I am a retired English teacher who has retired from teaching but not from life, which I intend to live to the full. With all my hobbies, I'm busier now than ever with my art groups, small business and gardening.
Published April 4th 2018
Smile when you visit Smirk's Heritage Cottage
When a child, if I had done something wrong, Mother would say, "wipe that smirk off your face", then I knew I was in trouble. When I saw the historical cottage called Smirk's, I couldn't help but have a chuckle, however, when I looked up the surname on good old Wiki; up until the 18th Century, the word meant to "smile".
The cottage is named after Thomas Smirk. Thomas arrived in WA in 1851 as a 19-year-old convict. He was only 16 when sentenced to 7 years as a convict for larceny. He then became a "Ticket of Leave Man" and in 1853 was granted a pardon. This was only 2 years after he arrived in Perth.
Thomas married Elizabeth Hymus in 1855 and they were blessed with 12 children, thus keeping the Smirk surname alive. Over time, their surname became well respected in the Kwinana, Rockingham area.
I hadn't realised there were so many heritage sites in the Kwinana, Rockingham area. The amount was mainly due to the Soldiers' Group Settlement Scheme which was used to house returned soldiers and their families.The soldiers had been promised house and land for service to their country in WW1. The area was also popular for market gardens and dairy.
The main cottage on the site is located at 5 Beacham Crescent, Medina and is a good example of a working man's cottage for that time. Unfortunately, the opening times are limited. It's open the first Sunday of each month from 10 am until 3 pm or by prior appointment. Entry is free, but you may leave a gold coin if you wish. Smirk's cottage is available by appointment and for functions. The gardens are well maintained and would make a great backdrop for weddings.
I thought a good hour to see all that was there and that would be that. I was mistaken. Not only are there the two cottages but also the museum, a forge, old machinery and well set out gardens.
The largest dwelling was Smirk's cottage. It was built in the early 1900's, and also a museum full of artefacts from the local area. Throughout are interesting snippets of historical information on display. There really is a lot to see. I spent a good 2 hours and could have stayed longer. Not only is there the original homestead to peruse but also a soldier group settlement cottage. The soldier's cottage had been moved to the site along with a forge. A comprehensive range of old machinery, much in working order was also on display.
Front Veranda of Soldier's Cottage
I was surprised at the size of the soldier's group settlement cottage, which was built in 1922. The outside was covered by timber planking with a veranda at the front. The cottage consisted of one large room that was dominated by a large fireplace. The fireplace was probably used not only to warm the place but also something where food could be cooked. The one room would have been used for sleeping, cooking and general living. A big difference from our 4 x 2 that many expect today.
Article Re: Soldiers' Cottages
The soldier's cottage, by contrast, made smirks appear palatial. The cottage was made of local stone and had a sizeable veranda front and back. The front door opened into a parlour with a small, ornamental fireplace, definitely not used for cooking. Two bedrooms were either side of this room along with the old wire mesh beds. The kitchen was large even by today's standards and had an extra small working area on one side. They also had the luxury of an inside bathroom along with a fire stoked hot water system. Out on the back veranda was a laundry. The back veranda plus the laundry, with its mangle, were later additions. Smirk and his wife's income was from a dairy and market garden.
Various Areas Around Cottage
Other objects of interest in the cottage, were a range of old treadle sewing machines, wood stoves and ovens and general bric-a-brac.There is also a museum in the front house, which is not part of the historic cottages. Items in the museum are labelled and contain information about their use. There are several old letters which make interesting reading. There is also a range of old sepia photographs and newspaper articles.
I was lucky the day I was there. One of the original group members was present and readily showed me around and told me a lot of the associated the gossip that went with the cottages.
He was the president of what is an active heritage organisation. New members are encouraged and most welcomed. The organisation's main aim is the preservation of historic buildings in the Kwinana area plus establishment and maintenance of a museum.
The group meets Mondays, 8am-11noon as well as the first Sunday of the month (except public holidays). Everyone from 14 to 84 is welcome. You can email the president on firstname.lastname@example.org if interested. There is disability access for both toilets and the car park for those who need it.
The organisation also welcomes any volunteer assistance, with opportunities for gardening, building, carpentry, museum care and research. For volunteers, there is a monthly social meeting and barbeque. The following site has further information about Smirk's Cottage and details about volunteering.
If you're interested in the European social history of Perth and surrounding areas, take time out to visit Smirk's Cottage. Bring your camera too.