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 www.wanowandthen.com).
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.