Fremantle Stuff > buildings > Benningfield House
Benningfield House, 37 John Street North Fremantle, c. 1903
From the Heritage Council
Statement of Significance
Benningfield, House, 37 John Street, is a rendered brick and iron two storey house dating from the 1900s. It is a fine example of the Federation Filigree style of architecture. The place has aesthetic value for its fine design and detailing as well as its contribution to the streetscape and the surrounding area. Historically significant as a representation of a fine residence it is representative of the more affluent building stock located within the residential areas of North Fremantle. Fine example of the architectural style, also of the gracious homes built at the turn of the century. Built by Lewis Benningfield Bateman, Fremantle merchant.
House, 37 John Street, is a two storey rendered brick and iron house with asymmetrical facade designed as a fine example of the Federation Filigree style of architecture set in extensive grounds. Walls are rendered brick. Roof is hipped with a prominent front gable over the projecting wing. The projecting wing has a shallow bay which has a pair of timber sash windows on both floors. Ornamental sills and relief stucco banding articulate the facade. It is covered with corrugated iron. Two storey verandah is under a separate bullnose corrugated iron roof. The verandahs to both floors wrap the building on two sides. Verandah is supported by decorative turned timber posts with decorative iron filigree frieze and timber balustrade. Rendered chimneys with rendered details. Half-moon baffles on the chimney stacks, typical of Norman Hitchcock's work. All the windows of the building are paired timber sash windows. The shortened eaves of the roof are finished by guttering which rests upon decorative stucco moulding. Elaborately carved front door with stained glass sidelights and transom windows. There is a rendered masonry and iron fence to front boundary.
Benningfield was constructed c.1903 for prominent Fremantle business identity Lewis Benningfield Bateman. Bateman was a proprietor of the Fremantle Merchant House bearing his name. He purchased the land in 1903 from Jane Cooke, widow of Henry John Cooke (farmer), who had owned the site from 1892. Cooke is recorded as living at the place from c. 1896 in a two-room timber cottage. A 1913 plan shows the current two-storey house built to wrap around but not abut the earlier structure. It is not known when the earlier cottage was demolished. Rate books to 1935 continue to show a two-room timber cottage on site, occupied from at least 1921 to 1935 by Frank Hay. During Bateman’s occupation, the place is also remembered as having been called ‘Glenroy’. A 1939 plan shows outbuildings to the western Lot boundary behind the house, including a laundry, water closet, and brick structure. This was presumably the kitchen, as the two-storey brick residence had no internal kitchen until renovations in the 1970s. The timber cottage is not shown on the 1939 plan. Large lawn tennis courts are located to the south of the house, with a pavilion to their northern end.
Lewis Bateman died in 1915, and for nearly twenty years the title was registered in the name of the Trustee Executer of his will. It appears to have been variously rented out during this period. During World War One, the place was used as an Orderly Room and Commanding Officer’s headquarters for the Anti Aircraft and Fortress Signal Unit, which relayed secret information to coastal gun batteries from 1941 to 1945. The spacious lounge room was reportedly used for dances. It may have been during this period that a Chinese market garden was reported to be operating from the rear of the block.
In 1933, the property was transferred to Mary Elizabeth Murphy, who was already resident at the place. From her death in 1940 ownership changed reasonably frequently, until Cecil Bryon Parker (estate agent) and Gwendolyn Frances May Humphrey (married woman) took possession in 1962. The place was used as a boarding house in the 1960s, during which time it fell into disrepair. In 1974, it was purchased by Thomas Norman (‘Tom’) Peart (builder) and Geoffrey Russell Blethyn (sales manager). Over the next two to three years, Peart restored the house, fitting it out with an internal kitchen and bathrooms. In 1983, following a second restoration, it was sold as a four-bedroom two-bathroom home. It has subsequently been auctioned a number of times. Plans published prior to the place being auctioned in 1999 show a four-bedroom, three-bathroom two-storey residence. The ground floor has had a kitchen and family room added to the south western corner. Outbuildings remain as shown in the 1939 plan, labelled as stables.
This place was included in the 'North Fremantle Heritage Study' (1994) as a place contributing to the development and heritage of North Fremantle. It was also included in the list of heritage places in the City of Fremantle identified by the Fremantle Society (1979/80) - PURPLE - of architectural and historic significance in its own right.
Heritage Council page for Benningfield House (notes written by City of Fremantle)
Garry Gillard | New: 30 September, 2015 | Now: 17 July, 2019