Fringe Box



Parke’s People No.22. Ellen Stirling

Published on: 15 Oct, 2013
Updated on: 16 Oct, 2013

In the latest of an occasional series about people who have a connection with Guildford in one way or another, Bernard Parke recalls the wife of the first governor of Western Australia, Ellen Stirling (nee Mangles).

Twenty-six-year-old Captain James Stirling nearly collided with a young 13-year-old girl when he entered the gates of the Mangles’ mansion, Woodbridge House, on the northwest outskirts of Guildford, when on a visit from Henley Park at Normandy. The meeting was to have an historic impact.

Woodbridge House as he knew it is long gone. However, the name is still with us today – in Woodbridge Road and with a trading estate, including the Wickes DIY store, on the site of the former Mangles’ home.

Lady Ellen Stirling (nee Mangles).

Lady Ellen Stirling (nee Mangles).

The girl was Ellen Mangles, who at the time of the incident, was riding mounted standing with her feet on two donkeys.

Her father was James ‘Potato Face’ Mangles, ship owner, banker, MP, and at one time Mayor of Guildford.

James was immediately attracted to Ellen, and asked her parents if they would agree to a marriage. James’s own mother had married at that age and he believed that his request was acceptable. However, the Mangles family did not agree and decreed that Ellen must wait until her 16th birthday.

When that came, on September 4, 1823, the two were married at Stoke Church.

This was the beginning of a truly productive relationship which not only produced 11 children, but was directly responsible for the laying the foundation stone of Western Australia as it is known today.

It was on May 31, 1829, that they arrived Down Under on HMS Success to find that the marital home was little more that a wooden shack.

Captain James soon remedied this by obtaining 1,620 hectares of land between the Swan River and Helanas Rivers. There he built a delightful but modest house which he named Woodbridge.

He had by then been appointed the New Governor of Western Australia. His duties took him away from Ellen for considerable periods as he travelled widely on his official business.

Ellen in turn was not idle. She established a new school and founded The Perth Literary Society, which she stocked with suitable material from her parents’ Guildford home.

In time she became Lady Stirling, when her husband was knighted. He was also raised to the rank of admiral.

After their spell of duty, the Stirlings returned to England. It was at Woodbridge that the then terminally ill Sir James was nursed by Ellen until he died. He was interred in Stoke Churchyard and was reunited in death with his wife a few years latter.


The Stirlings' cover stone now placed between the church and the Stirling Centre..

The Stirlings’ cover stone now placed between the church and the Stirling Centre..

The people of Western Australia have never forgotten the work these ‘Guildfordians’ did. A township was named Ellen Brook in honour of the ‘lady from the other side of the world’.

As late as 1979, Western Australia’s sesquicentenary year, the Western Australian government repaired and reinstated the simple granite tombstone at Stoke Church. Unfortunately, it had been moved from its original position, and currently the exact resting place of the pair is unknown. Click here to see previous story.

Had it not been for the dedication and persistence of these two against the rigours of that desolate part of Australia, the land would have been colonised by the French, or fallen under the banner of newly formed republic of the United States of America.

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