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Norman House: Belle-Vue, a beautiful view

By: Tanya McColgan

Published: 24 February 2024

HISTORY MATTERS

Norman House also known as Belle-Vue and Edward House is one of our city's and state’s rarest and oldest surviving buildings.

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George Cheyne

George Cheyne, (b. 1790) arrived in Fremantle on board the Sterling, with his wife Grace Cheyne (nee Melville) (b.1797), with a cargo of saleable merchandise including livestock and prefabricated wooden houses. The Sterling departed from Sweden with 23 passengers onboard, arriving at the Swan River Colony on the 4 June, 1831.

 

Cheyne planned to establish himself as a farmer and to obtain grazing land but found all the best land adjacent to the Swan and Canning River, had already been selected. At the same time, the settlement was going through its very first experience as the world’s most isolated settlement, the place was in crisis, there was no money, no labour nor food.

 

Cheyne learnt the colony’s leading officials, Captain James Stirling, Governor of the Colony of Western Australia and John Septimus Roe, First Surveyor-General of Western Australia were to board HMS Sulphur, out of Madras bound for Hobart Town, which was to deliver them to King George Sound.  In November, 1831, saw the Sulphur bring to the Sound, not only the colony’s leading officials, but one of the most important early settlers of Western Australia – George Cheyne. 

Cheyne commenced a merchant trading business with his store of imported goods and applied for, and was granted, a liquor licence. In the coming years he acquired town lots, buying twelve in all, as an investment and knowing as the population grew so would the demand, but also knowing that each Pound he contributed to the new economy by way of those purchases, would be matched by Stirling’s land grant scheme. In 1832, Cheyne had spent enough to entitle him to 15,000 acres.

Cheyne acquired several lots on Stirling Terrace and along the Albany foreshore, strategically near the jetty, including Suburban Lots 13, 14, 15 and 16. A notice in the Government Gazette from December, 1840 includes mention of George Cheyne acquiring Lots S14 and S16.

The Cheyne Family positioned themselves in the heart of this new town centre and became one of the most successful settlers in Western Australia. By the early 1840s, Cheyne had developed a substantial farm and port at Cape Riche and his business interests in general were extensive and diverse, including whaling in the Cape Riche area, sandalwood around the Pallinup River, where he also developed properties with his nephews. George Cheyne became well established as a merchant, ship’s chandler, master whaler, grazier, pastoralist, sandalwood and port owner – a true pioneer, to the end.

 

People were still leaving the Swan River rather than arriving and Governor Stirling was forced to return to England to try and change opinion and raise interest in a vital public relations  mission. Cheyne sent a message back home encouraging his brother Alexander and his nephews to come too.  Onboard the James Pattison, Governor Stirling and his wife, Ellen Mangles, with other prominent citizens of Albany; Patrick Taylor, Peter Belches, Thomas Brooker Sherratt, James Dunn, Mary Yates Bussell and her mother along with Captain Alexander Cheyne and the sons of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, George McCartney Cheyne and his younger brother, John Cheyne, his wife Ann (Lavina) and a newborn baby boy (John William) arrived on the 19 June, 1834 at King George Sound.

 

In March, 1831, Captain James Stirling, appointed Dr. Alexander Collie RN as first Government Resident and JP of King George Sound.  Collie served at King George Sound until 1833, when he returned to Perth as Colonial Surgeon.  In ill health (pulmonary tuberculosis) he decided to return to England on the HMS Zebra and when Collie reached King George Sound, his condition worsened and he died at George Cheyne’s home, on 8 November, 1935, aged 42.

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Dr. Alexander Collie

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John Septimus Roe

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Andrew Moir

In 1836, Cheyne took up land in Cape Richie, where he established a trading post which often was visited by American whalers and in 1848, sandalwood cutters arrived in the area. The Surveyor General of Western Australia, John Septimus Roe visited the Cape in October 1848 as part of an 1848–49 expedition, staying with the Cheyne Family. Roe, left 4 days later to make his way to the Russell Range, east of Esperance.

 

Contained within Stirling’s original prospect for establishment of the Swan River Colony was the idea of fisheries - sealing and whaling, knowing it would contribute to the Western Australian economy as it did in New South Wales. The seed had been planted and sealing and whaling for the fur skins, blubber and oil was a lucrative industry and the waters around Albany, where the ideal grounds.  Once the lure was released, whaling was one of the first viable industries established. The American Whalers were known to have been operating in the Indian Ocean since 1789 and had been inside King George Sound before the end of 1828.

 

When Stirling was met with a band of keen settlers with whaling on their minds and with the James Pattison, which bolstered numbers for the settlement, the idea of American whaling ships just off shore and hiding in numbers in the bays and coves along the coast, prompted Stirling through a Government hired vessel the ‘Sally Ann’  to be bound eastwards to Doubtful Islands. Mary Bussell (not yet Mary Taylor) wrote to England from the Vasse River on Boxing Day, 1835, commenting on that very excursion.

Whaling is now almost as great a mania as sheep. . .  Is this not tempting? A whaling station is talked of for Doubtful Island Bay which the Governor and party have just been down to explore beyond King George’s Sound.” (Marnie Bassett, The Henty’s, pg. 364)

 

In 1837, two whaling stations were established around the Doubtful Islands, one by George Cheyne and the other by Thomas Brooker Sherratt.

Cheyne was firmly established, and the enterprises required considerable management. Although John and Ann Cheyne arrived in 1843 and farmed around the Oyster Harbour area for a few years they eventually moved with their young family to Sydney, NSW. Captain Alexander Cheyne was made an official by Stirling becoming the superintendent of Mounted Police and acted as a surveyor.  He left Albany in November 1835 and went to Tasmania. George McCarthy Cheyne got the job as a Government Auctioneer during 1834/5 and another brother, Bruce resided in Albany, however moved to the eastern colonies.

 

With the lack of family of his own, it prompted Cheyne to encourage his wife’s family, the Moir’s to immigrate from Scotland. Andrew Moir, son of Grace Cheynes' sister Elizabeth, arrived first, in 1842 and subsequently Andrew Muir, son of Margaret Melville, who was the eldest sister of Grace, arrived with his wife and family in 1844. Alexander and George Moir, with their parents John and Elizabeth and sisters Isabella and Elizabeth, arrived in 1850.

 

The arrival of William Henry Graham in 1852 completed the Cheyne inheritance. William Henry Graham was not related to the Moir’s or Muir’s, but rather the grandson of Cheyne's sister Cecelia Wilkinson. The eldest Moir nephew, John, came at the instigation of his brother Alexander in 1859.

 

Cheyne had been keen for Alexander Moir to understudy the merchandising interests in Albany, whilst Andrew and George Moir took care of the pastoral interests at Cape Riche and in the Pallinup watershed. 

The Moir’s brothers were successful pastoralists, merchants with businesses along Stirling Terrace and owned Lot S11 and S12. The Moir’s also established the ‘Mongup’ property near Borden, George Moir died at Mongup in June, 1916. Mongup continued to be owned by the descendants of George Moir until 1980.

In 1864, Alexander Moir completed the Town Jetty (known as the Albany Deep Water Jetty - HCWA No. P03238) after James Covert had commenced the construction in 1862, but lacked progress and the contract was awarded to Alexander Moir. Further details can be reviewed in the A. Wolfe's – Albany Maritime Heritage Survey 1627-1994, Heritage Council of WA. 1994.

 

William Henry Graham gained his pastoral knowledge and was the first to introduce the well- known Wolseley shearing machine to Western Australia.  Graham settled at his own Fairfield Estate near Broomehill in 1862 and lived there for several years.  He returned to England only to return in 1888, and was the first president of the Great Southern Districts and Agricultural Society in 1891, and the first chairman of the Broomehill Road Board when it was formed in 1892.

 

Lot S15 was taken over by the Moir family, later subdivided into Lot 2 on Diagram 005851 (No. 32 Spencer Street) and Lots 3 and 4 on Diagram 009519 (No. 32 and No. 28 Spencer Street respectively). The single storey residence on the original Lot S15 was later demolished in the mid-twentieth century. 

Between 1852 and 1858, George Cheyne and his wife Grace built a substantial residence, a two-storey granite rendered Victorian Georgian style home at 28-30 Stirling Terrace and was completed by 1858.  Cheynes' named the residence ‘Belle-Vue’ (now known as ‘Norman House’) due to its prominent position on Stirling Terrace with beautiful uninterrupted views of Princess Royal Harbour. 

 

George Cheyne was preparing to retire at Belle-Vue but returned suddenly to England in 1860 and is believed  the move was calculated to enable more input into his wool clips by his English wool brokers and he and his wife settled at Lochmaben, Scotland. 

 

George Cheyne passed away on 5 June,1869 with his headstone engraved  - ‘a pioneer to the end’ and his wife Grace Cheyne passed away on 26 September 1871.

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Belle-Vue House with windmill behind c. 1859  (bottom right)

In February 1861, William Carmalt Clifton arrived in Albany to take up his new position as branch manager of the Peninsular and Oriental Company (P&O) and became involved with the leading citizens of the business community including a stormy career on the Council.

 

Prior to Clifton, in 1852 the British Government awarded a mail service to Australian Royal Mail Steam Navigation Company from England to Sydney, Melbourne and Albany.  Mail was delivered from Albany to Perth by pack horse, taking 6 days and P&O took over the service in late 1852, where the first P&O contracted mail steamer the “Chussan” at the command of Captain Henry Down delivered  and collected West Australian mail along with two other ships, also named the Chussan. Albany was well positioned to service at this time and it was the first safe port for many ships from European on route to the east of Australia and had additional features for taking on bunker coal. In mid-1853  with 1,000 tons of coal onboard, the Larkin arrived in Princess Royal Harbour.  P&O de-mastered it for use as a Coal Hulk.  The P&O Albany Agent applied to the Government for a permanent land lease to erect coal, but it was rejected and P&O was offered yearly leases, but later were offered a 60-year unconditional lease following P&O lobbying. In 1859, P&O built its own jetty for its coaling operations, the Larkin was used to hold coal supplies to compliment shore storage.

 

Clifton leased the Belle-Vue property from Cheyne for the first half of the 1860s. It was in that time that Clifton put the coaling station on a firm footing, organising the systems and management which enabled Albany to be an efficient transit point for P&O and then by other steamer companies later in the century.  

 

During his term in office, Clifton had a wooden floating dock constructed to service ships up to 400 tons deadweight, measuring 129 feet long by 30 feet wide, so repairs could be effective at the Sound and was used until 1900.  In 1901, 411 ships visited Albany with more than 50% of these visits were for bunkering coal.  With the colonies joining the Federation, Customs functions passed to the Commonwealth of Australia under the Customs Act 1901.

 

Clifton also encouraged his large staff of men to form a Co-operative Society which carried out the business in the premises at the Corner of Fredrick and Spencer Street and he became well-known in Albany for his instrumental role in establishing the now known Albany Cooperative Society. – HCWA No. P3555.

 

A painting of the Albany foreshore dated, 1861 by Clifton, from his yacht in the harbour, shows Belle-Vue, identified as “Residence of Peninsular and Oriental Company’s Agent”, as well as other important buildings that existed along the foreshore at that time.

 

In 1865, Captain John Hassell, retired at the time returned to England with his daughter, Ellen Belinda and purchased Lots S13 and S14 from George Cheyne for £1600.  Hassell purchased the Belle-Vue property for his wife Ellen (nee Boucher) and daughter Ellen Belinda who resided in Albany.

 

Clifton was given notice to leave the Belle-Vue property and changed his quarters to the Dunn's Cottage eventually moving into his own purpose built residence known as “The Mount” – another prominent two storey residence on Stirling Terrace built in 1867, just east of Belle-vue (demolished 1976).

 

In January 1870, Clifton was elected Councillor and the following month elected as Chairman of the Council, only to lose that position the following month. He was one of the members elected to the District Board of Education in November 1871, but despite all his public work, in 1872 the Chairman of the Council stated that “Mr Clifton only served his own purpose and those in his company”. Although Mr Clifton may have been a concern to many, P&O bought prosperity to Albany, opened many new avenues of employment to the younger citizens, developed skills that were to be use in the later development of the district and state.

 

Prior to Captain Hassell purchasing the Belle-Vue property in 1865, he commanded ships along trade routes between Sydney, Hobart and Launceston, eventually being granted 500 acres (200ha) in the Tamar Valley in 1828, where he ran cattle. Returning to England in 1836 to 1837, where he established a partnership with Frederick Boucher (soon to be brother-in-law) he bought a 266 short-ton brig named the Dawson. On 19 September, 1838, Hassell married Ellen Boucher and a week later, set sail for King George Sound, loaded with about £15,000 worth of stores and produce. Here, Captain Hassell sold much of his merchandise and acquired a 20,000 acre (8,094 ha) property now known as the Kendenup Estate from Cheyne for the Australian Pastoral Company, a company formed to acquire grazing leases in Western Australia. Hassell then set sail for Tasmania, where he sold the remainder of his cargo, his brig the  Dawson and his Tasmania holdings and made his way to Sydney and bought livestock arriving back at Albany on 6 March, 1840 in a charted ship called the China. Hassell had aboard 800 sheep, 12 cattle and 10 horses intending to stock the land at Kendenup and he acquired more grazing land and by 1850, he owned 20,000 acres (8,094 ha) freehold and 38,000 acres (15,378 ha) leasehold mostly in Kendenup and Jerramungup.  The Hassell family also introduced agriculture to Jerramungup and the region and in 1861, cleared 8 hectares and sowed a wheat and barley crop. The grain they produced was used for milling (in their own mill) and to provide for the stock and draught horses on the station.

 

By 1870, Kendenup was stocked with nearly 30,000 sheep making the Hassell Family one of the best-known names of Western Australia’s pioneers and pastoralists. In the mid 1860s where he purchased lot S13 and S14 from George Cheyne, he lived mostly at Albany where he had a business importing merchandise and station supplies, keeping the accounts of his properties and arranging wool shipments to England. Hassell died on 15 August 1883, survived by his wife, five sons and a daughter. Both his eldest son John Hassell and Albert Young Hassell, were prominent pastoralists and members of parliament.

 

The purchase by the Hassell family of the place added another important chapter to the history of the people associated with the place: Living in Albany, names like Hassell, Cheyne, Wylie, Moir and Chester were at first as blank and serviceable as any other you might see on a street sign of map…Only later did you understand how far back these names travelled. [citing Tim Winton, in Dowson, 2009, p. 9].

 

On Captain John Hassell’s death in 1883, Lots S13 and S14 were passed to Ellen Belinda.  The only daughter of Hassell and heiress of Kendenup, married Captain Peter Hay Nicholson in 1887. A notice in the Government Gazette of Western Australia No. 47. Thursday, October 1, 1891, Transfer of Land Act, 1874. advised that Ellen Belinda Nicolson the wife of Peter Hay Nicolson of Albany, master mariner has made application to be registered as the proprietor of an estate known as Town Lot S16.

Captain Peter Hay Nicholson died in 1897, while still living at Belle-Vue. In 1906, Ellen Belinda (b. 1843) married Frank Rawling Dymes (b. 1849), barrister and US consular agent, who was also listed in the Legal Directory in 1859, under Public Notaries for Albany appointed for the Supreme Court of Western Australia. Frank Rawling Dymes married Ellen Belinda in 1906, in the drawing room at Belle-Vue. Ellen Belinda died in Albany in 1921, Lots S13, S14 and S16 passed to Frank Dymes. It is also believed that Dymes planted the Magnolia Tree at Norman House, as he had done so, at Dymesbury Park Lodge.

 

Frank Dymes was a well-known townsman with business premises on Stirling Terrace and in 1908, Dymes  donated significant funds so that construction of a shelter for cabmen and their horses could begin. In 1909, the Cabmen’s Shelter (now known as the Taxi Rank and Women’s Rest Centre – HCWA No. P00079) was formally donated to Town of Albany handing over the keys to Acting Mayor, William Mawson.

 

After Frank Dymes' death in 1921, the properties were passed to his sister - Annie, who was living in Albany. In 1931, during the Great Depression and before moving back to England,  Annie donated the southern portions of Lots S13 and S14 which included Norman House, Cheyne’s Stables and Outbuilding by deed of gift to Toc H.

 

In early 1937, Annie Dymes died in England. The Albany Advertiser reported she was ‘a well-known and highly respected resident of Albany.’ She bequeathed the northern portions of Albany Lots S13 and S14 that had continued in her ownership to her nephew, Thomas Alfred Dymes. This property remained in the Dymes family until May 1944, when these portions were sold to Neville Reeves (who also acquired Lot S16) who established his hardware store and timber yard (now known as Reeves Hardware Store and Timber Yard - HCWA No. P26890).

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Frank Rawling Dymes

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