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Birkdale House

Hill Street (now Knutsford Street) cnr Solomon Street, c. 1898, architect M.F. Cavanagh, for G.C. Knight.


Birkdale House (c, 1898-1966) stood on the corner of Knutsford and Solomon Streets opposite the Obelisk (and later the War Memorial) on the current Westgate Garden Flats site. The house was named (by G.C. Knight) after the steel-hulled vessel Birkdale which came to the Fremantle Long Jetty in 1897 and was delayed three months along with many other ships because of the gold boom and heavy weather on the exposed jetty. The architect was M.F. Cavanagh. G.C. Knight was the manager of D&J Fowler, and was married to Dora Jane Pace, a member of the family of Walter Pace and his wife Jane, who kept the Crown and Thistle hotel.

Sir Frederick Samson bought the house in 1903, and sold it to Gordon (?) Dedman in 1955. He had it demolished in 1966. It was replaced by an apartment building of outrageous mundanity.

Note that the person in the photo above is sitting at the Obelisk (1867-1924 - where the War Memorial is now) showing the spatial relationship between the two.


Dedman family and Holden FB Special Sedan [1960-1] in front of Birkdale House. The name can be seen over the entrance archway.

Peter Dedman writes: I am the only one who knows that the Samsons owned it and lived there from 1901 till 1955 when my father bought it and then demolished it in 1966. I interviewed Derek Samson in 1984 when he was 80? He was head of Lionel Samson & Co. Cliff Street ... Old Birkdale House was effectively a bishop's palace.

Obituary for Katharine Samson (née Scott). The widow of W.F. Samson was living at Birkdale House at the time of her death in 1941, as indicated in the following obituary. Note that Knutsford Street was at that time still called Hill Street.

Fremantle Advocate, Wednesday 20 August 1941, page 2


The death occurred on Thursday last of Mrs. Katharine Samson, of Birkdale, Hill-street. Fremantle. The funeral took place last Saturday morning, leaving her residence and proceeding to the Fremantle cemetery, where her remains were interred in the family grave in the Church of England section. The Rev Canon E. M. Collick, rector of St. John's Church, conducted the graveside service and in the course of a brief address referred in feeling terms to the long and useful life of the deceased.
The chief mourners were: Messrs. W. H. J. Samson, son; D. J. and F. L. Samson and R. W. J. Samson, grandsons: W. F. Samson, nephew and Dr. W. P. White, grand-nephew. The pallbearers were:—Dr. H. J. Lotz, Messrs V. L. Bode (National Bank), Harry and Bingham Price, R. W. Ward. L B. Smith, J. W. Bateman and F. G. Clifton.
The hearse was heavily laden with beautiful floral tributes and widespread expressions of sympathy have been extended to the bereaved relatives.
The late Mrs. Samson was born at Fremantle on January 18, 1846 and was the oldest resident of the State born in Western Australia. Apart from a brief period of six years in Tasmania, Mrs. Samson spent the whole of her years in Western Australia.
Daughter of the late Captain Daniel Scott, Mrs. Samson was the youngest of a family of ten children. She married the late Mr. W. F. Samson in Fremantle and was widowed in 1900. She leaves two sons, a daughter, eight grand-children and a great-grand-child.
National Library of Australia: http://nla. gov. au/

Birkdale House on the left of a still from film (c. 1958?) shot by Sir Frederick Samson, mayor of Fremantle 1951-72.

Another still from a film of Sir Fred's, kindly provided by Peter Dedman, showing the arrival of a celebrity at the War Memorial, with Birkdale House behind the cars.

Birkdale House viewed from lower down Knutsford Street. People unknown, date possibly 1961. Image sent by Peter Dedman.

These steps which led up to the front door in Knutsford Street may be the only physical remnant of Birkdale House.

References, links, acknowledgements

Two paragraphs above are courtesy of Peter Dedman, who also sent most of the images: many thanks. He has asked me to include his phone number, as he would like to hear from people about this building: 0404 866 571.
The top photo (tap/click for larger size) is in the Fremantle Library Local History Collection, no. E000089-07.

Garry Gillard | New: 24 December, 2019 | Now: 29 April, 2024