This is a house story that makes me happy. It’s about an old, very-loved weatherboard cottage that could have easily been bought by developers and knocked over; its large block of land subdivided. Instead, this 110-year-old house is going to enjoy a new chapter in its life, as a home for a new family in the 21st century. And I feel so chuffed about that, because not only is it such a nice house but it has such a gorgeous back story.
You might have driven past this old farmhouse yourself. It’s set in the semi-industrial part of Hamilton Hill where there are still old stables, paddocks and homesteads with horses, despite being only minutes from the heart of Fremantle city. In some parts, you can easily imagine you had stepped back into time to when the area was first widely used for farming, or to the 1920s when the area's prominent racing stables were established. I had driven past this house numerous times and had always noticed it.
Built in the early 1900s, it was the first house on Rockingham Road (then quiet, with horse and carts, now a bustle of cars and trucks). The house was built as a very basic, small two bedroom + sunroom home for a farming family that raised their NINE – yes, nine! - children there.
It is a credit to current home owners Paul Davies and his wife Lisa Barlow that the house looks as nice as it does today – it has been spotlessly renovated and is as neat as a pin. Paul bought the house 16 years ago after moving to Perth from his native England. “I thought Australia was going to be like The Sullivans,” he laughs. “I used to watch that program as a kid in England. I thought every house in Australia had a veranda and a windmill!”
Now he does have a house with a veranda – and a windmill. It was the first house he even considered buying when he moved to Australia. I come over to chat to see the house, and we sit on the back veranda and look out across the windmill, and the horse stables and paddocks beyond it, and drink coffee and eat biscuits. “I’ll make sure we get some good biccies in for your visit,” Paul had told me beforehand, and I approve, because good sustenance always helps me come up with my most profound journalistic questions during my interviews, like, “What is your cat’s name?” (Kalamazoo).
The house was in very basic condition when Paul bought it, so he set to work carrying out renovations. Sometime after he moved in, he got a visit from a very old lady.