The old Gwambygine homestead south of York is undergoing a major transformation.

A total of $130,000 has been allocated to the project thanks to funding from the Federal Department of Water, Heritage and the Arts and the WA Heritage Council. The project is one of the most significant heritage restorations to be undertaken in the district.

The homestead is the oldest habitable house remaining in York and was built in 1836-37 by the pioneering Wittenoom family.

The Wittenooms remained at Gwambygine until the 1870s when the property was first leased and then sold to the Hicks family. In the 1920s the property passed to the Clifton family. It is now owned by Mrs Margaret Venerys, who grew up at the homestead. Her father, Merton Clifton, lived there until his death in 2001.

In 2004 WA historian Pamela Statham-Drew and a descendant of the Wittenoom family, Jacqueline O’Brien, began work on a new book on the history of the Wittenooms. Pamela’s work brought her to Gwambygine and lead to an interest in having the homestead restored.

Last year, Pamela and Ron Bodycoat representing the Royal WA Historical Society, approached the River Conservation Society of York to assist with an application for federal heritage funding for the building. This application was successful and so was another for assistance from the WA Heritage Commission.

The Gwambygine Action Group, consisting of members of the Royal WA Historical Society, the River Conservation Society and the owner of the Gwambygine property, came together in mid February. They gathered to look at the progress of restoration work taking place under the direction of heritage architect, Ron Bodycoat.

Work so far includes the removal of asbestos sheeting, carpentry work on old verandah posts and roofing timbers, door and window frames as well as replacement of the roof with new galvanised iron and the installation of woollen insulation bats. Further work will include repair to the rammed earth walls, electrical, plumbing and painting work and landscaping.

The project will preserve one of the most significant heritage buildings in WA. The homestead is in the same class as ‘Tranby’ at Maylands and ‘Strawberry Hill Farm’ at Albany. It has many connections with the early history of York and was a regular stopping off place for travellers during settlement along the Avon Valley.

Work on the homestead is expected to continue for the next six months.

Tony Clack

Above: Gwambygine Action Group (L– R), Ron Bodycoat, Nick Drew, Jacqui O’Brien, Julie Rae, Pamela Statham-Drew, Ian Beresford-Peirse, Maggie Venerys, Cicely Howell and Tony Clack.

Web page : Members of the action group inspect restoration work on Gwambygine Homestead, on Great Southern Highway south of York.