William and Eliza Shaw

William Shaw 10 June 1788 – 5 May 1862

Eliza Shaw 1794 – 18 August 1879

In 1830 William Shaw from Leicester in England travelled to the Swan River Colony on board the Egyptian. Accompanying him were his wife Eliza (nee Cooper), sons, Nathaniel Chapman, Charles William, Frederick James, George Edward and daughters, Elizabeth Caroline & Mary Louisa in 1830. A further three children were born in Western Australia. William was a Captain of the Rifle Brigade who had fought at Waterloo under Wellington. Upon arriving in Western Australia they settled at a property called Belvoir (pronounced ‘beaver’) at Upper Swan. Their neighbours were the Irwins, Tanners, Burgesses and Brockmans, who all played a significant role in the early establishment of the Colony. Tragically two of the Shaw sons drowned at Belvoir on 10 November 1830.

Following her husband’s early death in 1862, Eliza continued to manage Belvoir with limited assistance from some family members. She was a prolific writer and sent letters home often, in one she wrote “Ours is the most friendly neighbourhood you can imagine…I am the richest person in the world possessing the best, the very best of friends in dear Old England, and certainly the most respectable, kind and worthy ones in Western Australia.” Eliza wrote detailed diaries, one of which is in our Museum collection. In one of her letters she documented the early building of Belvoir, describing their original ‘plaster and dab’ home as a structure 39 × 12 feet (11.8 × 3.6 m) that was divided into three rooms by canvas partitions. The main room had a fireplace and two small ‘gothic’ windows purchased in Leicestershire. Her sketch of the cottage, drawn in 1831, shows it with a trellised kitchen behind.

Eliza was also very interested in the natural sciences and painted watercolours of the native flora and fauna. She was an excellent pianist and needlewoman with some of her samplers from the early 1800s surviving today. She taught local children to play the piano and her own children attended the “Brushwood school”, a very early school established in 1839 by the Rev. J Mitchell.

More information

Eliza Shaw. Photo courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia
An early sketch of Belvoir

The word belvoir (pronounced ‘beaver’) means beautiful view in French. It dates back to the Norman invasion of England in the 11th Century. Because native Anglo-Saxons could not pronounce the foreign word, they opted to say beaver.