Ashfield History

27/06/2013 · Current Projects

AshfieldCAN is again collecting any information that they can get from the community about the History of Ashfield.

Mark Johnson has kindly offered to collate the information we get into something more substantial.

In particular we are looking for information about the Ashfield Primary School as they are having their 60th Celebrations in 2016 and would like to collate some information about the school.

If you have photos or articles that you would like to share please contact Lucy on 0402257965 or email and we can include them on the website and put them into our collection. This collection will be shared with the Local studies collection at the Bassendean Library.

Local History Afternoon Tea in 2012

A local History afternoon tea was held last Sunday 21st August at the Ashfield Sports Club.

Many of the longest serving residents of Ashfield were there swapping stories and showing off photographs and other memorabilia while enjoying scones and other afternoon tea delicacies provided by the Ashfield Community Action network.

The event was co hosted by Lucy bromell of the AshfieldCAN and Local studies Librarian, Janet Megarrity.  Janet Megaritty was delighted with the turn out and the stories and information she was given. Much of this will be included in the Local studies collection at Bassendean library.

Lucy Bromell from the Ashfield Community Action network was pleased that it gave local residents an opportunity to meet and reminisce. A number of people that attended had previously lived in Ashfield but had now moved on. They enjoyed catching up with previous neighbours and friends.

Thanks go to Connie Bromell for her photographs and to Bill Busby for assisting with the afternoon tea.

Nol Berry, Zion Western, and Carol Gibsonbig group roomLucy, Quita Berry and Margaret DeeringBrian Newby, Robert Brown, Zion Western, Quita Berry and Janet

teagrouopYenny Berry and June Mulder

Living in Ashfield. – By Leo Travers

A short story on a lifetime living in Ashfield by Leo Travers

We married in 1962. Joan was a local Bassendean girl and I was from Vic Park.

Prior to getting married I went to Derby to work for 6 months to earn good money as I had nothing except my trade as a carpenter. Lots of hard work and sweat made good money to enable me to buy our block of land in Hardy Road, where we have lived ever since.

We raised three daughters, Leonie, Andrea and Robyn. All were educated at Ashfield primary School and Cyril Jackson High School. All are successful in life and have given us the joy of 8 beautiful grandchildren.

When we bought our block in Hardy Road the bitumen only went as far as French Street. From there on it was gravel.

The Block cost us £400 back then which is laughable these days, but that was 50 years ago!

We had a builder build the house but as a ‘tradie’, I did the timber floor joists, stood the door frames up for the brickies, laid the timber floors and did the rest of the carpentry including doors, windows and wooden fences.

While we were building our home, the State Housing commission started building houses in the area.

There were lots of families in the area and all the children went to the local Ashfield Primary School. In those days the Primary School had over 500 children at its peak and Cyril Jackson had over 1400 students. Every day 4 MTT buses would pass along Hardy Road full of kids from the high school, so we can see how times have changed in Ashfield.

Ashfield used to have three netball teams and a junior football team but sadly all have long been disbanded.

At home it was natural to have fresh milk delivered by the milkman in 1 pint bottles, the trick was to rescue it before the sun got to it.

The daily bread was delivered by the baker and occasionally the kids would score a free bread roll if the baker had excess supplies. It was always good fun to get the bread. There were no supermarkets in those days.

As time went by Hardy Road was upgraded with kerbs and in more recent times, footpaths which are much appreciated.

In the early 70’s the Ashfield Tavern was built. For some years they put on meals and local families had many good times listening to bands or maybe dancing on a Friday evening. The skimpys were an extra attraction for those that had worked hard all week.

Years later the tavern degenerated, became an eyesore and was eventually closed. It has now been developed into a housing site.

The river walks then were great, now we have walking paths, it is even better!

In the early years the only decent fish and chip shop was in Bassendean opposite the car yard. This was run by the Quaglia family who now run the Ashfield IGA. It is a great credit to the family.

The government public housing density for all suburbs is 11% why is Ashfield kept at 22%. We deserve better!

Joan and Leo have just celebrated 50 years of marriage and were congratulated by the Governor General, Ms Quentin Bryce for this wonderful achievement.

travers family2 1974travers family house 72


Memories of Ashfield by Quita Berry

As possibly the only resident to be born and bred in Ashfield – I was born in the garage at the home I still live in, I reflect on a lifetime of living in Ashfield. I look back on a childhood full of adventure where shoes were optional and pockets were for carrying ‘treasures’ home. My mother never knew what to expect to come out of my pockets but I had an affinity for frogs and tadpoles. The bushland that extended from Fisher Street to Moojebing Street and Dorothy Street to Hardy Road with a creek running through from about Mons Street to nearly French Street was a child’s wonderland. The bush had a number of different and distinct regions – from the paper bark trees in the lower swamp ground that provided materials for temporary cubby houses and boats to float in the creek, to trees for climbing and the occasional sighting of fairy spider orchids in the drier area at the top end, and finally to the hard packed sand ‘pit’ formed by the annual flooding of the area which was great for bike riding/racing around the tracks (at the corner of Pearson Street and Hardy Road). The bush also provided a number of animals to study, particularly goannas; it was not unusual to come across bob-tailed and blue-tongued goannas and on one memorable occasion, my sister was ‘chased’ home by a racehorse goanna.


Certainly, life was ‘simpler’ and children had far more freedom to roam than is possible today but at the same time children appeared to be less destructive and more responsible. There was no senseless destruction of the bush; no breaking of every branch that you passed and, indeed, the finding of a spider orchid only meant studying it but not picking it! A typical (non-school) day would consist of breakfast, then out to play, generally in the bush, until lunch time then back out again until 5 p.m. but ‘heaven help’ the child who said they were going one place and went somewhere else without calling in at home first to let mum know of the change!! And, of course, not to forget the Swan River, which was only an allowed playground once you were old enough and could swim well enough. A favourite walk along the river edge was from Sandy Beach to as far as we could go, hopefully to River Road but as there were no marked paths it was a case of picking the easiest route and frequently meant walking barefoot through ‘squishy’ mud. Once I was mobile – I got my first bike at age 9) my mother described my ‘play ground’ as Guildford Bridge to Garratt Road Bridge and Guildford Road to Great Eastern Highway. That is the strongest memory I have, that of freedom; I realise now how precious that was. Life was never boring and there was always something new to discover. The loss of most of the bushland in late 1963 with the new housing development and construction of Maley Street was a sad point in my childhood and something that future generations could no longer enjoy.


There was our favourite walk to the lolly factory on River Road, probably once a month, with a sixpence (equivalent to 5 cents today) or, at most a shilling (10 cents). A penny’s worth of aniseed balls was a bowl full and lasted a long time, and lollipops and all-day suckers. There have been a lot of changes in my lifetime; we only had one shop – the corner shop, literally the door faced the corner of Colstoun (previously Coulston) and Guildford Roads operated by Mr Fred and Mrs Amy Wright and the railway crossing was on the road. Cyril Jackson High School wasn’t built until 1963(?) and the Ashfield Reserve was a rubbish tip first! Once upon a time, I knew almost every person in Ashfield and a significant proportion of people in Bassendean, if not by name then by sight but sadly this is no longer true.

dorothy st1959wberry house1955index_clip_image006

 Roy Hookway


`It was with sadness that we said farewell to one of our longest serving Ashfield Residents.

Roy Hookway passed away on 14th August 2012 aged, 85

Roy and wife Etta purchased a block in Ashfield Parade in 1953 for £250. They had to clear the land and create access to the block before they could build. This required Roy to lay sleepers in the sand to create a track to get the building materials to the block. Much of the house was built by himself.

It took six years before they could move into the house.  There were no roads at the time and Roy eventually transferred land frontage back to the council free so that a road could be built to allow for better access.

Roy originally trained as a scientific instrument maker but spent much of his working life working in the Midland rail yards as a turner.

Living in Ashfield, Roy was at one time very involved with the local Ashfield Primary School helping to improve the sporting grounds and facilities there.

As a member of the Bassendean Preservation Group he also worked on improving the foreshore by planting trees and carting water to help keep them alive.

In his later years Roy was a familiar face walking his dog down along the river where he would always have time for a chat. He had many great stories to tell of the times he had spent growing up and living in Ashfield.

He will be sadly missed.



WHITE ROCKS  and ASHFIELD FLATS   by Geoff Addison

Before the channel was cut to create Ron Courtney Island, the water at White Rocks was very deep and two separate drownings occurred.   Access to the river at this point was down a steep sand hill but that didn’t deter the local kids from spending hours swinging from a rope on the big tree and doing bombies into the river.

Blue mana crabs could be caught with drop nets in late summer and cobbler pots were also used by some kids.  Net fishing for mullet was sneakily carried out resulting in many Friday fish being delivered and sold from the boot of Mr. “R’s” old car.

When the island was created it became a favourite place for our kids who paddled their canoe over to spend the night camped in their tent.

bevan addison1978addison1978 A


The flats was used by the McDonald family for their dairy herd.  The dairy and farmhouse were located where West Road now turns into Sandy Beach.  Milk was delivered overnight to many Bassendean households by Mr. McDonald in his horse drawn milk cart.   After the dairy ceased, the flats were used by a few locals to train trotting horses and some of the inner tracks on the flats are the remains of this activity.

The regular flooding of the flats area provided kids in the 50s an opportunity to grab  floating logs which were then “ridden” from Sandy Beach across the flats to White Rocks.  Great fun but our mother’s didn’t know what we were up to.

A proposal to create a residential canal development of the flats area was strongly opposed by ratepayers.  As a result of this the Bassendean Preservation Group embarked on a tree planting and restoration plan which is ongoing.

Pathways and bridges along the river have now made this section of the flats a pleasant walk for all to enjoy with abundant birdlife and dolphins sighted regularly.


My Recollections of Ashfield – By Mike Smith

I was born in 1948. I can’t remember if it was 1952 or 1953 but I do remember the day that my parents brought my sister and I to visit our new house in French Street. We had been living in Kensington St in East Perth. On that day I can only remember that our new house had bare jarrah wooden floor boards and a huge back and front yard covered in black sand with a concrete path from the front gate to the front steps of the verandah.

The house was a pretty standard SHC design with 2 bedrooms and a front and back verandah. There was a chip heater in the bathroom for hot baths but showers were always cold water until many years later. We had a twin concrete trough in the laundry with a wood fired copper for Monday washdays. A wood fired fireplace in the lounge-room provided heating in winter and a Metters wood-fired stove provided cooking all year round even on Xmas Day when it was usually very hot. I remember my mother telling us years later that not only was she happy to have a place of her own but how wonderful it was that both the laundry and toilet were under the main roof – no more outside dunnies or wash-houses for her.  I discovered years later that we were on the deep sewerage system which ended in our backyard when both ours and next doors back-yards were excavated to extend the sewerage line further down the street when the new houses were built along the French St extension.

Our house was timber framed with fibro cladding – hot in summer and cold in winter. The black sand wasn’t any good being both infertile and acidic. We had a chook shed in the backyard and one of my jobs was to shovel out the chook poop and spread it on the gardens and then water it in. Over the years my parents planted 2 lemon trees, 2 grape vines, an almond tree and a fig tree in the back yard. We also had 2 passion-fruit vines growing over a trellis on each side of the house. My mother and her friends would make their own jams and swap with each other. I remember being sent off with the kids next door to collect ‘paddy-melons’  from the bush areas at the river end of French Street. These were used in the home-made marmalade jams and pickles.

The bitumen in French St originally ended at Dorothy St and a sawdust track ran from Dorothy St to Hardy Rd. In the early days the only public transport was the 55 bus which ran from Bassendean thru Ashfield on the way to Perth. Luckily for us the bus ran down Haig St and French St and the nearest stop was only about 100 metres away from our place. I started school at St Michaels at the Bassendean convent and caught the 55 bus on school days.

After the railway station was built in 1954 or 1955 I often caught the train to primary school. I always caught the train to high school in Midland. The station had 2 platforms with a platform either side of the line for going to Midland or to Perth. You had to travel in the middle carriages as the platforms were very short and the trains would stop with only the middle carriages facing the platform. Many times I witnessed people having to clamber down from either front or rear carriages with the guard (yes they had them then) sometimes helping mums with prams and kids. When the station first opened there wasn’t a crosswalk painted on Guildford Rd. After a couple of passengers were knocked over by cars the crosswalk was installed but there were still several accidents. I remember one of the van Amstel girls being run over and hospitalized for a long time.

The grassed area now opposite the railway station was originally a big swamp with a large open drain running from the swamp under Coulston Rd and along the back of the houses facing Guildford Rd all the way to Pearson St. In later years the swamp was excavated and turned into a huge garbage tip for many years. My friends and I would turn discarded kapok mattresses into rafts and paddle around the tip. In winter the swamp would flood and in summer it would be dry and hard and we’d all ride our bikes on the dirt tracks we created. We often played in this drain much to the annoyance of our parents. The sides of the drain would flower profusely with Jonquils every year and we’d pick them for our mothers. The Western side of Maidos street was vacant land and the area nearest French St flooded every winter. Groups of boys would gather at the high point of French St and pedal their bikes like mad to see who could get the furthest into the water. There was a large gum tree on the corner of French St and Maidos St and we had a rope swing for all to use. If you climbed to the top you could see over the rail line to Ludlow’s scrapyard and beyond. We found out years later that Vickers and the other industrial buildings on the other side of the railway would flush their fluid wastes into this drain which flowed into another drain along Pearson St and on into the river.

For many years the only shop in Ashfield was on the corner of Guildford Rd and Coulston St. I remember it having a hand operated kersosene pump with a large glass tank on the top. The owner would pump the handle to and fro until the required amount (usually a gallon) showed on the side of the glass. The kerosene was usually used to help start the wood fire or to clean tools, dirty bikes or bike parts. Things were different then – my father would send me down to the shop to get his tobacco for him as he used to roll his own cigarettes. All my friends would be doing the same for their fathers.

Subsequently another shop was built facing Coulston Rd near Maidos St but set back from the road – this was used as a butchers shop. I remember getting free bones for our dog. Later another shop was built next to the butchers and this was Walmsley’s cake shop. My friends and I would collect empty soft drink bottles and take them to the corner shop to get the refunds to spend in the cake shop – a win-win situation for all.

I can remember the Catholic church being erected on top of the hill on the east side of Haig St. This was a timber framed fibro coated building which was trucked in from somewhere else. Mrs Brennan, who lived next door, was the caretaker of the building.

The Ashfield Hall was a timber framed and corrugated iron clad building located on the cnr of Haig St and Coulston Rd. On some summer nights someone would organize a picture show (now called the movies). I remember seeing an Elvis movie there. I think the oldies used to have dances there as well. The playground equipment was installed after we moved to the area. We loved it but the mums didn’t as we’d come home dirty from the black sand.

After the tip was filled in and grassed the Council installed Aussie Rules goalposts which we thought were fantastic – there was always someone there kicking a footy around all year round. They watered the grassed areas with large dome shaped sprinkler heads on long aluminium pipes. We all enjoyed running or riding our bikes in and out of the sprinklers.

The establishment of the grassed areas also resulted in the arrival of some Circuses. My friends and I would get free tickets for helping erecting the canvas tents. Another win-win situation.mikes smith1960 21 French St Ashfield

The Smith house on French Street