Blog 191 Northampton 7th – 8th Nov 2011


Northampton proved to be a hidden gem, it is one of WA’s historic towns together with York and Albany. The locals have taken this to heart and have preserved buildings, artifacts and machinery from bygone days to show the towns history.

The campsite in town was also friendly, clean, and comparitively cheap.The owners wife was from Indonesia so they had decorated the site with things from Bali.

First up was the railway buff, Bob an amiable Irishman moved into the old station masters cottage and started to collect railway memorabilia as no one else seemed to be.
The line through here built in 1879 was the first government railway in western australia  but it had been largely forgotten about since it was decomissioned in 1957. Bob is part of the local machinery restoration group and now has some volunteer helpers, they have managed to get their hands on an old carriage and some goods waggons which they have restored together with an old diesel loco. Their next project is refitting a period goods crane onto the platform and making the stationmasters office into a museum, they have achieved a lot in a short time and are now heritage listed. The third picture is a ramp used to load livestock on to the trains which was important given the distances to market.

On the way back to the campsite we passed an op shop (charity shop) so we went in for a look. They had a pair of work boots in my size for $10 so I bought them as the german mountain boots I bought in Auckland were literally falling apart on me and every replacement I have seen here has been very expensive. I was sad to see them go but both soles had completely worn through and before much longer my feet would have been touching the floor.
The new ones are not great to walk in but it’s rare to find size 10 boots in a charity shop so I couldn’t pass them up.

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We wandered back to the campsite and had lunch before walking up the road to meet Bob at the machinery shed at the opposite end of town.
Bob had obviously got wrapped up in things and had arranged for someone else to meet us to give us a tour also coincidentally also called Bob. He was a friendly aussie retiree who had worked his whole life on farms with machinery and liked showing people around.
Again this place was run by volunteers and we had a good tour round with interesting anecdotes from Bob who not only helped restore a lot of the exhibits but used most back in the day.
They had many tractors and implements, a shearing display and lots of old stationary engines and farm equipment. Bob fired a couple of tractors up for us and ran the 1904 Sunshine harvester up with an electric motor so we could watch it in action. It was a predecessor of the modern day combine harvester and was an incredibly noisy, scary complex looking bit of machinery considering it was pulled by 4 very brave horses.The pictures below show the windmills that are still used now to pump up bore water and some of the machinery in the shed. Note the direction indicator arm in the second picture of the green truck. The later pictures are the workshop and the shearing shed demo and the last 2 are a two stroke powered washing machine. The villiers engine is being restored but it normally sits under the drum and is started by the foot pedal. Outback stations didn’t have electricity, many still don’t have mains and run off a generator.

We finished off our tour with tea and biscuits with Bob before walking back to the site, on the way back we passed Chiverton House museum which we had hoped to look around on the way back. We were a bit late and it had shut for the day but the lady that ran it heard us walking up the verandah and popped out to see if we were okay. She was lovely and showed us around anyway so we got another personal tour this time more focused on the domestic side of life. Sylvia the curator had a wealth of connections and family history which were intertwined with many of the exhibits and it gave an interesting extra dimension. There was also an outside yard with more farm machinery, vehicles, saddlery and paraphenalia including a lovely restored model T ford pickup.
We met Prince Wayne of Hutt River province as we were leaving, he and his family were Sylvia’s guests for dinner that evening. Our plan was to visit Hutt River province the next day so it was interesting to talk to him (more of that later). Here are some pictures of Chiverton House Museum.

We said thank you and our goodbyes before heading back to the campsite for dinner. It had been a good day and we had packed a lot in. Next morning after breakfast in Bali or more accurately in one of the Indonesian huts on the campsite we jumped on the bike and headed to Hutt River Principality.


On our arrival we were greeted by Prince Leonard and given a tour of the government offices and a brief history of the principality.

Hutt River Principality is a country within a country and has a fascinating history.     It all began in 1970 over wheat quotas. Hutt River was a big farm and the government of the day suddenly imposed draconian quotas after the crop had been planted. When the government refused to listen to reason the owner moved to make his land an independent republic and somehow it slipped under the radar without anyone really noticing. What this meant was that the farm didn’t have to comply with the quotas as it was no longer part of Australia and could sell it’s wheat to who ever it liked.
The government realising they had been duped started giving them a hard time so a few months later the repuplic had a referendum and voted to become a principality which gave them even more rights and stabilised their position.

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By now the government were powerless to stop them and really weren’t expecting what happened next.

The Principality of Hutt River declared war on Australia, the general reaction in government was derision and many people thought that Prince Leonard had finally lost the plot. He certainly hadn’t, a day later Hutt River declared a ceasefire without a shot being fired. International law stipulates that sovereignty is automatically acquired for a country which gets out of a conflict unhurt.

This also meant that Prince Leonard, Princess Shirley and all the other residents of the principality are no longer Australian citizens and no longer eligible to pay taxes. He has several framed tax return certificates on the wall all of which end. $0.00 Prince Leonard is in his 70′s now but he is still as sharp as a razor and very entertaining company, sucessive goverments have occaisionally tried to make life difficult for him but it’s all legal and there isn’t a damn thing they can do about it.     

The other spin off is that he now makes money from visiting tourists selling them Hutt River Merchandise and obviously relishes putting his visa stamp next to the Australian one in your pasport. He even has an army, air force and a navy although they are only staffed by one person each but he now has ambassadors and ex patriates totalling 20’000 people in many other countries around the world.

Hutt River still gets invitations to attend official functions in Australia and other countries and Prince Leonard still seems to have friends in high places one even gave him a gift of a Rolls Royce. The Principality has it’s own currency, stamps and passports.There is a picture of us with Prince Leonard and the government offices below together with some pictures from the principality.

That afternoon we headed back to the campsite and blogged until dinner time when we met Graham and Hilary an english couple who were renting a place in Perth for a few months to escape the british winter. They hadn’t met many people so we agreed to meet them in town for a beer later. It was a nice evening but it reminded me why we don’t drink in pubs very often over here at Au $9.20 a pint. Needless to say we sipped slowly.
In the morning we treated ourselves to a ham and egg sandwich done on the bbq before packing up to head down to Geraldton.

Next up Geraldton.

 


 

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