Finding Family

One woman's obsession with family history.

Twas there, oh humble love-illumined home,
We lived and loved, and tenderly took hands
Of those who loved us well—there kisses took
From lips now cold in death—there last we heard
A mother’s and a sister’s gentle words…
J.J. Britton, “A Home”

According to Peet & Co’s 1915 North Perth Municipality land sale map available online through the State Library of Western Australia (http://purl.slwa.wa.gov.au/slwa_b4211494_3) Wasley Street, at this point in time, did not exist. To be precise, the street itself came into existence around 1898 but was originally known as Shenton Street. It wasn’t until 17 January 1916 that the Perth City Council approved the alteration of the street name to Wasley.

Shenton to Wasley

For such an iconic street within my family history, this fact was completely unknown to me. It also means that my Grandparents’ house at 62 Wasley Street was more than a decade older than what I originally thought.

62 Shenton Street first appears in the Western Australian Postal Directory in 1909 with the resident being listed as ‘Chas. (Charles) Seale’. While the 1909 Directory was the first to list the house number, Charles Seale however appears connected to Shenton Street (and, I assume, number 62) as early as 1898 when the area was known as Forrest Hill and had not yet become known as ‘North Perth’. It seems Mr Seale was the very first resident of the home and possibly an early purchaser of land through the sub-divisions and land sales which began to take place in the area around this time. He remained until about 1910.

1911 saw a change in resident when Arth. (Arthur) T. Wynne (a bootmaker) moved in. He remained throughout 1912 and is listed in the Electoral Rolls as living there in 1913 but may have in fact left during this year. The Directory for 1913 provides weight for this assumption as it lists Jno (John) H. Roach (a drill instructor) as being the resident. A year later, the 1914 Electoral Roll shows him living there with his wife, Agnes. It’s possible however that the house was occasionally rented out as an ‘E Butt’ placed an advertisement in 1912 which also gave his address as 62 Shenton Street.

E Butt

By early 1913, the house, furniture and effects was listed for sale with Charles Sommers. The owner was indeed John Henry Roach and the house was described as a five roomed brick villa with a vestibule and bath and detached washhouse. It was near the Rosemount Hotel (which still exists today) and was close to Fitzgerald Street and the tram line (which no longer exists). A very good description of a house I knew well.

For Sale

The new owner may well have been Henry Stewart Peisley (an accountant) who was listed in the 1914 Postal Directory as well as the 1916 Electoral Roll. His wife, Edla, resided with him and on her entry in the Electoral Roll she’s listed herself as living at “Cosborn”. Number 62 was given a name.

As previously mentioned, Shenton Street became Wasley Street in 1916. Being too late to change the 1916 Postal Directory, the 1917 version has an important note under Shenton Street: ‘See Wasley st’. Upon searching for Wasley in Directories for the next three years, we find that Mr and Mrs Peisley are still the residents of the home in 1917, 1918 and 1919. It’s likely however that they actually left in late 1918. An advertisement for the auction of furniture and effects notes the owner as having sold the house and was moving to the east. It is my belief that the owner was Henry Peisley and that his inclusion in the 1919 Directory was incorrect and probably the result of the lateness in the year in which he moved.

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The new purchaser of the house seems to have been Harold E[dwin] Daw and in late 1918, he moved in with his wife, Nellie and their young family. The Daws only stayed a few years and in January 1921 they had to endure the loss of their three year old son, Harold Maitland Daw.  Though listed in the 1921 Directory as living at Wasley Street, it appears they left at the start of this year as the death notice for Harold Junior stated that their present address was in Darlington. Perhaps they could no longer stay in a house associated with memories of their little boy.

Sometime after the Daws left, it is my assumption that the house was again put up for sale. A newlywed couple with a baby boy decided that the house would be perfect for their little family and made the purchase. These people were my Great Grandparents (Vic and Kitty Barratt) and my Grandpa (Ron Barratt). Thus began my family’s association with 62 Wasley Street.

Barratt

Kitty, Vic (holding Ron) and an unknown woman. Though unsure, I am doubtful the house behind them is 62.

 

In those early years, Vic, Kitty and Ron lived at number 62 up until about 1925. Much of the house itself remained the same as the earlier mentioned sales notice. It was still five roomed and upon entering, there was a bedroom to the left (Vic and Kitty’s room) and a bedroom to the right. Then further down, another room on the left was probably Grandpa’s room and the room on the right was the lounge room. Straight ahead you would reach the kitchen and eating area which had a door connecting to the bathroom and another door connecting to the wash house. The outdoor toilet was located right at the end of the property.

On 17 September 1924 there would’ve been great excitement in the house. Kitty was in labour. She gave birth to a little girl and they named her Pauline Joy Barratt. The room to the right as you walked in would eventually become Pauline’s room.

Birth Notice

As it turned out, baby Pauline only spent about a month at number 62. On 27 October 1924, Vic (working for the W.A.G.R) was given a permanent placement as a fireman in Busselton. The whole family moved down south and lived in a home built by Vic on Gale Street. During this time, they did not sell the Wasley Street property. They instead decided to rent it out.

In 1925, Walter Higginson moved in with his wife, Mollie and his children. It was the perfect house for the family to live in as a little further up the road towards Fitzgerald Street (three houses away) Walter’s father, Richard, lived at number 68. Incidentally, one of Walter and Mollie’s children was five year old Geoff Higginson. Geoff was Grandpa’s best friend growing up and they stayed friends throughout their lives. Perhaps this was how they came to meet.

They remained for a year and in 1926, William S Whitely moved in with his young wife, Dorothea. Sadly for Dorothea and the Whitely family, her mother, Elida McDonald, passed away at the residence in September 1927. William and Dorothea lived at 62 for several more years until about 1928 when the Barratts again returned. They stayed there until the late 1930s.

Unfortunately I have no first hand account of what times were like for Vic, Kitty, Ron and Pauline but, I can speculate. Grandpa was a bit of a larrikin and, most likely, got into a fair bit of mischief.

Barratt-Ronald-top-Higginson-Geoff-left-and-unknown-boy-right-at-62-Wasley-Street-North-Perth-19.jpg

Ron (top) standing on the shoulders of his friends, Geoff (left) and Glen (right).

 

Kitty wished for her children to learn an instrument and so arranged for Ron to learn the violin and for Pauline to learn the piano. Number 62 would’ve been filled with the sound of music.

Renovations were carried out by Vic at some point and while changing the mantelpiece, he discovered an old photo that had fallen behind it. The woman was young, lived during the Victorian era (judging by her clothing) and was photographed in Victoria. Perhaps the woman behind the mantel was somehow related to one of the earlier occupants. Or, perhaps she was one of the earlier occupants. Her identity remains unknown.

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By 1937 Vic had been given a placement at Merredin as an engine driver and Kitty, Ron and Pauline relocated and made their home in a new town. Again the house was not sold and the Western Australian Postal Directories for the next three years continued to print Vic’s name alongside number 62. By 1940, Mrs B Cutts was listed as the resident.

My searches have so far been unable to ascertain who exactly Mrs B Cutts was. She remained listed as the resident for 1941, 1942 and 1944. The 1943 Electoral Roll however shows there were four Cutts women living at 62 Wasley Street; Flora (shop assistant), Helen May (milliner), Jessie Muriel (milliner) and Vera Lilian (home duties). All four women were of a similar age and it’s my assumption they were sisters.

In 1945 the name of the resident changed and ‘Mrs Vera L Cutts’ was printed in the Directory. She stayed throughout 1946 and 1947 until 1949 when Miss Helen Cutts listed her name.

Throughout this time period, the Barratts resided in Merredin. WWII had been declared and Ron (just like Vic did during WWI) enlisted in 1940 to do his bit for his country.

Vic, Ron & Kitty

Vic, Ron (in his RAF uniform) and Kitty in Merredin.

 

He had to leave his sweetheart (Audrey Flynn) behind but was granted leave in 1944 so the couple could marry. Ron was discharged in November 1945 and returned home to Audrey who was pregnant with their first child. My Aunty arrived in 1946 and three years later, my Dad arrived in 1949. Ron was not listed in the Postal Directories until 1949 when he gave his address as 22 York Street, North Perth. It’s possible that this is where they were living throughout this period; not far from Audrey’s parents at 39 York Street.

Vic continued living in Merredin but sadly lost his beloved Kitty in January 1947 at the relatively young age of 53. After Kitty’s death, he did not return to North Perth.

The online Western Australian Postal Directories end in 1949 and despite the aforementioned final listing, it appears that some time during this year, Ron moved into his Dad’s house at 62 Wasley Street (the house he grew up in) with Audrey, my Aunty and Dad. The Cutts women moved into the house the Barratts vacated at 22 York Street. A house swap, you could say. Two years later, in 1951, Ron and Audrey’s youngest son, my Uncle, was born.

There were to be no more moves for Ron and Audrey. They remained at 62 Wasley Street throughout the 50s, 60s and 70s. Vic and Kitty’s room became Ron and Audrey’s room. Pauline’s room became their daughter’s room and Ron’s old childhood bedroom became his sons’ shared room.

While my Dad doesn’t remember a lot of specifics about his time growing up in the house, a stand out memory were the many gatherings held there such as at Christmas time.

Christmas

Christmas at the Barratts.

 

Dad

Dad in the backyard.

 

He slept in the room which was once his Dad’s bedroom and shared it with his brother. He recalled that for many years, the room was also the home of Vic’s lathe which had been brought down from Merredin and sat there until it was eventually moved to the shed.

The children grew into teenagers and became adults. My Aunty married and had children of her own and a new generation (Ron and Audrey’s grandchildren) would come to visit and grew within the walls of the house.

SCAN1000

Dad’s first car (an ex-fire brigade ute) out the front of 62 Wasley Street.

 

Vic passed away in Merredin in 1973 and while his Will (created in 1952) stipulated that his son, Ron would receive all his carpentry and engineering tools, there was no provision for number 62. From my own knowledge of the family history, I know that the property was eventually placed in Ron’s name. The finer details such as when and how are unknown to me. Did Vic transfer the property to Ron before he died? Did Ron end up paying for it? Was a decision made that Ron should keep the house after Vic died? Did he have to pay anything to keep it? Was another, later Will created which made mention of 62 Wasley Street?

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Grace (Audrey’s Mum), Ron, Audrey and Joey (their pet 28).

 

Nevertheless, with the house in Ron’s name, time rolled by and the 80s began. Ron and Audrey’s two sons eventually married and also had children. I came along during this time period and grew up in the house with my brother. Too young to remember the late 80s, I remember the house best throughout the 90s and early 2000s. We visited so often (once a week or sometimes twice a week) that it really was like a second home.

I remember…

  • Opening the front gate and always (without fail) checking the mail box.
  • Running up to the verandah, ringing the old doorbell instead of the new one (which Grandpa didn’t like us doing)  and peering through the glass to see if we could see Grandma coming. She’d often knock on the glass where she could see our faces.
  • Grandma opening the door and giving the biggest hugs. We’d then walk down the hallway and straight into the kitchen where we’d take our places at the dining table; Grandma at the end closest to the hallway door and my brother and I on either side of her. I believe we had to sit like that because on a previous occasion we’d argued about who got to sit next to Grandma.
  • Sitting at the table which was always covered with a tablecloth and a spread of cakes, biscuits and crackers.
  • Everyone helping wash the dishes and my brother and I helping with putting them away.
  • Heading into the laundry area (washhouse) where we’d dig our way through the spare clothes stuffed in the shelving and promptly play dress ups.
  • Randomly dropping in and, if no one answered the front door, walking around the back to find Grandma pottering in the garden.
  • Grandma and Grandpa’s pet 28 named Joey who said hello when you walked past. He was sadly stolen or was set free when Grandpa’s shed was broken into.
  • My brother and I cautiously wandering into Grandpa’s shed to watch what he was doing and to look in fascination at all the stuff within it. We were promptly told not to touch anything!
  • The one time my brother and I stayed over and we ate bread and dripping for tea.
  • Walking down the pathway to the outdoor toilet and seeing a trail of destruction where Grandma had squashed all the snails.
  • The fear of having to go to the toilet at night time before we went home. We always went equipped with a torch and Mum, who was our protector.
  • Everyone sitting in the lounge room; a place where little children had to be quiet and were told off if they sat up and blocked the tv. Luckily, Grandma was always there to entertain us by playing cards.
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The backyard with the old bbq (centre) and mint and parsley in an old trough (left).

 

 

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Grandpa’s shed (left) and the flowers Grandma grew.

 

There are so many more memories and each time I think of something, something new pops into my head. My brother and I explored every nook and cranny of the house in our youth and while I don’t know why it held our endless fascination, in my memory, I guess it seemed like a wondrous, magical place. We looked at all the knick knacks in our Aunty’s old room and then we’d look through the drawers and wardrobe. We found her old doll with it’s blinking eyes and beautiful dresses which both mystified us and creeped us out. We admired the mouse teddy on Grandma and Grandpa’s bed wearing the pretty little bonnet and dress and would then move on to open their small cupboard (which was once a fireplace) so that we could look at their shoes (yep, weird). We’d quietly walk over to Grandma and Grandpa’s dressing table and I loved looking through Grandma’s jewellery; often picking out the brooch we gave her after our trip to Busselton. We explored every facet of the backyard and excitedly collected (probably too many) lemons for Grandma. Most of all, we took great delight in exploring the pantry. Secreted inside, we’d close the door slightly and would look through absolutely everything including old material, sewing patterns, wrapping paper, bottles, a wind up alarm clock, old school books and then (once satisfied we’d seen enough) we’d sneak a cool mint or two on the way out.

Jess & Chris

My brother and I with our dog, Blackey, in the backyard.

 

In early 2007 Grandma had a stroke. She never fully recovered and passed away in April 2007. 62 Wasley Street lost some of its light and the house seemed changed; empty without her. Grieving for a Grandma I loved so much, I personally struggled with being in the house without tearing up.

Grandpa remained living in the family home that spanned generations. He pottered around the house, ate ice-cream and banana for dinner and would often be seen walking (or driving his gopher) up to the shops to buy lotto. The hands of time pass (as they always do) and Grandpa suffered several health issues throughout the years. In June 2011, at age 90 (so many of which were spent living at 62 Wasley Street) he passed away.

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62 Wasley Street, North Perth in late 2014.

 

After about 90 years of ownership within the Barratt family, the house was up for sale. It was purchased and by all appearances, the new owner attempted to give it a new lease on life.

Wasley March 2015 - 2

62 Wasley Street in March 2015 – Courtesy of Google Street View

 

But, for whatever reason, it was not to be.

 

Earlier this year, I had a dream. My Grandma stood in front of me and just as I did for so many years, I immediately went to hug her. She hugged me back and spoke several words to me, “It’s just a house. There’s no point in crying over a house.” I remembered the dream when I woke and I knew, deep down, exactly what she was talking about.

About a month later (after the 11th Battalion commemoration at King’s Park) on a whim, Dad decided to drive down Wasley Street. My heart was filled with dread and as we got closer, it dropped. Where 62 Wasley Street once stood for over 100 years was a bare stretch of sand. It was gone. The home that had sheltered so many for so long was gone in the blink of an eye.

Despite Grandma’s words, I cried. But I knew she was right. There was no use in crying over a house. The house was a place; a thing. It was associated with my memories but it was not the keeper of my memories. My memories are my own. They reside within me and will always be with me. And so I will write them down and share them and perhaps, out of the words, 62 Wasley Street will rise from the rubble and the history of all those who resided within will live again in the imagination of others.

Please note: the history of 62 Wasley Street has been created mainly from sources such as the WA Postal Directories, Electoral Rolls, Perth Rate Books and Trove. Due to the extreme expense of Landgate historical research requests, I have been unable to confirm if my own research is correct according to official documents (i.e. Certificates of Title). Any mistakes in this history are my own.

Sources:

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5 thoughts on “A History of 62 Wasley Street

  1. Mum says:

    Very well written Jessica we remember so many memories too

    1. Jess says:

      Thanks Mum. Quite a few tears were shed writing this post. So many wonderful memories growing up there.

  2. tusherau says:

    Such a beautiful story. So many happy memories for you with your grandparents.
    Terri x

    1. Jess says:

      Thanks Terri. Glad you enjoyed reading the story and my memories. 🙂

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