Western Australia’s Lost Jewels – Butterflies of Perth

ImageA visit to the W.A Museum in Perth reveals one of the lost beauties of the landscape which would of been commonly seen in large, glittering flocks in the 1800’s.The Western Jewel butterfly was once found only in Western Australia, mostly along the coastal plain from Perth to Carnarvon. Much of the original habitat of the Western Jewel has been sadly destroyed by urban & rural development over time, one of the few remaining Perth populations was lost with the clearing of bushland at Hepburn Heights in 1993.

ImageThe larvae of the Western Jewel fed on a number of plants including the pea flowered shrub Jacksonia stembergiana and the wattle Acaicia xanthina, but only if there was a nest of the ant Crematogaster perthensis at the base. The larvae sheltered in the ants nest during the day and emerged to feed at night, accompanied by the ants.


This relationship was a mutualistic one : the butterfly larvae recieved shelter and possibly protection from predators, whilst the ants got a sugary liquid secreted by glands on the backs of the butterfly larvae.Most butterfly populations in Perth are now sparse, and mainly confined to fringing bushland.


 WA Museum Glass Door detail


A Walk at Penwortham Woods, Preston

Bottle cap Tree

Last year I researched the local fairy & folklore of Preston, coming across the story of the ‘Fairy Funeral’ based by St Marys church and Penwortham woods. This was included in the lecture I gave at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery for the ‘Enchanted Worlds’ fairy tale exhibition, and performed as a shadow theatre piece (see previous blogs July-Aug 09)

Twisted tree

One bright Spring Sunday, I went to explore the area and follow the trail along the River Ribble and walk in whats left of the Penwortham Woods. The area of woods would of once covered a much larger area, and there were stories of little men with red caps climbing trees and sighted as recently as June 1964.

St Marys church yard

St Marys ancient church

Penwortham Angel

st Marys Angel

Bowkers 1883 account of a funeral in Penwortham records that two men were walking home very late on a moonlit night from the Black Horse Pub by Penwortham woods. They heard the bells of St Marys church tolling for a funeral. It rang 26 times, the same age as Robin, one of the pair. They saw a group of small figures, dressed in black but wearing redcaps, carrying a little coffin. It contained a dead fairy that looked just like Robin! He cried out in alarm, but the procession vanished. Robin became depressed and a month later he fell off a haystack and died.

Warning –  never look at a fairy funeral!

Industrial Revolutionaries at the Harris museum, Preston

Fantastic exhibition just opened in Preston at the Harris Museum with a restored Yardworks model and remastered historical footage of the cotton mills and site.  Industrial Revolutionaries is curated by Laura Briggs

Horrockses Mill Workers

Annie Hill

Annie Hill

Annie Hill was a 12 year old half-timer working at Horrockses in 1906. Like many children her age, she worked half a day in the mill before going to school for the rest of the day.
Annie was one of thousands of people who worked in Lancashire’s cotton industry.
But she was unusual in one way – she had her portrait painted. Annie worked at Horrockses famous Yard Works in Preston and was there during the 1913 Royal Visit.

Horrockses Yard Works

Horrockses Yard Works in Preston grew from one factory in 1791 to a huge complex of mills by 1913.
This model, seen in the exhibition, was made by workers at Horrockses for the Royal visit of King George V and Queen Mary on 8 July 1913.

The model is an important record of the site in Preston as none of the buildings have survived.

Model Horrockses mill

Now only a few boundary walls remain of this once famous Yard Works site, which employed thousands and attracted the attention of Royalty.

The Royal couple came to Horrockses because the company was world famous and one of the largest cotton manufacturers in the world.

From Perth, Australia

After a few months off, I am now back to the blog and restarting further research and development of ideas for a bid for a Take Off Project Yardworks event at the Preston Guild in 2012.

Wondering whats here in Australia? i know Horrockses exported cotton yard cloths here, so it will be interesting to see if there are any leads.

Heres a Horrockses Display case in Sydney – http://www.dhub.org/object/226760,curious