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History Claisebrook Cove


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In Short

Since the gradual resumption of land over the various feeder lakes, and more recently the East Perth redevelopment in the late 1980s, the stream has become a mainly underground catchment and drainage system and no longer exists as a stream in the normal sense.

The stream and cove were initially called Clause's Brook and Clause's Lagoon respectively, however these names appear to have been dropped soon after European settlement: an 1851 newspaper report spoke of the establishment of an abattoir at "Claise Brook". They were named after Frederick Clause who was a naval surgeon that accompanied Captain (later Admiral Sir) James Stirling in their expedition up the Swan River in March 1827. Botanist Charles Fraser who was on the same expedition described the lagoon in his journal:

"One mile up the river from the last point is a small creek of fresh water, issuing from an extensive lagoon clothed with arborescent species of Metrosideros of great beauty. The banks are covered with the most interesting plants, amongst which I observed two species of Calytris, a species of Acacia with a scolopendrous-stem, and several Papilionaceous plants. The Angophoras on the flats are gigantic."

Since the latter half of the 1800s until the mid-1980s, the area around Claise Brook and Claisebrook Cove was used for mainly industrial purposes and the water quality and surrounds were badly degraded. During this period it was also widely referred to as Claisebrook Drain. In the late 1800s and early 1900s it had become an effluent outlet into the river. In 1906 the Claisebrook and Burswood Sewerage Treatment Works was built. Sewerage was pumped across the river from Claise Brook to ponds and filter beds on Burswood Island.

East Perth Gasometer and East Perth Power Station were prominent structures there for many years during the 1900s, both on the northern side of the river outlet.

Prior to the redevelopment from the mid-1980s, a major environmental remediation project was undertaken to remove polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon contaminated soils created by the East Perth Gas Works which operated there from 1922 to 1971. The plant produced gas from coal. Remediation included dredging of six hectares (15 acres) of adjacent riverbeds and removal and treatment of 10,000 m3 (350,000 cu ft) of soil.

The lost river


One mile east of Point Frazer was seen an extensive lagoon of Fresh Water, covered in its centre with aborescent Metrasideros; its banks produce an amazing quantity of interesting Plants, and with an elevated flat immediately behind, might be cultivated with advantage. The magnificence of the Banksia and aborescent Lamia, which here was seen thirty feet in height, added to the immense size of the Lantholea of this spot, and impart to the forest a character truly tropical (Charles Fraser 1906).

As Perth began to expand, one of the obstacles to development was the Claise Brook valley with its intermittent flows and seasonal lakes. Claise Brook was an ephemeral fresh water stream which ran from Lake Monger through Lakes Georgiana, Sutherland, Irwin and Kingsford, and drained down Wellington Street to Tea Tree Lagoon at what is now known as Claisebrook Cove. Another tributary of the drain ran from Lakes Thompson and Poulett (Birdwood Square), through Stones Lake (Perth Oval) to join the main stream at Water Street (now Royal Street).

In 1885 most swamps at the back of Perth had been drained but Smith’s Lake and Lake Monger were still used for domestic water supply and the water from the main drain running into Claise Brook was used by residents living along its banks (Hunt 1980).

As the land was cleared of vegetation the water table began to rise and overwhelm the Claise Brook drain causing flooding in the town. The drain was expanded in 1899 to accommodate greater volumes.

In the 1880s it was still possible to catch gilgies (freshwater crayfish) in the Claise Brook drain, but by the 1890s a population influx meant that East Perth became very overcrowded. Two large open drains, with the city as their catchment area, flowed into East Perth where they joined together to form the Claise Brook drain. The stench of the drain became notorious, and it received waste from a tannery, soap factory, brickworks, factories, stables, laundries, four saw mills, and foundries. By the turn of the century the drain was considered a disgrace to the council and local children were warned not to go near it. One of the open drains in Coolgardie St was known as the ‘fever drain’ (Stannage 1979).

The East Perth Redevelopment Authority (EPRA) was established in 1991 to manage the redevelopment and urbanisation of the East Perth area. Former industrial land (including the former East Perth Gasworks, scrap yards, brick works, stables, warehouses and railway yards), has undergone extensive environmental rehabilitation and remediation.

Claisebrook Village now covers 137.5 hectares of riverfront land in East Perth. Claise Brook itself remains a drain buried beneath the city. An interpretive art work now follows some of the brook’s trajectory into the walled harbour of Claisebrook Cove.Show image caption

Draining Swamps

When it is borne in mind that Perth has no natural drainage — that percolation and evaporation do for it what sewers do for other more populated cities; that the river on whose banks it is built has no appreciable tide, and that many acres around us in all directions are covered with marsh and bog, producing foetid, unwholesome miasma, all the year round, it is indeed matter for wonder how it is that pestilential fever is not forever stalking in our midst

Perth Inquirer, August 1873 cited in Hunt 1980

Drainage of the swamps began in 1833 for commercial purposes with the construction of drains to power Reveley’s and Kingsford’s mills. As Perth expanded northward, more swamps were drained for market gardens and new town lots. After 1834, wetlands increasingly diminished on Perth’s town plans. Whereas the 1833 town plan had plainly stated the presence of “fresh water swamps with rushy margins”, the 1838 maps show the swamps overlaid by roads and absorbed into the town plan with the effect of making the lakes vanish incrementally as if they had never existed (Morel-EdnieBrown 2008).

Wetlands were regarded as sources of disease and insect infestation. The lakes regularly flooded and were seen as an impediment to productivity. A list of public works needed in August 1848 included the draining of all the lakes behind Perth. The floods of 1842 and 1847 had covered the north side of Hay Street with a single sheet of water from Lake Kingsford to Claise Brook, while the run off down to Perth water had damaged St Georges Terrace premises and road (Stannage 1979).

From 1840 onwards, drainage works to alleviate flooding and to eradicate miasmas began in earnest, and the swampland was being sold for town lots. By 1845, the swamps were shown as irregular shapes on town plans and over half had disappeared off the map. Lakes Kingsford, Irwin, Sutherland and Henderson were named, but the remaining swamps were depicted as empty spaces, joined by drains (Morel-EdnieBrown 2008).

The drain through the swamp directly at the back of the town was all but completed yesterday, and appears, as for as it has been proceeded with, to have answered the purpose for which it was intended … A notification appeared in yesterday's Government Gazette, that the drainage having been completed, the swampy lands in the townsite are re-opened for selection, and the upset price of the 'rich garden ground' on lake Kingsford is fixed at £26 each lot

Perth Inquirer Aug 2, 1854

Perth Council Chairman Glyde remembered the time when the lakes, at present laid out as beautiful and profitable gardens well stocked with vegetables and various fruit trees were swamps covered with bullrushes, and he should be sorry to see them return to their original condition

PCC minute book, 23rd August, 5th September 1873 cited in Stannage 1979

More works took place in the 1870s and 1890s. By the end of the century, the swamp system would be subsumed into the formal grid of Perth. Claise Brook to the east, originally the mouth of the swamp system, functioned as an exit point for underground drains that, even today, carry water as part of the Claise Brook Catchment Area (Stannage 1979). Show image caption

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1833 Canals

Rivers were at this time seen as the ideal means of transporting goods and were increasingly engineered by dredging, to accommodate larger loads. The Swan River was remade for transportation purposes by removing sandbars, filling and dredging channels.

The first change made to the natural environment after European settlement was in 1831 when a canal was cut making Burswood into an island. (Camfield Henry, Correspondence and legal documents 1829-1865, Acc 1459A).

In 1833 a tender was released for the construction of a dyke to block channels between islands with:

"duble stake and a wattled fence filled in with clay, three feet above low water and three feet high." 

When the first canal was relatively unsuccessful, a second canal was cut in 1834.

In addition the River was straightened in an effort to correct what were seen as nature’s shortcomings. The arguments used to dredge and straighten the river were utilitarian and health based.

Aboriginal History 




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