Saturday, October 5, 2013


I am doing a post on the town of Rockingham.  This is a piece of history about how Rockingham got its name and the story of another planned venture that failed.  (Information with thanks from

In 1829 Thomas Peel arrived aboard the ship "Gilmore" with a group of settlers to start a settlement just south of Woodman Point.  This was just part of what could only be described as a venture of disastrous proportions.  (Woodman Point is a few km south of Fremantle).

Peel arranged a grant of 100,000 hectares providing that he arrived by 1st November, 1829; and so he and 400 settlers set off in three ships ("Gilmore", "Hooghly" and "Rockingham").  The voyage was beset by problems and in the end Peel arrived 6 weeks late.  Governor Stirling informed Peel that the grant was now void and Peel threatened to return to England with his 400 settlers. Stirling, realising that the new colony was in desperate need of new colonists, sought a compromise and in the meantime the new arrivals were dumped on the coast near the current site of Woodman Point.

The second ship "Hooghly" arrived in February, 1830 and many people lost their possessions in a fire set by Aborigines in the scrub soon after they disembarked.

Finally, in May, the "Rockingham" arrived (without the funds that Levey was supposed to have sent) in the middle of the first storm of the season.  She was driven aground in Mangles Bay.
Mangles Bay as it is now:

R.H.Shardlow wrote about the incident in his book "The Ship Rockingham":"Peel, impatient and dissatisfied with the proceedings, ignored the bad weather and made his way out to the ship to 'assist'. He was later accused of having interfered with the handling of the ship...for reasons unknown he ordered all the single men to be sent to Garden Island in four of the ship's boats. However, they were unable to row against the gale and were blown ashore on the mainland and swamped in the surf. Fortunately, there were no casualties.

The ship fared no better.  While easing out the cable in order to bring her closer inshore to facilitate unloading, the pitching seas put such a strain on the capstan that it broke.  The ship drifted out of control and ran aground, broadside on....Miraculously all managed to make it to shore without loss of life.  Fearing the ship would break up the stores were hurriedly brought off and the cattle were swum ashore only to wander off into the scrub. There was little shelter in Clarence and most of the people tried to huddle in a small, wooden house washed up from the ship.  Others had to sleep in barrels, boxes and under sacks or pieces of canvas. "

Having survived the shipwreck the settlers now had to face a wet cold winter with poor shelter and little provisions.  Twenty-eight (other sources say 37) died from various causes before most moved away to either the Swan River settlement or further south.  The settlers had signed on with Peel and he held sway over them.  It was not until Governor Stirling stepped in that the settlers were freed to do as they chose.  Stirling wrote to Peel:

"Had the magistrates given a contrary order and compelled your people to remain in your service they would have acted illegally, for such an order would have been equivalent to Sentence of Death by Starvation".  (I would say that was fair comment on the part of the Governor).

ROCKINGHAM gets its name from the 423 ton tea clipper that was wrecked in Mangle Bay in 1830. The Aboriginal name for the area is Mooriburdup).  A town site was declared as early as 1847 and by 1870 the town of Rockingham began to grow.


  1. Hari OM
    Deary me, the old adventurous spirit and desperate measures tactics of the pioneer...much is worth but so much is not. Thanks for this post Mimsie - am back from the mountains and busy tapping the keys again! Hope you are having a good weekend. YAM xx

    1. Yes our early settlers needed lots of intestinal fortitude. You have to take your hats off to them but then times were very hard in England and they were willing to risk all for a hopefully better life.
      Nice to see you tapping the keys once again and our weekend is going quietly but well. Hopes your is too. xx

  2. Wow Mimsie to think what those poor souls went through makes me sad. Great history to learn from though. Hug B

  3. Yes Buttons, it really makes you realise how well off we are today even if we are not rich. I have been leaning so much about our local history and really enjoying it. We have a lot to thank our early settlers for. x

  4. A very shaky beginning indeed.

    1. Shaky indeed but fortunately many survived as did their descendants.

  5. I am in awe at the courage of those first settlers. To make the dangerous trip in the first place, to be separated (probably forever) from family, and then to undergo such hardships. How would people today manage without phones, electricity, food, shelter...? I don't think many of us would survive.
    I am really enjoying this series. Thank you.

  6. You are so right in your comments. I often say to Phil "how would the modern generation survive under hardships?" No counselling back then whatever problems you had suffered. You really do have to take your hat off to these intrepid early settlers and be thankful they made the effort.

  7. A rocky start for Rockingham. It's a good thing our early settlers were made of tough stuff. I can't imagine doing the same these days. Yet it wasn't so long ago immigrants came from other countries after the war to Australia with nothing much more than the clothes on their backs, just hoping to be allowed to work and settle, build a home, raise a family. We accepted them, they integrated and all was well. Still they didn't have it as hard as the first settlers.