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A Short History of Bridgetown

Bridgetown is a town in the South West region of Western Australia, approximately 270 kms (168 miles) south-east of Perth, on the Blackwood River (Goorbilyup is the Bibbulmun name for the river), at the junction of the South West Highway and the Brockman Highway.

The region around Bridgetown was known as Geegelup to the Bibbulmun people of the South West. The name possibly refers to the freshwater gilgies found in the river. It was discovered by Augustus Gregory in the 1840s as he followed the Blackwood River from its source at the confluence of the Arthur and Balgarup Rivers, downstream to Augusta. He noted it was prime farming land and settlers soon saw the benefits of the area for agriculture.

In 1857, Edward Godfrey Hester and John Blechynden bought and leased land in the area. By 1861, a road was created by convicts from Donnybrook, although this was predominantly a sandy track.

Assistant Surveyor T. Campbell Carey surveyed 56 town lots in 1868 and these were quickly snapped up. The town began to grow and attract tradesmen and business owners, as well as orchardists and farmers.

Unfortunately, a series of problems affected the town in the 1960s/70s/80s: new preferred varieties of fruit unsuitable for growing in Bridgetown, codling moth infestation and competition forced orchardists to uproot all their apples and pears. The town realised this slow demise and plans were put in place to energise the townsfolk and become a tourist destination with annual events pulling in big crowds.

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