|Six Mile Cottage, A slab and stone cottage outside Darkan
Darkan (including Arthur River)
Small settlement servicing an area of sheep, wheat, and cattle raising
Located 202 km south east of Perth, Darkan is a small settlement servicing an area of sheep, wheat, and cattle raising. It is a little town on the western edge of the wheatbelt characterised by the usual solitary pub, shire office and sleepy settlement.
Remarkably Darkan managed to produce the Darkan Heritage Trail although, in fairness, the only buildings listed on this pleasant walk around town are the Road Board Office (1929), the Shire Office and the Pioneer Hall (1911).
The first settlers moved into the area in the 1850s after the completion of the road from Albany to Perth. At this time a small settlement grew up on the Albany Road at Arthur River. Today the remnants of that settlement can still be seen with the Police Barracks and Gaol dating back to 1866, the Mount Pleasant Inn (1869), and St Paul's Church (1885). By the end of the century Arthur River was the major centre in the area.
As the road lay to the west of Darkan there was no prospect of a settlement at the present townsite until the building of the railway in 1889. Darkan was declared a townsite in 1905 and the following year, in anticipation of the construction of a railway station to serve the surrounding area, the Darkan Hotel was built. The present hotel in Coalfields Road has experienced a number of modifications but still can claim to be the town's first building.
The small railway station was built in 1907, a Road Board office was constructed in 1908, and over the next decade the usual range of services - butcher, general store, baker, blacksmith, cafe - appeared.
Things to see:
Arthur River and Six Mile Cottage
Apart from the old buildings at Arthur River (which stand forlornly beside the Albany Highway seemingly forgotten by progress) there is the fascinating slab cottage of Dick Strange known as 'Six Mile Cottage' and located about 10 km outside Darkan on the Quindanning Road. To the west of Darkan turn at the point which is signposted 'Slab and Stone Cottage'.
The cottage was built in the early 1900s by Dick Strange a sleeper cutter. It is a fascinating example of how small you can make a house. It is left unlocked so the visitor does not need to seek permission or a key to visit it.
An information sheet on the cottage recalls, in a most evocative way, what it was like when it was being lived in.
'The cottage was very, very nice - like a doll's house - all muslin curtains hanging here and there, and the furniture was all homemade...For lighting, all they had were hurricane lamps - and kerosene table lamps - these had an iron stand and a little floral bowl...The floor was of earth, as I remember, and the timber floor would have been put down after Mr Coli (about 1925-30) started the mill. There was no cut timber in those times, it was all done with broad axe. When it was first built, the windows had wooden shutters. They fastened in the centre and had to be propped up. There was a 100 gallon tank for drinking water, and they would cart water from a dam somewhere around for washing. The wash basins were on benches out the back...
Anyone who came to the cottage added a lean-to of hessian, or brought tents to stay in. Everyone called in on the way past to see if you wanted anything from town. Old Mr Broome was a great one - he went to town once a week and he called on just about all the houses with his spring cart and horse.'