THE FAMILY HOME
F H PIESSE
“Kobeelya” the grand Italianate Mansion at the top of
The architect assigned to design the building was Mr G Summerhayes of
The house was constructed with brick walls, painted corrugated iron roof and timber joinery. The bricks were made at the Piesse brickyards. The house is typical of the period with gabled roof, wide verandahs, many chimneys, bay windows, stained glass windows and side panels, ornate plaster work and polished jarrah floors. The Piesse family crest is featured in the arched stained glass window on the main staircase landing along with the initials FHP. Kobeelya was also connected to electricity, Katanning having the first electricity plant in WA.
The furniture was ordered from
Kobeelya was the first significant residence in the town of
In January 1915 a large portion of the Kobeelya Estate was subdivided into building blocks which were quickly purchased.
Kobeelya passed out of the Piesse family in 1922 when it was bought by the Bunbury diocese of the Anglican Church for £5,000. The interior furnishings were sold and the building became the boarding house and schoolrooms of
The chapel was erected on the eastern side in 1939.
In 1986 the
The following article, from the Great Southern Herald. Saturday, November 15, 1902 is an interesting description of the house Kobeelya girls know as “Burbidge House”:
“KOBEELYA" THE RESIDENCE. 0F MR F.H. PIESSE
"Kobeelya," the native term for rest, is situated on the crown of the hill at the foot of Clive Street East, which overlooks 180 acres of orchard property, and is the new residence of the Hon F.H. Piesse, MLA for this district. It is introduced from the street by a winding, gravelled path, and on each side are planted rows of fruit and ornamental trees, which are just now in full bud. Fronting the building at its northerly and westerly aspects are several walks which are neatly set off by beds of ornamental flowers und shrubs, and at the eastern end are tennis and croquet lawns, which are just now being set off with a couch grass which is doing well.
The building, a two-storey one, is of brick and cement facings, and contains 17 rooms, besides kitchens, pantries etc. The entrance inside is made through a portice, which is tiled after the tessellated style, into the main hall, where the most striking feature is the jarrah staircase. This work was specially executed by Messrs Coombe, Wood and Co. for the contractor Mr J.H. Brown and is a beautiful piece of workmanship. Leading from the left of the hall is the drawing-room, which is lit by six brass scroll brackets, and a three-light electroleer in the centre. A special feature of this room is a cosy corner formed by the bay-shaped windows and divided from the room by an arch. This room reflects much credit on the decorators. Passing to the right of the hall is the study of Mr F.H. Piesse. This room is nicely finished off, being fitted with the usual library appointments. Entering a jarrah and stained glass door we arrive in the billiard room, which is fitted with a Cox and Yeamam champion billiard table. This room is finished off with a Dado Linncruster, the ceiling being of stamped metal. The dining-room is situated at the eastern end of the hall, which is divided from the morning room by folding doors, which, when thrown open make a spacious ball-room. These rooms are specialty fitted up with electroleers, and several scroll brackets. On the half landing of the staircase is a very prettily designed stained glass window, a running brook, festive with birds of high coloured plumage, being thereon depicted. At the top of the staircase, on the main landing, is to be found the bedrooms and conveniences of the family. These number seven, and are nicely furnished and finished off with the latest electrical appliances. The bathrooms, two in number, are fitted up with hot and cold water, and are supplied by an overhead corrugated iron tank of 1,500 gallon dimensions.
Before leaving the balcony we were struck with the beautiful and uninterrupted view which we obtained of the surrounding country. Ample accommodation is provided in the quarters set apart for the servants on the ground floor, these like the other rooms, being set out with the latest fittings. The kitchen which is fitted up with the latest improved stove and hot water arrangements has a China closet on one side and a goods pantry on the other, they being most conveniently placed. Underneath the kitchen is a cellar, 14ft. by 18ft., which is also fitted with handy receptacles. The outhouses comprise a well fitted laundry and wood-house. There is stabling accommodation provided for four horses, connected there with being the necessary provision for attendants, etc. Ample provision has been made for a water supply. An underground tank contains a storage of 47,000 gallons, which is pumped to the distributing tank by a windmill. A well, from which the water is being pumped at a depth of 108 ft., has turned out remarkably good prospects, the water being perfectly safe to use for drinking purposes. A corrugated iron tank, with a capacity of 10,000 gallons, is erected on a Karri stand at an altitude of 18ft. and contains the water supplied by this well, the same being used for gardening purposes, etc.
The architect for the building is Mr G Summerhayes, of
It is the intention of Mr Piesse to shortly adopt the latest sanitary methods in vogue, which we believe, will be that known as the “septic” tank system.
FH Piesse CMG, JP
Frederick Henry Piesse was born at Northam on 6 December 1853, the eldest of eight sons born to William Roper Piesse who had arrived at the Colony in 1841. William Roper Piesse was related to the
FH Piesse was educated at Northam and
Following this venture FH took up the position of Post Master at
Shortly after arriving at the Williams FH met Miss Mary Jane Chipper, who was in charge of the Kojonup Post Office. Mary Jane became Mrs FH Piesse and his lifelong help mate, freely entering into his political work and assisting him in every possible way, both in the home and business. Their first place of residence was the first Post Office at Williams, now the Police Station. Their second residence was the old store in Williams. When they arrived in Katanning they lived in the old bungalow opposite the Church of England (which was considered to be one of the finest mansions in WA). 1902 saw them move to Kobeelya where FH resided until his death on 29 June 1912. Mary Jane lived the remaining years of her life at “Kulal” which was built by one of her sons (Frederick).
In 1884 FH was joined by his brother Mr Charles A Piesse and they founded the firm of F & C Piesse with stores at both Williams and
On 4 May 1891 the Katanning Flour Mill was declared opened by the Hon John Arthur Wright of Albany, the then manager of the Great Southern Railway Co.
On the inauguration of responsible government in
It has been said that FH Piesse was a man of undoubted energy and vision. There can be no doubt of this. He founded the flour mill, wine cellars and an aerated water factory and sank a well which supplied Katanning residents with a water supply. The Roller Flour Mill generated electricity to the whole town, resulting in Katanning being the first place in
It was shortly after his resignation from the Forrest Government that he built “Kobeelya”
After the death of FH Piesse, Lord Forrest said the following to his son Harold:
"He was a great man Harold, was a most reliable business man of experience in my Cabinet, and he had no equal in Parliament from a moral point of view.
NB. We would like to point out that it was Sir John Forrest who was in Federal Cabinet and not FH Piesse, who was a member of the Western Australian Government only.
One of the proudest moments for the family of FH Piesse was the unveiling of the monument that today stands in front of the railway station in memory of a man who did great things for development of the district he loved and represented.
The Coach House
The Coach House was first built to house the coaches belonging to the Piesse family and at some stage the bottom story was used as servants’ quarters. As a school it was a valuable asset being used in the late 50’s early 60’s for storage of boarders’ cases in the loft and fruit lockers for boarders on the ground floor. At this time the fruit was delivered by the local fruiterer on Tuesdays. In 1964 major renovations saw the loft transformed into a sitting room for senior girls along with TV Theatrette, Arts and Crafts Centre and classrooms (during the late 60’s, 70’s and 80’s). This refashioning and equipping of the building was a gift from Mrs Montague Balston in memory of her daughter. Pamela – a former pupil. A bronze plaque has been placed on the outside to commemorate this gift. Mrs HE House donated a radio gram.
From 1978 until the closure of the school in 1986 the downstairs was used as classrooms and the upstairs was the 5th year common room. The building was later used for Sunday School classes and today houses the Old Kobeelyan’s Museum containing an extensive collection of archival material and memorabilia from the school days. The museum was officially opened by the Hon. Terry (Tuck) Waldron MLA on Saturday 13th October 2007.
Visitors to “a place of rest”
The first visitor to Kobeelya was Dr House, a well known and beloved man who had much to do with the district’s early history.
Lord Forrest was a frequent visitor. Like most of the visitors he slept in the room on the South side of the house, turning left at the top of the stairs.
When the family was happily settled Thomas Chipper (1829) came to live there. Thomas was Mrs Piesse’s father. Thomas’ father John arrived in the first year of the colony and Thomas was born at Bassendean. Historical records state that he was the first male child born in the state, but it was afterwards found that the son of a soldier of the first regiment had that honour. Thomas died in the second room on the left of the entrance.
Mrs Daisy Bates famed for her work among the aboriginals came at the weekends to stay when she was camped at the Police Pools, three miles from the town. She was picked up on these occasions by Mr Piesse’s carriage for the journey to and from the Police Pools.
Sir Arthur Lawley was appointed WA Governor at the age of 41 in 1901 and he visited Kobeelya twice during his time in WA. Mt Lawley is named after this governor. The following governors also visited: Lord Northcote, 3rd Governor General of Australia; Admiral Sir Frederick Bedford, Governor of Western Australia from 1903 to 1909; Sir Gerald Strickland who became governor of Western Australia in May 1909; Major General Barron (Sir Harry) governor of Western Australia from 1913 until February 1917; Sir William Ellison Macartney Governor of Western Australia from 1917 to 1920; Sir George Reid, Prime Minister 1904-5; Sir James Mitchell when he was Mr Mitchell the Minister for Lands and Agriculture (1909); Sir Edward Stone, Chief Justice; Sir Edward Wittenoom (whose father was the first clergyman of the Swan River Settlement). Sir Winthrop Hackett was also a visitor at Kobeelya.
Other members of Sir John Forrest’s government to visit were CY O’Connor, Hon Harry Venn, Hon. Charles Harper and the Hon AG Hassell.
We believe it is fitting to end this account of Kobeelya and FH Piesse with the following excerpt from Merle Bignell’s book “
“On Thursday 14 September 1922 the Kobeelya Girls’ School was officially declared open, the dedication service being conducted by the Archbishop of Perth, C.O.L. Riley, who recalled previous visits to the town and said:
He had known the late Hon. F.H. Piesse for many years, and had held him in great regard, and could think of no better way to perpetuate his memory than by keeping his old home as a school for the girls of the district for which he had done so much.”
FH Piesse, although only having a limited education knew the benefits of a good education and Christian values. He encouraged his children to achieve the best education they could and to pursue their chosen careers.
Descendants of FH who attended Kobeelya CEGS
The first descendant of FH Piesse to attend Kobeelya as a student was his granddaughter Verney (known as Betty), daughter of Harold (FH’s third son) and
Great neice Ayleen Piesse, granddaughter of Charles Austin and Flora Piesse attended during the 1920’s.
Mollie Dawson Longmire attended Kobeelya around 1926-8 and by her marriage to Edmund Stephen Roper Piesse (CA Piesse’s son) in 1937 she became a niece in-law.
Great great niece Pamela Piesse, adopted daughter of Claude and Margaret Piesse, attended Kobeelya from 1929 (unsure of how many years). Claude was a grandson of Charles Austin Piesse.
Great niece Elizabeth Margaret (Margi) Piesse, daughter of Mollie and Edmund Piesse attended 1950-56.
Great grand-daughter Marie Fritz (Piesse), daughter of Francis and Kathleen Piesse attended 1958-62. Francis was Harold and Bessie’s son and brother to Betty.
Great grand-daughter Jenifer Steedman (Garside), daughter of Gwendolyn and Raymond Garside attended 1962-3. Gwendolyn was the daughter of Cecil (FH’s second son) and Florence Piesse.
Lucille Radford attended Kobeelya 1963-5 and by her marriage to Brian Piesse she became a great grand-daughter-in-law. Brian is the elder son of Francis and Kathleen and brother to Marie and Jan.
Great grand-daughter Janet Cooper (Piesse), daughter of Francis and Kathleen and sister to Marie attended 1974-75.
Great Southern News
Bignell, M., A Place to Meet: A History of the Shire of Katanning Western
Harold V Piesse, Memories of the Late Hon. F.H. Piesse MLA CMG dated 11 April 1939
Western Ancestor – June 1987