Serious questions in relation to the Society’s purpose and standing within the community were raised by Committee members of the Walpole Nornalup and District Historical Society at its recent monthly meeting.
Walpole is the only town in the Shire of Manjimup that doesn’t have a Museum. It isn’t because we don’t want one. The Society has explored and researched all manner of potential possibilities for over 20 years, without anything positive or concrete being an outcome of their efforts. Does anyone care that we don’t have a Museum or a facility to house items of historical significance? The only ones who do really care is the small band of committee members, together with some degree of moral support by the membership base generally, with everyone else seeming to look upon the Society as a bunch of old fogies, who look after old stuff.The Society is the district’s caretaker of its heirlooms and history. The records and artifacts are the very soul of the district’s heritage. The Society is keeping safe such heritage as the district’s legacy.
That “old stuff” is now squashed into the little room off the Community Centre that used to house the Walpole Public Library, called The Homestead. It is stacked to the rafters and the room is the Society’s meeting room, office, kitchen, museum, archive storage facility, art gallery, equipment storage facility. What doesn’t fit in, is at members’ homes being held in good faith until such time as a Museum becomes a reality. Some ideas mooted over the years included: timber cottage from what was Start’s Hazelvale property; Helen Pierce’s original home in Hazelvale; the original Jakkarri House in Nockolds Street; the building in the DPaW yard that came from Shannon Mill; the current Visitors’ Centre building (a new building could be built on the same Lot as the CRC - currently vacant land - providing for easy access from the shopping precinct without need to cross the highway).
So, in the meantime what about Rest Point Guest House?
As reported some time back the Society got to learn of this building’s fate of demolition, by chance. It was built by the Swarbrick family, at Rest Point, and still stands as a testament to the many happy times of bygone days. Letters to the owners have remained unanswered. Queries through the Shire likewise. Local Councillor David Tapley spoke with the owner first hand at one stage and we understand the owner was agreeable to the community having it.
To the Society’s knowledge, no one has inspected the building to ascertain if it is even structurally sound enough to be transported elsewhere—whether that be Pioneer Park or ????? Shire staff have said it won’t fit in Pioneer Park (where they thought a Museum should go) but have “pencilled in” a tin shed instead—dependent upon a successful grant application to pay for it. When? Where’s the plan? What will the tin shed be used for? No consultation has been undertaken with the Society, the guardian of the community’s historical interests.
So, now our thoughts turn to Lady Walpole. This vessel was also built at Rest Point by the Swarbrick family and has significant historical value. By no mean feat it was brought to Walpole by a private group of owners who had it moored right outside Rest Point. Due to a number of factors, the group sold the vessel to the community for $10,000.
The Walpole and Nornalup Visitors Centre hosted the project and is caretaker of the special bank account established to manage donated funds for the purpose of restoration. Restoration you say? The Walpole Work Camp and the Walpole Menshed were jointly involved in the early stages of paint stripping, until it was deemed unsafe due to the lead content of the paint. The vessel was then moved out into the open air, and left to the mercy of the elements. The Historical Society arranged for private, under-cover storage on a short term basis. It’s still there. Miss Walpole, the little dinghy lovingly preserved by Annette and Trevor Holme sits next to Lady Walpole, both homeless. A group of Stakeholders has held several meetings over several years in regard to progressing the Lady Walpole project— whether it be scrapped for firewood, fully restored or worked on to be preserved for conservation (the latter being the preferred option). Many promised scheduled meetings have not eventuated. The community raised funds to help purchase Lady Walpole and the Society believes the community deserves to be kept informed of the situation. Such great potential tourism magnets right in our own backyard. Do we keep sitting on our hands, until it’s too late to do anything about any of it?
~ J. Willcox, Secretary, Walpole Nornalup and District Historical Society.