by Janice Calcei
Updated: 21 March 2022
In the early 1840s, Thomas Little as agent for Charles Prinsep, then resident in India, purchased 640 acres from William Richardson Bunbury, Lot No. 28, a square mile of country lying just at the foot of the Darling Range. Through this block ran Paradise Creek which gave its name to the land, Paradise Farm, and ultimately to the locality.
Paradise Farm, was described on early maps as “level clay plains in winter”, an indication of the drainage problems which would occur for farmers around Dardanup. In 1846, Little purchased a further 805 acres of land for Prinsep, just south of Paradise Farm at Dardanup, Lot No. 61. This would become Prinsep Park. Finally, in about 1850 Prinsep purchased Lot No. 9 from James Henty, the 20,000 acre grant for which Henty had received his title in fee simple after relinquishing the original 60,000 acres granted in 1830. This brought the Prinsep property up to 23,277 acres, including the 1,832 acres of Belvidere at Bunbury. The Henty block is described on maps as “thickets of grass trees with open forests of red gum (marri) and mahogany (jarrah)”.
Charles Prinsep used his land to breed horses for export to the Indian market. He was never to visit his landholdings and returned from India to England where he died in 1864. His son, Henry Charles Prinsep came to Australia in 1866 and took over management of his father’s estates, living at Prinsep Park. He met Charlotte Josephine Bussell and they were married in 1868.
Henry Prinsep began exporting timber sleepers, for the building of railways, to India, but after a disastrous journey in 1870 when the Hiemdahl, loaded with timber and horses, sank in the Hooghly River, the younger Prinsep was soon facing bankruptcy. The cargo had been uninsured. In 1877, Henry Prinsep sold the entire Prinsep estate to Henry Whittall Venn.
In the same year Thomas Little passed away at Dardanup. Little had faced financial problems for some years after the failure of the vintage and his wheat crops and had sold up in the late 1860s to pay creditors, although he continued to live at Dardanup until his death. George Shenton Senior was the purchaser but on 5 March 1867, on his way from Perth to Bunbury to take possession of the property, the boat The Lass of Geraldton, capsized off Mandurah in a storm and Shenton drowned. When Little died in 1877, the properties were in the hands of George Shenton Jnr, apparently still part of his late father’s estate, who put them up for sale in 1878 (Western Australian Times, Friday 15 February 1878). This land was also purchased by Henry Whittall Venn.
Harry Venn’s nephew, 21 year old Frank Evans Venn, joined his uncle in 1896 at Dardanup Park. By that time, Harry Venn was operating on a holding of over 28,000 acres at Bunbury, Dardanup, Paradise and Henty.
On Saturday 17 June 1905, a large auction of land was held at Dardanup to sell the Prinsep Estate. 30 improved farms from 10 acres to 100 and 200 acre lots, as well as the Prinsep Park homestead were advertised as available (Southern Times, Tuesday 27 June, 1905). The land offered likely included two of the early Prinsep blocks, Prinsep Park and Paradise Farm and changed the area immediately to the east of Dardanup, in what is now the locality of Paradise.
The vendor was the Westralian Estates and Timber Company, Limited, of which the Harry Venn was the local administrator. This land was recognised as very productive. It was lamented by the Bunbury Herald (Friday 28 April 1905) that these blocks had been “for too long been locked up from close settlement, and now that they have been thrown open to the public, we may expect to see a thriving population in and around Dardanup before many months.”
And from the Southern Times, (Thursday 15 June 1905) “Messrs. J. M. Hopkins and Co., of Perth, will hold one of the largest and most important land sales that have yet taken place at Dardanup when they will offer for sale by public auction, under the instructions of the Westralian Estates Timber Co., Ltd., about 30 highly improved farms (freehold,) partly cleared, sown, and cultivated; as well as the well known mansion of Prinsep Park. The Westralian Estates Timber Company, Ltd., have made very special arrangements in connection with this sale and are to be congratulated upon the. enterprise they have so far displayed in the matter. Not only have they widely advertised the sale of this very desirable property by advertisements in all the leading papers, by dodgers, and by illustrated pamphlets giving a very accurate description of the land, but they have further attempted to cater for would-be purchasers by arranging for a special train from Perth to the sale at Dardanup leaving the City at 7.45 a.m. and arriving at Picton at 12.23 p.m. where intending buyers from Bunbury will be picked up.”
Needless to say, the provision of free transport meant there were a great many tourists on the day!
There were not a large number of buyers on the day: “In all seven blocks were sold under the hammer, the remaining blocks being rapidly passed over….. We have it, unofficially, that most if not all the blocks included in the subdivision offered on Saturday, have since been sold.” (Bunbury Herald, Monday 19 June 1905).
As predicted, once this large number of lots were sold and the population of Paradise increased, residents began to set up the community groups around sport, the church, and education, that characterise small rural populations.
Another significant change occurred in this area in the wake of World War I. The Western Australian Government sought out land where they could settle returned soldiers. “Soldier Settlement” schemes were designed to give employment to returned soldiers and to encourage closer settlement and greater productivity in agricultural areas. Land in Dardanup and Paradise was resumed by the Government and made available for purchase, under favourable lending conditions, to returned soldiers. About 2000 acres of this had been part of the Venn estate.
The homestead at Prinsep Park was built in 1868 by Henry Charles Prinsep when he married Charlotte Josephine Bussell, daughter of J. G. Bussell.
After Henry Prinsep faced bankruptcy with the sinking of an 1870 shipment of horses and timber to India, Prinsep Park was purchased in 1877 by Henry Whittall Venn, one part of the larger Prinsep Estate. Henry and his nephew Frank Venn managed Prinsep Park until 1905 when it was subdivided and put up for sale (Bunbury Herald, Friday 28 April 1905).
In 1920 three Sisters of Mercy leased Prinsep Park, then vacant, to re-establish Catholic education in Dardanup. Sisters Columba, Finian and Berchmans were the first Sisters. Local people were very receptive to the Sisters and set about raising funds to build a convent and school. School began at Prinsep Park began on 12 April 1920 with 21 pupils. The Sisters moved in 1922 to the new building in the Dardanup townsite.
After World War I, land around Dardanup, including Prinsep Park, was resumed by the Government to settle returned soldiers. In 1923, Captain Leslie Craig was granted permission to purchase Prinsep Park which then included the 1868 homestead and 275 surrounding acres. The purchase price was £30,000 over 30 years. Another block adjacent to the land was purchased in the 1930s, taking the Prinsep Park to 415 acres.
The homestead was almost completely destroyed by fire on Sunday 4 June 1933:
Leslie Craig was a member of the Legislative Council for the South West Province between 1934 and 1956. Leslie and his wife Frances Craig remained at Prinsep Park until his retirement from politics, when they moved to West Perth. Their son Frank took over the farm.
Paradise School and Church
In May 1912, a survey was taken showing that 12 boys and 7 girls would be eligible for schooling at Paradise. Michael Clune donated one acre of land to the Education Department in July, on which to build a school for the children of Paradise. Approval was given for a portable school that could accommodated 25-30 children to be built. The building was was completed and opened in January 1913. Extensions were requested in 1915, approved and completed by April of that year. A new Pavilion Classroom was opened in 1917, and the school house converted into Teacher’s quarters. By February 1935, there were only 7 children enrolled and the Education Department advised that the school should close. An official announcement of the closure was made in May 1935. The buildings were then leased and in 1944, the school and quarters were sold to the Roelands Native Mission Farm. In 1945, the land was revested with the Government and made available for selection.
The Paradise School was also used as a Church. A minute book shows that the Paradise Ladies Guild ran from November 1917 until at least February 1926, though there may be records that show otherwise.
Dowdell’s Line is survey boundary between the old Henty Estate to the east, and the smaller farms adjoining it to the west; Paradise Farm, 640 acres once held by W R Bunbury and and Prinsep Park, 805 acres, both purchased in the 1840s by Charles Prinsep. Mr W B Mitchell managed Prinsep’s estate and Mr Dowdell was one of the many workers employed by him. It is uncertain why the survey line was given his name.
Paradise Tennis Club
The Paradise Tennis Club was formed on October 28 1926 with Mr W Churach as President and Miss L Tyrrell as Secretary/Treasurer. There were 25 inaugural members. The final meeting in this first minute book was held in November 1929.
- Prinsep Park Estate, Bunbury Herald (WA : 1892 – 1919), Friday 28 April 1905, page 3
- Prinsep Park Estates – The Great Auction at Dardanup, Bunbury Herald (WA : 1892 – 1919), Monday 19 June 1905, page 2
- Craig, J B, Heir Lines, An Heirloom Biography of the Family of John Boyd Craig (2004), Victoria Park, Western Australia.
- Freehold Estates of the late C R Prinsep Esq, deceased, Western Australian Times (Perth, WA : 1874 – 1879), Tuesday 15 May 1877, page 3.
- McGrath, Ruth, Thomas Little of Dardanup (1987), notes for a talk given at Kings Cottage.
- Paradise Tennis Club Minute Book, 1926 – 1929
- Paradise Ladies Guild Minute Book, 1917 – 1926
- Paradise Badminton Club Minute Book – 1935 – 1953
- Prinsep Park Gutted – Fierce fire at Dardanup, South Western Times (Bunbury, WA : 1932 – 1954), Wednesday 7 June 1933, page 3
- The Transfer of Land Act 1874, Western Australian Times (Perth, WA : 1874 – 1879), Friday 15 February 1878, page 3
- Southern Times, (1888-1916), Tuesday 27 June 1905, page 4.
- Southern Times (Bunbury, WA : 1888 – 1916), Thursday 15 June 1905, page 2
- South Western Times (Bunbury, WA : 1932 – 1954), Thursday 6 November 1947, page 20
- Colour image of Prinsep Park, South Western Times Illustrated Annual – 1949
- Other photos of Paradise from Gwen Wells.