Renewing the past

Haidee VandenbergheCountryman

With views that stretch across the Swan River and manicured lawns surrounding a quaint white farmhouse, Tranby House, once known as Peninsula Farm, seems like paradise.

But in the 19th century, when it was a fully functioning and successful farm, life on the shores of the Swan was far from easy.

Today, Tranby House is the last surviving farmhouse and oldest residence in the metropolitan area — a final testament to an agricultural face of Perth now swallowed by suburban sprawl.

These days Tranby House is surrounded by high density living, but back in 1830 when Governor James Stirling first granted the land to Joseph Hardey, it was bush that had to be hand cleared.

Joseph Hardey came out from England on the brig Tranby with his wife, Ann, and younger brothers John and William, although William unfortunately did not survive.

The family had come prepared for a new life in the Swan River colony, bringing with them the animals and seed needed.

But forget about delicate afternoon teas and garden parties on the river, the National Trust’s Sarah Murphy says life on Peninsula Farm in the mid-1800s would have been anything but idyllic.

For starters, it was hot — far too hot to be comfortable in the English corsets and dresses of the day.

And it was hard, relentless manual work.

The first two homes Joseph built were washed away by floods and the house that still stands was not built until 1839.

Nevertheless, with hard work the farm began to prosper.

The family grew wheat, barley, oats, rye and bred horses and despite being strict non-drinkers, cultivated vines and produced beer and wine.

The property also boasted a four-sailed flourmill.

T

he Hardeys won prizes in the 1850s at agricultural shows for olive oil, raisins and almonds and in 1878 wine from the estate won a gold medal in Paris.

The farm was taken over in the late 1860s by the couple’s only son, Richard, who later leased it out and bought a larger property in the Darling Ranges.

The farm was subdivided and went through several changes of hands before finally being bought by the Bond Corporation in 1967 for high-density living.

Public pressure saw the house retained and ultimately handed over to the National Trust, but unfortunately it was too late for the barn, worker’s cottage and other outbuildings.

Nevertheless, the house remains one of the last physical records of an agricultural industry that helped sustain the fledgling colony and it is those stories that Ms Murphy says are important to tell.

For that reason the National Trust is hoping to restore the grounds of Tranby from manicured lawn and gardens to more accurately represent its agricultural heritage.

“This historic place is important for a number of reasons,” Ms Murphy said.

“Not only because of the Hardey family, who were very early in WA, but also its agricultural story and representation of early farming practices in this area.

“We want to reinstate part of the grounds into a more farm-like appearance.”

Tranby is located at 2 Johnson Road, Maylands, and is open from February 3.

For opening times, call the property on 9272 2630.

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