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Woodloes Homestead

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by Carolyn Hopping (subscribe)
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 October 19th 2016
Take A Journey Into Western Australia's Colonial Past
Close by the bank of the gently-flowing Canning River and surrounded by lush tranquil gardens, lies a picturesque portal to Western Australia's colonial past. Woodloes House, located in the suburb of Cannington, was built in 1871 by Francis Bird, one of the proprietors of the early timber firm Mason, Bird and Company a self-made man who later served as the chief government architect for the fledgling Swan River Colony. As I explore the solid stone house and extensive grounds, time seems to stand still, and with a little imagination it's not difficult to envision days long gone when the homestead was one of the most prominent residences in the colony.

Although Woodloes Homestead was the much-loved home of a prosperous pioneering family, in comparison to the stately Georgian mansions and flamboyant High Victorian structures of the east coast, it's quite modest in both design and dimensions. There are no imposing colonnades flanking the veranda or fanciful turrets, sweeping staircases or even the decorative lace ironwork that adorns many homes of the same vintage in New South Wales and Victoria. Yet despite its lack of ostentatious grandeur, this solid family home built of local stone possesses an understated dignity and charm, and was, in its heyday, the centre of Francis Bird's extensive farming, lumber and business concerns.

Over the years Woodloes Homestead has experienced many ups and downs, with its paddocks and pastures gradually being sold off and the old homestead falling into disrepair. However, in 1971 restoration work was commenced by the City of Canning, providing the homestead with a new lease of life as a museum that was opened in 1978.

Following the extensive renovation of the homestead's exterior, the dedicated and enthusiastic members of the Canning Districts Historical Society restored its interior to reflect the way a well-to-do family would have lived during the early years of the Swan River Colony. The homestead now houses a large collection of household furnishings, decorations, historical photos, appliances and other objects of days long gone by, providing guests with a valuable insight into the area's colonial past. Of particular interest to me was the vast cellar under the house, part of which served, at times, as a lock-up for local miscreants in the wild colonial days.

The gardens surrounding Woodloes Homestead are also very beautiful, although they're just a fragment of those that once existed. Of particular note is the large bunya bunya pine which is growing towards the front of the house, extensive flower gardens, a lovely old-fashioned pillar letterbox and rustic examples of vintage machinery.

Image courtesy of the Woodloes Homestead Facebook page
Image courtesy of the Woodloes Homestead Facebook page

Also in the grounds of Woodloes Homestead is a delightful little chapel that was originally built in 1890, on the Albany Highway. After being demolished and reconstructed at its present location in the 1990s, it was elegantly renovated, and now serves as one of Perth's loveliest wedding venues.

These days, Woodloes Homestead serves as headquarters for the Canning District Historical Society, and is open to the public on the first and the third Sundays of each month for just a gold coin donation. Alternatively, it can be opened by special arrangement for visits by schools and community groups, or for weddings. From time to time special events such fairs and open days are also held there.

Woodloes Homestead is situated on Woodloes Street in Cannington, close to the Canning River. To find out more, contact John Parker on 08 9451 8538 or visit the Woodloes Homestead Facebook page.

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Why? To experience Western Australia's colonial past
When: Every first and third Sunday of the month, 2pm - 5pm
Phone: 08 9451 8538
Where: Woodloes Homestead, Woodloes Street, Cannington
Cost: Gold coin donation
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