|The Narrogin Town Hall
Substantial and attractive wheatbelt service centre.
Located 189 km south east of Perth and 192 m above sea level, Narrogin is a pleasant substantial settlement which is much bigger than the average wheatbelt town. Its size has been largely determined by its location at an important road and rail junction.
Like most of the wheatbelt towns there is some dispute over the origins of the town's name. The popular interpretation is that it is a local Aboriginal word meaning 'the place of water'.It is something of a novelty to realise that the same word has been spelt as 'gngrgagin', 'nagacan', 'naroging' and 'ngnarajin'.
The first Europeans into the area were Hillman and his survey party who surveyed the track between Perth and Albany in 1835. They passed only 10 km west of the present site of Narrogin. In time they were followed by the occasional shepherd who drove his sheep into the area seeking good pastures.
Narrogin was first settled in the 1860s and 1870s when pastoralists moved into the area. They lived in isolated outposts. The population was so scattered that there was never a sufficient concentration of land holders to justify the establishment of a town.
The key to the development of Narrogin was the arrival of the Great Southern Railway in July 1889. The railway company were in search of good reliable watering points along the route from Perth to Albany. The company which had won the railway contract, the WA Land Company, duly purchased Narrogin pool and it was around this pool that the town developed.
The townsite was surveyed in 1889 and the Narrogin Road Board was established in 1892. Narrogin was officially declared a town in June 1897 and it was proclaimed a municipality in 1906.
The early years of settlement were hard with farmers relying on sandalwood cutting and the bark from mallet trees (it was used as a tanning agent) to compensate for poor returns from wheat and sheep.
Today the town is a thriving rural community.with good shopping facilities and attractive tree lined streets.
Things to see:
Narrogin Heritage Trail
The excellent Narrogin Heritage Trail offers visitors two guided tours of the town and environs which start at the Old Court House Museum and encompass most of the old properties and buildings in the area.
The Old Courthouse, located on the corner of Egerton and Earl Streets, was originally built as a Government school in 1894. Designed by the prominent architect George Temple-Poole it remained a school until 1905 when it was converted into the local courthouse. It became the local branch of the Agricultural Bank between 1924–1945 but returned to a courthouse in 1970. It has been a museum since 1976 and contains extensive displays of local memorabilia which offer an insight into early life in the area.
The town centre, with its solid Town Hall and Library (both built in 1908) and Horderns Hotel (rebuilt after a fire in 1922) has a solidity and confidence which the smaller wheatbelt towns lack.
The Heritage Trail makes much of the story of Nicholas 'Charlie' Bushalla, a Syrian who arrived in Western Australia in 1887, settled in Narrogin and during his lifetime managed to provide the town with a general store, hotels, a brewery (although the beer was apparently awful), a picture theatre, skating rink and cordial factory. He is a good example of the achievements which were possible for enterprising merchants in rural Western Australia around the turn of the century.
Narrogin District Heritage Trail
The Narrogin District Heritage Trail is a 117 km drive which includes Doddum Farm (1880), Hillside (1892) and such exotically named places as Chuggamunny (1880s), Nebrikinning (1886) and Murrin Murrin. It is a pleasant drive through the rich countryside which surrounds the town.
Albert Facey, the author of A Fortunate Life who lived near Wickepin has a description of Narrogin around 1908 which still seems appropriate today.
'Narrogin was one of the largest towns on the fringe of the wheatbelt. It had two hotels, two boarding-houses, two shops, a doctor, a chemist and a small hospital on a hill away from the railway station. It was on the Great Southern railway line and a train went through once a day each way from Perth to Albany.'
To the north of the town is the Dryandra State Forest, one of the few remaining areas of virgin forest in the wheatbelt. It also has stands of mallet trees which were grown because the bark could be used in the tanning industry. An alternative was found and the trees were never harvested. For more details on the forest see the entry on Cuballing.
A detailed history of Narrogin, The Way Through: The Story of Narrogin written by O. E. Pustkuchen chronicles the development of the town. It is available from the Narrogin Information Centre at 23 Egerton Street.