Falls Farm Gardens
A Corner of the Historic 'Laterite Square'
Steeped in Local History
Falls Farm Cottage was built in 1911 and forms one of the four corners of Lesmurdie’s historic “Laterite Square,” the other three corners being Lesmurdie House (1908), St Swithuns Anglican Church (1910) and St Andrews Boarding School (1913 - now St Brigids School.) All four buildings built by stonemason William Patterson.
Falls Farm is steeped in local history but in 1983 it fell victim to urban development when 50 acres of surrounding properties were approved for subdivision. Five acres around the cottage was set aside for public open space with the added condition that the cottage had to be demolished. Read on to find out how it was saved from the bulldozer.
The Lesmurdie community fought to save the cottage and following protracted negotiations between the Kalamunda Shire Council and Lesmurdie Ratepayers’ Association, it was agreed in 1985 that the L.R.A. could accept a Commonwealth Grant to help fund the restoration, but it was to be at absolutely no cost to the Kalamunda Council.
Pauline & Neil Tonkin were appointed Joint Project Managers of the Restoration Project by Kalamunda Shire. Enthusiastic ratepayers offered to work on site at weekends and others offered to help raise the $8,600 cash component. The $6167 ‘in-kind’ component was amazingly donated by local trades people: Barbara van Bronswijk (Architectural Student); Oebele Wielinga (Electrician); Dick Melville (Backhoe Operator); Neville Crooks (Plumber); Nick Urbani (Tiler); Neil Tonkin (Engineer & Shot Firer). Many local business’s made donations and provided discounts on building materials. Roofing material companies John Lysaght, Monodek and Stratco got the project over the line with substantial donations towards the roof.
The CEP project was completed on time and under budget in December 1985, but there was still a lot of work to be done to have the cottage ready for public use. L.R.A. handed the responsibility for the fully restored building back to Kalamunda Shire in March 1986. Kalamunda Shire appointed members of L.R.A. and other community groups to a Falls Farm Management Committee to take bookings for the cottage and oversee its general management.
L.R.A. then focused on the Heritage Rose Garden which was created by Dr Frank and Carol Mansfield with Neil and Pauline Tonkin in 1986. Bicentennial funding in 1987 provided funding for the brick paving by Bentley TAFE students under John Viska’s supervision and for the Post and Rail fence built by Bob Rado from Manjimup.
1997 was a welcome turning point for the Heritage Rose Garden when H.R.I.A. decided to use Falls Farm as its regular meeting place and offered to help Pauline Tonkin work in the rose garden and conduct the annual pruning session. This work is done with the full agreement and co-operation of the City of Kalamunda.
In 2011, twenty five years after her restoration, Falls Farm Cottage celebrated her 100th Birthday with the community in grand style. The Heritage Rose Garden responded to the care given by H.R.I.A. members and provided a colourful display of beautiful flowers. The Lady Hillingdon rose bush, which shares the same age as Falls Farm Cottage, was bedecked in golden ribbons to match her golden flowers.
In 2022 Falls Farm is still rented by community groups, including the Hills Folk Club, St Andrews Church and Lesmurdie Arts & Crafts Group. The Cottage and the roses are particularly appreciated for small weddings and family functions and Falls Farm is generally referred to by the community as the Jewel in the Crown of Lesmurdie.