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The History of Darlington

The heart of Darlington was once covered by one of the Darling Range's earliest vineyards and wine from Darlington Vineyard was matured in the stone cellar that is now part of the village hall.

Title to this land was secured in 1883 by Dr Alfred Waylen, Chief Medical Officer of the fledgling Swan River Colony. However, it was Waylen's partner, the Honourable Josceline Amherst formerly Private Secretary to the Governor, Sir Napier Broome who played a more active role in running the vineyard when he retired to the hills in 1889. Some of the pine trees that once bordered the vineyard still stand around the oval.  By the turn of the century the vineyard boasted 10 acres of fruit trees, and 50 of vines, and it produced red and white wines and table grapes.

The original winery, now the hall.
In fact, this building is now part of a larger one incorporating two halls. The outbuildings at right were  replaced by the "new" greater hall, built on to the winery.  Check the photograph on the home page, wherein this old wing is now enhanced by an entry porch area
(Photo from  "A Place in the Hills"  by Trea Wiltshire)

Amherst built a country retreat, Holmesdale, which still stands in Darlington Road. A Journal of Agriculture report at the turn of the century observed: "Darlington gained a railway siding shortly after Amherst moved there, and also a surveyed road connecting the place with the York road at Bilgoman Well." Clearly the gentleman vigneron (a member of the Legislative Council, the Swan Roads Board and the President of the Royal Agricultural Society of WA) was an influential figure.

Gradually more settlers were attracted to the hills to work in the orchards, vineyards and nurseries, the quarry at Boya or the timber mill at what is now Glen Forrest.  Some settlers built weekend cottages in Darlington before moving to live off the land; others who settled in the village worked or studied in Perth, catching the daily 8.03am train to the city.

In the early decades of the 20th century, guest houses flourished in the Darling Range, and there were several in Darlington. Two of the best known still stand:  Dalry Lodge and Leithdale. The latter was run by author Molly Skinner, and in 1922 the celebrated British writer D. H. Lawrence and his wife Frieda spent time at the guest house. Lawrence and Molly later collaborated on a book, The Boy in the Bush.  Molly Skinner's autobiography The Fifth Sparrow gives a vivid description of her life in Darlington.

Social events in Darlington ranged from musical evenings to cricket matches by the Nyaania Creek. By the l930s, the village had a general store (on the site of what is now Darlington Liquor and Gourmet), tearooms (now Darlington Studio Art Gallery and Tearooms), a Post Office, a butcher's shop (later extended several times, today The Pines), several churches and a primary school (which began in the ballroom of Leithdale in 1912 before moving to its present site in Glen Road).  It was joined by the Helena School in the l941.

 

(written by Trea Wiltshire, author of A Place in the Hills, on sale at Darlington Post Office)

 

Note: Further information on the history of Darlington is available at the Mundaring and Hills Historical Society, at the Station Master's House, corner of Railway Parade and Burkinshaw Road, Glen Forrest
(Phone: 08 9298 8944)

The Shire of Mundaring's early history is also covered in Mundaring, a History of the Shire by Ian Elliot (on sale at the Shire offices in Mundaring, and available at Shire libraries.)

Photo: "Darling Range picnic" from A Place in the Hills



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