The name Canning first appears in a reference to “Canning River” when an allocation of 250,000 acres (approx. 100hs) of land was made in 1828 to Thomas Peel. Named after a one-time Prime Minister of England, George Canning, it continues in the names of Cannington, Canning Highway, Canning Vale and City of Canning.
Peel undertook a migration program which originally planned to settle 10,000 people on a million acres (approx. 404,700 ha) provided he could land 400 settler families by November 1829. When the group did not arrive in time, the land was thrown open to others.
Allocations along the river in the early years reads like a “who’s who” of prominent early settlers. John Morgan’s grant covered all of Riverton, Rossmoyne and Shelley; P.P. Smith’s included all of Wilson; and Bickley’s grant started in modern day Carlisle and extended down to the current alignment of Wharf Street in Cannington. Henry Bull had a large grant at the end of Bull’s Creek.
Most of the land suitable for agriculture on both sides of the Canning River was quickly taken up with long thin blocks running from the River. This provided settlers with access to river transport as well as providing a water source. Before the Causeway opened in 1843, the river was the main transport route and a number of landings were established along its route. It wasn’t until 1868 that the Albany Road was paved with wooden blocks.
Despite the initial surge, there was only a strip about half a mile (.8km) either side of the Albany Road that could be described as settled.
In the 1860s Benjamin Mason obtained a timber concession in the Darling Ranges around Carmel. Timber cut there was hauled to the Canning River where it was further processed before loading onto barges to be taken down river to Perth and Fremantle. Continual silting of the river through the Shelley Basin was a problem. Convict labour was used to create a channel and install a ‘fence’ to keep the channel to prevent silting up. Despite a lot of work and rebuilding in the 1890s, the project was not very successful however resulted in today’s “convict fence” being a continuing reminder of those days.
Mason was joined by Francis Bird in 1870 and soon afterwards Bird built himself a house which he called “Woodloes” just upstream of Mason’s landing. Today that house, the oldest remaining in the districts, is preserved as the local museum. Despite a horse-drawn railway being constructed between the landing and the timber mill in the hills, getting the timber down the river to Perth and Fremantle remained a problem and led to the company failing and the properties sold.
Development of the Perth to Pinjarra railway opened in 1893 with Cannington and Welshpool stops opening in 1897 and 1898 respectively. Wilson and John’s nursery was established in 1897 and there were a number of dairies throughout the district. McIntosh, a blacksmith with the former Mason, Bird Timber Company started his business in 1893 on Albany Highway and Cockram established the Cannington hotel in the 1890s. Stephen Gibbs built a hotel on the corner of Cecil Ave and Albany highway around the same time. William Lacey Gibbs owned large portions of land and his name and that of some of his family live on in the names of streets – William St, Lacey St, Gibbs St, Henry St, Stephen St.
A local school started in the Congregational Church around 1891 although there had been some form of schooling at Mason’s Landing from 1878. As the population increased a new school opened in Cannington in 1898 and another was established, also in a Congregational church hall, in Queens Park in 1905. Sub division of land in the 1890s saw the establishment of the “Jubilee Estate”, so named in honour of Queens Victoria’s Jubilee and consequently the creation of what is now Queens Park at the close of the colonial era.
Image: Cannington School, c.1897.