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Katanning, WA

Significant rural service centre in the WA wheatbelt

Katanning is one of the major centres at the south-western end of the Western Australian wheatbelt. The combination of a major railway line and a rich sheep-wheat district surrounding the town have made Katanning an important and thriving centre. It now boasts the largest stockyards in rural Western Australia and it wears, as a badge of honour, the fact that it is the state's most multicultural rural town with over 40 nationalities and, a true rarity, a mosque catering for the local Islamic population, most of whom emigrated to the town from Christmas and Cocos Islands.


Katanning is located 280 km south-east of Perth and 311 m above sea level.


Origin of Name

There is disagreement about the meaning of 'Katanning'. Some sources argue that it is derived from the local First Nations word 'kartanup' meaning a 'clear pool of sweet water' while others suggest that it comes from 'kartannin' meaning 'meeting place' with 'kart' meaning 'head' and 'annin' meaning 'meeting place' which suggests the name is 'meeting place of heads of tribes'. A third suggestion combines these two interpretations suggesting that a 'clear pool of sweet water' would be an ideal 'meeting place'. There are some local people who insist that the town was named after a First Nations woman called Kate Ann or Kate Anning but there is no evidence for this. And the Shire of Katanning website insists that "KAAT-NYINY is a local Noongar word meaning 'the head sits here'."


Things to See and Do

Katanning Walk Trail
The Katanning Walk Trail, which can be downloaded at https://www.katanninghub.com/katanning-attractions, lists a total of 25 places of interest around the town. The most interesting include:

1. Katanning Hotel
Located at 42 Austral Street the original hotel was built as an iron and wood hotel in 1890 by the Piesse Brothers. In 1897 the original hotel burnt down. The site was purchased by George McLeod Jr who replaced the hotel with the current two storey building which was built in 1898. It was purchased by Swan Brewery after World War II and modernised. There is a detailed history, with photographs, at https://lostkatanning.com/2019/02/13/katanning-hotel. There is also an interesting mural on the back wall.

2. Former F & C Piesse Store
Located between the Katanning Hotel and the Premier Mill, this former F&C Piesse store was built in 1901. It is a reminder of the importance of the PIesse brothers in the building and prosperity of Katanning and the affluence of the town at the beginning of the twentieth century.

3. Premier Mill
Located on the corner of Austral Terrace and Clive Street, the Premier Mill was built by F & C Piesse in 1890. It was used as a flour mill until it closed in 1978 after that it slowly went into decline. It was owned by the local council who sold it for $1 to the Dome Café group who turned it into a five star luxury hotel for a cost of over $4 million. The result: a genuinely impressive transformation of an important building. See https://thewest.com.au/news/tourism/history-of-127-year-old-katanning-flour-mill-preserved-as-luxury-premier-mill-hotel-ng-b88844136z for a detailed account of its transformation.

4. The Town Clock
Located diagonally opposite the Premier Mill, the town clock was built In 1956. It is listed as part of the WA State Heritage (see http://inherit.stateheritage.wa.gov.au/Public/Inventory/PrintSingleRecord/de1e3ad3-6bdb-42ec-850e-44ca3e139440) which explains: “During the Commonwealth Jubilee celebrations in 1951, the community of Katanning decided to erect a memorial to the pioneer women of the district … The total cost of the clock came to £1,458 9s 8d, half of which was raised by  community donations and the balance was raised by way of rating. The construction of the clock began in 1955, with the board employees helping with the work. The historical society arranged for the bronze plaque and Mr L F W Quartermaine, local jeweller and watchmaker, won the contract in December of that year to service and supervise the running of the clock. He was to be paid £10 per annum for his services, which included the provision of batteries … The plaque reads: This memorial was erected by the people of Katanning and Districts to honour their pioneer women especially those bush nurses whose unselfish devotion to their fellows should never be forgotten. 16th March 1956.”

4. Heritage Wall, Rose Garden, Noongar Time Walk and Malay Mosaic
This simple garden, which lines Austral Terrace, is an opportunity to experience a winding time line which depicts the history of the local Noongar people; a rose garden with roses which date back to the early settlement of Western Australia; and a Heritage Wall and Malay Mosaic which are reminders of Kattaning’s rich multiculturalism.

5. Katanning Town Hall
Located in Austral Street, the huge Katanning Town Hall, which was originally the Katanning Agricultural Town Hall, was made possible when F&C Piesse donated 10,000 bricks and voluntary labour to help with the construction of the building. It cost £3,000 to build. The foundation stone was laid on 22nd August 1896 by the Hon F H Piesse, MLA, and it was officially opened in 1897. By 1899 it was known as the Mechanics Institute. State Heritage (see http://inherit.stateheritage.wa.gov.au/Public/Inventory/Details/662929b2-bbc0-48d8-b905-5dc3c83748c2) notes: “In 1907 a new Mechanics Hall was erected next to the old one, which was by now in a state of disrepair and included "four shops, a main entrance, a spacious cloakroom, a ticket office, a large stage and dressing rooms". Elaborate wrought iron gates (made by B Makutz) were also added, "scenic stage backdrops designed by P Goatcher and a panelled ceiling, the work of a Mr Tindale - all well-known Perth contractors - while the intricate electric light system was personally supervised by F T R Piesse" … The existing hall was also renovated at the same time, using brick partitioning and incorporated a reading room and library as well as a billiards room and caretaker's quarters. Not long after this work, the Roads Board offices were also refurbished. Extensive additions and alterations were completed in 1928, which included the addition of the second storey.”

9. St Andrews Church
Located in Arbour Street, St Andrews Church is the oldest church in Katanning. It was opened by Mrs F H Piesse in 1898. Her husband had donated 40,000 bricks. The pews are made from imported New Zealand kauri. The roof and floor are made of jarrah, a gift from the Millar brothers, and the porch is laid with Milton tiles. The Chancel window was erected in 1910 and this window, together with the brass plaque by the organ loft, was erected in memory of the Piesse family. The Church Hall was completed in 1911. For more detailed information check out https://lostkatanning.com/2020/03/28/anglican-church.

10. Uniting Church
Located in Taylor Street, the old Presbyterian Church (now the Uniting Church) was built in 1906 and is described by the State Heritage Council as “A brick and corrugated iron building of Federation Gothic design. It has a prominent zinc clad spire protruding from a battlement campanile. Additions have been made to the north-east side of the original church building. The front has three trefoil head windows within a lancet opening and quatrefoil window within the arch.” For more information check http://inherit.stateheritage.wa.gov.au/Public/Inventory/Details/a736cc52-58bf-47cb-81d6-11f73dca6eee.

11. Katanning Museum
Located in Arbour Street is the Katanning Museum which is located in the town's first Government School. Open from 2.00 pm - 4.00 pm on Sundays or by appointment, the Museum houses an interesting collection of memorabilia and artefacts relating to the early history of the town.

13. The Federal Hotel
Located at 111 Clive Street and built in 1904, this two storey hotel had a third storey added in 1913. The State Heritage register records that it is: “Three-storey Federation Italianate hotel building in rendered brickwork. It has decorative strings and cornices with the words "Federal Hotel" in bas-relief over the first floor level. A suspended metal awning has replaced the two-storey veranda. The original joinery is intact with windows in the form of double-hung sashes. The front doors are a pair of raised panel doors with sidelights and a three-panel lead light cover. New openings have been introduced in the salon bar area.”

14. Post Office
Located at 101 Clive Street, the Post Office was built in 1914 and originally included the local telephone exchange, weather measuring equipment and a storage area for the railway workers. State Heritage notes of the building: “The Post Office is a one storey red brick structure with terracotta roof tiles. The building is designed in the Federation Free Style. The central bay is arched and flanked by two narrow slot windows and arched porches. The walls are laid in soft red bricks in English bond in a rusticated pattern. The building has double hung sash windows, which have arched multipaned sections above. The arches are laid up in voussoir bricks with mannered stucco keystones that break through the arch to join a raised panel in the parapet. The timber joining remains mostly intact. The hipped and gabled roof is rich in its geometry and the focal point is the lantern shaped ventilator. The porch has been tiled.”  It was built in 1913 for a total of £2,482/4/10.

15. Former Union Bank / ANZ Bank
Located at 93 Clive Street, the former Union Bank (now the ANZ Bank) was built in 1911 in a Federation Free style with the bank downstairs and the manager’s residence above. State Heritage describes the bank as “symmetrically organised around the disproportionate entry portico. The portico features an exaggerated baroque-like broken pediment over the arched entry, with large metopes and dentils under the cornice. The portico is flanked by arched windows. The first floor is recessed with a veranda within the setback. The veranda is carried by stout piers with stylised capitals carrying in turn the lintel. Over the lintel the gutter is carried on closely spaced brackets. The balustrade to the veranda is made of pierced masonry. The tiled roof has decorative ridge tiles.”

16. Bank Building
Located on Clive Street, and built in 1909, this building, called the Bank Building, has never actually been a bank. Among other functions it has “been utilised for other commercial purposes including a bakery (it still contains the original bakers oven) as well as a tailor shop. The Bank Building has also housed PM’s Restaurant, Katanning Family Steakhouse, and Taylor’s Family Restaurant to name a few, and has living quarters upstairs. A restrained Federation Italianate two-storey building of three shops and residences with its exterior little altered. It has a panelled balustrade to the parapet with a curved pediment over the central bay with “Bank Buildings AD 1909” in bas-relief. The brickwork is tuck-pointed and the upper windows are double hung sashes. The original timber shop fronts are in place along with its original bull-nosed verandah and it has pressed metal ceilings and timber floors with arches joining all three shops. The garage and shed were re-roofed with steel in May 2001.” Check out https://lostkatanning.com/banks for extra details.

20. FH Piesse Memorial
Located at the point where Albion Street reaches Austral Terrace, this is the statue of the founder of Katanning. It was unveiled by Sir John Forrest (a close friend of Frederick) on 16 May, 1916. The memorial inscription reads “Hon Frederick Henry Piesse J.P. C.M.G. The Founder of Katanning Born 6th of December, 1853 Died 29th of June, 1912. Twenty years representative of Williams and Katanning Districts in the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia 1890-1909 Minister for Railways and Director of Public Works 1896-1900 Member of the Australian Federal Convention 1897. Erected by friends and admirers in recognition of valuable services rendered to the district and state.”

21. King George Hostel
Located on the corner of Austral Terrace and Albion Street, this impressive hostel was built in 1912-1913 by Frederick Piesse in memory of his son, Melville Piesse, who was accidentally killed in Rabaul, New Guinea when working for the New Guinea Trading Co. It is a rarity. A hostel rather than a hotel. At the time Katanning was experiencing a boom in farming and the itinerant workers needed accommodation. State Heritage explains: “The hostel, which was an unlicensed accommodation house, differs from a hotel in that it has shops along the street frontages rather than public bars. Some of the original shop’s tenants were: an accountant, boot maker, tailor and mercer, an agency for Farmers' Mercantile and Chaff Mills Ltd, an assurance company, Doctor Pope, newsagency and barber and Gilbert's chemist … The hostel is largely in original condition: brick walls and tiled roof, wooden floors and verandah posts. There are six separate shops on the ground level, including an accountant's business, which has been located in the hostel since 1913. The shops and stairwell have pressed metal ceilings and the wooden staircase is in original condition. In the hall is an ornate wooden hallstand with the Piesse crest carved into it. The public dining room, original large stove and bakers oven have all remained part of the hostel.” For more information check out http://inherit.stateheritage.wa.gov.au/Public/Inventory/Details/c3d1ec8d-d222-43f5-a983-bdbcd73a1309.

22. Former Stock & Trading Co
Located at 68 Austral Terrace, this two-storey building was originally built as a single-storey in 1896 by Arnold Edmund Piesse, the youngest brother of Frederick and Charles Piesse. The second storey was added in 1908 when the business known as A. E. Piesse & Co was sold to a group of local investors and was renamed Katanning Stock & Trading Co. Ltd. That building is still owned by, and is part of, Katanning Stock & Trading Co Ltd. In 1927, a large showroom was added on the side of the building which is still in use today and still operates as Katanning Stock & Trading Co Ltd. It is the oldest surviving business (other than the flour mill) in Katanning today.. The handsome building is described by State Heritage as “Two-storey Federation Free Style building, now missing its verandas, with a central bay, flanking windows, polygonal pilasters and panels set below the upper storey openings and in the pediment with bas-relief motifs. Behind the two-storey office structure is a single storey showroom with a decorative parapet divided by decorative pilasters and raised panels between pilasters.” For more detailed information check http://inherit.stateheritage.wa.gov.au/Public/Inventory/Details/e278927f-0fb7-41d4-ae80-bc90a1c8c031.

23. Royal Exchange Hotel
Located at 66 Austral Terrace, the Royal Exchange Hotel, originally known as the Railway Hotel, was built in the late 19th century – it was constructed from wood and iron - but a fire in 1905 resulted in it being largely rebuilt in brick. Today it is a “two-storey hotel is cement rendered brick, timber-framed roof with corrugated iron sheeting. The street facade is rendered in the Federation Italianate style with a parapet level balustrade linking a central panel and the terminating pediments.” For more details check out http://inherit.stateheritage.wa.gov.au/Public/Inventory/PrintSingleRecord/14b5b950-cf8e-4166-9dc3-5dd0137c73f7.

24. Railway Station
Located off Austral Terrace, the Railway Station was constructed in 1889 and did much to ensure that Katanning became the largest and most important town in the state’s Great Southern region. The “building is of brick and corrugated iron construction with wide overhanding eaves, supported by large cantilevered timber brackets ... The brickwork is laid in English bond and is set above a rendered plinth, with windows being double hung sashes and doors are mostly four-panel timber.” See http://inherit.stateheritage.wa.gov.au/Public/Inventory/Details/a55b0247-ab2f-4c63-9f62-4f26f702607f for more information.

Public Silo Trail
In 2017 an organisation named PUBLIC Silo Trail, comprising a number of prominent Western Australian street artists (Brenton See, Chris Nixon, Darren Hutchens, Mel McVee) and an international calligrapher (Karim Jabbari), painted a number of Western Power electrical transformer boxes and walls (they wanted to paint wheat silos but the town didn't have any) and created the town's PUBLIC Silo Trail. The result is a collection of eight impressive murals which are scattered around the town. Check out https://www.katanning.wa.gov.au/explore/things-to-see-and-do/public-in-katanning.aspx which contains a map, photos and descriptions of of each of the works.

Katanning Miniature Railway
Located at the corner of Clive Street and the Great Southern Highway, the Katanning Miniature Railway is a fun family experience where miniature steam and diesel locomotives haul tiny carriages with passengers around a track which passes over a creek (Crocodile Creek) and through bushland. It runs on the second and fourth Sundays of each month from 11.30 am - 4.00 pm and passengers can enjoy a Devonshire tea. Check out https://www.katanninghub.com/katanning-attractions or tel: 0427 212 967 or 0458 214 390.

Located at the end of Kobeelya Avenue, in Brownie Street, is the grand family mansion 'Kobeelya' which was built by F. H. Piesse in 1902. It was a true mansion with seven bedrooms, a billiard room, hot and cold running water, a ballroom, tennis courts and a croquet field. State Heritage notes of the significance of the mansion: “Kobeelya was the first significant residence in the town of Katanning, and one of the most up-to-date in the state. It has high social value as it was built for the Piesse family, an important pioneering family in the Great Southern, who were instrumental in the development of Katanning. In its heyday the house entertained and accommodated many important people … Late-Victorian Italianate style mansion, typical of those constructed for the wealthy at this time. The building is an asymmetrical two-storey design, constructed from brick and corrugated iron, with stucco dressings, pilasters and panels.” For many years it was an Anglican school with boarding facilities and in 1986 it was sold to the Baptist Church who now use it as a conference centre. For more information check out https://lostkatanning.com/kobeelya-2.

Katanning's Mosque
Located on Warren Road, Katanning's mosque was built in 1980 by the local Islamic community who arrived in Katanning in 1974 after moving from Christmas Island. The community has continued to grow with relatives from the Cocos Islands moving to Katanning. The Lost Katanning website (see https://lostkatanning.com/2020/04/01/katanning-mosque) notes: “Katanning’s large Muslim community originated from the Cocos and Christmas Islands. The Cocos-Malays are descended from workers brought to the Cocos Islands in the 19th century to assist with the harvesting of coconuts for copra. The community has continued to grow with relatives from the Cocos Islands moving to Katanning. The islands were isolated during much of their habitation and a unique culture and language has developed based on original Malay traditions and the Islamic religion. Many of the Malays that come from Cocos Island have been living here for almost 40 years and more. Although assimilating well into their new community their relationship with the community on the island is still close including language, customs and the way of life of the Cocos island.”


Other Attractions in the Area

Lake Ewlyamartup
Located 17 km east of Katanning, Lake Ewlyamartup is a small 100 ha lake which is popular with swimmers, bird watchers, picnickers, water skiers, canoeists. There is a useful 4 minute video. Check it out at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHuL6QibSzU.

Katanning Sheep Saleyards
Located 4 km out of town on the Katanning-Nyabing Road, the Katanning Sheep Saleyards are the largest undercover sheep salesyard in the southern hemisphere. The yard was opened in 2014 and has the ability to yard 26,000 sheep in one sale. The sales occur every Wednesday and it is possible to have a conducted tour. Contact the Saleyards Manager on 0417 969 371. There is an excellent, very detailed, brochure which can be downloaded at https://www.katanning.wa.gov.au/Profiles/katanning/Assets/ClientData/Brochure_MAR2020.pdf.



* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area around Katanning was home to the Noongar First Nations people.

* In 1835 Governor James Stirling and Surveyor General John Septimus Roe became the first Europeans to travel through the area.

* By the early 1840s Elijah Quartermaine was grazing sheep in the area. He moved his sheep across from Beverley and then herded them back in the spring for shearing.

* In 1848 Surveyor General Roe discovered sandalwood in the area.

* By 1852 Quartermaine had a holding of 17,284 acres.

* By the 1860s sandalwood cutters moved into the area but they did not settle.

* By the 1870s Elijah Quartermaine was the largest landholder in the district. The other families in the district were the Andrews, Grovers and Cronins.

* The founding father of Katanning was Frederick Henry Piesse, an entrepreneurial merchant who, seeing the potential of the Great Southern Railway designed a mobile store to follow the railway's construction. In May 1888 Piesse had three wagonloads of goods unloaded near Elijah Quartermaine's house and a heap of sandalwood was dumped beside the railway. This was the beginning of F & C Piesse's store which eventually became the town of Katanning.

* The arrival of the Great Southern Railway from Perth to Albany in 1889 saw a township emerge. It was built by the Western Australian Land Company.

* In 1889 the Piesse Brothers built the Katanning Hotel.

* The Great Southern Agricultural Society was formed in 1891. That year saw the building of the Katanning Flour Mill.

* The Roman Catholic Church was consecrated in 1891.

* The Katanning Road Board first met in 1892.

* In 1893 Paul A. Beeck set up as a saddler and harness maker as well as the town's dentist, barber, veterinary surgeon, and watchmaker.

* In 1893 the Katanning Hotel was burnt down. That year saw the first school open in the town.

* 1894 saw the construction of the Court House, Post Office and Hospital.

* In 1896 the government purchased the railway and made the private town into a government town. That year saw the building of the Mechanics Institute.

* St Andrews Anglican Church was opened in 1898.

* The town was formally gazetted in 1898. At the time it had a population of 226.

* The town's first newspaper, the Great Southern Herald, was first published in 1901.

* The Katanning Club accepted its first members in 1912.

* In 1916 a statue of Piesse which was erected in 1916 stands beside the railway line in Austral Terrace.

* The Katanning Historical Society was founded in 1937.


Visitor Information

Katanning Visitors Centre, 42 Austral Terrace, tel: 0477 493 141, Open 9.00 am - 4.00 pm Monday to Friday.


Useful Websites

The most useful website about Katanning is https://www.katanninghub.com/katanning-attractions which provides a map and a detailed list of the town's main attractions. Also useful is https://lostkatanning.au.

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