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Fanny Brockman's Diaries


Stuart Stone introduced author Gillian Lilleyman, who told us about Fanny Brockman's diaries, which she came across whilst researching the garden at Old Bridge House, Margaret River. 

Frances ("Fanny") Brockman was born in 1851 and was the eldest daughter of Alfred and Ellen Bussell.  Fanny had three sisters.  In 1870 she married John Brockman.  She wrote in the diary almost every day and this seemed also to be a family activity. The Brockmans lived at Lower Blackwood at a property called "Ellensbrook".

The diary entries reveal that:-

  • They bought a boat called "The Premier", but this proved expensive.  In 1873 it was wrecked.  To pay for its salvage and repairs, they had to sell the stock and household contents of Ellensbrook.  "The Premier" was bought by Henry Clarkson, who was later killed by Aborigines.
  • In 1880 they were living at Wallcliffe House, managing household and farm staff.  Several workers were ex-convicts.  There they had overnight accommodation to offer and soon had an increasing number of overnight guests, mainly because of the timber trade. 
  • By 1878 the decline in the fortune of the timber trade was of concern, so in 1888 they moved back to Ellensbrook.
  • In 1891, Fanny and her sister Mena (Philomena) moved to live at Burnside.  It was necessary to build a house, which took 2 years.  Meanwhile they lived in a barn.  Many of the calves died from "bleeding nose", which did not help their financial situation.  (It was not until 1922 that it was found that the bracken fern, on which they slept, was toxic to livestock.  In particular it caused haemorrhage in cattle.)
  • In 1892, John Bussell had advertised the beauty of the (now Yallingup) caves, to attract visitors.  In 1900 many visitors came to the caves by bicycle and by 1903 there were daily coachloads.
  • 1896 saw the building of the Leeuwin lighthouse, then 1899 saw the opening of the railway line.
  • 1901 was the year of the visit to Perth of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York.
  • In September 1905, the Governor General Lord Northside visited Burnside.

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