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Turton House

Turton House, aka Rockdale House, 25 Harvest Road North Fremantle, cnr Turton Street (formerly Helen Street)

turton house

From the Heritage Council page - with additions by Rob Garton Smith:
Turton House, 25 Harvest Road, is a limestone, brick and iron single storey house dating from the 1900s. It is a fine example of the Federation Queen Anne 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. It is representative of the more affluent building stock located within the residential areas of North Fremantle. Historically significant as a representation of a fine residence in the North Fremantle area. It is significant as an example of Talbot Hobbs residential architecture.
From the nineteenth century, Harvest Road was important as an access route to Point Direction, the location of a sheltered landing place. Boat building yards were located at Point Direction for much of the twentieth century, during which time the Harvest Road jetty also became a popular family swimming and picnic area. Originally, Harvest Road began at Stirling Highway (then called Bruce Street), but from 1899 it was extended through to Queen Victoria Street (then called Victoria Street). Harvest Road has always been a predominantly residential street, developing steadily from the turn of the twentieth century, and characterised at least in its early decades as a place with a large number of rental properties. Three industries on the street were Purina (1935-55) and Nabisco (1955-88) cereal manufacturers (number 3-5), Rowlands Co Cordial, Wine and Spirits manufacturers (1908 to at least 1939, at number 11), and various marine industries, most prominently Browns Boat Building Yard (from c.1900), which was located between Corkhill (Elizabeth) Street and the River.


Turton House was constructed in 1904 for Arthur Turton and his wife Jessie May Turton, designed by notable architect J. Talbot Hobbs. In the 1970s, his son, Col. Athol Hobbs said he had the book of accounts relating to the construction of the house. The original name of the house was Rockdale, after the church in Sydney where Arthur's brother William was pastor. When built, the verandah extended around the Turton Street side of the house to the kitchen and was not enclosed at the back so as to take advantage of both river and ocean views. The main verandah was narrower at the side, and near the front door it followed the shape of the house.

The house was owned solely by Jessie, who was a daughter of James Pearse one of the three Pearse brothers to found the Pearse Brothers Tannery and Boot Factory in North Fremantle. The various Pearse children built a number of grand homes in North Fremantle. Francis Pearse who owned Hillcrest opposite Turton House was reported to have amassed a fortune of £750,000. After his death Hillcrest was given by his wife to the Salvation Army. Another brother built the house at 56 Harvest Road.

Arthur Turton had been a hardware salesman in Fremantle in the 1890s for Union Stores. He was a prominent public figure in North Fremantle, serving as a Councillor from 1928, and was mayor of North Fremantle from 1932 until 1945. He was apparently popular as mayor, at least in his early years, as it is recorded that when he looked like resigning in 1934 local residents came in droves to Turton House to petition him to stay on.

Jessie and Arthur had five children: Gwen, Molly, who died in 1957, Joy (Grigg), Glyde, and Don. To accommodate them all, the main verandah was enlarged and walled in brick with large double drop frosty glass windows and most of the verandah posts were removed. During this period, some of the interior decorations were changed: plate rails and stucco were added in the hall and what was then used as the dining room and lounge room fireplaces were remodelled. The leadlight windows may also have been a later addition. The stone wall at the front of the house was also constructed.

The street running up from the river was called Helen Street, but its name was changed in the 1940s to Turton Street.

After the Second World War, another bedroom was added on the back verandah and the door from what was then the dining room was sealed off and made into a bookshelf.

Arthur died in 1958. In or about 1960, Gwen Turton replaced the iron roof and the hat on the tower was dismantled. Some of the original ceilings (hall, dining room and main bedroom) and earlier light fittings were also replaced. (The house had been constructed without light fittings.)

In 1963, Jessie died and the only person then living in the house was Gwen. In 1964, title to the house was transferred to her.

Lawyer Rob Garton Smith bought the property and most of the family’s jarrah furniture (10 chair dining suite, sideboard and bedroom suite) from Gwen in 1976 and she moved to a home unit in Cottesloe. She was honoured in 1989 for 50 years voluntary service to the Red Cross.

Rob Garton Smith then commissioned the restoration of the verandah with advice from Les Lauder of the Fremantle Society. The restoration work was carried out by architect and restorer, Tony Connor. The brick wall in front of the verandah was demolished, and the verandah posts were reinstated, based on photographs and other evidence of their original appearance. The plumbing was modernised, and exensive electrical work carried out, with new power points and light fittings. The house was totally repainted except in the lounge room (so as to preserve the stucco). The front garden was planted.

The house was registered by the National Trust in 1980, at which time it was noted that the original turreted roof features were no longer in place.

In 1981 Rob Garton Smith sold the property to Craig Bond, son of Perth businessman Alan Bond. Craig Bond added the witch’s hat roof to the tower including the original spire which had been given to him with the house. He also repainted the house.

The house appears to have changed hands several times in the 1980s, at which time extensive additions were made to the rear (south) of the house. These additions were made in a style sympathetic to the original.

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.

Single storey limestone, brick and iron house with asymmetrical facade and floor plan designed as an example of the federation Queen Anne style of architecture. Walls are limestone with tuckpointed brick quoins and reveals. The roof form in very complex. Roof is hipped, gabled, Dutch gabled and pyramidal, corrugated iron with an elaborate hip gable which addresses the corner. This is also the location of the front entry. Simple vertical timber ornamentation on roughcast render project beyond the bay. A small gable in the verandah roof serves to signal the location of the front door. Verandah is under separate bullnose corrugated iron roof which wraps around the house. The verandah is supported by turned timber posts with a simple curved frieze.The hand carved railing and elaborately routed balustrading add an elegance to the house. The corbelled brick chimneys are intact. A turret forms the focus of the front elevation. The turret is ornamented by a rendered gable containing a circular window and scrolling. The wide entrance hall leads through a ornamented stucco archway supported on Corinthian columns to the main body of the house. Two storey extensions at the rear of the house 1981. There is a low limestone wall and complementary front garden planting to the front of the house.
High degree of integrity (original intent clear, current use compatible, high long term sustainability, restored, sympathetic rear extension).
High degree of authenticity with much original fabric remaining.
(These statements based on street survey only).

*Gwen Evelyn Turton was the eldest, unmarried daughter of Arthur and Jessie May Turton. She was known in the family as Min or Minnie, a nickname bestowed upon her by Jack Grigg, her brother-in-law. Gwen Turton died in 1995, having lived all but the last few years of her life in Turton House. (Alan Thompson)

The auctioneers, Caporn Young, gave a very full description of the house on their website, so I've taken the liberty of copying it, as they won't leave it there forever.

Caporn Young:
This North Fremantle landmark is a rare example of a Victorian limestone residence by architect Sir J.J. Talbot Hobbs, whose works include Newspaper House, the Weld Club, Samson House and St George's College. Updated with excellent taste and great care, here true luxury resides in the classic simplicity of large light-filled spaces, high ceilings, century-old timber floors, wide verandahs and the warm embrace of a remarkably gracious family home rich in history, with a fabulous turret marking this elevated spot with the river at the end of the street.
Built in the Queen Anne style with thick limestone walls, tuck-pointed brick quoining, extensive bullnose verandahs and a deep bay window, the home is sheltered by beautifully tended front gardens on the corner of Harvest Rd and Turton St, which was named for the prominent North Fremantle family for whom the home was built. Its impressive entrance leads to a double-height lobby, where light streams in from a porthole in the turret above. The wide jarrah-floored hallway leads to a series of bedrooms and sitting rooms, all combining traditional features (Victorian fireplaces, soaring ceilings, delicate chandeliers) with a simply modern sensibility of uncluttered spaces and chalk-white walls.
The master suite, with its north-facing bay window overlooking the front garden and double doors opening to a large dressing room, is an elegant and restful space. Two more bedrooms share access to a long light-filled study with double doors opening to the side deck. A gracious sitting room (with remarkable chandelier) has glass doors to the shady front verandah, and an additional sitting room or dining room features a gas log fire, a wall of custom-built white-painted timber bookcases and large double windows, with a leadlight fanlight bringing lovely natural light into this serene room.
The success of the thoughtful and sensitive updating of this historic residence is most striking as you come to the beautiful open-plan kitchen and living space. A kitchen works best with plenty of room for a large table in the middle for the family to gather in the heart of the home and that's what you find here - with the simple luxury of pale timber benchtops, soft-grey painted timber cupboards, 90cm five-burner Ilve range and integrated white ceramic sinks with fine heritage tapware. Beyond is an expansive living space with couches built in to the bay window and big double doors leading to the rear deck and saltwater pool, where you can relax and entertain while enjoying the long treetop views afforded by this elevated location near the river.
The fourth bedroom (or ideal additional study) has a wall of built-in storage and two sets of double doors opening to the side and rear decks. The unusually large bathroom is simply elegant in black, white and grey, with freestanding bath and bidet. With direct access from the saltwater pool, the big laundry and utility room features a shower and powder room and, from the rear deck, a spiral staircase leads down to the double garage and storage undercroft. There is additional parking in the carport at the front of the home.
“Turton” was built for Jessie-May Turton, who, as President of the North Fremantle Red Cross during World War II, made “Turton” a central place for the war effort assisting Australian servicemen overseas. Her husband Arthur is remembered for his contribution as Mayor of North Fremantle and together they filled the house with children and grandchildren. A sense of history still fills the beautiful rooms of this remarkable house, restored with a new 21st century elegance and awaiting its fortunate new owners.



References, Links, Acknowledgements

Many thanks to Alan Thompson, great-grandson of Arthur Turton, and grandson of Jack Grigg, for the information about Gwen Turton and the original name of the house. Thanks also to Rob Garton Smith, who owned Turton House 1976-1981.

Page for Arthur Turton

Heritage Council page for Turton House (known in the family as Rockdale House)

Caporn Young, estate agents

Garry Gillard | New: 30 September, 2015 | Now: 4 September, 2022