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Toodyay Townsite


Heritage Council

Place Number

There no heritage location found in the Google fusion table.


Location Details

Area extending from Goomalling-Toodyay Road, Harper Road, Pelham Street and the Avon River, Toodyay

Local Government



Avon Arc

Construction Date

Constructed from 1852

Demolition Year


Statutory Heritage Listings

Type Status Date Documents More information
(no listings)

Heritage Council Decisions and Deliberations

Type Status Date Documents
RHP - To be assessed Current 24 Apr 2020

Other Heritage Listings and Surveys

Type Status Date Grading/Management More information
Category Description
(no listings)


Toodyay Townsite is an excellent example of a highly intact nineteenth century town that developed in response to the Toodyay Convict Depot and comprises a number of civic buildings and roads that were constructed with the assistance of convict labour. The presence of the Depot and the subsequent development of the town contributed to the wider development of the Avon Valley.

In its highly intact built fabric, Toodyay Townsite, illustrates a number of key periods in the State’s history, from the brick public buildings of the Convict era and the fine examples of residential and civic buildings of the Federation and Inter-War periods, which together form a cohesive precinct.

Since as early as the 1920s the place has been regarded as a popular tourist destination where people can experience an early Western Australian historic town that has retained its historical, picturesque streetscapes and charming character.

Toodyay Townsite has a high degree of potential to reveal archaeological evidence relating to the history and occupation of the area from its foundation to the early twentieth century, most notably from the convict era.

Toodyay Townsite is associated with Lieutenant Edmund Du Cane who was officer in charge of Eastern Districts Convict Depots at Toodyay, Guildford and York, and was instrumental in the planning of the depot at Toodyay and subsequent layout of the resulting town.

Physical Description

The Toodyay Townsite comprises various portions of land from Goomalling-Tooday Road in the South and Harper Road in the North. The townsite is bounded by the Avon River to the east, and Pelham Street in the west and includes various houses and municipal buildings common to most small, rural towns. The positioning of the convict hiring depot is relatively central within the town on the upper elevation of the slope that runs down towards the riverbank.

Stirling Terrace, the main road through town, runs parallel to the Avon River and is lined with highly intact built fabric that illustrates multiple periods in the State’s history including the brick public buildings of the Convict Era as well as the residential and civic buildings of the Federation and Inter-War periods. Together the buildings form a cohesive precinct and collective streetscape aesthetic.

Extending out from Stirling Terrace and the Convict Depot the layout of the townsite is set in a grid pattern typical of early settlement. Cottages ranging from the Convict Era to the Inter-War period are located on the majority of these lots and continue to exhibit cohesive precinct characteristics.


The Ballardong Noongar people of the Toodyay Valley referred to their lands as the ‘haunt of the great snake’, which referred to the Waugal’s movement through waterways such as the Toodyay Brook and Avon River from season to season.1 The range of rivers and creeks in the region created an environment where food was plentiful for the Ballardong Noongar people, who, like the great snake, followed the seasons for their food.2 The presence of the Avon River and the various creeks and tributaries in the Toodyay region were also of importance for the early European explorers and settlers in shaping the establishment of settlements and townsites. This settlement was extremely disruptive to the Noongar people’s way of life.

Ensign Robert Dale led the first expedition to the Darling Ranges and first sighted the Avon River in 1830.3 Shortly after its discovery, the townsites of York, Beverley and Northam were marked along its course and the surrounding land was made available for selection.4 Surveys of surrounding land continued, and in 1836, government botanist James Drummond, who himself had applied for selection of land in the area, surveyed the prospective allotments north-west of Northam.5 In Drummond’s description of his selection, he noted that the place was called Duidgee (Toodyay) by the local Aboriginal people. This was the first reference to the locality’s name in colonial records.6

In that same year, in 1836, the townsite of Toodyay (West Toodyay) was declared.7 It was not until 1842, however, when the first municipal building at Toodyay, the Military/Police Barracks, was constructed and ready for occupation.8 A small number of stores, inns and cottages were established in the 1840s and in 1849 the townsite was eventually surveyed.9 By the 1850s, after numerous periods of unseasonal flooding it was evident that the positioning of the townsite on the low-lying bank of the Avon River was problematic.10

Further dissatisfaction arose for Avon Valley Settlers regarding the lack of convict labour being sent into the district. Employers were eager to take advantage of the same opportunities that those in the Swan district were given and up until that point few convicts had been sent into such country areas.11 In August 1851, the Pyrenees arrived at Fremantle Port with a large number of convicts on board who were due to receive their Tickets of Leave upon arrival.12 Until this point nearly all convicts in the colony were housed at the Fremantle Prison and the Hiring Depots at Mt. Eliza and Guildford, however, the large number of prisoners on the Pyrenees would exceed the capacity of these facilities. In addressing both issues Governor Fitzgerald made the decision to establish convict depots at Bunbury, York and Toodyay.13

The initial Toodyay convict depot was established at the original Toodyay townsite, now known as West Toodyay, after the first group of ticket-of-leave men arrived in the district in 1851. Land was purchased from settler, John Herbert, and an existing cottage became the accommodation for the ticket-of-leave men while a number of A-frame rush huts were built to house the Pensioner Guard.14 Much like the early settlers experienced, it soon became evident that the location within the original townsite was far from ideal due to the flood-prone nature of the land. By 1852, the decision was made to relocate the depot, which according to Governor Fitzgerald was only meant to be temporary.15

The new depot site was surveyed two miles east along the Avon River and in early 1852 the area was laid out and facilities transferred from the original location. Construction of the new depot began after the appointment of Lt. Royal Engineer Edmund Du Cane in 1852 as Commander of the Eastern District. As Commander, Du Cane was responsible for much of the layout, construction and maintenance of the Guildford, York and Toodyay convict depots.16 The layout of the Toodyay depot was similar to that of the York depot, including the Gaol, Warders’ quarters, barracks, commissariat, Superintendent’s store and quarters, bakehouse, blacksmiths, infirmary and mortuary. All structures were constructed within four years.17 Initial access to the depot site was via a direct road from Toodyay (West Toodyay), which passed over steep hills and gullies.18 In order to make the depot more accessible “New Road” (later Stirling Terrace) was constructed in 1850 by convict labour. New Road entered the depot from the east running roughly parallel to the Avon River before it crossed to continue along the north bank to the original township.19 While this new route was less direct to Toodyay (West Toodyay), it had better connections to Northam, York and Guildford.

The positioning of the new depot and the new road running past it was influential in the decision to move the original Toodyay townsite, which continued to be prone to flooding. By 1861, the depot had been downgraded from a Convict Hiring Depot to a receiving depot and many of the structures were no longer in heavy use.20 These structures provided ‘a substantial nucleus for the new town’ and by July 1961 the Resident Magistrate and police had taken up the Superintendent’s quarters and Warders’ and Sappers’ cottages.21The townsite of Newcastle, which would later be re-named Toodyay, was officially gazetted in August 1861 and surveyed lots were slowly being taken up by those who had moved from the original Toodyay Townsite.

New Road was influential in the layout and positioning of town lots within Newcastle and the curving, organic nature of the road was significantly different to the straight-grid system roads in other regional centres. It became the main thoroughfare through town and most civic buildings were constructed along the road forming a distinctive precinct, which is present still today.

The first church in Newcastle was the Anglican Church of St Stephen, established in 1861 on New Road, followed by a Catholic Church of St John the Baptist in 1863.The Newcastle Hotel, established by publican W. P. Tregonning on New Road, was constructed and licensed by April 1861. A year later is it was sold to Thomas Mead and named Freemason’s Tavern after Joseph Taylor Monger built a hotel at the south-eastern end of the town in 1862 that was also named Newcastle Hotel.22 In that same year, as Newcastle was being established as a town, a large shipment of convicts arrived in the colony. To accommodate the numbers, the country convict hiring depots were re-opened and the central Toodyay convict buildings reclaimed for use.23 It was therefore necessary to construct a variety of municipal buildings and it was not long before the town’s main street, New Road was lined with such.

With the move to Newcastle from the original Toodyay Townsite it became apparent that a sufficient gaol was required, particularly after the Convict Hiring Depot re-opened. Up until this point, the depot lock-up was used as a gaol and was strengthened with fittings from the (original) Toodyay Gaol, which was let go to ruin after the townsite shifted in 1861.24 In 1863, work began on a new gaol within Newcastle, which included a courtroom, warders’ quarters, prison kitchen, day room and a row of cells along the exercise yard.

Daniel Connor, an ex-convict, then labourer, purchased land on the corner of Stirling Terrace and Clinton Street. Connor constructed a house and store on the land as well as a steam mill (Connors Mill (fmr), Toodyay Museum (RHP)), the third in the district, in 1870. Like many of the infrastructure and buildings constructed around that time, the mill was constructed with the assistance of convict labour and its presence in the town proved too much competition for the other millers forcing them to close their mills.25 Milling in Toodyay and the cultivation of wheat and other grains were the predominant industries in the district. The importance of this area as a food producer was reflected by the building of the convict depot and associated infrastructure in this location, which in turn, was influential in the continued growth and development of Toodyay.

As Newcastle continued to grow there soon became a need for a public meeting hall. It was decided that a Mechanics Institute would form in the district as the Government at that time was giving grants towards the construction of Institute Halls.26 The Newcastle Mechanics Institute was founded in 1866, however, it was not until 1874 when the Institute had raised enough funds to erect a hall (Toodyay Public Library (Mechanics’ Institute (fmr), Road Board Office) (RHP)). The attractive brick building with a hammerbeam ceiling became a space where fortnightly concerts and social gatherings took place.27 The Young Men’s Reading Club Amalgamated with the Institute and a library was installed in the hall; the building continues to function as the Toodyay library today after acting as the meeting place of the Toodyay Road Board from the early 1930s to 1959.28

The Toodyay Road Board formed in 1871 after the passing of the Road Board Act and by 1876, following the passing of the new Municipalities Act, Newcastle was eligible to be a municipality.29 This meant increased public works were able to commence throughout the district and improve individual elements of its towns. Newcastle was granted municipal powers at the end of 1877 and by the early 1880s the town saw an improvement in a number of municipal features. The Convict Depot had officially closed in 1872 after the transportation of convicts was deemed no longer viable for the growing colony.30 Many of the depot buildings were converted into civic infrastructure, including the Government school, which was established in 1873, and the Courthouse and Post Office.31 However, by the early 1880s inspection of such buildings revealed they were in need of repair and no longer suitable. The Post Office and Courthouse were transferred to another depot building, while the old school was converted into a hospital and a new government school built in 1887.32

The town continued to thrive after the railway spur from Clackline to Newcastle opened in that same year, in 1887. The spur to Newcastle from the Eastern Railways increased accessibility to the town and during the 1890s Gold Rush, Newcastle became an important provisioning town for the Yilgarn Goldfield.33 In 1895, Newcastle citizens directly requested from Premier John Forrest, and were granted, a new, purpose-built Courthouse (1896) (Toodyay Courth House (fmr) and former Convict Depot Archaeological Remains (RHP)), Post and Telegraph Office (1897) (Toodyay Post Office and Residence (Newcastle Post & Telegraph Office) (RHP)), Municipal Chambers (1899) and grant for the Mechanics’ Institute.34 A number of other businesses and meeting places were also constructed or modified, including The Oddfellows Hall (1897) and the Victoria Hotel, which was modified in 1899 after initially starting as a one storey shop in 1864.35 The Municipal Chambers were extended in 1910 to include a Town Hall at the rear, which was later named the Toodyay Memorial Hall. The focus of growth within the townsite after this time shifted around the new railway at the southern end of town and New Road became less of a transport route.

In 1905, after a Council vote, the name New Road, the main road through town, was changed to Stirling Terrace. A change in the name of the town itself was also considered, as the post was constantly getting confused with Newcastle in New South Wales. After Federal authorities urged the Council to change the name, it was finally changed in 1909 from Newcastle to Toodyay, and Old Toodyay was known as West Toodyay.36 By that point, the original Toodyay townsite was largely abandoned and all civic buildings had been shifted to the new townsite. Streets in the old area were enclosed and old town lots amalgamated into single fields.

From the 1920s onwards residents of Toodyay continued to be primary producers of grain and citrus. The Toodyay State School became the first consolidated school in the State where children were bussed from outlying districts.37 The town, by that point, was recognised as longstanding and historic and soon was regarded for its tourism potential.38 Many of the historical buildings in the town, including Connor’s Mill and the Newcastle Gaol ceased operation, became private residences before later being converted into tourist attractions in the 1960s and 1970s. The narrow-gauge railway was upgraded to a standard gauge rail and realigned to connect directly to Perth instead of via the spur line from Clackline in the 1960s.39 The upgrade of the rail intruded on the configuration of the town, running between the central convict depot and Stirling Terrace and demolishing the Resident Magistrate’s Office, which was the Superintendent’s Quarters when the Convict Depot was open. Despite this, the development of the rail allowed quick access to the district and opened the area up to further tourism. Regular freight and passenger (both Perth and interstate) services continue to pass through Toodyay today.

Place Type

Precinct or Streetscape

Creation Date

08 May 2020

Publish place record online (inHerit):


Last Update

11 May 2022


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