Guppy's Mill

Research by Gordon Freegard 2017

William Flower Guppy was born in 1827 in a village called Melbury-Osmond in the county of Dorset. At 28 years old, he was sentenced in the Old Bailey on the 7th May 1855 and incarcerated for two years at Portland Prison in Dorset for stealing a Post Office letter. He was described as 5’5” tall, freckled with red brown hair and grey eyes. On the 19th March 1857 he was transported to Fremantle on the ship “Clara”. It was the 18th of 37 shipments of male convicts destined for Western Australia. The Vorage lasted 106 days and arrived in Fremantle on the 3rd July 1857 with 95 passengers and 262 convicts.

Moving to Perth he met and married Eliza Selina Hardy. They lived in the central Perth area for nearly thirty years. Their eldest son, William Francis Guppy, claims to have been born in Western Australia on the site where the Perth Town Hall now stands. His mother was a grand-daughter of the late Mr. W. Jose, who was in charge of the prison gang that built the first bridge across the Swan River at Guildford on the spot where the Helena Bridge use to stand.

When it was decided to build the Perth Town Hall his parents moved to a grant of land running from about the present central railway station to Hay Street. On this site they had a small farm, and kept pigs not 20 yards from the main entrance of what was then the new G.P.O. in Forest Place.

William Francis Guppy was educated at the State School under the control of Christopher Trotter. ultimately becoming a pupil teacher in the same school during which time he studied law, under Nathaniel Howell, a solicitor,and music and singing under Sir George Shenton and was a chorister at Wesley Church for a period prior to moving to Guildford.

For 29 years he was connected with the military as bandmaster and in other capacities. Military activity always interested him. As a lad of 16 he was a mounted trumpeter in the then mounted artillery, in No. 1 Battery. That body was disbanded when two guns were imported from England and the Perth artillery was formed. He joined up with that body and was an acting-sergeant when Lieut.-General Sir Talbot Hobbs was a bombardier and General Bessell-Browne was a private. When he moved to reside in Guildford, he transferred to the Guildford Rifles, Then a very virile troop, which boasted its own band. He became bandmaster and held the rank of band sergeant for 14 years. Subsequently, following federation, when the Commonwealth took over defence, Guppy joined the No. 4 Troop of No. 1 Squadron of the 18th Australian Light Horse Regiment.
William Guppy commenced working in Guildford about 1882 and lived at 103 Terrace Road, Guildford. In 1898 he took over the saddlery shop and factory in Mangles Street, that was previously operated by R. Atkinson, and although unpretentious in appearance it carried stock running in value over four figures, comprising a well selected assortment of saddlery and harness, while the manufacturing department catered for the numerous requirements of a rich agricultural district – from the harnessing of a ploughing team to the rich equipage of a carriage pair, or four-in-hand. His clientele came from far and wide beyond the boundaries of the Swan District. Because of the quality of his workmanship many of his former clients who had now moved further afield throughout the State, still preferred to send him their orders for requirements in harnesses and saddlery.

In mid 1901 he expanded his business when he took over J. B. Kline’s saddlery in James Street. He also was a timber merchant operating from Victoria Terrace (as it was known then, and later a sawmill in the hills as well as one in James Street Guildford. It is reported that he owned an undertaking business for some period.

1897 GUILDFORD CRICKET CLUB #7 WILLIAM GUPPY 2nd from left back row

He was a very popular citizen of Guildford and contested the honour of being the first Mayor of Midland Junction, and was defeated by only four votes. He always took a keen interest in the social life of the district, and his services were always in great demand at musical and social functions generally. There was practically nothing in the social or civic life of the district – save and except the activities of the parson or the politician – with which Mr. Guppy had not been at some time or other, closely identified.

GUILDFORD CRICKET TEAM c1900 #8 WILLIAM GUPPY last on right at front

He served various periods as a Councilor of the Guildford Municipality and Chairman of the Kalamunda Road Board which later became the Darling Range Board. In this capacity he was instrumental, in conjunction with Thomas Statham, in securing funds and supervising the construction of the main road to Kalamunda.

He was a life member and past President of the Justices Association of Western Australia, life member of the Swan Bowling Club and life member and past president of the Swan Horticultural Society. He has been a Mason for many years and is a past Grand Warden. He was also a veteran Justice of the Peace, an honour he held for 40 years..

William Francis Guppy married Edith Ann Sainsbury, eldest daughter of Mrs. Sainsbury, of Guildford, on the 19th September 1888, at the Wesley Church, Guildford by the Rev. J. W. Mouland (assisted by the Rev. J. Johnston).

In August 1885, an Indenture of Conveyance was made between the Trustees of the Wesleyan Methodist Society at Perth and Rice Saunders, storekeeper , of Perth, whereby for the sum of 100 pounds ($200), he purchased part of Guildford Lot 20, the future site of Guppy’s House.

By the late 1880s, Saunders had established his own business, Saunders & Co., drapers, in Perth. On 4th August 1896, Saunders’ portions of Guildford Town Lot No 20 were transferred to William Francis Guppy.

In about 1897, Mr. Guppy invested about 4,000 pounds ($8,000) in a sawmill plant on the Upper Darling Range Railway at a spot now known as South Kalamunda, about a couple of kilometres past Kalamunda. It later became known as Guppy’s Siding. Among the items of machinery was a steam winch. This was the newest invention of its time in the timber industry and cut out a vast amount of labour. The steam winch replaced the old horse or bullock team when it came to pulling timber out of deep gullies. However in some cases the winch was not able to be used – when the terrain was unsuitable, for instance – and the old horse team system was used instead. This involved attaching the team to a huge log and dragging it, very slowly, back to the machinery sheds at the mill. This dragging created clear paths by destroying all the undergrowth and virtually ploughing the earth.

A piece of land, 100 acres in size and known as Canning Location 383, situated about 3 kilometres from Kalamunda was bought by Arthur William Brown, a contractor, and his wife Amelia Sophie Brown, on the 3rd October 1904. They sold it on the same day to James Anderson, a mine owner. However when James Anderson sold to William Francis Guppy on 29th January 1905 the land transferred, had shrunk to 11 acres

This was the beginning of an area throughout which many sawmills operated over decades till the timber cut out. As was the case with this mill which had been located in the same spot for many years and as can be imagined, the timber suitable for cutting up into building material had long been worked out. So in order to procure and work suitable timber, extensive alterations had to be carried out. His main Mill was situated at Canning Location 383 which was about 10 acres in size and not far from the Canning Railway Line. This was connected by a wooden tramway to another site that contained the powerful steam driven winch that hauled log laden wagons up the very steep slope from the valley below. A track was formed on an easy grade for about one kilometre from the mill to the top of a steep gully. The precipitous sides of the gorge made any haulage with horses and carts impossible. So to overcome this difficulty, a tramway was laid down the side of the gully, with the steep gradient of one in five metres. To haul the huge logs up the side of the gully, a powerful winding plant was erected, which was driven by steam power. So up this incline, which is as steep as the roof of many houses, the baulks of timber are expeditiously hauled. At the bottom of the gully a landing stage had been erected, and at this point the logs, which had been brought down the opposite side of the hill by means of six-horse teams, are lodged, preparatory to being hauled up the tramway. The large jinkers and wagons for carrying the logs, were immense in size, as indeed they had to be to cope with the dead weight of the timber they had to transport from place to place. There were, of course, no roads, only rough bush tracks as substitutes.

This ingenious method of moving the heavy logs about was most interesting to watch, and required a skill and dexterity that only came from known bushcraft and experience. One of the noticeable features of the central mill was the clouds of smoke that always hung around from the never-ceasing sawdust fires.

A good deal of judgment had to be exercised by Mr. Graham, the manager in charge, who manipulates the timber while the sawing process in going on. The baulks of timber are closely watched and the sizes into which they are cut, is altered by the benchman if by his judgment better results can be gained. All the men employed each had a part in the effective manipulation of the logs, and upon the efficiency of the combination depended upon the financial success of the operations. That they were well organised, and carried out their share of the work thoroughly, is evidenced by the fact that the name of W. F. Guppy was ranked amongst one of the best known saw millers in the district.’

As well as having machinery sheds and workshops,the mill site also had office buildings. These buildings were entirely made out of timber except for the roof which was tin. Half of the office was made out of shingled timber with a wide verandah with the other half being completely rough-hewn timber. The building pictured below, was taken in 1937, is the original office building of the mill, later to be torn down when another house was built on the site.

Starting from the mill and going towards the main Upper Darling Range Railway Line, the first 80 feet were wooden rails. The next 60 feet were mixed wood and iron rails and the next 250 feet were again wood. The next 52 feet were mixed wood and iron and then came 440 feet of light iron rails. Then the remaining distance up to the main line was composed entirely of heavy 46 1/2 pound rails

In Guildford he had a railway siding yard where everything in the way of cut timber was stacked, from general mill and heavy timbers, and railway sleepers, to batons and scantling.


An interesting point was raised in the Guildford Police Court on Saturday 28th May 1904 when
Mr. W. F. Guppy was charged before Messrs W. G. Johnson and Jno Farrant, J’s. P., on the
19th, with being the owner of two vehicles, a jinker and a whim, and using the same upon the
roads within the boundaries of the Darling Range Road Board. After the hearing of evidence,
the case was adjourned to obtain the opinion of the Attorney General as to the right to cart
to cart across or along any roads within the concession, hewn or sawn timber to his mill.

In October 1905 a new Methodist Church was opened in South Guildford. It was erected by a number of local people who gave their service free. Mr. Guppy very generously donated all the timber for the building from his sawmill.

William Guppy decided to sell his sawmill at South Guildford and advertised for tenders to purchase it in the West Australian on Tuesday 12th January 1909. Messrs. Leach & Bool purchased the business of Douglas Jones & Co, in Guildford, they then purchased the remains of Guppy’s stock when he went out of business.

Now there is no trace left of Guppy’s Sawmill. The original well is marked on the map. A later well put in by Guppy is marked in Red. Both wells were about 25 feet deep and lined all the way down with cut timber, so supplying and adequate water supply even in the driest summers. The well that William Guppy used for the sawmill was at the corner of Lot 74, Carlisle Road until development happened. There was also a track of hard, flattened earth running through the properties that now take the place of where the mill used to be. Occasionally digging around in the earth, one might find a bit of old iron, a rusty nail or a battered horseshoe, The rest has vanished as if it had never been there. However a road behind the “Kalamunda Glades Shopping Centre” has been named Guppy’s Road,a dedication surely, to the man who was such an important part of the South Kalamunda district.


In 1917 the agreement with the Darling Range Railway League was terminated and in December 1917, the siding was removed, leaving only the rail level crossing. The only connection this now had with Guppy’s Mill was the name – “Guppy’s Siding” – and even this did not remain. On the 3rd March 1920, Guppy’s Siding was officially changed to “South Kalamunda Station”. Not much is known of Guppy’s Sawmill after that. It would be a reasonable assumption to say that it stopped operating in 1917 when the siding was removed.

On 22nd October 1896, Guppy mortgaged his portion of Guildford Town Lot No. 20 to secure 600 pounds ($1200). It is probable that this was to finance the building of his family residence. In 1897 Guppy built a two storey Federation Queen Anne style house at 18 Victoria Street, Guildford, known as “Rohais”. It is a great example of this style that was popular during the West Australian gold boom. Cottesloe limestone was used for the footings, and timber supplied from his own sawmill including the 8 inch wide beams for the basement.

This now Heritage listed Federation house has been restored to its original standing to provide hosted luxury accommodation as “Guildford River Retreat”. The property boasts a rural setting with gardens and walkways down to the Swan River, yet right in the heart of Guildford.

Over the years “Rohais” has continued to be a part of the Guildford community. In 1964, alterations were made to convert the place for use as a rest home, named Wells’ Rest Home, for Ken Wells and his father. Then from 1982 through into the 1990’s, various alterations were made to convert the place for use as The Foothills School, including the building of new purpose built school buildings at the east and north-east of the original residence and a further free-standing building to the north.

Their only daughter, Eva Wilhelmina was born in 1893 while they were living at 103 Terrace Road, Guildford and was educated at Miss Baile’s School in James Street, Guildford.

At the age of 22 she married Charles S. Doddemeade, of Penfolds Ltd, Perth, at St. Matthew’s Church, Guildford, on 8th May 1915.

EVA WILHELMINA GUPPY #28 on her wedding to Charles Doddemeade 1915

The quiet wedding was celebrated at St. Matthew’s Church, Guildford. The contracting parties being Mr. Chas. S. Doddemeade, of Perth, eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. S. Doddemeade, of Cambridge, England, and Miss Eva W. Guppy, only daughter of Mr. and Mrs. W. F. Guppy, of “Rohais”, Guildford. The service was fully choral, the Rev. Ernest Foster M. A., performing the marriage ceremony.

The bride, who was given away by her father, looked charming in a frock of ivory crepe-de-chine, the bodice being relieved with pale pink ninon and orange blossom (the latter being that worn by the brides mother at her wedding), with an ivory panne velvet hat, trimmed with ostrich ruching and silver poppy. A bouquet of white roses, azaleas, and heather was carried, and she wore a beautiful diamond ring, the gift of the bridegroom, together with a pendant of diamonds lent by a friend.

The bride’s mother was gowned in black and white check silk, trimmed with black silk, her hat being of panne velvet, relieved with white wings, and she carried a bouquet of red carnations, the gift of the bridegroom. The bridesmaid, Miss May Duyer, looker very well in a pale blue crepe-de-chine pinafore dress, with pale ninon bodice, and black velvet hat with silver trimmings, a bouquet of pink roses and carnations completing her toilette. She also wore a cameo bangle, the gift of the groom. Mr. Gordon MacLoshy acted as best man.

The church was filled with well-wishers, and the happy couple on emerging were met with a heavy shower of confetti,which continued until their motor had got out of firing distance. The bridal party afterwards adjourned to the residence of the bride’s parents, where a dainty wedding tea was served, the wedding cake being the work of the bride’s mother and the ornaments the same as were used at the wedding of the parents. The usual toasts were honoured, and Mr. and Mrs. Doddemeade afterwards left for their honeymoon, the bride traveling in a cinnamon and blue check Russian costume with black velvet military hat.

William Francis Guppy died at his residence at Perth Road, South Guildford, on 6th April 1939, and it was reported that “The large crowd who assembled at his graveside was an eloquent testimony of the high esteem in which he was held.”

Footnote: It is interesting to note the both his previous residences at 103 Terrace Road, Guildford and at 18 Victoria Street, Guildford are still standing today (2017) over 100 plus years later, although somewhat modified.

References: Article: Pickering Brook Heritage Group
Kalamunda & Districts Historical Society
Grant Guppy

Images: 1, 3, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 25, 26, 28 Swan Guildford Historical Society
2, 4, 5, 18 Trove
6, 21 Internet
12 Pickering Brook Heritage Group
13 Google
14, 15, 16, 17, 19 Kalamunda & Districts Historical Society
20, 22, 23, 24, 29, 30, 31, 32 Guildford River Retreat
27 Battye Library