History of West Australia/James Grave


James Grave HOFWA.jpg
Photo by
Greenham & Evans.

AS one stands on that precipitous eminence at Osborne which looks down on the broad, Swiss-like expanse of Freshwater Bay, and which reveals to the eye a perfect panorama of picturesque landscape, he may well appraise the excellent taste of the designer and owner, Mr. Grave, who has rendered an Eden in the Golden West. Magical works of art blend harmoniously with the pliable resources of nature's handiwork.

Mr. James Grave was born in London on the 15th April, 1848, but when he was a mere infant of six months his parents sought the distant shores of Australia. His father, Captain Grave, settled at Melbourne, and the young James was educated at the Scotch College and the Church of England Grammar School, two institutions which even in these early times were regarded as leading seminaries of instruction. A free, unfettered life seemed to hold powerful attractions for Mr. Grave, for almost immediately on leaving school he left home and tried his fortune on the Hokitika Goldfields, on the West Coast of New Zealand. He was still a lad of sixteen, though imbued with the courage and tenacious resolves of manhood. For a year his success as a miner was indeterminate as a financial result, but this period of hard apprenticeship was inlaid with beneficial contingencies.

From the goldfields he went to Gippsland, Victoria, and took charge of the Gippsland, Steam Navigation Company's business at Clydebank. Before many months elapsed, he repaired once more to the congenial fields of New Zealand. There was something in its unrivalled scenery that fascinated his youthful admiration.

Nineteen years ago he arrived in Western Australia and started in business. The colony at that unprogressive stage did not hold out too fair a prospect for the settler. It was an era of uncertainty, relieved only from stagnation by the faintest drops of refreshing money-importations. Mr. Grave's business, though energetically pushed, at first lacked that pulsating thrill of excitement which is conceived of a general flow of prosperity. Yet, by dint of his financial qualifications, he struggled through the meandering drift-course of fortune, and enterprisingly interested himself in many ventures which proved lucrative when the stream of general prosperity in Western Australia began to flow. His interests in landed property round the capital and its suburbs are extensive and wealthy. But possibly his most meritorious enterprise is the development of his estate at Osborne, in Claremont. No spot in the whole colony can compare with the superb view obtained from the tower of this magnificent and fashionable hotel, which Mr. Grave has erected, beautified, and adorned on his estate, and leased to Mrs. Atkins, lately of the Hotel Metropole, Sydney. Nature, left to herself, might here have had the rugged richness of an unpolished gem, but the hand of man has gilded its native splendour. The air smells pleasant, and soft breezes blow whisperingly through the richly-foliaged trees. From the raised turrets of Osborne the view commanded is incomparable for its width and variegated beauty. Money has not been stinted in embellishing the scene. The grounds have been laid out with all the pleasantries of the horticulturist's art. Stray where one may through this Australian casino and the effect is delightful and luxuriant Away from the dusty alleys of the capital, a sojourn at Osborne is fragrant and somnolent. All is sparkling, and dreamy memories remind one of the Pompeian villas in the rich days of the senators, or the gorgeous "palatia" of the orientals. All modern apparatus and appanages assure the comfort of the stranger, and the triad blending of nature, art, and science has produced an effect which can only confirm the high æsthetic perceptions of Mr. Grave, his plucky enterprise, and his undoubted ability as a practical architect of his own domains. Osborne stands as a living monument of his skill.

He was one of the earliest pioneers of the goldfields of Western Australia, having spent a large fortune in endeavouring to develop Southern Cross, Kimberley, Golden Valley, and Parker's Range. Unfortunately the results were not satisfactory, and he turned his attention to land speculation and industrial pursuits. He is connected with the largest ventures in Western Australia, including coal, timber, and lime. He is associated with many of the leading men of Western Australia in very large estates, the realisation of which would, it is hoped, yield a substantial return. His interests in landed property (city and suburban) are considerable, and he has been, and is to this day, one of the foremost and progressive men of Western Australia. He has always been regarded as an acute business man and has always kept ahead of the time in the colony in which he has staked all his interest, and has made his home. During his nineteen years' hard work in Western Australia he has never taken a holiday. He is a tireless worker—sixteen to eighteen hours a day—and spends his time with shorthand writers. He has no desire to covet political honours, and he has persistently refused to accept any official business. Mr. Grave has probably erected more landmarks in the colony of his adoption than any other man. He is married, and has a large family. His acute and shrewd financial ability are recognised as of the first order, and no one would deny him the rare gift of speculative judgment. His time is all absorbed in the thorough execution of his business. He is a fosterer of camaraderie, and as social and enthusiastic a companion, even when immersed in a perfect flood of business, as one could desire to meet.