If you’re on your way to Kalbarri or on a road trip from Perth to Exmouth, Northampton (or Mooniemia as it was originally known) is a good place to break up the journey. There are a few things to do in Northampton, WA, with it being registered as a Historic Town of Importance in 1993.
Northampton was severely impacted by Cyclone Seroja in April 2021, which damaged 70 percent of homes in Kalbarri and Northampton. It will take a long time to repair all the damage, so some businesses may be closed or operating under limited capacity.
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Things To Do in Northampton WA
The main things to do in Northampton centre around the history of the town, notably Chiverton House, the Church of St Mary in Ara Coeli, and Convent of the Sacred Heart.
Church of St Mary in Ara Coeli
The Church of St Mary in Ara Coeli is the largest parish church designed by the architect-priest Monsignor John Hawes. It features beautiful rough hammer-dressed red sandstone donated by Mrs. Williams of Willow Gully and a green tiled roof. The Gothic-shaped windows are narrow and pointed with rendered weather mouldings down the tops of the arches. The foundation stone was laid in May 1936, and it was opened the same year.
This Gothic character Church is located at 49-51 Hampton St Northampton and is open on School Days from 9:00 am – 3:00 pm. We were lucky enough to see inside, and it is worth visiting if you can. Gorgeous exposed timber trusses support the roof. An arch separates the Sanctuary from the nave, which is painted in the pink and white banding reminiscent of the monochromatic work inside the Mons. Hawes designed St Xavier’s Geraldton Cathedral.
Chiverton House Museum
Captain Samuel Mitchell, the manager of the Geraldine Mine, built Chiverton House between 1867 and 1874. There are claims that he used convict labour, although transportation ceased in Australia in 1868, making it one of the last structures built by convicts.
Chiverton House became a branch of the Western Australian Bank from 1908 to 1912 and is now Northampton’s museum. It combines historical items with a range of old farm machinery and vintage cars and a collection of unusual memorabilia. It is open from 10.00 am – noon and 2.00 pm – 4.00 pm on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Unfortunately, it was shut when we were passing through.
Convent of the Sacred Heart
The Convent of the Sacred Heart, designed by Monsignor John Hawes, was built in 1919 and is an impressive WA Heritage-listed building. The Presentation Sisters lived and worked in abysmal conditions until this convent was built, which housed the sisters who ran the Day and Boarding School.
However, numbers started to decline over the years to the point in 1983 where the sisters left the convent. Demolition of the building was considered, but the Northampton Parish decided to renovate it instead and make it a camp centre. It was called the Irwin Centre after parish priest Mons J.Irwin but was changed in 1989 to honour the Presentation Sisters.
The two-storey building has timber verandas on both levels with a large corrugated iron roof.
The building was being used as backpacker accommodation but was badly damaged by cyclone Seroja. As a result, it will be closed to tourists for the foreseeable future, with the building still requiring work to be fully restored.
Northampton Visitor Centre
The Northampton Visitor Centre is housed in the old police station in Hampton Road. This Victorian Georgian-style building was constructed around 1885 and housed the courthouse and police station for more than 80 years.
The visitor centre is open Monday – Friday from 9.00 am to 3.00 pm and Saturday from 9.00 am to midday. In the summer, December to March, it is open Monday to Friday 9.00 am to 2.00 pm.
Ruins of Gwalla Church and Cemetery
The ruins of Gwalla Church are located to the south of Northampton, along Gwalla Street, which is east off Hampton Street. The church was built by ex-convict Joseph Lucas Horrocks, sentenced to 14 years for forgery of over 1000 pounds, and arrived in Fremantle in 1852 aboard The Marion. He worked in the medical section of the Fremantle convict settlement. He was appointed medical attendant for the new colony of Port Gregory in 1853 due to a chronic shortage of medical officers. However, there is no evidence of him having any medical training.
Horrocks was given an unconditional pardon in 1856 and became known for his generosity to the poor in supplying prescribed drugs at low prices and was soon widely known as ‘Doc.’
He went on to open a store in Wanerenooka, was appointed postmaster at Wanerenooka in 1859, began agitating for a railway from Gwalla to Champion Bay, and organized the construction of the Wanerenooka road, employing men and supplying tools at his own cost. He was connected with the Wanerenooka mine, which produced ore and started White Peak, Yanganooka, and Gwalla mines.
Due to a belief in individual rights, Horrocks built an undenominational church at Gwalla, with its foundation stone engraved with ‘My house shall be called a house for all people.’ He died from general debility on 7 October 1865 and was buried in the cemetery, which has sadly deteriorated over the years. The last regular service in Gwalla Church was held in 1913, and the bell was later removed to Wesley Church in Perth. All that is left now are the ruins.
Mary Street Railway Precinct
The Mary Street Railway Precinct is the last remnant of the first railway in Western Australia, constructed in 1912. There’s a walking trail (but it looks quite overgrown) where you will see remnants of the station and rail. You can view The station office, carriages, platform, weighbridge, rolling stock, and memorabilia at the Railway Precinct. However, this seemed a bit neglected with not much to see.
You can find some of the best wildflowers around Northampton, including beautiful orchids like the donkey, bee, cowslip, and the rare greenhood orchid, along with carpets of everlastings and yellow pom poms. The best wildflower spots are Yerina Springs Road, West Binnu Road, and Ogilvie sandplain, 25 km north of Northampton. To the south, head to Oakabella or inland via the Chapman Valley Road.
Northampton Shops and Dining
At the top of Northampton’s main street, you will find the local IGA supermarket and Liquor stores. The Shearing Shed Café is great for coffee and cake with friendly service and the local pub, The Railway Tavern, serves homestyle food in generous portions.
Where is Northampton WA?
Northampton is a cute rural town on the edge of the Wheat Belt in Western Australia.
How Far is Northampton from Perth?
Northampton is 475km north of Perth, via Jurien Bay and Geraldton (51km north of Geraldton).
Brief History of Northampton
I would like to respectfully acknowledge the Amangu people, the Traditional Owners, and First People of these lands. I would like to pay my respect to the Elders past, present, and future, for they hold the memories, the traditions, the culture, and hopes of their people.
The first landowners of the town now known as Northampton were the Amangu Aboriginal people. The first European Settlers were in the late 1840s after Lieutenant George Grey had passed through the area.
Lead ore and copper were discovered during an exploration of the area in 1842, which was mined at the Geraldine and Gwalla Mines.
The town was surveyed and declared in 1864 when its original name was ‘The Mines’. The name was changed in 1871, but no one knows if it is named after Northampton in England or after the then Governor of Western Australia, Dr. John Stephen Hampton.
By 1877, four thousand tons of lead and copper were moved to Port Gregory by wagon, so, after a lot of local pressure, a railway was completed from Geraldton to Northampton in 1879. This was the first government-built railway in Western Australia and continued to run until 1957.
The railway opening led to an increase in mining and farming of cereal crops (mainly wheat) and sheep. Gwalla Mine shut down in 1869, and the land was used for grazing stock. Geraldine Mine was abandoned in 1875 but reopened in 1910 for twelve years.
The National Trust classified Northampton as a historic town in 1993 and is one of the oldest settlements in Western Australia.
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