Forging a new life

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Convicted forget forger Henry Atwell probably thanked his lucky stars he was caught and shipped to the colonies in 1864.

He was given a ticket-of-leave not long after arriving and, a mere 10 years later, had 55 men on his payroll as woodcutters, boatmen, labourers, quarrymen, masons and carpenters.

So there was no shortage of workers to help build his limestone home—imaginatively named Atwell—on Solomon Street. Like the best mercantile homes of its day built on the street it overlooks the city, port and ocean out to Rottnest Island and beyond.

With 10 children Henry and wife Sarah (who built Atwell Arcade—also, coincidentally, for sale) needed plenty of space and plenty of space there is in this sprawling five-bedroom manse.

The vendor has ensured his home of more than 16 years is as elegant and gracious today as it was when the first ceiling roses went in more than 115 years ago.

It retains its super-high skirting, gorgeous jarrah floors, fireplaces and a plentitude of French doors onto the wrap-around verandah—so necessary both then and now (I’ll never understand why they are not a required feature of modern homes).

Sarah I’m sure would have approved of a more recent addition too—a vast open plan living/dining area that incorporates the original (but modernised) kitchen.

Lovely decorative floor-to-ceiling steel and glass doors and windows open onto the verandah, and provide sweeping views of the old port city and beyond.

The spacious, light-filled kitchen/dining area has the same style windows front and rear, plus a cute arched version.

When it comes to alfresco dining there’s a choice of a sheltered side verandah or one with ocean views.

But for more formal occasions there’s a huge—and very grand—central dining room: Step out the French doors between courses and you can catch the sun setting over the ocean.

There are so many vantage points in this home you can even watch the shipping while cleaning your teeth in the bathroom.

The Atwell family’s original box room comprises two huge rooms under the house that would these days make a great guest suite, teenage retreat or short-term accommodation.

These rooms look out on a delightful, sheltered garden, where a riot of natives and exotics rub shoulders in happy profusion throughout the 1068sqm block.

Atwell is on the national and state heritage registers: This is a rare chance to assume custodial privilege of a piece of Australian history while enjoying a fine lifestyle, close to Fremantle and its many delights.


77 Solomon Street, Fremantle
Auction Sat October 5 12 noon
Mary Burns 0413 749 944
Margo Pinkerton 0418 942 858
DethridgeGroves Real Estate
9336 1166

One response to “Forging a new life

  1. I’ve just read your story about Henry and Sarah Atwells family home. I might correct you though. The home was called “Portonia” not Atwell. Portonia was also at number 67-69 Mary Street now called Soloman Street. I know this to be true as I am one their great great grand daughters. And such a crying shame that the property has been subdivided to make way for housing. The tennis courts and gardens complimented the home beautifully. So sad as this would really be a property to be truly appreciated in all its glory. Granny and Grandpa worked extremely hard to accomplish such wealth in those hard times. Wealth which is still being generated to this day. Granny was held in such high regard. A very astute business woman, mother of 9 and grandmother to 20 or more at the time of her death. Her grave at Fremantle Cemetery is a great reminder of such a truly remarkable woman.

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