock grazing. The Harrises also grazed the coastal properties as alternative pasture to the wetter lands of Waterloo and Dardanup (Fletcher unpublished).


In 1965 the Harris property was bought to facilitate the disposal of acid effluent from Laporte's titanium dioxide plant (now Millennium Inorganic Chemicals Ltd finishing plant) at Australind (See Section 16)


Belvidere: The Alternative Lifestyle Era


For a large part of its ownership by Wallace Greenham and Shirley Rodda, Belvidere was used as a site to foster alternative lifestyles. A small commune developed and by the late 1970s the number of members had grown sufficiently to warrant the employment of a teacher. At its peak occupancy the commune comprised 14 houses...


With increasing demands for suitable effluent disposal sites, the Western Australian Government indicated its wish to buy Belvidere. The commune occupants subsequently moved from the area. In 1984 the Government negotiated to purchase the land to facilitate effluent disposal.(ref 2)


Acid on the Peninsula


From 1964 to 1990 acid was deposited on the Leschenault Peninsula as a bi-product from Laporte titanium's sulphate processing plant at Australind. This plant was used to produce titanium dioxide, a material used in products such as printing inks, paper, cosmetics and ceramics.


Each year the plant produced approximately 36,000 tonnes of titanium dioxide pigment and 2,400 million litres of acidic waste effluent. Initially the acid was deposited directly into the ocean beach resulting in large iron stains in the water and on the sand. This led to public outcry and the practice ceased in 1968. After this, the effluent was deposited into cleared depressions in the dunes where it percolated through the alkaline sand neutralising most of the acid. In 1989 a chloride process pigment plant in Kemerton replaced the existing plant and the acid disposal ceased the next year.


 


Rebuilding the Peninsula


After decades of effluent disposal, land managers were then faced with the enormous task of rehabilitating 18 acid ponds and eroded dunes covering nearly 100 ha, around 10 percent of the Peninsula. Between 1986 and 1992 four government departments and contractors worked intensively to rehabilitate the degenerated landscape. Acid ponds were filled in, dunes rebuilt and tree lopping or 'brush' was laid to minimise erosion. Thousands of seedlings were planted and seeds sown (ref 3)


Leschenault Peninsula Conservation Park is open to the public. There are information boards, walk circuits, picnic and camping areas. Buffalo and Belvidere beaches can be accessed by car.



 




John Boyle O'Reilly



John Boyle O'Reilly, born on 28 June 1844, was one of the 62 Irish political prisoners amongst the 279 convicts who arrived in Fremantle on 9 June 1868.



O'Reilly was a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, known as the Fenian Movement - "an organization dedicated to the ideal of an independent Irish Republic" (Waters 1976). He had been tried and sentenced to death on 9 July 1866 for his involvement in converting English soldiers to Fenianism.



In the same year as his arrival in Fremantle, O'Reilly was transferred to work as a member of a road crew



The road crew was strictly disciplined, but not closely guarded, as it was believed that there was nowhere for prisoners to escape to



As part of a well prepared and assisted escape plan, O'Reilly made his way to Leschenault Peninsula from where he had planned to row out to sea and board an American whaling ship. O'Reilly made several unsuccessful attempts to board the "Vigilant". Throughout this period he sheltered, with the assistance of the Jackson family, in the dense peppermint woodlands in the vicinity of Buffalo Homestead (Buffalo Hut). He made his escape by boarding the American whaler, the "Gazelle" on 3 March 1869 and he eventually settled in Boston, USA.



In America, O'Reilly established himself as a humanitarian, writer, poet and orator. O'Reilly arranged for the purchase and fitting out of the "Catalpa" which, on 17 April 1876 was involved in the rescue of six of the remaining 10 Fenians held in Fremantle Prison (Waters 1976).



O'Reilly died in Boston on 10 August 1890. A monument erected to the memory of John Boyle O'Reilly stands at the northern entry to Leschenault Peninsula, within 200 metres of the site of the Jackson family's hut.(ref 4)



Further Information



William Bedford Mitchell was the father of


Hon. Sir James Mitchell




  • Premier of Western Australia 1919 - 1924 1930 – 1933

  • Lieut. Governor of Western Australia 1933 - 1948

  • Governor of Western Australia 1948 - 1951



Laporte became SCM, then Millennium Inorganic Chemicals and is now Lyondell Chemicals.



'Back to Belvidere', an oral history tape available through Harvey History Online.




References

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