Alfred Bussell (1816 – 1882)
Alfred Bussell was a prominent figure in Margaret River History. He and his family were the first settlers in Margaret River region.
Alfred Bussell was born on the 21st of June, 1816 at Portsea, Hampshire in England. Alfred’s father, Reverand William Bussell, died when he was only 4 years old. This left Alfred’s mother, Frances Bussell, to educate and raise nine children. Frances, not too concerned about her daughters, struggled to properly educate her sons John, William, Lennox, Charles, Vernon and Alfred so they could make a better life for themselves.
In the late 1820’s Charles Bussell and his mother persuaded the eldest son, John Bussell, who had plans of entering the Church, to emigrate to the new Swan River Colony in Western Australia. Both had different reasons for persuading John to leave both country and Church to live in a new colony. Frances saw it as a golden opportunity for her sons to acquire land and make a future for themselves and her family. Charles on the other hand had a speech impediment that he feared would hinder his prospects in a professional career. The opportunity to settle in a new country was the perfect solution for him.
Bussell Brothers Arrive in Western Australia
In March, 1830, 27 year old John boarded the “Warrior” with three of his brothers, Charles (19), Vernon (16) and Alfred (14) to find a new future in Western Australia.
On arrived in Fremantle, on the 12th of March, 1830, the brothers, like many new settlers who had arrived at the Swan River Colony, discovered that all the fertile land near the colony was already taken.
Bussell Brother Try Their Luck in Augusta
Lieutenant-Governor James Stirling persuaded the new settlers to move 320km south, to an area near Cape Leeuwin. Captain Molloy with a small military detachment and about thirty settlers headed south and arrived in an area near the Blackwood River in Augusta. Among the new settlers from the “Warrior” were Captain John Molloy and his wife Georgiana, James Woodward Turner and his family and the four Bussell brothers.
For four long years the brothers tried to establish a farm, initially at Augusta and then further up along the Blackwood River near Alexandra Bridge. The years were hard for the brothers, especially for Alfred who was still just a teenager. Most of the trees in the area were either Jarrah or Karri and it could take up to a week to cut one tree and remove the roots. If that wasn’t enough they would also discover, having cleared the land, that the soil was quite unsuitable for farming.
‘The brothers built their first home in Augusta and it was named “Datchet’. The house was built from stone and mortar with the thatched roof made from local rushes. However it wasn’t long before John became frustrated with the poor farming conditions and began conducting several expeditions into the Vasse region, looking for more suitable farming land. The Bussells by then had built a new homestead which they named “Adelphi” (meaning; the brothers) near Alexandra Bridge. Charles, however continued to live in Augusta.
In 1833 the brothers were joined by another brother Lennox and two of their sisters, Frances and Elizabeth. On the 5th of November (Guy Fawkes Day) a fire that began in the wooden chimney, swept through the Adelphi Homestead, destroying all but a few possessions. With no reason to rebuild, John and the family re-established themselves at the Vasse. The brothers were soon to be reunited with their mother, who arrived late in 1834, with their sister Mary.
Alfred Marries Ellen
In 1850, Alfred Bussell married sixteen year old, Ellen Heppingstone. The couple lived for a short time at Broadwater (Vasse) before moving to their new property, Ellensbrook,in 1857. The area would later become the townsite of Margaret River.
Alfred, with the help of Aboriginal labour, built the Ellensbook Homestead . Ellen established a dairy, whilst Alfred established a cattle and timber business. Ellen would use the nearby cave to store and preserve her butter, as the temperatures were consistently low.
Alfred became extremely friendly with the local Aboriginals ( Wardandi Tribe ) and could speak their dialect fluently. He also became an expert on bush medicine, taught to him by the Aboriginals.
In 1865, Alfred and Ellen still grieving over the loss of their three infant sons, left “Ellensbrook” and moved to “Wallcliffe”, near the mouth of Margaret River. Alfred who was now a prosperous farmer purchased (in addition to Ellensbrook and Wallcliffe) Burnside, Fairy Ring and Woodyche and acquired land holdings that stretched from Cowaramup to the Donnelly River.
Alfred also became a prominent Member of the Western Australian Legislative Council for several years.
In 1876, one of Alfred’s daughters, sixteen year old Grace, was involved in the rescue, of fifty passengers from the sinking ship S.S. Georgette . The shipwreck survivors were later taken to Wallcliffe where they were fed and sheltered. Grace would become a hero and be ever known as “Australia’s Grace Darling”.
In 1877, at the age of 43, Ellen died, she was followed five years later by Alfred, in 1882. Alfred and his wife would have six sons and eight daughters.