The establishment of the Swan River Colony saw the granting of large parcels of land to colonists. The area around the Swan and Canning Rivers soon became scattered with fledgling farms and dairies and small villages began to flourish.
The Canning District was one of the earliest settled areas in the new Colony. Despite the problems of isolation, distance and chronic shortages of labour and materials, the district began to grow.
In 1843 the first step towards local government was seen with the appointment of Trust Officers for the Canning District by the Governor. The Trusts were short-lived, however, as dissatisfaction with their operation led to their dissolution in 1847. A Central Board of Work was established to oversee local development.
Growth in the district continued, with the Canning River playing a pivotal role as the major highway to Perth from the out-lying settlements along its banks. The 'convict fence' (so-called because it was built by British convicts, whose transportation had been requested by the labour-starved Colony), can still be seen in the river near Shelley. Its jarrah pilings were used to assist the navigation of barges carrying sawn timber down-river from the Mason-Bird Timber Company's mill at Mason's Landing. Francis Bird's gracious family home 'Woodloes' (featured below) is now the most important historic house in the City.
'Real' local government arrived in the Colony in 1870 with the passage of the Municipal Council Act and the Road Board Act. The first Canning Road Board was elected on 8 February 1871. The Road Board governed until 1907, when the district was divided, the area constituted as a municipality, and the Queens Park Municipal Council came into being. The Council reverted to a Road Board in 1915, and in 1921 changed its name from the Queens Park Road Board to the Canning District Road Board.
The twentieth century has seen Canning grow from a semi-rural district to become part of the greater metropolitan area of Perth. This development has been reflected in changes in status over the years. In 1961 the Canning District became the Shire of Canning, in 1971 the Shire became a Town, and in 1979 the Town became the City of Canning.