Located on the northern side of Botany Bay, La Perouse
was named after Le Compte de Laperouse, a French explorer who arrived here in 1788.
In 1885 concerned British
colonists thought an invasion from Russians was imminent. Bare Island Fort was built to protect "Sydney's
La Perouse was named after the
French navigator Jean-François de Galaup, comte de La Pérouse (1741-88), who landed on the northern shore of
Botany Bay west of Bare Island in January 1788. La Pérouse’s two ships sailed to New South Wales after some of
his men had been attacked and killed in the Navigator Islands (Samoa). La Pérouse arrived off Botany Bay on 24
January just six days after Captain Arthur Phillip (1738-1814) had anchored just east of Bare Island, in H.M.
Armed Tender Supply. On 26 January 1788, as Arthur Phillip was moving the First Fleet around to Port Jackson
after finding Botany Bay unsuitable for a Settlement, La Pérouse was sailing into Botany Bay, anchoring there
just eight days after the British had.
The British received La Pérouse
courteously, and offered him any assistance he might need. The French were far better provisioned than the
English were, and extended the same courtesy; but neither offer was accepted. La Pérouse sent his journals and letters to Europe with a British ship, the
Sirius. A scientist on the expedition, Father Receveur, died in February and was buried at what is now known as
La Perouse. After building a longboat (to replace one lost in the attack in the Navigator Islands) and obtaining
wood and water, the French departed for New Caledonia, Santa Cruz, the Solomons, and the Louisiades. He wrote in
his journals that he expected to be back in France by December 1788, but the two ships vanished. Some of the
mystery was solved in 1826 when items associated with the French ships were found on an island in the Santa Cruz
group, with wreckage of the ships themselves discovered in 1964.
The first building in the area
was the round stone tower constructed in 1820-22 as accommodation for a small guard of soldiers stationed there
to prevent smuggling, and the tower still stands today. By 1885, an Aboriginal reserve had been established in
the suburb and a number of missions were operated in the area. The original church was dismantled and moved to
the corner of Elaroo and Adina Avenues, where it still stands.
The Loop is the circular track
that was built as part of the Sydney tram terminus at La Perouse. The last service ran in 1961. A kiosk was
built here in 1896 to cater for tourists who came to see the attractions, including the snake-handling shows
that still operate today. During the Great Depression, from the late 1920s, many severely affected low-income
families took up residence here in settlements beside the Aboriginal reserve.
The small island just inside the
heads was described by Captain James Cook as ‘a small bare island’. Bare Island was fortified in 1885 according
to a design by colonial architect, James Barnet (1827-1904). In 1912 Bare Island became a retirement home for
war veterans, which continued to operate until 1963 when it was handed over to the New South Wales Parks and
Wildlife Service for use as a museum and tourist attraction.
Apart from Bare Island there are two other forts located in La Perouse. One of these is Fort Banks, located on Cape
Banks. This facility was part of the Eastern Command Fixed Defences unit and was constructed for the purpose of
defending the approaches to Botany Bay during the World War II period. The other fortification located in La
Perouse is the Henry Head Battery and was also re-utilised during the Second World War. Its location is on Henry
Head La Perouse.