|Wheat fields near Perenjori
Typical wheatbelt town
Located 348 km north of Perth, Perenjori is a little more interesting than most of the northern wheatbelt towns. Apart from the mandatory wheat silos, railway line and hotel with motelstyle accommodation its appeals include a genuinely delightful main street with large stands of gum trees, one of Monsignor Hawesı churches (although,in fairness, it is one of the least interesting), an interesting local folk Museum and, 68 km east, the gold mining ghost town of Rothsay.
The Perenjori area was first explored by John Forrest in 1869 but it wasnıt until gold was discovered at Rothsay in 1894 that any significant settlement occurred.
Rothsay, which lies approximately halfway between Perenjori and Paynes Find, is a true gold mining ghost town. At its height, from the discovery of gold in 1894 to the closing down of the mine in 1902, over 90 000 ounces of gold were extracted from the region. In 1896 it had an estimated population of around 300. The mine was reopened in 1935 by an entrepreneur named Claude de Bernales but it closed again in 1939. All that is left now are some deserted buildings including the mine managerıs house and strongroom, the foundations of the gold battery and the lonely graves of some of the miners who died in this isolated settlement.
Perenjori probably gets its name from a corruption of the Aboriginal word perangeryı which supposedly meant waterhole. It would be an appropriate name as the town lies on the northeastern edge of the wheatbelt. Beyond it to the east lie the larger pastoral holdings of the Murchison and the towns which once drew gold prospectors to the region.
It is claimed that the town was called Perangery until a railway worker recorded the town on the Government list of railway stations as Perenjori.
The township was established in the years immediately prior to World War I when the land in the region was opened for selection. The first few years were extremely hard and the farmers struggled to survive but the arrival of the railway in 1915 and improved cropping methods eventually saw the district prosper.
Things to see:
Church of St Joseph
Perenjori, along with Northampton, Mullewa, Yalgoo, Tardun, Morawa, Geraldton and Nanson, is the site of a church built by the famous Western Australian architectpriest Monsignor John Hawes (see introduction for details of Hawesı life). Between 19151939 Hawes designed and helped to construct a large number of churches and church buildings in the Central West.
|The Church of St. Joseph
The sign outside The Church of St Joseph (on the Carnamah road at the western end of town) explains its history and its interest. Built in 1937 the Church of St Joseph was designed while John Hawes was also working on plans for two other parish churches supervising construction of Northamptonıs St Mary in Ara Coeli and travelling long distances on horseback as an active parish priest. Stark, utilitarian and much less a blend of architectural styles as was most of his work its design was strongly influenced by Father Benedict Williamsonıs book How to Build a Church. In the churchıs interior, the huge stone baldachino (canopy) above the high altar and supported by two massive columns looks very similar to one of the illustrations. Another noteworthy internal feature is the baldachinoıs fascia which has a frieze carved by Hawes depicting Christ and the twelve apostles. The structurally supportive metal braces in the nave roof were insisted upon by the Public Works Department but not without vigorous protest by John Hawes. Hampered by lack of funds the planned belltower was never added reinforcing the buildingıs functional appearance.
Perenjori-Rothsay Heritage Trail
The best way to see the district is to follow The Perenjori-Rothsay Heritage Trail which is available at the Perenjori Shire Offices or the Museum. It is a 180 km round trip which includes the Perenjori Museum (originally the Bank of NSW building) and the John Forrest lookout (survey point used by John Forrest), the Rothsay townsite, the rabbitproof fence road to the Camel soak and the Mungarıs lake lookout which overlooks a large salt lake.
The trail passes through the rich wheat growing area around Perenjori and moves east across uncleared shrub and salt lakes to the station country around Rothsay. Fauna native to the area such as galahs, emus, lizards and small marsupials can be seen as well as stands of native flora especially the everlastings and the wreath flowers.