Leithdale Darlington Guesthouse 1919 - 1955
This property was titled in 1894 to John Allpike, and was Greenmount Suburban Lot 32 consisting of a little over 19 acres. Allpike had also purchased Greenmount Suburban lots 20, 21, 23 and 24, consisting of almost 89 acres. He suffered a stroke in early 1895 and this led to his semi-retirement from business interests in Guildford, where he had been living.
He built his large stone house on Lot 32 in 1896; it was designed by a young architect, Edwin James Halpin. John Allpike wasn’t to enjoy this wonderful property for very long, passing away in 1899. His widow, Amelia, remained there until 1901 when she moved to West Perth. The property was then rented to a widow, Henrietta Phoebe Growse, and her family. In 1903 until 1909 Edgar Howard Gliddon, Civil Engineer who worked for the Lands Department, took over the lease of the property. However this lease was short lived and shortly after, the architect Ernest Giles occupied the property whilst working on building projects in Darlington.
By 1905, William George Johnson, Allpike’s administrator, put the entire estate up for sale; this included the ten-room house and a men’s cottage. When this wasn’t successful the property was put up for rent. From a newspaper article in 1906 it appears that Richard Holmes & Co took on the lease. Vineyard manager, Alex Fergusson McBain, was then put in charge of both the Darlington Vineyard and Allpike’s in order to boost their production and meet demand. Allpike’s daughter Mabel (who married widower James Leach at Leithdale in 1897) was suffering from tuberculosis. As the hills were highly recommended for the fresh air to improve the health of sufferers with this disease, it is likely that this was the reason the Leach family returned to Leithdale from 1907 until 1909. This latter year saw two tragedies for the Allpike family, as Amelia and her daughter Mabel both died within months of each other. This left James Leach widowed again, this time with two small daughters. Two of Allpike’s daughters had married Wigglesworth brothers and in 1910 Lena’s husband Robert Wigglesworth died leaving a large estate. His will mentions James Leach was living in the Leithdale house and Arthur James Tassie was living in the Brick house (Flagstaff) presumably managing the estate as his Occupation in the Postal Directories was Vigneron (in 1913 he was Manager of Piesse & Co who dealt in flour, wines, aerated waters and ginger ale).
James Leach returned to his home state of South Australia in 1911 and married Mary Isabella Hollis. He then came back to “Leithdale” where he changed his occupation from bank manager to orchardist, and presumably also helped manage the property. Sometime in 1912 when James Leach left Darlington the main “Leithdale” house was rented out to Vickery Jones who allowed part of this premises to operate as a school until the new Darlington Primary School was built in late 1913. The first teacher, Emma Hogan, gave her place of residence from 1913-1918 in the Electoral Rolls, as “Leithdale”.
Darlington Primary School students on the steps of “Leithdale’ in 1913
In 1913 the entire Allpike estate was subdivided, with both houses, the men’s tin cottage and the surrounding land making up the subdivision Leithdale Estate.
Sunday Times (Perth, WA : 1902 - 1954), Sunday 2 November 1913, page 4
ROBERTSON BROS. SALES A POPULAR HILLS RESORT. DARLINGTON. Leithdale Estate
Formerly owned by the Estate late John Allpike. Within Half-Mile of the Station by made road. - Being Greenmount Suburban Lots 20, 21, 23, 24 and 32, containing 108 ACRES, Now being surveyed and subdivided into 136 magnificent lots from 3/4 acre to 6 acres, commanding uninterrupted views of Perth and surroundings. Nearly all cleared, about 5 acres of mixed fruit trees in bearing, 40 acres of vines in bearing. Beautiful Rich Undulating Country, Salubrious Climate, Running Streams. ROBERTSON BROS. have been favoured with instructions from the owners to SELL by AUCTION, about the END of NOVEMBER, on the Estate This Magnificent Freehold - Property, LEITHDALE ESTATE, together with two FIRST-CLASS RESIDENCES of 10 and 5 rooms, and surrounding improvements thereon. Also small iron cottage. Perfect sites for homes, week-ends, and orchards.15 miles from Perth, five to ten minutes of station. Terms in Later Issues. Plans now being prepared.
WAIT FOR THIS! THE SALE OF THE YEAR
The Rates that started in 1918 showed the owner of the larger “Leithdale” house and surrounding four acres of land, as John Heard Scown; he was listed in the Darlington Postal Directories as “managing a boarding house”.
This venture was short-lived; in 1920 “Leithdale” was sold to Nellie Beakbane and Mollie (Mary) Skinner. Mollie was the daughter of Jessie Rose Leake and James Skinner; she was a qualified midwife who had operated a convalescent home in Kalamunda called “Shirley”. It was there that she met Nellie – who was from an English Quaker family – and the two become friends. They went into partnership and purchased “Leithdale” to operate it as a guest house. One famous guest was D.H. Lawrence, who stayed for 12 days in May 1922. He befriended Mollie and they collaborated on a book called “The Boy in the Bush” – which was loosely based on her brother, Jack, who had been injured at Gallipoli in 1915.
Cover for the book and letter to Mollie from D.H. Lawrence 1923
In June 1929 Nellie left for England to take a holiday and visit family, whereupon “Leithdale House” was leased to several ladies over the course of the next few years.
The first was Mrs Brayshaw, who managed the guest house for approximately a year; there is a William Brayshaw at this time in the Darlington Postal Directory. In late 1930 the house was advertised under the new management of Mrs Violet May Landon who had more success in running the guest house. Mrs Landon managed it until her husband, Harvey, died in mid-1934 after suffering an illness. In 1932 Mrs Landon changed the name she used to advertise her guest house to “The Corner House” dropping the name “Leithdale”. This may have been due to the fact that Nellie Beakbane – on her return from overseas – had placed the business on the market in 1932, and the former name could have had a negative influence on the confidence of Leithdale’s previous clientele.
1932 For Sale advert for Leithdale
Nellie’s bid to sell Leithdale was unsuccessful and so Mrs Routley replaced Mrs Landon in 1935. Routley was not a common name in Western Australia at this time. The Routleys were Richard Henry – a civil Servant – and his wife Myra Ethel. Their short-lived occupancy of “Leithdale” was probably due to its sale in 1936 to a trained nursing sister, Mrs Egbert Atholstone Wills (Myra), who went on to run it as a convalescent home for children and adults.
Sister Wills was born Myra Gwendoline Tippett in 1895 at Redruth, Cornwall, England. She had qualified as a nurse in Cornwall before working at Beaufort War hospital during WW1 where she met an Australian soldier “Bert” Wills. They fell in love and after the war she came to Western Australia where they married in 1920.
Beaufort War Hospital in England where Myra Tippett and Bert Wills met during WW2
The Wills family had arrived earlier in Darlington and had been renting “Halcyon” the house, across the road from “Leithdale”, where their son, George, was born in 1932. This weatherboard house was owned by John and Annie Birks. Built in c1915, the house had been mostly rented – except for the first five years when the Birks’ daughter Phillis and son-in-law Frank Glyde lived there. The Wills family – which now included four children – moved with their parents from “Halcyon” to “Leithdale”. The first advertisements were placed in The West Australian newspaper by mid-1936. Sister Wills held her first fete at the grounds in December 1936 to raise money for the Returned Army Nurses sub-branch of the RSL. This was an annual event held at “Leithdale” by Sister Wills who, by 1937, was President of this sub-branch.
1939 Advert for Sister Wills “Convalescent Home”
One advertisement in 1938 contains information that Sister Wills served with Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (Reserve) – acronym QAIMNS(R). A discount was given to ex-service men, but the house didn’t take any infectious cases – such as tuberculosis, which was the most prevalent. “Leithdale”, under Sister Wills, supplied its own dairy produce, eggs and poultry, and even had its own tennis court. The Convalescent Hospital operated until 1955 when the property was sold to become a private residence once again. It has remained so to the present time with various owners sensitively renovating it in keeping with its early heritage.
It was adopted by State Heritage in 1997 and has the place number 08554.
“Leithdale” photo courtesy of R. Woldendorp 1980’s