York - Culture and History

York was first surveyed by Ensign Robert Dale in 1830 and named after the city of York in England. It was settled in the 1830s by farmers who concentrated their efforts on sheep and wheat with the occasional field of barley.

The first settlers in the area arrived in 1831 and included such well known Western Australian identities as Rivett Henry Bland and the Reverend J. B. Wittenoom. A township did not begin to appear until 1835­36 when an army barracks and store were built and some 50 acres of land were cleared.

York may have continued as an attractive and small settlement had it not been for an unusual conjunction of events. The town had always been an important departure point for the intrepid pastoralists, sandalwood cutters and explorers who tried their luck in the dry flat plains beyond the coast. In 1886 this process was greatly improved by the arrival of the railway. This lucky event occurred within two years of the discovery of gold at Southern Cross and later at Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie. This meant that by the late 1880s the town was teeming with miners, prospectors and fossickers all alighting from the train and preparing to make the long journey across the plains to the goldfields. There is a superb and fascinating Heritage Trail Brochure - York to Goldfields Heritage Trail - which traces the original route from York to the Goldfields and explains the pioneering work done by the remarkable Charles Cooke Hunt who laid out the line of wells and waterholes through the region during his journeys in the 1860s.

It was during the period 1886­1900 that most of the town¹s impressive, and very solid, buildings were constructed. The modern interest in these old buildings can be dated from 1967 when a misguided person decided to remove some verandah posts in the street and found that he was faced with the wrath of the local community. Since then the town has been deeply committed to the preservation of its heritage. The town is classified by the National Trust as York Historic Town.

There is no question about York. It is one of the premier historical towns in Western Australia and one of the best preserved historical towns in the whole of Australia. It should not be missed.

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