Shops & Businesses - Grevillea Tearooms

THE GREVILLEA TEAROOMS CNR LEITHDALE AND GLEN RD (LOT 365)

This property, a little over 2 acres, was first purchased by Thomas Cockshott in 1914 and then sold, undeveloped, in 1925, to William Goldsmith Burges. W.G. Burges owned “Tipperary,” a large pastoral lease first acquired by his grandfather, Samuel, then further developed by his father, Richard, in the Avon area (York). Tenders were called, in September 1925, to build the tearooms, by architect, Herbert Parry. It would appear that the owner, Burges, had the tearooms built but doesn’t appear to have operated them or have ever lived in Darlington. The tearooms property was then rented by Robert William Rodgers Greville and his wife Florence (Florrie) who conducted the tearoom business. The Greville and Burges families appeared to be good friends as Mrs Burges was recorded in the social pages, bringing groups of her friends to the tearooms, with the hope of ensuring its success. The location adjoined the local picnic area and brook which was also helpful in attracting business.

The premises also operated as a Boarding House with numerous social notes in the newspapers noting that Florrie’s boarding house was used for holidaying, recuperating from illness and honeymooners. It was also remarked in the gossip column that she made the wedding cake for a local girl, Dora Glover, in 1928.

C1930 View from the brook up to the “Grevillea Tearooms” in Darlington

000926D Courtesy State Library WA

 

Robert William Rodgers Greville was a Victorian born in 1864. His father, originally from Dublin, Ireland, was quite a famous actor and comedian. Robert had been lured to Western Australia during its prosperous mining time in the mid 1890’s and set up a chemist and dental business at Geraldton. He married Florence Evelyn Stone in 1899. She was a first cousin to John Frederick Stone who purchased a large amount of property in Darlington when the Vineyard was broken up and sold. In 1920 Robert became a bankrupt but remained in Geraldton until 1925. His family then moved to Parkerville in the hills east of Perth where he leased a shop and set up a Chemist business. This only operated for a few months before he moved to Darlington and managed the tearooms. Considering Robert had been bankrupt and Florence’s parents had both died by 1917 possibly leaving her an inheritance, it may have been Florence who had the financial means to set up the tearooms.

Newspaper Article in 1907                              Newspaper Advertisement in1895.

The year 1926 was a fateful time for the family as their only son John (Jack) Rodger Greville, named after his famous grandfather, who had left Geraldton to come to Perth with them, was fatally shot and robbed on the train as he was carrying the day’s takings, from the National Bank branch at Maylands, to the head office in Perth. He was shot twice and died shortly after being transferred to the hospital. His co-worker was injured (see newspaper article for full details and click on this link for the true identity of the killer).

There have been claims that Robert ran a chemist shop from the property but there does not appear to be any advertising to support this. However, a niece’s (Dorothy Croft) recollection of spending time recuperating in Darlington recounts the front of the house was a shop set up with a counter and shelves containing jars which she recounts was a Chemist shop.

The Greville family included a daughter, Mary Edith, who lived with her parents and helped run the tearooms in the 1920’s (according to the memoirs of an early Darlington resident).  Father and daughter seem to have inherited the family theatrical talents for singing and acting. Newspaper articles publicise Robert’s production of the comedy “Our Boys” in which he is the leading actor. His daughter also participated and the play was performed in the Darlington Hall before its production at the Assembley Hall. In 1941, Mary Edith married a local man, accountant Frederick Graham George. Around this time her parents retired from running the tearooms and moved with her and her husband to Collie. 

Shortly before they died Robert and Florence returned to the city, spending their final years at Maida Vale. Robert died in 1951 aged 87 and Florence in 1954 aged 80. They were buried together in the Anglican section of Karrakatta Cemetery.

After two earlier attempts had failed to attract any buyers, the tearoom was finally sold in 1943. It became a private residence and remains so to the present time.

The next owners of this property were the parents of Kathleen Walker who was the second wife of Walter “Wally” Coxon and they lived at the property until Edmund Selby Walker’s death in 1948. After her father’s death Kathleen, husband Wally Coxon and family, moved in with her widowed mother. After becoming interested in wireless experiments as far back as 1907, Wally acquired the first Experimental Broadcast Licence in Western Australia (6AG). He was the first manager and chief engineer of 6WF. He gained his Proficiency in Radio with the North Eastern School of Wireless and continued there for some time as an instructor. The UK based school was founded in 1911 to train Radio Officers for the Merchant Marine. Radio Officers on ships not only operated the radio equipment, but also repaired and maintained it, so this was an excellent grounding for a pioneer in the new industry.

Wally’s expertise as a radio technician resulted in him becoming good friends with the Rev. John Flynn who first set up what was to become “The Flying Doctor Service". Wally was the original Radio Technician for Flynn’s outback medical and communication service and used his workshop in Darlington to make and service the radios.( see the full account in the 1952 Newspaper article). The family story does tell of John Flynn staying with the Coxons in Darlington in order to discuss the operation of the receivers that Wally made in his workshop.

 
 

Walter (Wally) Coxon photo from State Library

Walter (Wally) Coxon with his Radios for the Flying Doctor Service 1947/8 @ Darlington

1950’s Coxon House with large aerial mast on the right. Photos courtesy of Christine Sebo.

Valerie Prescott (nee Coxon) remembers the author and journalist Ernestine Hill (whose biographer described the biography as “The remarkable story of Ernestine Hill, nomad, adventurer and trailblazer”) was a friend of both her parents. Ernestine’s book “Flying Doctor Calling” drew on Valerie’s father’s knowledge and experience with the Flying Doctors’ wireless design, installation, and operation.  Ernestine and her son Bob were frequent visitors to the house while they were in Western Australia. Valerie’s sister and herself have many books written by Ernestine and presented to their parents by her.

Mary Durack Miller also visited the house with Ernestine in February 1955 and autographed a copy of the book “The Magic Trumpet” written by her and her sister Elizabeth Durack.

The family stayed at Darlington until their girls had finished primary school then left for the city in 1963. The property has had two more owners since and has now been subdivided into 4 properties with the original house remaining on a reduced amount of land which no longer goes onto a picnic area and brook.

© Darlington History Group       Ver 2.1.3     Oct 2019