1934: When nowhere became somewhere

What was it like in Walpole before 1934?

Life was very difficult for the earliest settlers of Walpole & Districts. They lived in tin shacks surrounded by forest. Many couldn’t cope and walked off their farms hoping to find an easier life elsewhere.

1934 was an important year for those who stayed. ‘Nowhere’ became ‘Somewhere’ when Walpole’s name was confirmed by the government. It would now be a place on the map.

Gazetted as ‘Nornalup’ two years previously, the name was changed to ‘Walpole’ after indignant opposition from Nornalup residents. Walpole Inlet had been named about 100 years earlier so ‘Walpole’ was seen as a logical choice.

Washed out bridge on the Manjimup to Nornalup road

A washed-out approach to a bridge filled in with stone and timber on the Manjimup to Nornalup road

What did the town look like?

Until 1934 Walpole was known as ‘Main Camp’. Sited on the Railway Reserve (now Pioneer Park) it consisted of a big shed for pasture, seed and horse feed, Jim Snell the blacksmith’s shed, some tents, a dining room (two adjoining tents with dirt floors), a tin shed kitchen with a #2 Metters stove, and the horse yards. There was no electricity, scheme water or sewerage system. But Main Camp was near the only road in and out of the area.

The road from Nornalup to Manjimup was a rough track in 1934, unsuited to the few motor vehicles using it. Most people used horses and carts. The bridges over the Frankland, Walpole, and Deep Rivers, now 14 years old having been built in 1920, were sturdy although the approaches were often boggy.

By 1934 the Town Plan had already been approved by the Minister for Lands. Blocks had been surveyed and were being purchased.

In the main street there was a small tin shed with a petrol pump. This was Bob Nockolds’ #2 store and Post Office which had replaced his first store on Railway Reserve. Dr Burnside held his surgery here when he visited from Nornalup.

Bob Nockolds' store

Robert (“Bob”) Nockolds’ store

Nearby was Bayley Bros Butcher’s shop which opened when Bayley brought meat from Denmark once a week.

To the east of Nockolds’ store was Bill Harrison’s house. In 1930 Bill had relocated an abandoned farm house from Hazelvale to Main Camp. It was the first house built here. (Later it would become the Post Office before being demolished to make way for the existing Walpole Pharmacy.)

By 1934 the Town Oval had already been cleared during Sunday Busybees and the settlers were preparing a site on land between the store and the oval to build the Town Hall. It would be five years before the Hall opened. (It was later shifted and is now the Library.)

The North Walpole settlers also built Central Hall in 1934. Located five miles north of Walpole on Settlers Road (North Walpole Road) between Gardener and Hull roads, it was the first public social venue, other than three schools, in our area.

At this time Alf Jones was delivering goods from Manjimup in his ‘Tucker Truck’. He had also contracted to carry cream from North Walpole and Hazelvale to the railhead at Nornalup. Alf built a house in Swan Street.

What else happened in the district in 1934?

Tom Swarbrick paid 20 pounds for the salvage rights to the ‘Waratah’, which had just been wrecked at the mouth of the Nornalup Inlet. He used her timbers to deck the ‘Lady Walpole’, which was also built in 1934. The Walpole Settlers Association had the first of many excursions in the boat. They also enjoyed the fourth Boxing Day Picnic at Rest Point.

Sadly for the settlers, Sister Jean (Jane) Anderson and Sister Bazett returned to Ireland after running the Nornalup Cottage Hospital. Sister Greaves took over and Dr Burnside continued as doctor, dentist, and vet.

Mr McIntosh purchased some land from the Bellangers. He built ‘Jesmond Dene’ on the corner of the Highway and Riverside Drive, Nornalup, and began catering for the trickle of tourists and holiday-makers.

Although the exodus of farming families in the district would continue, tiny Walpole survived and grew in the coming years. The question was: “What will 1935 have in store for us?”

By Lee Hunter on behalf of the Walpole Nornalup & Districts Historical Society. This article first appeared in the December 10, 2014 edition of the Walpole Weekly.

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