I'm a freelance writer based in Perth, Western Australia, who enjoys writing about the things I love: travel, nature-based activities, the arts, spirituality and creative, fun activities for children.
Published September 5th 2012
Take a leisurely stroll in WA's colonial history
Situated just out of Guildford on the beautiful Swan River, Woodbridge House is one of just a handful of grand Victorian mansions which still survive in Perth. Surrounded by old-world gardens and with magnificent views over the river and beyond, the house reminds visitors of Perth's early colonial years and the way that affluent settlers attempted to transfer their familiar style of architecture and English customs to their new lives in the antipodes.
Woodbridge House is situated on land which was, in the 1830s, part of the estate of Captain James Stirling, the first governor of the Swan River Colony. In 1883 this land was purchased by Charles Harper, a prominent citizen of the colony who was renowned locally as a farmer, politician, explorer, chaplain and part owner of the West Australian newspaper. Harper had leased the land for several years prior to his purchase, but after buying the property he constructed the turreted colonial mansion which still stands today, a home which 'The Inquirer' described in 1894 as 'the handsomest private residence that has yet been erected in the colony.' It was here that Harper and his wife Fanny raised their ten children.
These days, Woodbridge House is a tranquil oasis, a graceful relic of a bygone era, as it rests sedately on the banks of the Swan River, surrounded by fragrant, old-fashioned gardens. It doesn't take much imagination for visitors to envision life as it must have been like over a century ago, when the home played a central role in the social life of the colony's elite.
Like most stately homes of the era, the lower level of the house consists of its more public rooms such as the living rooms, the billiards room and Harper's office, as well as the kitchen, while upstairs the family had their private rooms. Each of these has been lovingly restored to how it must have been during the Harper's residence in the late nineteenth century, and furnished with beautiful period furniture and many of the family's original personal effects. Visitors can also see the small rooms which were occupied by the servants.
Woodbridge House is a place where you can easily spend a few hours or more, learning about its fascinating history, admiring the wonderful river views from its verandah, and soaking up its peaceful ambience. Be sure to take the time to wander around the lovely gardens. Overlooking the river there is also a lovely little cafe, where meals and snacks can be purchased. Although I've never eaten there, I assume it must be good as it always seems to be busy. Close to the cafe, a path can be followed right down to the riverbank, where there's a small jetty: a gorgeous spot to sit and watch the many native birds as they flit here and there.
Woodbridge House is now maintained by the National Trust, who took over its running in 1968. Its opening hours are from Thursday to Sunday, and Monday Public Holidays, 1.00pm – 4.00pm. To find out more about Woodbridge House, have a look at this informative National Trust website.
I think you'll find it was Charles Harper's FATHER who was the clergyman ( in Toodyay).
I have some interest in the house and old occupants-Charles Harper was my great-grandfather.
C A Robertson