History of The Shire

One of the first explorers of the Denmark district described a place of fine soil, towering timber and plentiful water. Giving such a description, Dr T Wilson showed he had great expectations for future settlers. Dr Wilson was one of the first European men to penetrate the new territory outside the King George Sound Settlement that had been set up in 1826. In 1829, with the backing of Commandant Sleeman, (Commandant of Albany), Wilson took a party of men to explore the interior. Guided by the Aboriginal Mokare, the party discovered and named many geographical features of the Denmark district. Such names as the Denmark and Hay Rivers, Mt Lindesay and Mt Shadforth still remain to this day. The Denmark River was named by Wilson after a medical friend. The man, Denmark, had played an influential role in Wilson's career.

Despite the positive nature of Wilson's reports about Denmark, subsequent exploration by Captains Collet Barker and T Bannister in the early 1830s raised some unfavourable aspects of the district. Captain Bannister particularly, thought that problems would arise for settlers owing to the thickly timbered nature of the land.

It is little wonder then that the majority of the early visitors to this region limited their visits to the coast. The beaches of the area, later to be Denmark, were frequented by whalers and sealers. Captain Bannister named one of the beaches William Bay after William Edward Parry, an arctic explorer.

Visitors to the shores of Denmark would have found evidence of Aboriginal habitation in the area. Fish traps were built in the form of low stone walls in Wilson's Inlet. The Aborigines left reminders such as ochre and dolerite quarries. Remains of stone tool making and cooking fires in caves have been found. Aboriginal names have remained in the district, examples being Mehniup, Owingup, Kordabup and Nullaki.

Prior to European occupation Aboriginal tribal groups had travelled extensively throughout the region, supported by their hunting and gathering activities. Their culture and organisation developed with a strong association with the land. The structure of their society was seriously threatened with the arrival of the Europeans. Despite initial friendly relations, contacts with the new settlers was disastrous for the Aboriginal population. Many deaths resulted from conflict as well as from exposure to European diseases such as measles, influenza and small pox. There are various rumours about a taboo placed on the Denmark region by Aboriginal people. This may account for the disappearance of the Aboriginal people from the Denmark district. However, this hypothesis has never been proven. The more accepted but equally tragic theory, was that, the many deaths leading from European introduced diseases decimated their population.


The Shire of Denmark's Municipal Heritage Inventory provides the Council with sound information relating to places of heritage value in the district. This information assists Council to make important decisions about the future management of the places on the Inventory.

Further information can be found on our website at http://www.denmark.wa.gov.au/heritage.aspx