The Bridgetown Police Station 1880 Museum, 148 Hampton St, Bridgetown, Western Australia
Police Station on the south side of Blackwood River Bridge, Bridgetown - looking north up Hampton St. Bridgedale, residence of John Blechynden, is hidden behind trees on the opposite bank. It is probably Constable Abraham Moulton in the right foreground with his wife and two young boys. The kepi hat he is wearing is typical police headwear of the era.
Photo dated 1868
The original and basic Geegelup police camp from c.1862, was located on the southern bank of Blackwood River, adjacent to the Upper Blackwood Bridge. This river bank area of the Blackwood River was an important meeting location for local Nyungars, including the Kaniyang, Bibulmun, Wardandi and Mineng groups. The arrival of white settlers disrupted the Nyungars' traditional lifestyle and led to increasingly violent confrontations and dislocation. Mounted Constable James Forrest was the first police officer for Geegelup in a temporary capacity. His duties required sorting out disputes, culling dogs that killed livestock, as well as patrolling a vast area from Donnybrook to Kojonup, Busselton to Walpole. This stretched his resources thinly, often being absent from Geegelup for weeks at a time.
Mounted Police Constable Abraham Moulton, the first permanent police officer, took over in 1865. Moulton had aboriginal assistants and, periodically, Constable John McAlinden, to help maintain law and order. There were police depots at Jayes Station and Norlup, to hold prisoners whilst he continued on his long patrols.
Former convict Joseph Smith, builder and brick maker and resident of Geegelup, won the contract in 1867 to substantially rebuild and improve the Police Station.
Following its gazettal in June 1868, the town became Bridgetown and the Police station known as Bridgetown Police Station, though to distinguish it from the upstream station at Jayes was sometimes referred to as Bridgetown Police Station No. 1 - and Jayes as Bridgetown Police Station No. 2.
By the late 1870s the station had fallen into disrepair. Moulton resigned in 1877 to open a general store. Tenders for a new police station located in the centre of town were called for in 1879, and the building was completed by James Gibbs in October 1880. Constable Bovell moved into the new premises on 18 October 1880. The new Bridgetown Police Station and Lock Up #1 was built for the grand cost of £423. The #1 was soon dropped from the name as it became the only police station for Bridgetown.
Improvements were soon needed for the Police Station. In 1892 tenders were again called for and requested two new cells, an exercise yard and conversion of the existing cells into a change room. The two slot windows in the exercise yard were to be converted into a large, single window, but the changes never eventuated.
The Police Station remained as two cells, a store room, kitchen, exercise yard, office, two lobbies and two police living rooms until 1907, when the Public Works Department drew up plans for new police quarters adjoining the Gaol. During these works, the two living rooms were demolished and new arches installed in the lobby. There were plans to line the cells and storeroom with jarrah, probably to prevent prisoners picking the soft mortar out. It is likely that during the 1907 renovations the storeroom’s casement window was removed and replaced with bars and shutters to provide an extra cell. Visitors had been accommodated in the storeroom until 1907.
Further renovations and alterations were done in 1918, 1926 (the windows were changed to wider bars), 1950 and 1960. The Police Station continued to be used for a variety of police business, e.g. licensing, until 1973. It was then used as a storeroom for various organisations until 1992 when the Bridgetown Historical Society began renovations, including hand-splitting 7,000 jarrah shingles to recreate the original roof, and reinstating the verandah and steps. The building then became the town's main museum, housing relics pertaining to Bridgetown
The Bridgetown Police Station 1880 Museum
148 Hampton Street, Bridgetown as it is today.
The Main Booking Room
The desk is a 1920s Government Issue and probably used by the police at that time. The cabinet (originally from the Courthouse) was made by Frederick (Polly) Henry Dakin, a cabinet maker who moved to Bridgetown in 1902. His shop was one of three on the current site of Mitre 10 on Steere Street. He also became the town’s first undertaker. Polly Dakin Drive (the road adjacent to the cemetery) is named after him. The bare patch of wall above the door shows the original mud render over bricks.
The Sitting Room
Used by police for meal breaks, resting and other private activities during quiet periods. The door to the back verandah allowed food to be brought into the building without going into the Main Booking Room.
The Lockup Cells
They were only used for short-term or overnight lockups, not long-term imprisonment. Minor cases were heard next to the Police Station in the Courthouse (now the Community Resource Centre). Major or serious criminals were held overnight in Bridgetown then transferred to be heard in Bunbury courts. Aboriginal prisoners were leg chained to the bar at the back of the cell, and the chain put through the slit window of the exercise yard so that they could sleep outside on the verandah.
Used by the policeman’s wife for all cooking purposes, police, visitors and prisoners, because the police quarters did not have a kitchen. The heat from the bread oven spread through the walls and provided a modicum of heat to prisoners except those forced to sleep on the verandah.
The walls around the Police Station were originally painted white to enable a torch or spotlight to reflect and highlight an escaping prisoner.
Note: The adjoining police quarters (1907) have been renovated to accommodate Shire staff and are not open to the public.