Pensioner Guard Cottage
Faithfully restored, this basic dwelling was erected, with others similar, to house a Pensioner Guard, his wife and children at a cost of £15 (roughly thirty dollars in our present currency).
At the urgent request of settlers desperate for help in all areas of Colonial expansion, the British Government acceded to their demand for convict labour.
To guard the felons, both on the journey out and later at the assigned tasks, a special force was formed from veterans of Britain's Peninsular Wars and later the Crimean and Boer engagements.
The men eligible for this special force were at the time pensioned off on halfpay. They were required to be strong, healthy and the possessors of good conduct discharges.
They were promised employment or military pay for a period of six months. This 'regular duty' scale of Army pay was:
- Private: 1/3d per day
- Corporal: 1/6d per day
- Sergeant: 1/10d per day
In addition, they were liable to serve in the defence of the Colony or in the preservation of the public peace if required, as well as seeking outside work where possible to augment their basic income.
In return, the Pensioners were given free passage for themselves, their wives and children, a cottage and a land grant which would become freehold after seven years occupancy and service in the Enrolled Force.
The First Tenant
John LawDavies, a pensioner guard originally employed in the East India Company, was twenty-six years old when he arrived in Western Australia in the early 1850's. In November 1857, he was appointed caretaker of four cottages at Guildford and West Guildford (Bassendean).
Thus he and his wife Amelia and their children to that time became the first tenants of No. 1, Surrey Street. Five more children were born there, and John died there in 1870. Looking now at the cramped conditions and primitive furnishings which were all Pensioners' wives could expect, one is poignantly reminded of the sacrifices these pioneer women made.
Enrolled Pensioners and their families, totalling some 2500 souls, remained in Western Australia on the cessation of transportation. Less than 2% of them had become, in any degree, a burden to the colonial finances over a period of eighteen years.
Hope Sheppard (1993)