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I often wonder what went through the mind of Enoch Pearson Barratt when he stood in the dock at the Old Bailey courthouse in 1851 and listened to the jury recount the verdict of guilty followed by the judge sentencing him to ten years transportation. For committing a fairly minor crime (especially by today’s standards) it was a harsh penalty and one that would either make you or break you.
Enoch, however, must’ve been made of some tough stuff. Instead of fighting the system and rebelling against authority he embraced his new home, chose to work hard and kept his nose clean. Utilising his skills from his work as an agricultural labourer, he initially worked as a convict gardener for the early colonists. He learnt all that he could and when he was pardoned in 1856 he continued to work as a gardener and also began to work in his own garden which was located in the wetlands behind Wellington Street. This area is close to where the old Perth Entertainment Centre now stands.
The perfect conditions combined with Enoch’s skills allowed the garden to thrive. The quality of his plants was soon recognised and one of his earliest recorded sales was in 1861 to the City of Perth. Throughout the 1860s his talent continued to shine and he went on to win many of the Horticultural Society’s awards. His appointment of caretaker of the public gardens in Perth in 1868 didn’t slow him down. The public gardens are known today as Stirling Gardens and are located in front of the Supreme Court. His plant stock increased along with his advertising in an early Western Australian newspaper, The Inquirer.
His son, James Enoch Barratt, had earlier arrived in the colony in 1854 at the tender age of eight along with his mother and sisters. He essentially grew up around the market garden and learnt as much as he could from his father. It was no surprise that by 1876, both the father and the son’s name were seen together in advertisements. One such example can be seen in the following ad which was placed in The Western Australian Times on 6 June 1879. The once small market garden was growing in leaps and bounds and now had a name: Wellington Nursery.
Enoch’s eventual retirement in the early 1880s resulted in James taking full control of the family business.
The advertising for the Wellington Nursery continued sporadically in the 1880s where thanks were given to the public and available stock was listed. They boasted of their fruit trees which were of every description and were unequalled in the colony (see below ad). Extensions were made in 1887 and a new branch opened at No.3 Central Buildings on Hay Street.
With a new decade upon them, the 1890s brought along many changes that affected the business. The family orientated nursery continued with the same trend. By now the third generation of Barratts, Edward James Barratt and Albert William Barratt (James’s sons) were also working at Wellington Nursery.
To prevent flooding much work was carried out in 1892:
Mr. Barratt states that in order to have a better growth, and at the same time to lessen the chance of flooding, in 1892 his firm spent close on £1,000 in raising the top end, which was trenched for a depth of 2ft., mulched and top-dressed, and made ready for the purpose for which it was intended. Then hot and summer houses, where the delicate plants were carefully tended, were built. Creepers quickly covered the structures whilst in the open carnations, roses, and other flowering and non-flowering plants, shrubs, and ferns grew luxuriantly.
Western Australia was finding its feet and was growing year by year. Its continued growth resulted in the subsequent growth of infrastructure. With the Wellington Nursery backed by the railway line it was during this period that the Western Australian Government reclaimed the land for the purpose of extending the railway as well as providing a site for the establishment of goods sheds.
In true fighting spirit, James Barratt and his sons were not to be daunted. They established a new nursery on a new block and continued with their business.
By 1895 James was suffering from health issues. These health issues were of such a nature that they hindered his work and caused his retirement from the business. His sons, Edward and Albert officially took over from their father and the business name was changed from Wellington Nursery to Jas. E Barratt & Sons.
In 1898 Edward and Albert released a complimentary calendar for their customers. Several photographs of the brothers as well as the nursery were printed on one page and on the other, they provided a brief history of the nursery.
The late 1890s also brought with it the resounding cry of ‘gold!’ Western Australia was buzzing with talk of the gold rush in Kalgoorlie and while its discovery on the whole was positive for Perth (new buildings sprung up everywhere) there was also a negative impact. The rates on the land in Perth were rapidly increasing and this was becoming a financial burden for Jas. E Barratt & Sons.
The dawn of a new century brought no respite to the business. The hefty rate costs combined with competition from other new rival nurseries became too much. In December 1903 and January 1904 the nursery land was sold off to Bunning Brothers for use as a timber yard and ads were placed in The West Australian stating that everything currently in stock was to be sold without reserve.
Wellington Nursery and Jas. E Barratt & Sons ran for approximately 40 years and spanned three generations of the Barratt Family. It was built from the ground up with hard work and perserverance and was essentially one of the very first nurseries in Western Australia. For a business that lasted so long and helped place the family within the community (Shafto Lane was once called Barratt Lane after them) it is a great pity that it disappeared in an instant.
Article written by John Viska in the West Australian Gardener magazine about Enoch Barratt and his nursery. *Volume 31, No. 3 – Spring 2003 edition.
Ancestry.com. England & Wales, Criminal Registers, 1791-1892 [database on-line]. Class: HO 27; Piece: 98; Page: 170.
1868 ‘Perth Gazette & W. A. Times.’, The Perth Gazette and West Australian Times (WA : 1864-1874), 3 July, p. 2, viewed 8 April, 2011, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3750720
1879 ‘Classified Advertising.’, The Western Australian Times (Perth, WA : 1874-1879), 6 June, p. 6, viewed 8 April, 2011, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2981282
1881 ‘Classified Advertising.’, The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879-1954), 1 July, p. 3, viewed 8 April, 2011, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2985261
- Direct quote regarding work carried out in 1892: 1900 ‘THE RECENT RAINS.’, The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879-1954), 25 June, p. 5, viewed 8 April, 2011, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article23838454
- 1895 ‘Classified Advertising.’, The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879-1954), 5 September, p. 1, viewed 8 April, 2011, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4545740
- Photographs courtesy of my Grandpa.