Artefacts offer insight into Pilbara settlement

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Ruins of the Andover Station homestead.
Camera IconRuins of the Andover Station homestead. Credit: Tom Zaunmayr.

A rocky track heading into the mangroves, a spinifex-covered outcrop and a row of stone on a hill. To the unknowing eye, it all looks like nature’s work from a distance, but these are some of the most important pieces of historical settlement in the Pilbara.

Upper landing sits 6km from the Cossack townsite at the tip of a channel in the creek system. The 275m stone track juts out across the salt flats and goes right up to the water’s edge at the right tide.

Upper landing near Cossack.
Camera IconUpper landing near Cossack. Credit: Tom Zaunmayr.

Upper landing is more than just a rock track though, it is a 150-year-old engineered solution to loading produce on and off barges coming into Cossack without having to traverse the mud flats.

Believed to have been built by John Withnell, but used as early as 1863, upper landing has aged well and is still mostly intact today.

The ruins of John Withnell's Bond Store between Cossack and Roebourne.
Camera IconThe ruins of John Withnell's Bond Store between Cossack and Roebourne. Credit: Tom Zaunmayr.

Down a gravel track from upper landing towards Roebourne is another early colonial-era building. Remnants of an old stone building with walls 1m thick sit nestled between two hills behind the tip near Wickham.

It is believed the trading of goods brought up from upper landing would occur here, a focal point for commerce in the newly minted towns of Roebourne and Cossack, and early pastoral stations such as Sherlock, Pyramid and Mount Welcome.

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The homesteads of those historic stations remain standing — though Mount Welcome is one breeze away from falling over — but plenty of others have fallen victim to the elements.

Tambrey fell over this year, Woodbrook succumbed to disrepair a few years a go, and Andover is little more than a discreet pile of rocks these days.

An old matchbox and what is believed to be an oven at the Andover Homestead ruins.
Camera IconAn old matchbox and what is believed to be an oven at the Andover Homestead ruins. Credit: Tom Zaunmayr.

Situated just behind dilapidated Woodbrook homestead, Andover homestead may be all but gone; however, it is still littered with historic artefacts.

Andover was established by William Shakespeare Hall and John Wellard in 1864 as the first pastoral station inland from Cossack

Ruins of the Andover Station homestead.
Camera IconRuins of the Andover Station homestead. Credit: Tom Zaunmayr.

Remnant walls are visible among the spinifex hills and matchboxes dating back to the 1800s are aplenty.

A few minutes drive away, an old market garden by the river is littered with broken pottery.

Artefact scatter at the site of an old market garden on ex-Andover Station.
Camera IconArtefact scatter at the site of an old market garden on ex-Andover Station. Credit: Tom Zaunmayr.

None of these sites are protected, but all have been critical in telling the story of the men and women who settled the wild frontier of the North West in the mid-1800s.

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