Early colonial views
Fremantle images from Christie's. Picture: Supplied.

he flies & fleas are beyond description annoying." Such were Mary Ann Friend's first impressions of the Swan River colony in February 1830, just a few months after its foundation the previous winter.

Mrs Friend's distaste for the heat and pests was tempered somewhat by her picturesque watercolours and the scenes she describes in her journal, which is expected to fetch up to $230,000 when auctioned by Christies in London later this year.

"The town of Fremantle strongly resembles a country fair & has a pretty appearance the pretty white tents looking much like booths," Mrs Friend writes. "The situation of the town (of Perth) is extremely picturesque . . . the town is situated on an eminence & has a beautiful bay in front."

The scorching conditions were intolerable for the new arrival on the merchant vessel Wanstead, skippered by her husband, Matthew Friend.

"Am just roasted!!! The Thermometer 92 in the shade . . . the Natives had numerous fires round us which made the heat intense . . . expected every minute to see them come down on us. Had Kangaroo tail for dinner a present from Mr Henty - resembles ox tail . . . quite colonial."

One of the few early eye-witness accounts of the Swan River settlements, Mrs Friend's journal is illustrated with her own sketches, including three unpublished views of Fremantle in the first year of its foundation and two unpublished manuscript maps made during her seven- week stay on the west coast en route to Hobart, in what was then known as Van Diemen's Land.

The journal has been consigned for sale by her descendants and is expected to attract keen bidding from Australian buyers.

It covers Mrs Friend's travels from Portsmouth on August 14, 1829, to the Swan River, Hobart and her return to England via Singapore in 1831. The Friends came back to Australia in July 1832 to settle in Launceston, where Matthew Friend had been appointed port officer. They lived at George Town until Mary Ann's death on December 27, 1838. She was 38. Her husband remarried in 1840 and returned to England because of ill health in 1852.

An 1832 portrait miniature of Mrs Friend is in the National Library of Australia and her known artwork before this journal was a lithograph she made from her own drawing of her camp at the Swan River in March 1830.

Three of Mrs Friend's watercolours depict Bathers' Beach at Fremantle.

This is the site of present-day Kidogo Arthouse where Christie's London topographical pictures director Nicholas Lambourn and Notre Dame University historian Deborah Gare will give a presentation tomorrow to foster interest ahead of the October 9 sale.

The journal remains in London. <div class="endnote">

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The West Australian

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