Woodbridge House lies on the banks of the Swan River, in Guildford and was built in 1885 for politician and publisher, Charles Harper. The land was originally owned by Captain James Stirling, Western Australia’s first Governor. Stirling, who had an entitlement of 40,500ha of land in the new Swan River colony was granted the 1620ha of land in 1829 and built a small cottage ( which has since been demolished) . He named the property Woodbridge after his wife’s family home in England which was located in Guildford, Surrey.
When Stirling left the colony in 1839 to return to England, he leased his properties. Even though Stirling died in 1865 , it wasn’t until 1883 that the Woodbridge estate was sold. The estate was purchased by Henry Brockman who was a prominent Gingin farmer. Brockman bought the land for £8,500 and then subdivided it. He sold off Woodbridge Farm (110ha) to Charles Harper, who had been already leasing the property. Included in Brockman’s subdivision was the Picnic Ground which was purchased by the government in 1893 and it later became the site of the Midland Railway Workshops.
Charles Harper built Woodbridge House soon after purchasing the land and established extensive orchards on the river flats and grazing paddocks on the high ground surrounding the house. Woodbridge House was designed by architect James William Wright (1854- ) in Victorian Style.
Harper was an inventive man and developed a cheap fencing system known as the Harper fence. The Harper fence was widely used in the Avon Valley and consisted of paired posts about 1,250mm apart with saplings for rails inserted between the posts and tied with wire to prevent the posts from spreading. Later Harper collaborated with Catton Grasby to help improve some of Western Australia’s agricultural areas. Some of his achievements included the development of wheat varieties suitable for Western Australian climate and conditions, pioneered the use of artisan water supplies for agricultural needs and improved pasture through planting clover & using superphosphate.
Guildford Grammer School
Harper also helped in the establishment of Guildford Grammer School when in 1895 he arranged for Frank Bennett to establish a school for boys and girls at his home, Woodbridge. It was no surprise considering he had ten children of his own. Classes were held in the billiard room and included Harper’s children, Surveyor General Brockman’s children and local children. In 1900, Harper financed the construction of a small school building on the site of what is now the Guildford Grammer School and to which it is still in use by Guildford Grammer. In 1910 Harper did some negotiations with the Church of England and it was agreed that the Church would take over the running of the school following the purchase of the school, its furniture and 22ha of land.
When Harper died in 1912 , his wife and two daughters continued to live at Woodbridge until 1921. The house was then leased to former headmaster of Guildford Grammer who turned the house into a boarding school for the Grammar Boys. In 1942 the boarding school was closed and the government took over the house, where it was used as a old aged home for women. In 1964 it became a school once more to handle the shortage of classrooms in the area. When the new high school, Governor Stirling, was built, the Government considered demolishing the grand old house to make way for an oval. Fortunately this plan was averted by the National Trust who took over the running of the house in 1968. They eventually opened it up to the public in 1970 where it has remained a popular tourist destination within the area.
Thursday to Sunday an
d Monday Public Holidays
1:00 PM – 4:00 PM
Family (2 Adults & up to 4 Children):$12.00
Groups:$3.00 per person
(08) 9274 2432