Distance: 214 km Approx. Travel Time: 2.5 hours
Northam's first settler, John Morrell, had been a builder in London. His skill as a craftsman is evident in the durability, of the oldest building in Northam and one of Western Australia's oldest surviving residences - Morby Cottage.
After leaving the Farmers' Home we turn right from Minson Avenue onto Peel Terrace, then left again into Fitzgerald Street East. Not long after crossing the Mortlock River, we turn left into Katrine Road. It's now 800 metres to the cottage and we are following the same track that Morrell would have cut to reach his land grant in 1836. The house was built with local stone and mud but had doors and window frames that were transported from England.
Exactly why Morrell left London with his family isn't clear, but we might assume the same reason that drove the many thousands of migrants who followed him - for a better life. 1830's London was an overcrowded city with poor sanitation. Typhoid and Cholera were rife. Less than half the children born lived past age 5. Also, following the Napoleonic wars, much of Europe was in upheaval as old power structures gave way to new. Uncertainty and disruption are bad for business. Morrell was influenced by newspaper reports of how 'well adapted for agricultural purposes' the new Swan River Colony was. Less than a year after writing an inquiry to the government about the potential of land grants, Morell dissolved his business, auctioned his properties, paid his creditors and set sail.