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Old Onslow Townsite


Shire of Ashburton

Place Number

There no heritage location found in the Google fusion table.


Reserve 35118 Talandji

Location Details

North of the Ashburton River

Local Government




Construction Date

Constructed from 1885

Demolition Year


Statutory Heritage Listings

Type Status Date Documents More information
Heritage Agreement YES 06 Nov 2012 Text of the Heritage Agreement
Heritage Council
State Register Registered 17 Feb 2006 Register Entry
Assessment Documentation
Heritage Council

Heritage Council Decisions and Deliberations

Type Status Date Documents
(no listings)

Other Heritage Listings and Surveys

Type Status Date Grading/Management More information
Category Description
Aboriginal Heritage Sites Register Permanent

Heritage Council
Register of the National Estate Indicative Place

Heritage Council
Municipal Inventory Adopted 17 Aug 1999 Category B

Category B

Worthy of high level of protection: to be retained and conserved; provide maximum encouragement to the owner under the Shire of Ashburton Planning Scheme to conserve the significance of the place. A more detailed Heritage Assessment/Impact Statement to undertaken before approval is given for any major redevelopment. Incentives to promote conservation should be considered.

Statement of Significance

The old Onslow town site has aesthetic, historic, social, scientific and rarity cultural heritage significance. Though the town site is today a collections of ruins, it represents an important historical period of development for the Ashburton district. Owing to it's isolation from civilisation the old town has an interesting, almost tangible historical presence similar to ghost towns in the Western Australaina goldfields. It has much potential as a tourist and pre federation archaeological site giving it scientific heritage value. Old Onslow us a rare example of ruins in the Ashburton district that represent the difficulties of early development in the North West.

Physical Description

The most prominent ruins in the old Onslow town site are the stone remains of the gaol, the courthouse, the police station and police quarters. A concrete roof that appears to be set into the ground is the roof of an underground water tank once used by the police. None of the buildings remain intact and have suffered badly from vandalism and exposure to harsh climatic conditions. The stone walls were constructed from local stone blocks with concrete quoins and tuck-pointing. None of the large doors or substantial windows remains. Few trees have survived in the vicinity of the ruins, which are surrounded by scrub.


The town and port of Old Onslow was gazetted in 1885. The founding of the town was a well received event for the local pastoralists who had demanded a port for a number of years for the export of their wool clip. The first building in the town was a goods shed taken over by James Clark and John McKenzie on their arrival in 1883. Here they set up their warehouse and store. According to later correspondence this store (along with the telegragh line) influenced the surveying and lying out of the townsite. Onslow was named in the honour of the Chief Magistrate, Sir Alexander Campbell Onslow (1842-1908) who was acting Governor for a short period. The town, when first laid out, had 116 lots in two blocks, ten by the river and the rest in a block situated inland from the river. All the street names (bar one Anketell) were named after relatives of AC Onslow.

From the outset the town and port of Onslow experienced difficulties owing to the natural features of the site. The Ashburton River carried such a large amount of water during the wet season (and particularly after a cyclone) that the safe mooring required for the unloading of goods was often jeopardised. The town itself was not ideal being situated near claypans that often flooded. However, the value or the port at Onslw was questionable as the bar across the mouth of the river became more increasingly difficult to navigate. A number of accidents associated with using the port led to many meetings on the future of the river port. An alternative solution was found in the construction of a sea jetty (after a failed first attempt was destroyed by a cyclone in 1897). Unfortunately the second and third jetties were not situated far enough away from the river mouth. This allowed silt ot be swept down and depositied in the sea, rendering the jetties useles in the case of low tides and heavly laden ships.

A further solution for the problems of the jetty was sought and found by the building of another jetty, at some distance from the town, on Beadon Point. This was opened with much fanfare in 1925. With the new sea jetty, the old townsite of Onslow was now isolated for the movement of goods into and out of the Ashburton district. As early as 1920 it became obvious that a new town would have to be located at Beadon and the Ashburton Roads Board supported the relocation of the old town to the new site. Much controversy arose over the choosing of a new town site as well as the number of issues concerning the relocation process and compensation for residents already established at Old Onslow. Another issue creating many debates was the naming of the new town with some people wanting a new start with Beadon, others with Ashburton and many wanting to retain the name Onslow.


In 1925 new Onslow was developed and in 1976 the old Onslow townsite was revested with the crown. Old Onslow Townsite is an archaelogical site comprising various structures & features, including the Police Station Complex, is located in a natural setting in the banks of the Ashburton River.


Uncompromised owing to little modern building intervention however, no substantial buildings remain.




Ref ID No Ref Name Ref Source Ref Date
A & M Webb;"Edge of Empire". Artlook Books 1983

State Heritage Office library entries

Library Id Title Medium Year Of Publication
11441 Old Onslow Townsite Heritage Study {Cons'n Plan} 2016
3729 Old Onslow Townsite Pilbara, Western Australia : a conservation management plan. Volumes 1 & 2. Heritage Study {Cons'n Plan} 1998
109 An archaeological survey of old Onslow Report 1991
2163 Edge of empire. Book 1983
10162 Wheatstone Project: environmental scoping document Report 2009
10228 Old Onslow Townsite Heritage Study {Cons'n Plan} 2011
11661 Peedamulla and Old Onslow Police Station Complex Conservation works report 2017
11671 Old Onslow Cemetery Heritage Study {Cons'n Plan} 2018
9909 Final environmental impact statement/ reponse to submissions on the environmental review and management programme for the proposed Wheatstone project. Electronic 2011
11660 Old Onslow Police Station Complex Conservation works report 2017

Place Type

Precinct or Streetscape


Epoch General Specific
Original Use Transport\Communications Water: Other
Original Use GOVERNMENTAL Courthouse
Original Use RESIDENTIAL Single storey residence

Architectural Styles

Other Style

Construction Materials

Type General Specific
Wall STONE Local Stone

Historic Themes

General Specific
DEMOGRAPHIC SETTLEMENT & MOBILITY Racial contact & interaction
TRANSPORT & COMMUNICATIONS River & sea transport
DEMOGRAPHIC SETTLEMENT & MOBILITY Resource exploitation & depletion
OCCUPATIONS Fishing & other maritime industry
DEMOGRAPHIC SETTLEMENT & MOBILITY Workers {incl. Aboriginal, convict}
PEOPLE Early settlers
OCCUPATIONS Grazing, pastoralism & dairying
PEOPLE Aboriginal people

Creation Date

18 Feb 1994

Publish place record online (inHerit):


Last Update

01 Jan 2017


This information is provided voluntarily as a public service. The information provided is made available in good faith and is derived from sources believed to be reliable and accurate. However, the information is provided solely on the basis that readers will be responsible for making their own assessment of the matters discussed herein and are advised to verify all relevant representations, statements and information.