The Bunbury Historical Society commenced on 23 April 1954 when nineteen people enrolled into a steering committee chaired by Mr. George Clarke. Mr. R.G. Withers was elected inaugural president, his wife, Shirley was Secretary, George Clarke and A Bennet were elected Vice-presidents and Mrs. Spencer Hayward became Treasurer.
Meetings were held monthly in people’s home and the Council Hall. A program of speakers for each month was planned. Topics covered historical events and prominent people. Excursions were held to places of interest around Bunbury. Members were encouraged to undertake family research and to share stories, memories and photographs of their families.
In 1967 Bunbury Town Council purchased 77 Forrest Avenue (King Cottage) from the Carlson family with a view to preserving a typical family home of the 1880s as a museum. Mr. Paul Vukelic became the patron who paid rent for the Cottage. The house and grounds were in poor condition but members raised the money to restore the homestead to its original state and to build a shed to house the artifacts.
In 1970, following formation of a Constitution, the Society became incorporated. As the Society grew to one hundred members, members expressed concern about the many Bunbury buildings under threat of demolition such as St. Paul’s Pro Cathedral, the Post Office, Bond Store, Fire Station, Upton House, Grittleton Lodge, the Residency and Leschenault Homestead. They wrote letters, formed delegations and lobbied whoever might be influential to preserve the buildings.
Also of priority was the erection of memorials, often in co-operation with other concerned groups. These included Australind Landing Place, Dr Carpenter’s grave, memorial arches at Pioneer Park and McLeod Point and plaques commemorating John and Helen Scott, Thomas Hayward and Sir James Mitchell.
King Cottage was built in the early 1880s by Henry King and was occupied for four generations by the King family until the 1920s. The Kings were typical of many immigrants who came to Australia, arriving with little but willing to work hard to give their families a better life than if they had stayed in England. Their achievements can be seen in the homes they built and towns they created.
Today, as a museum the Cottage serves as a fine example of a home in which a working class family lived during that time period and serves to help us to better understand pioneer experience.
Newly married Henry King (22yrs) and his wife Susannah (21yrs) immigrated to the Swan Colony in 1854 from Essex, England on the sailing ship, Berkshire. Though Henry was a labourer he joined the police force and served in Perth and Toodyay.
By 1865 Henry and Susannah with their four sons James (1856), Henry, who was called Harry (1858), William (1860) and George (1864) were living in Bunbury, where three siblings Elizabeth (1867), John (1873) and Susannah (1876) were born. Bunbury was then a thriving port, whaling station and trade centre with a growing population of 300. Henry established a brickworks between 1865-1881 at the corner of King Road and Austral Parade. In July 1880, he purchased five acres on Forrest Avenue, on which his sons assisted him to build the King homestead.
Over the next decade, the children left Bunbury.
– James married and moved to Perth where he became the driver of the weekly mail coach between Perth and Busselton.
– Henry Jnr. tried his hand as a gold prospector but later became a brick maker and with his wife had 12 children.
– William became very wealthy through gold mining.
– George became a surveyor and goldminer in the Murchison.
– Elizabeth married at age 21 and moved to Queensland but settled later in Cottesloe.
– John was a gold miner and brick maker and settled in Ecclestone Street, Bunbury.
In 1890 Henry turned his hand to market gardening. He succumbed to Bright’s disease in January 1891 and his widow, Susannah, continued to live at the King homestead until she suffered a stroke and died on 16th November 1912. Following her death, William took up residence and bequeathed it to his nephew William who lived there until 1922.
The property was eventually sold in 1923 to Henry Carlson from Sweden, and his wife Alice (nee Warner) from Gippsland, Victoria. The cottage was named ‘Lamorna’ by the Carlson family when they moved from Balingup in 1924. It was named after Alice’s mother’s birthplace, Lamorna Cove, Penzance in Cornwall.
After the passing of Alice Carlson, the property was rented until the Bunbury City Council purchased it and the 5 acres, with the exception of 4 frontages either side which were given to sons Roy (Eric) and Ivan. At the suggestion of Ivan Carlson, the Council retained the cottage as a museum. Renovations took place and the Bunbury Historical Society (Inc.) took on the role of caretakers, and does so to this day.