Head forty minutes up the coast from Caves House Hotel, just past Busselton, and you’ll find another incredible property steeped in history. Wonnerup House is a heritage listed farm precinct in Wadandi Country. It was originally built in 1837 by George Layman Senior, who immigrated from England to Tasmania.
Layman bailed out of Tasmania after being attacked and robbed by escaped convicts. He found his way to Augusta, which failed as a settlement, so he exchanged his land grant in Augusta for a parcel in the Vasse Region.
The Wonnerup homestead’s namesake is a Nyungar term: wanna means woman’s digging stick and up means water. George Layman Senior lived on the farm with his wife, Mary Ann Bayliss, and his five children. But tensions between the European settlers and the Wadandi people resulted in the tragic death of many Aboriginals, as well as Layman himself.
In 1841, Layman and a Wadandi Elder named Gaywal got into an argument over a debt. Witnesses say Layman pulled Gaywal’s beard and shook him. Gaywal retaliated by killing Layman with a spear, and a large manhunt was launched.
Gaywal was eventually caught and killed, and two of his sons were sent to the Rottnest Island Aboriginal Prison. Unfortunately, nobody knows exactly how many Aboriginals were killed in the manhunt, although in 1897, historian Warren Bert Kimberly called the massacre, ‘one of the most bloodthirsty deeds ever committed by Englishmen.’
The National Trust has worked with Traditional Custodians and the Layman family to install a ‘…simple but provocative presentation to encourage visitors to question their knowledge of the past and to consider how we understand truth.’
Visitors are invited to visit the house and discover more about its history.