As you stroll through Vasse Village, a series of plaques along Napoleon Promenade depict the history and origins of our modern village centre.
THE WARDANDI PEOPLE
The Wardandi people (the people that live by the ocean and follow the forest paths), are the traditional owners within the Vasse area and have occupied the land for over 50,000 years. They highly valued the rivers as a place to source food, which included fish and ducks, while the riparian areas provided a rich supply of nourishing substances that comprised mainly berries and eggs. Mammals were also hunted for food and skins.
The country has six distinctive seasons that are typified by ceremonial practices. There are two summer seasons called Birak and Bunuru that provide availability of food sources including herbs and use of plants as medicines. The cool and cold seasons of autumn and winter are called Djeran and Makkuru, while the two main spring seasons supporting reproduction or fertility are named Djilba and Kambarang.
EARLY EUROPEON SETTLEMENT AT VASSE
Records show that by 1845 the population of Vasse and Augusta was 176 people. Farming was the main industry in the region with agricultural goods being sold to visiting American whalers who used the safety of Geographe Bay to restock their supplies.
Like the remainder of the Colony, Vasse was woefully short of money and farm workers and so became part of a scheme to employ boys from Parkhurst Reformatory School in England. They were transported to Western Australia as part of their prison sentence, along with adult convicts, the boys were used as labour in the area.
From the mid 1800’s until the early 1920’s the settlement was known as “Newtown” and then the name was changed to “Vasse” after the French sailor Timothee Vasse, a statue of whom is featured at the entry to Vasse Village.
BUAYANYUP DRAIN CONSTRUCTION
When the Western Australian government opened land for the Group Settlement Scheme around Busselton in the 1920’s, it was decided that some form of drainage was necessary to remove water from the low lying areas. This resulted in a plan at Vasse, to cut through land to connect existing waterways to the sea.
In 1926 a steam ‘Navvy’ was transported (in pieces) by rail to the Vasse Siding. It was assembled on site and moved by its own steam power to begin work on the Buayanyup Drain. Teams of horses and carts were used to transport coal for the steam to run the machine.
On completion the Buayanyup Drain to the west of Vasse Village changed the landscape in the area and initially assisted in the development of settlements, infrastructure and transport.
DAWSON AND ARMSTRONG FAMILIES
In 1931, Vernon Edgar Dawson married Elsie Margaret Burge and established themselves on a farm of 277 acres at Vasse, known as ‘Kenwyn’. The family operated a dairy and grew potatoes. Holidays were taken in May each year at Yallingup, where the family lived off fish caught, being mainly Herring, Salmon and Skippy. Gardies were caught at night at Newtown Beach.
Lindsay Christopher Armstrong lived at ‘Ravenswood’ in Newtown with his family before being held a prisoner of war in Germany during World War 1. He returned to the area and married Florence Ruby Boyle in 1927 and together leased ‘Newtown House’, just north of the Vasse Village, from the Abbey’s for a period before moving to ‘Lynwood’ at Vasse.
Dawson and Armstrong form two of the residential precincts of the modern Vasse Estate.
Location 249, a 100 acre farm with 10 acre orchard in Newtown, was a wedding gift to Mary Campbell Forrest by her father James Hill Forrest, on her marriage to Henry Frederick William Reading on 14 Feb.1899. They named the farm ‘Birchfields’ and lived there for a short time before leasing out the property and managing other family farms.
In 1910, Henry and Mary moved back to Newtown where Henry died in 1918, leaving the farm management to Mary assisted by her two sons and five daughters. The family built up the property to 1000 acres as a dairy farm and later the successful ‘Birchfields’ Poll Shorthorn Stud. ‘Birchfields’ is named after the Birchfields Road Church on the outskirts of Birmingham in England.
Part of Birchfields forms the first residential precinct of the modern Vasse Estate, with the balance of this land comprising the fourth residential precinct to be known as Reading precinct. The Reading family are current landowners and are dedicated to the local community.
VASSE SCHOOL, HALL AND TRAMWAY
During the period since the 1940’s, a number of events have affected the way people live and work in the region.
Several large holdings were subdivided into smaller blocks, altering the demographics of the farm land, while the closure of the tramway through Vasse in 1957 impacted greatly on the community through the loss of both freight and public transport opportunities.
In the 1970’s the Education Department moved to close the local Vasse Primary School due to declining attendance numbers. Parents and the local community petitioned the government and were effective in keeping the school open – later successfully expanding the school population and modernising the school.
In 1982, new tennis courts were constructed opposite the Vasse Hall, and significantly in 1998, the Centenary of the Vasse Hall was celebrated by the local community.
VASSE ESTATE COMMENCED 2004
Development of the award winning, modern Vasse Estate commenced in 2004 with the Birchfields residential precinct and continued with the Dawson precinct in 2012. The third residential area will be Armstrong to the south of Bussell Highway, now known as Northerly Street.
When fully developed Vasse will be resident to over 6,500 people, comprise over 2,000 residential lots, Vasse Village, tiered educational facilities, an industrial business park along with extensive sporting facilities.
The Vasse Development Partners honour the historic past, whilst also meticulously planning Vasse Estate to suit the demands of the modern lifestyle and providing local work opportunities.
Vasse is truly a memorable place to live, work, play and visit.
The Vasse Village centre opened in 2017.