Peek into the lives of an early Fremantle family
Samson House is located in Walyalup (Fremantle) on Whadjuk Noongar Country.
This impressive home was built in 1888 for Michael Samson, who, after a life of adventure – and often misadventure! – went on to become an active member of local Fremantle politics and, ultimately, Mayor of Fremantle from 1905 to 1907.
Michael was the son of Lionel Samson, who arrived in Western Australia aboard the Calista in 1829 with his brother, William. This earlier generation of Samson brothers established a liquor import-export that continues today.
The young architect Michael commissioned to design Samson House, JJ Talbot Hobbs, also designed the Western Australian War Memorial in King’s Park.
Hobbs was later knighted in acknowledgement of his contributions to architecture and his designs are well-known landmarks, including this house, which is a rare and fine example of his early work in Western Australia.
Samson House was inherited by Michael’s son Frederick ‘Fred’ Samson. Fred was elected to the Fremantle City Council in 1936 and became Mayor unopposed in 1951. He remained unchallenged in that office until he retired 21 years later in 1972, with a public service record of 36 years. His enthusiasm for and dedication to the development of this port city led to him becoming known as ‘Mr Fremantle’ and also being knighted.
Not only was Fred a dedicated public servant, he was an enthusiastic gardener with a passion for photography and film, which is evident when you visit the house. The grounds are lovely and memorabilia covers the walls of the interior.
Following the death of his wife Daphne in 1953, Fred considered giving up the role of Mayor because he felt that he needed a ‘Mayoress’. He invited his recently widowed sister, Rita, to perform this role – one that she did tirelessly.
Rita was actively involved in various charities, including a period as President of the Penguin Club. Samson House still holds many traces of Rita – her drawings of her much-loved dogs are on the wall, and her piano and sheet music are in the drawing room.
After Rita died in 1982 Samson House, along with its considerable contents, was left to the people of Western Australia and it has been in the care of the National Trust since 2010.
See, Do, Explore
Interested in peeking into the lives of this early Fremantle family? Book a tour of this iconic house to find out more about Fred, Rita and the rest of the Samson family history.
Samson House is open on the first Sunday and third Wednesday of the month (unless it coincides with New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day). Please note that bookings are essential and guided tour times are set, so make sure you plan ahead to avoid disappointment.
And while you’re in the area, make sure you explore Fremantle. You won’t regret it!
Much-needed conservation works have begun on the 1890s timber stables building at Samson House, which will also providing a small space for community use.
A community information session was held in August 2020 and the development received approval in November 2020. View the project plan (PDF, 5MB)
Please direct any project queries to Caroline Stokes at 08 9321 6088 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Building-related queries should be directed to the site manager, Robert Lee, at email@example.com.
This project is supported by Lotterywest and the State Government of Western Australia.