Visit Woodbridge - Ford Street, Woodbridge 6056 WA. From Woodbridge Train station, cross Great Eastern Highway to Third Avenue, walk up Third Ave and turn left into Governor Stirling Road and proceed past Governor Stirling High. Closed in July.
Captain James Stirling took up land here in 1829. He named his property ‘Woodbridge’ as it reminded him of the area around the home of his wife’s family in Surrey, England. Stirling had a small cottage built but spent little time there. At the end of his term as Governor in 1839, Stirling left the colony and leased the property to various tenants.
Charles Harper married Fanny de Burgh in 1879 and the following year took up a lease at Woodbridge. In 1883 land was purchased and the Harpers began the construction of a large family home. Two years later, Charles, Fanny, their three sons and one daughter moved into the completed house. Over the following decade three more boys and three girls were born. The family was supported by live in staff and others who came in for specific tasks.
Woodbridge supported extensive orchards of apples, pears, peaches and table grapes and there was a commercial nursery mainly stocking fruit trees and vines. Charles worked on the development of various wheat varieties, pioneered the use of artesian water for agricultural purposes, developed an inexpensive fencing system and improved pastures through the use of clover and superphosphate. Additionally he served as a parliamentarian, was part owner of The West Australian newspaper and started The Western Mail.
In 1895 Charles established a school in the house for his children and those of neighbours. A small single storied school building was erected in 1900. It was purchased a decade later by the Church of England and went on to become what is now Guildford Grammar School. For twenty years from 1921 the house operated as Woodbridge House School. During World War II it was used as the Old Women’s Home before its conversion in 1964 to an annexe for Governor Stirling Senior High School. Woodbridge was vested in the National Trust in 1968.