Pensioner Guard Cottage

1 Surrey Street, Bassendean

The oldest building still standing in Bassendean is a two room cottage completed in 1856 or early 1857 by convicts for Pensioner Guard John Law Davis, a former private in the East India Company.  It was one of four brick homes built on two-acre blocks facing Surrey Street which had been set aside late in 1854 for a Pensioner Guard ‘village’.  Lieutenant Edmund Du Cane of the Royal Engineers, who was in charge of organising convict labour for public works in the Guildford district, had responsibility for building two-roomed dwellings on the lots.  By December 1854 Du Cane reported that bricks were being made and shingles split for four cottages, but work was intermittent and it was not until 1856 that the buildings were deemed almost ready for occupation.  By June 1857 all foPensioner Guards Cottage 96ur cottages were ready for their new owners and Pensioner Guard, John Law Davis was made caretaker for all four buildings and took occupation of Crown Grant lot P114.

The Pensioner Guards assigned to the cottages could claim ownership of the lot and the house erected on it after seven years’ occupation.  Eight children were born to John Law Davis and his wife Amelia (nee Wood), who were married in Guildford in July 1856.  The first recorded was daughter Amelia who was born in 1857, so she was either a very young baby or her mother was heavily pregnant when the couple moved into the cottage, and the last was Joseph born in 1868. John obtained title to the land and cottage on 28 November 1864 and died in July 1870.  Amelia remarried in 1873 to John Bates and the couple lived in the cottage where two more children were born.  In 1893, Amelia sold the block to Edmund Brockman who onsold it to his daughter Frances and her husband Aubrey Brown.

Frances and Aubrey built a large residence on Lot P114 in 1893 and the cottage became part of the property, linked to it by a verandah.  The cottage ceased to be a home and for many years it was mostly used for storage or left empty.  The almost two acre lot was not subdivided until 1976 when the land containing the house and the cottage became lot 50 of Guildford Town Lot P114.

In March 1987 the cottage was added to the register of the National Trust of Western Australia and its unique cultural heritage significance was recognised. 

“As the only known extant Pensioner Guard cottage in the metropolitan area the Pensioner Guard Cottage in Bassendean has a high degree of historical and social significance, despite later modifications.”2

The Town of Bassendean purchased the land containing the Pensioner The First Tenant - CottageGuard cottage, along with the adjoining house at 1 Surrey Street, in October 1988 thereby ensuring the preservation of both for the Bassendean community.  The cottage was registered by the Heritage Council of Western Australia in 1989 and placed on the Register of the National Estate on 14 May 1991.  The house has been retained to preserve the integrity of the cottage and for use as a community space.  The Council plans to renovate the house and establish an interpretive centre or museum in a section of it.

(Information from: Carter, Jennie  Bassendean: a social history 1829-1979. Town of Bassendean, 1986, and  Bush, Fiona  Archaeological management plan for no.1 Surrey Street prepared for the Town of Bassendean October 2016.  Fiona Bush Heritage & Archaeology, 2016.)

Cottage open on the last Sunday of the month (excluding December and January) from 10.00am to 1.30pm by the volunteer members of the Bassendean Historical Society Inc. A gold coin donation is appreciated.