Some people like gardens that are perfectly neat, with not a weed in sight or leaf out of place. But my favourite gardens are the messy, crazy, overgrown ones, that enshroud cool old houses in dark jungle-like thickets. I think a crazy overgrown garden is so much more exciting than a perfectly clipped neat garden, like you never know what you could find. I remember when I was a kid being SO excited when I dug up these tiny old brown bottles in my parents' garden, and once digging up a dozen heavy horse shoes in a family friend's garden in Freo; like I had found buried antiquities instead of some dirty crap.
There is something about a big crazy garden that sparks the imagination, and I have been captivated by the rambling gardens of this East Fremantle house all my life. The other weekend I finally got a chance to poke my nose inside.
This old house is right on the river, just down the road from the Left Bank and opposite the boat house. If you've ever driven down that way, it probably would have caught your eye! Set up high on the hill, overlooking the river, it is a really cool-looking house. It's old and grand, with big bay windows and a huge wraparound veranda with lacework-style wrought iron balustrading that make it look just a little bit spooky. (I LOVE houses that look like they should be haunted. I have always wanted to live in one, but sadly our cheerful-looking 1970s crap shack doesn't quite have that 'haunted' allure). There is something about this house that makes you want to sneak furtive glances at it and try to see inside (my apologies to the owners for all the times I have creepily done so). Although I get the feeling they are used to it by now.
Built in 1892, the house has a cool history - it is a former sea captain's mansion (you might remember I once covered another sea captain’s mansion, the famous Penshurst). This place was built for a Singaporean-based British sea captain on a colossal block that at the time was four times the size of the land the house now sits on (which is still a whopping 2332sqm of prime riverside real estate - the biggest riverside block currently available south of the river). It later was owned by another family, who have owned it for 60 years. The house, a Federation Regency bungalow, has only been owned by two families in its lifetime, and is now on the market to find its next owners. Its owner, an elderly lady, has gone into a home as the house and its gardens are too big for her on its own. She and her family are hoping to sell it to someone who will love it as a family home as much as they have.
It is an amazing house.