The Avon River
One of the town's truly great attractions is the Avon River. It winds its way through the town and on each side it has attractive parks and walkways. The river is home to the unusual white swans (this mightn't sound very important but in a state where the emblem is a black swan a white one is quite a novelty). They were brought to Northam from England around the turn of the century and have thrived on the river ever since.
The notice beside the river says: 'The unique white swans of Northam. The white swan was introduced to Northam in the 1900s. Strangely the Avon River in Northam is the only place in Australia where these large birds have found a natural breeding ground. The swans are cared for by local volunteer wardens. Feeding takes place each morning at 6.30 a.m. on Broome Terrace next to Newcastle Street Bridge. At present there are about 80 of these birds on the river. The swans are a protected species.'
Another attraction on the Avon is the Suspension Bridge which crosses the river near the Fitzgerald Street Bridge. The locals proudly claim that their suspension bridge is the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in Australia.
Northam Heritage Trail
There is an excellent and very detailed Northam/Katrine Heritage Trail booklet which includes three trails: a 2 km town walk which includes the Post Office, Town Hall, Clearview House, St John's Church, the Northam Club and Shamrock Hotel; a 4 km town drive which includes the Flour Mill, West Northam Station Museum, St James Anglican Church, the Club Tavern, Byfield House and Mitchell House; and a 16 km drive along the banks of the river to Katrine, a nearby township which once vied with Northam for importance but died when it was bypassed by the railway.
Of the many buildings and locations on the Heritage Trail the most interesting are the Town Hall which was opened by Sir John Forrest in 1898 and is typical of the Italianate excesses which afflicted Western Australia in the wake of the gold discoveries, St John's Church in Wellington Street which was built between 1885 and 1890 and severely cracked in the 1968 earthquake and the Old Railway Station Museum (Fitzgerald Street ? open Sunday 10.00-4.00) which was completed in 1884 and is now used as a local folk museum combining local artifacts with interesting pieces of railway history including an old steam engine (PMR 721) and carriages.
Mitchell House, on the corner of Hawes and Duke streets, is another Italianate mansion. Built in 1905 for Sir James Mitchell, who was the local member of Parliament from 1905 to 1933, it is a sumptuous house set in beautiful gardens. It is of interest that Mitchell eventually lost the seat to Bert Hawke, the uncle of RJL Hawke.
On Cemetery Road heading north out of town is Morby Cottage which was built out of mud brick and hessian sacking in 1836. It is the oldest building in the area and was built by John Morrell, the first settler in the district. In fact Morrell was also the first person to import livestock into the district and the first person to send produce to Perth from Northam. The cottage is currently run by the town council. It is open on Sundays from 10.30?4.00. For further details contact (08) 9622 1372. There is an excellent pamphlet on John Morrell, a truly remarkable man who did not leave his native England until 1830 when he was fifty years old.
Heading north on the Katrine and Irishtown Roads the traveller passes the huge Buckland homestead which was built in 1874 and is regarded by many as the most majestic home in the state. It certainly is a marvellous example of stately Victorian architecture. It now houses valuable collections of art and antiques. It is surrounded by huge gardens and is open most days from 10.00-5.00. For details contact (08) 9622 1130