At the start of the Depression, Bayswater was still largely rural with many dairies and poultry farms scattered throughout the district. Nurseries and Chinese market gardens were also present, interspersed between the houses of local residents. Bayswater was a working man's suburb with the railway workshops in Midland being a major employer. By this time, the area was divided into a number of small communities, Bayswater itself being the most developed. Others included Mount Panorama, Whatley, Hampton Park, Morley Park and the new suburb of Bedford.
Coode Street - 1910
The Great Depression of the 1930s was devastating to Bayswater as much as anywhere else. The council began receiving applications for families to live in tents in 1931 and many lived in squalid conditions for years at a time. One tent settlement was at the northern end of Beechboro Road, inhabited by disillusioned group settlers. The Garratt Road Bridge was opened in 1935, the result of “sustenance labour”. In 1933, Bayswater introduced its first primitive Town Planning Scheme, about 30 years ahead of most other local governments. This scheme reinforced the location of the already-developing industrial area in the east of the district and set aside land for future residential growth.
Although unemployment fell after about 1934, the Depression did not really end until the outbreak of the World War II. Once again, many Bayswater resident went overseas to fight the enemy. Bayswater became centre of signalling operations and many homes were taken over for use by the army or used as billets for the signalmen. For Bayswater residents, World War II differed from World War I because the threat was immediate and air raid drills were practised regularly. For months, a Japanese invasion was expected imminently.
Drake Street - 1917
The end of World War II signalled the start of a dramatic period of growth in the district, as returning soldiers and then immigrants flooded into the country. The Bayswater Road Board district was well-placed for the suburban expansion of Perth, located so close to the city centre. Between 1947 and 1954 the population more than doubled to 14,555. Areas such as Hampton Park (now part of Morley) were dotted with half-built houses, many of which were occupied even though only one or two rooms had been completed. As many people worked full-time, as well as building their own houses, the sounds of construction could be heard well into the night.
Such rapid growth was typical of many areas in the district and basic facilities such as schools were not built until well after they were needed. Buildings from East Fremantle Primary School were transported to the Hillcrest site in a desperate bid to provide education to the hundreds of children living in the rapidly-growing Bedford.
During the late 1950s, Morley began to develop as a major shopping and commercial area. The opening of the Wirrina drive-in in 1958 was followed by Boans in 1961 and many other businesses followed. This growth was fuelled by a large new area of state housing in the newly formed suburb of Embleton. During the 1960s, the shire developed more rapidly than ever before. It was in this decade the Bayswater Library, Senior Citizens Centre and the golf course were all built.
During the post-war years, the responsibilities of the council increased enormously. Where once the construction of roads was the “bread and butter” of local government, the Shire of Bayswater was now expected to plan the growth of the shire, develop new areas and provide landscaped parks, recreation and aged care facilities and a host of other services. This was typified by the construction of the Bayswater Aquatic Centre and Mertome Retirement Village in the 1970s.
Also during the 1970s was the development of the suburb of Noranda by the Shire. This was achieved through a resumptive scheme, where the shire acted as developer on behalf of a number of land owners. Noranda was carefully planned for years before the land was finally released for sale. This project was later followed by another resumptive scheme: the Carramar Estate.
The Boans Building burns down - 1986
In the early 1980s, the Tonkin Highway was finally built. This had been planned since the 1960s and had affected the pattern of development in the shire for years. Unfortunately, the highway cut straight through the old communities of Whatley and Hampton Park, changing the character of these areas forever. The construction also had the effect of cutting off the old routes of Walter Road and Beechboro Road. An overpass was instead built at the newer Broun Avenue. In 1983, the shire became the City of Bayswater, a reflection of its increased population and changed character. This coincided with the move to the current council offices at 61 Broun Avenue, Morley.
Recent developments in the City of Bayswater include the opening of the Galleria shopping centre in 1994, on the site of the old Boans building that burned down in 1986. Morley is now the largest commercial district outside Perth and Fremantle and further growth is expected. There is now little opportunity for further residential expansion in the City and the population has stabilised at about 50,000 following the transfer of Maylands from the City of Stirling.
Based on Catherine May's book Changes They've Seen: The City and People of Bayswater, available for loan at both libraries or for sale at the Galleria Information Office or the Administration Centre.
Old photographs courtesy of the Bayswater Historical Society
History - Part I: c50,000 BC – 1929