Friday, 31 May 2013

Researching Guildford

It's ironic that it was after I completed the first edit of my novel and sent it off for feedback that I decided to visit the town that is central to my fictional community.

Guildford is now just an old suburb of Perth, located to the east along the bank of the Swan river, but it once played a greater role in the foundations of this colony. While Fremantle was the colony's port and Perth the administrative district, Guildford was the agricultural centre providing the link to the settlements and farming districts further inland.

As the railway gained prominence linking Fremantle with York and the south west of state this function was taken over by Midland. Guildford was populated by a series of well-to-do families who wanted a rural setting in proximity to the business district in Perth, Guildford benefits from being encircled by the Swan River to the north and the Helena River to the south as it encouraged the classic village community feel that the town centre had been designed to emulate.

Though now dissected by the railway, in the centre of the settlement stands Stirling Square with the latest version of St Matthew's Anglican church in the centre (it was built in 1873 after a hurricane the previous year completely destroyed the old church).

Between the square and the river was prime real estate and in 1897 Charles Crossland used some of it to build a sprawling house named Riversleigh. Several of the house in this part of Guildford were built up on hills or plateaus to get them off the flood plain below. Riversleigh is on the market now if you have a spare couple million. 

 However its views aren't as spectacular as those of St Charles' Seminary down the road.

 This house even features a shaded lawn perfect for a crinolined picnic complete with dapper gentlemen crawling around the lawn being ponies to a series of small pantalooned children.

Directly under Barker's Bridge  from there is Moulton Landing which was the original cargo depot for Guildford in the days before the train line was established when the river provided the chief means of transportation around the colony.

Heading north out of the town centre I was pleased to note I quickly hit vineyard territory where it felt as though every spare acre was given over to growing this necessary commodity. In fact, even in the early days of the colony, as the numbers of convicts and free settlers grew, so too did the demand for colonial wine. Today, in places where the crop was not grapes it was row upon row of olive trees with the occasional paddock of orange trees thrown in. This was one of the most interesting aspects of Guildford as I simply wasn't expecting it. I wasn't expecting so many olive trees. In Fremantle I expect every second tree to be an olive as there are healthy Italian, Greek and Maltese communities who utilise them to make their own olives and olive oil, but not in Guildford.

Following the river as best I could, I determined the place where I'd located my characters houses and received a few worried looks from fishermen as I slid down the muddy bank to photograph the course of the water.

On such a beautiful day, I wouldn't mind having this view outside my bedroom window, though I'm not sure I'd want to go boating and purposely fall in...

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