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Enrolled Pensioner Guard Cottage

January 19, 2011

1 Surrey Street Bassendean

I googled ‘enrolled pensioner guards western australia’ and one of the things google miraculously turned up for me was an archeological survey of the grounds surrounding the last remaining Enrolled Pensioner Guard’s cottage in Western Australia.  Most of the information below was derived from the survey report, prepared for the Bassendean Historical Society.

It turns out the cottage is about 5 minutes drive from my house, so I went out to have a look at it.

It’s tiny.  It was one of a ‘village’ of 12 similar cottages planned, built on blocks of about two acres, for Enrolled Pensioner Guards.  Only four were eventually completed. This one was built in 1856, completed by December.

On the corner of North Road and Surrey Street, Bassendean, there is a red pillar post box which is still in use.  The date embossed on the post box is 1876.  The low white picket fence behind the post box, and near the car in the photo, is where the cottage is in relation to the post box on the corner.

John Law Davis (or Davies on the title deed) obtained freehold title on the cottage on 10 October 1864.  Davis had arrived in the colony in February 1856, six years after my great-great-great grandfather, John Kirwan arrived with the first Enrolled Pensioner Guards to the Swan River Colony.  John Kirwan left the colony in about 1858.

John Davis married Amelia Sarah Wood in Guildford in July 1856 (1856/984 WA) and became caretaker of the Pensioner cottages in November 1857.  It is believed that John and Amelia moved into the cottage at this time, but obtained freehold by grant, seven years later.

Among other items found at the cottage in the course of the archeological survey were a lead-based toy tin soldier and a button that may be from an Enrolled Pensioner Guard uniform.  Evidence of a vegetable garden, and food remnants such as animal (mainly sheep) bones and sheep teeth suggesting meals prepared from sheeps heads.

The archeological survey report notes an absence of fishing hooks, or food remnants such as mussel shells, fish bones and shells from local crustaceans, although the river is within walking distance.

John Davis and Amelia Sarah Wood had seven children (WA BDM indexes):

Amelia Law Davis born Guildford 1857 (1857/3777) m. William Young 5 June 1856 (son of an Enrolled Pensioner Guard, Thomas Young) [Broomhall]

William Henry (Law) Davis born Guildford 1858 (1858/4191) died 1931 (1931/1188) Perth

Frederick Law Davis born Guildford 1860 (1860/5094) died 1918 (1918/632) Perth

John Law Davis born Guildford 1862 (1862/6424) died 1865 (1865/2715) Aged 2

Benjamin Law Davis born Guildford 1864 (18647664) died 1930 (1930/1856) Perth

Elizabeth Fanny born 1866 bapt C of E 8 July 1866 [Broomhall] (does not appear on BDM index)

Joseph Law Davis born Guildford 1868 (1868/1095) died 1943  (1943/1032) Perth

John Davis died aged 54 years 1870 (1870/4660) and Amelia married John Bates in Perth in 1873 (1873/3528).

Amelia and John Bates had two children:

Maria Sarah Bates born in Guildford 1873 (1873/15152) m. Charles F. Styles in Subiaco 1911 (1911/30) died Perth 1943 (1943/2228)

John Thomas Bates born Guildford 1875 (1875/16632) died Perth 1942 (1942/383).

As John Bates was not an Enrolled Pensioner Guard, and as their children were also born in Guildford, it’s possible that they were also born and raised in the cottage, which would presumably have passed to Amelia on the death of her first husband.

Amelia died in Subiaco WA in 1909 (1909/33).

I found being able to see such a historical building in such close proximity to where I live, very exciting.  I’m very disappointed that it is the last one remaining.

I also found it interesting that the cottage is so tiny.  If I was able to pick it up and carry it home, I could relocate it on the back deck of my house.  With room to spare.  My back deck is spacious, but not huge in modern terms.To think that a whole growing family lived there defies imagination.

I wonder if (and how) Amelia raised all of her children (a total of nine, and eight surviving infancy) in that tiny cottage.

The cottage is open to the public on the last Sunday of the month.  I’ll be going back to take a look inside.  Stay tuned.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. comicstar permalink*
    January 21, 2011 9:52 am

    Whoever your photographer is is excellent.

  2. maggiemae permalink
    November 22, 2011 6:25 pm

    Hi Michelle,
    a great article. Glad you got to the Cottage. Got an email, with a link to you from a relative, who received it from the local studies Librarian at Town of Bassendean. I didn’t know Amelia remarried, thanks for that can add to her profile. Having said that, I think I vaguely remember something mentioned by family member. Trust your research is progressing. regards

  3. Michelle permalink*
    November 22, 2011 7:09 pm

    Hi Maggie (I’m guessing) and thank you for commenting!
    I still haven’t got back to see inside the cottage. I’m glad the librarian in Bassendean has found my post and is passing it on – that’s a compliment, isn’t it? I’m glad you found the post useful. I hope your research is progressing too 🙂

  4. Lesley Sinclair permalink
    November 30, 2011 9:39 pm

    Hello Michelle,
    The Local Studies librarian alerted me to your page. I am the Secretary of the Bassendean Historical Society (inc.), and we are custodians of the PG Cottage for the Town of Bassendean. You have done an excellent job of your research and presentation.
    We would love to have you on board, if you ever have an odd hour per month to spare. Your talent would certainly be an asset.
    Our membership forms are available at the Library, or from me,…if ever you get the urge.
    I would like “Our Page In History” to look half as good.
    Your site is great!
    Cheers, Lesley

    • Michelle permalink*
      November 30, 2011 9:50 pm

      Hi Lesley
      Thanks so much for your comment! I’d love to be involved. I’ll email you.

  5. Dave Williams permalink
    January 19, 2012 1:09 am

    Nice to read about the Pensioner Gaurd Cottage in Bassendean…John Law Davis is my Great Grandfather on my mother’s side of the family…Her name is Ada Katherine Law-Davis born September 1900 & Died August 28 1936…I’ll be going back to visit the cottage again…I have my mother’s wedding dress if the Heritage council want it for display…

    Dave Williams

    • Michelle permalink*
      January 19, 2012 8:03 am

      Hi Dave Thank you for commenting. I’m glad you like the cottage post. I’ll be going back to visit the cottage again this year too. Michelle

  6. Janet Branford permalink
    June 15, 2012 3:12 pm

    I am John Kirwan’s great great grand daughter. Lovely to read your research. Edmund Kirwan (son of John Kirwan and Jane Olose) married Ellen Agnes Lennon. Their dau Jane m George Graham. My mother was Gertrude Graham. As yet haven’t discovered much about Ellen Agnes Lennon – have you any info? Jan Branford

    • Michelle permalink*
      July 12, 2012 7:12 pm

      Hi Jan
      Thanks for commenting. I don’t have much information about Ellen Agnes. I have found quite a lot of stuff on Trove in old newspapers, that refers to Edmund Kirwan and Edmund and Ellen’s children, in Quorn. I’d love to share what I do have with you. I’ll email you.

  7. March 17, 2014 7:38 am

    I have just found your blog and was thrilled to see this page. Ourr g-g-grandfather was also an Enrorolled Pensioner Guard (Edward Roach) and was given land in Aberdeen St Perth. I can now visit this little house in a couple of weeks and have a better idea of how they lived. It can’t have been easy in any way.


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